Physics

Facilities

In September, 2000, Williams College celebrated the completion of its $47 million Unified Science Center project. This project included constructing a new building, the Morley Scientific Laboratory, and extensively renovating four existing buildings, including two buildings that house the Department of Physics. The end result is that all of these buildings are connected together in a state-of-the-art interdisciplinary science facility.

Thompson Physical Laboratory (TPL)

Thompson Physical Laboratory
Thompson Physical Laboratory serves as the headquarters for both the Department of Physics and the Department of Astronomy. The original portion of the building was constructed in 1891. At that time it was considered so remarkable that the first volume of Physical Review included a lengthy description of the building. It was enlarged in 1951, renovated during the 1985-86 year, and renovated more thoroughly in 2000. Nowadays it contains classrooms, teaching laboratories, a student common room, and faculty offices. The laboratories are well-equipped with modern scientific instruments and computers. On the roof the Department of Astronomy has its observing facilities, featuring a 24″ telescope.

Bronfman Science Center (BSC)

Bronfman Science Center
Six physics faculty members presently have offices and research laboratories in Bronfman. Renovated in 2000, our laboratory space includes a 2,800 square foot laser facility for collaborative student and faculty research. The National Science Foundation awarded a $143,000 Major Research Infrastructure grant to help us equip this laboratory.

Bronfman also houses many facilities shared throughout the sciences, such as an x-ray diffractometer, two electron microscopes, and two atomic force microscopes. In the machine shop, a full-time professional machinist fabricates custom parts for use in our laboratories. In the electronics shop, a full-time electronic technician maintains a stock of electronic parts, builds custom circuits, and repairs electronic instruments.

Morley Scientific Laboratory (MSL)

Morley Scientific Laboratory
This 80,000 square foot science building, completed in 2000, is named after Edward W. Morley, an 1860 summa cum laude graduate of Williams College in physics and chemistry. Morley is best known for his experiments with Albert Michelson attempting to measure the earth’s motion through the “ether.” The Michelson-Morley experiment detected no difference in the speed of light in different directions, an important result that provides support to the special theory of relativity. Morley also performed very precise measurements of the atomic weights of various gases and left his scientific equipment and a substantial financial gift to Williams College.

Morley Scientific Laboratory connects the Thompson Physical Laboratory and the Bronfman Science Center with the buildings housing the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Biology. It houses chemistry and biology laboratories, as well as the Schow Science Library. In 1999 the Physics and Astronomy collection, containing approximately 4,500 volumes and 51 continuing professional journals from many countries, moved into this new library, where it joined the library collections of the other science departments.