The Manning Nuclear Physics Laboratory

Named after longtime Professor and Department Chair Armin Manning, this facility is entirely devoted to undergraduate instruction and research in nuclear physics under the supervision of Prof. Donald Koetke and Prof. Shirvel Stanislaus. Situated in the Neils Science Center and surrounded by five foot thick concrete walls, the Manning Laboratory contains a 300 keV linear particle accelerator and research-grade equipment for experiments for undergraduate students. This distincitive laboratory is not a research facility for faculty or graduate students, but a laboratory environment entirely for and used by undergraduate students.

Nuclear Lab

The VU Observatory

Located at the southeast corner of the Valparaiso University campus, the VU Observatory houses a 16 inch, computer-controlled reflecting telescope used for undergraduate instruction and research under the direction of Professors Bruce Hrivnak and Todd Hillwig. Data are acquired from a variety of stellar objects using a spectrophotometer and a CCD camera. Students work on the analysis of this data in a small attached building as well as in the Neils Science Center.

Frequent open house sessions are scheduled. Many students and community members visit the VU Observatory for these events.

VU Observatory

The Sara Consortium Telescope

Valparaiso University is the newest member of the Southeastern Association for Research in Astronomy (SARA), a consortium of ten universities that operates a 0.9-meter (36-inch) telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory (see image above). Kitt Peak is located about 40 miles west of Tucson, Arizona.

The SARA telescope will be operated over the internet from the VU campus. The remote operation capability will allow astronomy faculty and students to use the telescope year-round, even while classes are in session, without causing a major disruption to their schedules. Faculty and students may also take special opportunity to travel to Kitt Peak and observe on-site.



The Planetarium in the Neils Science Center provides a teaching and outreach avenue at Valparaiso University. The planetarium is used with introductory astronomy lab courses as well as in the bi-weekly astronomy public outreach. Groups may also request private night sky planetarium programs, typically scheduled prior to public programs on scheduled open house nights.

The VU planetarium seats up to 30 people in a twenty foot dome and is equipped with a Spitz projector.

Call 219-464-5369 if you would like to set up a group visit.


Astrophysics Research Lab

The Astronomy Research Lab in the Neils Science Center provides a location for undergraduate students to analyze astronomical data. The lab contains modern computers equipped with the latest astronomical software and is available year-long for undergraduate students working on astronomical research in the department.

Astro Research Lab

Introductory Lab

Our introductory physics and astronomy courses perform their lab work in this lab, which has room for up to 24 students working in groups of 2. There are 12 flat-panel Windows PCs that run data collection and analysis software (during summers, these computers are networked together as a Linux cluster for computational physics research). Experiments range from air-track collisions to studying the length of sparks from a van de Graf generator. Labs are often revised and updated with new procedures and equipment (supplied by internal and external grants, not through lab fees), such as a recent purchase of 6 electron charge-to-mass ratio measurement devices.

Surface Physics Lab

This lab is used to create and characerize thin organic films and their interactions with proteins. The lab houses an ellipsometer (Gaerner Scientific, Stokes LSE) that is capable of measuring film thickness on the nanoscale and a plasma cleaner that is used to prepare silicon wafers. There is also room for undergraduate researchers to perform table-top experiments and data analysis. Chemical work is performed in an adjacent room in a chemical fume hood.


Atmospheric Physics Lab

A small lab for the preparation of ozonesondes (remote ozone sensor payloads for balloon launches). Students perform calibrations, package the sensors, and then launch and track the weather balloons. The Meterology Department has a Storm Chaser crew that sometimes follows the GPS signal of the sensor for retreival.   Balloon Launch

Machine Shop

A room used for the preparation of lab equipment for senior theses, demos, etc. Includes drill presses, a lathe, a "slicer-dicer", and various tools. Students are required to have training and supervision to use the machine shop.

A larger machine shop is located in Gellerson Hall, as part of the Engineering Department.