College of Arts and Sciences

Modern Physics and Optics Lab

Lab Information

Number: 61


Dr. Darrel Smith



Work: 928-777-6663


Dr. Andri Gretarsson

Associate Professor


Work: 928-777-3969


The sequence of formal laboratory courses for Majors in Space Physics is:

  1. Introductory Physics Laboratory (PS 216, 1 credit)
  2. Intermediate Physics Laboratory (PS 221, 2 credits)
  3. Modern Physics Laboratory (PS 315, 2 credits)
  4. Optics Laboratory (PS 380, 3 credits)

The Modern Physics and Optics Laboratory located in Building 61 provides the infrastructure for the last two courses. 

The Modern Physics Laboratory course consists of  experiments in atomic and nuclear physics, including
spectroscopy, nuclear particle analysis, X-ray analysis, and laser applications. This course follows the traditional laboratory course format where students reproduce classic experiments in 20th century physics while following fairly detailed instructions from a laboratory manual.

Space physics student Renee Naphas adjusting the Zeeman Effect apparatus. The Zeeman Effect demonstrates the interaction of electron spin with an external magnetic field. In this experiment students measure the spin of the electron by observing spectral lines of mercury split upon the application of a strong external magnetic field.


The Optics Laboratory course serves as our capstone laboratory course although many students will also go on to complete a laboratory-based senior thesis project. As such, the optics lab is  a rather advanced course consisting of both laboratory time (~10-12 in-lab hours per experiment) and a lecture component. Unlike most "formal" laboratory courses, the students in this course are expected to design their own experiments based on specific goals and a few hints at how to start and which references may be of use.

Dillon Foight aligns an open cavity helium-neon laser in order to get it to lase in different Hermite-Gauss spatial modes.