Our Facilities

Department Buildings

Crow Hall

The building, built in 1934, was designed by two Washington University architects, George W. Spearl and James P. Jamieson, to house the Department of Physics. Because of the nature of the experiments conducted, the building was constructed in such a manner that it is not subject to the Earth's natural vibrations, and contains a vertical shaft that extends the full height of the building for experiments that involve the study of falling objects. Construction for the building was made possible by $700,000 in gifts.

Compton Laboratory

When Arthur Holly Compton died in 1962, the University erected a physics laboratory as a memorial to him. The 65,000 square foot, five level structure contains laboratories, offices, library space, and machine shop. The building's south face seamlessly adjoins Crow Hall and in tandem, the entire facility constitutes the Washington University Department of Physics.

The Arthur Holly Compton Laboratory of Physics was completed in 1965, and was dedicated in 1966 in recognition of Dr. Compton's distinguished achievements as an educator, physicist, department chairman and chancellor.

Power Plant

The Power Plant contains offices that are used by members of the physics department.

Physics Library

Department of Physics

Gustavus A. Pfeiffer Physics Library

The Physics Library is located on the third floor of Compton Hall. On the main level of the Physics Library, you will find reference books, dissertations, and study space. There are additional tables and study carrels upstairs.

Physics Research Guide

Library Collection

Through many generous donations, the Physics Library once again has some books. Over 1300 books have been processed and are in the Physics Library office, available for use. The vast majority are physics and astronomy, but there are other items included as well.

Browse the Collection


The Crow Observatory 

The Crow Observatory is open to the Washington University community on clear evenings, Monday through Thursday, during the fall and spring semesters. The open hours are 7:00 - 10:00 pm during standard time and 8:00 - 10:00 pm during daylight savings time. Visitors can check here or phone 314-935-6278 during viewing hours to see if the Observatory is open.

The location is atop Crow Hall near the northeast corner of the WU Danforth Campus. You can enter the building through the south door, then go up the stairs and follow the signs. Admission is free, and members of the campus and local community are welcome. Groups numbering seven or more, or anyone who has special requirements, must make advance reservations by calling 314-935-6276 during the day.

Acquired by Washington University in 1863, the telescope has an aperture of 6 inches and is high quality even though it is small by present-day standards. The observatory was originally on 18th Street in St. Louis, before the University moved to the Danforth campus after the 1904 World's Fair. Until 1950, the observatory stood west of Crow Hall. It was then closed and a new dome was constructed in the present location in 1954.

Tyson Observatory

Tyson Research Center is a 2,000-acre environmental field station owned and operated by Washington University in St. Louis. Tyson provides opportunities for environmental research and education for students and faculty from Washington University and beyond. Infrastructure and programs facilitate multi-scale research and teaching opportunities and collaboration across disciplines, institutions, and levels of academic training. In the middle of the heavily wooded property, we located a clearing suitable to place the observatory. The sky is visible to within 30 degrees of the horizon in all directions, and the site is quite dark with no direct light and only relatively faint light from St. Louis in the distance.

The telescope consists of a 14 inch Celestron C-14 on a Takashashi NJP mount on a stainless steel pier to be permanently installed in a Prodome PD10 fiberglass dome. The focal plane instrumentation consists of an Optek MAXFILTER 2" filter changer (to house an imaging polarimeter) an Optek TCF-S temperature compensating focuser, a FLI CFW-2 filter wheel with RGB and other filters, followed by an FLI CM7-1E CCD camera. The camera uses a Kodak blue-plus CCD and includes a high-speed USB-2 interface. An SBIG STV camera and e-finder lens is used as an autoguider.

Tyson Research Center is located in St. Louis County, approximately 20 miles southwest of St. Louis, at the Beaumont-Antire exit (Exit #269) off I-44.

Machine Shops

The machine shop is a technical support facility whose primary function is to provide technical assistance to the students, faculty, researchers, and administration. 

The student shop is located in room 103 of Crow Hall and its use is limited to Physics Department personnel who have completed the required student shop course.

learn more about our machine shops
machine shop
Mack Atkinson

"I really enjoyed my time in the WashU Physics PhD program. I found it surprisingly easy to feel like an active member of the department thanks to the atmosphere maintained by everyone. My time spent here has provided me with the skills I need to to pursue a career in Physics as an independent researcher."

―Mack AtkinsonPhD Candidate