Welcome to the Department of Physics

The Physics Department at CWU is a dynamic community captivated by the world of physics and astronomy.

About the Physics Department

Whether you are interested in a career in research, education, engineering, biotechnology, science writing, or other STEM careers, now is the time to embark on your Physics degree at CWU. Let us guide your exploration of the universe and build a foundation for an extraordinary future.


Breakdown of Central Washington University Observatory

Read more about "Observatory"

Faculty Resources

Breakdown of Department Forms

Read more about "Faculty Resources"

Student Resources

Resources for students within the Physics department.

Read more about "Student Resources"

Why Study Physics at CWU?

At CWU, we take pride in our new building, purposefully designed with fully equipped teaching and research spaces to enhance your degree.

The building includes features such as a digital planetarium, a 24-inch telescope-equipped observatory, and specialized lab spaces for Biophysics, Low Temperature Physics, Computational Physics, Acoustics, Optics, and Electronics. We also support several distinct career-focused degree tracks that provide an on-ramp to careers in Engineering, Medical Physics, Astronomy, and STEM teaching.

In addition, we feature:

  • Research integrated directly into our curriculum
  • Small classes taught by award-winning faculty

  • Industry partnerships connecting you to regional STEM career opportunities

  • Nationally-recognized physics and astronomy clubs active in community outreach

Degree Options


Minors and Certificates

Learn more about our degree options through our Program Finder.


For general university admissions information, contact the Office of Admissions. For advising information, contact the Academic Advising Center.

The Labs


The CWU Observatory is located on a vibrationally isolated tower accessible from the roof of the Science II building. The observatory provides astrophysics research opportunities and hands-on training for undergraduate students led by Professor Cassie Fallscheer, as well as observing experiences for the general public.


The Lydig Planetarium is a fully digital planetarium used for lectures and shows. Shows are offered by the CWU astronomy club as part of their Star Party outreach events and by members of the community. Collaborate with Professor Bruce Palmquist to develop and lead planetarium shows.

Planetary and Space Physics Lab

CWU students working with Professor Darci Snowden can develop computer models of planetary atmospheres or gain hands-on skills designing and launching rockets. Opportunities at CWU to explore careers in the aerospace industry include the NASA Student Launch, NASA eclipse ballooning project, and the K-12 level Northwest Earth and Space Sciences Pathways (NESSP) program led by Professor Snowden.

Acoustics Research Lab

CWU has its own Anechoic Chamber to conduct research on sound. Led by Professor Andrew Piacsek, students can model sonic booms from maneuvering aircraft, measure wind turbine noise, and investigate musical instruments.

Biophysics Lab

In the Biophysics Lab, students use live-cell fluorescence microscopy, molecular biology, genetics, and computational modeling to uncover the physics of living systems. Professor Nathan Kuwada and Professor Erin Craig lead student research opportunities in the rapidly growing field of Biophysics.

Condensed Matter Lab

In the Condensed Matter Physics lab, students work with Professor Benjamin White to uncover the secrets of novel materials at very low temperatures. Research in this lab reveals fundamental quantum mechanical behavior and lays the groundwork for technological advances.

Optical and Atomic Physics Lab

In this lab, led by Professor Michael Braunstein, students get hands-on experience developing laboratory apparatus, instruments, electronic circuits, and software to investigate cutting-edge physics at the atomic scale. High-resolutions experiments are used to probe the fundamental nature of interactions between light and matter.

Medical Physics Lab

Medical Physicists in Washington State and around the world apply the principles of modern physics to medical applications. In this new lab at CWU, led by Visiting Professor Miron Zaini, CEO and President of Northwest Medical Physics Center, students build and test an electron accelerator modeled after devices used in radiation treatment of cancer patients.

Questions? Contact Us

Department of Physics

400 E. University Way
Ellensburg, WA 98926-7422

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