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 the Circulation Counter, current journals, bound physics journals, Physics Department dissertations, reference books, four study carrels, tables available for group study, and computers available for patron use. Books are shelved on the mezzanine overlooking the reading room. There are nineteen additional study carrels upstairs. For help in finding materials, please ask at the Circulation Counter.

Library information and hours


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. When we are on standard time, the open hours are 7:00 - 10:00 pm. When we are on daylight saving time the hours are 8:00 - 10:00 pm. 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.

The main telescope has an aperture of 6 inches. Acquired by Washington University in 1863, it is a high quality telescope 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 Research Center

Tyson Observatory

Tyson Research Center is a University owned facility southwest of St. Louis that is home to a wolf and wild bird sanctuary, biology and ecology experiments, some mysterious underground bunkers, and wildlife (deer, rattlesnakes and wild turkeys). 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