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New Mexico State University
Department of Physics
College of Arts & Sciences

Contact Us

Department Head

Department Head & Professor

GN 223


Office Staff

Marisela Chavez

Admin. Assistant, Intermediate

GN 221


Rosa Christensen

Fiscal Assistant, Senior

GN 222


Technical Staff & Support

Francisco Carreto-Parra

Manager, Lab Instruction

GN 207



Jacob Peyton

Systems Administrator

GN 359


Student Program Heads



GN 356




GN 355


Engineering Physics


GN 357


Undergraduate Advisors


Distinguished Achievement Professor

GN 258A



GN 256A



GN 354


Assistant Professor (on leave)

GN 256


Engineering Physics


GN 223


Associate Professor

GN 353



GN 356


Prospective Student Contacts


GN 356



GN 355


Fall 2020 Operations Plan

The Scope of Work of Our Department

The Department of Physics teaches general education and viewing a wider world courses to about 1000 students each year. It offers ABET-accredited undergraduate degrees in physics and engineering physics as well as MS and Ph.D. degrees in Physics (awarding about 5 Ph.D. degrees per year). It has extensive research programs with about 1.5 million dollars of research expenditures. It has ten tenured faculty members, two half-time College faculty members, two non-exempt and two exempt staff members, and about 70 undergraduate and 35 graduate majors. It is engaged in outreach to local K-12 schools and hosts an annual physics summer day camp for high school students.

Our Department's Functions On and Off Campus

On campus:

  • Face-to-face courses: Instructional laboratories and most courses with low enrollmentsfor physics majors at the upper-division and graduate level, except those taught by instructors who have received approval from OIE to teach exclusively online.
  • Preparation for on-campus and online courses and instructional laboratories (preparation of lecture materials, exams, videos, lecture demonstrations, instructional laboratory setup). Training of teaching assistants for face-to-face instructional laboratories.
  • Office hours, one-on-one advising and mentoring of students (academic, careers, internships), where both the instructor and the student have agreed to meet face-to-face.
  • Research approved by the VPR, mentoring of undergraduate and graduate research students.
  • Administrative functions related to students, employees, and research, especially completion of I-9 forms, receipt and distribution of mail (including paychecks) and packages, maintenance of office equipment, building monitor functions, departmental inventory, space survey, etc.
  • Written comprehensive examination to advance to Ph.D. candidacy (two students).
  • Oral MS and Ph.D. examinations, if the candidate and all committee members prefer a face-to-face examination.
  • Computer laboratory for students who do not have their own computers with high-speed internet connection at home; or to use special software (MATLAB, etc).


  • Most large general-education and viewing a wider world courses, also instructional laboratory courses with large enrollments, where students need to be broken up into face-to-face and online groups. Courses taught by instructors who have received permission from OIE to teach exclusively online.
  • Preparation of face-to-face and online instruction that does not need to be performed on campus, because the instructors have purchased (at their own expense) office equipment and online connectivity needed for online instruction.
  • Office hours, advising, and mentoring where either the student or the instructor prefers an online meeting.
  • Research not approved by the VPR for on-campus activities or research that does not need to be performed on campus.
  • Research administration and other administrative functions that can be performed online (budgets, purchase orders, PCard reconciliation, scholarship processing).
  • Faculty and committee meetings.
  • Walk-in tutoring.
  • Oral MS and Ph.D. examinations, where the candidate or at least one committee member prefer an online examination. The public will also view the candidate’s presentation online.
  • Meetings of student societies.

Offices and Other Locations

  • Physics office (GN 221) with reception desk.
  • Department head office (GN 223)
  • Mailroom (GN 224)
  • Single-occupancy faculty and staff offices (Gardiner Hall)
  • Large classrooms with simulcast ability (GN 229 and GN 230)
  • Instructional laboratories (GN 104, 106, 204, 208, 265)
  • Departmental computer laboratory (264)
  • Graduate student offices at 50% capacity (216, 361, 363, 365, 55)
  • Research labs approved for use by the VPR
  • Meeting rooms (125, 261, 225) and small classrooms (218, 218A) for one-on-one or small meetings with distancing.

Working on Campus or Working from Home

Everyone who can work effectively work from home should do so as much as possible. Functions will be carried out on campus if they cannot be done from home. In cases where multiple options exist to perform the same function, one will be performed on campus, the other online, to reduce occupancy. (This addresses the desire of some individuals to be present on campus and that of others to work remotely.)

COVID-19 Exposure Risks

Exposure risk arises from physical presence in a classroom or shared office, speaking in a classroom or meeting room, restrooms, touching surfaces like tables, computer keyboards, or laboratory equipment.

Exposure Mitigation Plans

Class size will be reduced to the lower of (1) CDC-approved limit and (2) limit calculated from six-foot separation of individuals. Facemasks and gloves will be worn outside of single-occupancy offices. Barriers will be installed in reception areas. Meeting participants will be separated at least six feet. Research will follow procedures approved by the VPR. Federal, state, and local guidelines to reduce exposure will be followed. Where office occupancy cannot be reduced below 50%, shifts will be staggered.

Triggering Events

Triggering events need to be defined at the campus level.

Continuity of Buisness following Triggering Event

Following our experience from this spring, most essential teaching and administrative functions can be performed online, but some teaching functions (capstone courses and advanced laboratories PHYS 217L and PHYS 471/571) can only be done on campus with restrictions. Some research can be done online, but other research activities will have to pause. This will delay the time to graduation for some students and will reduce the output of some externally funded research activities.


Most departmental functions related to teaching, research, outreach, service, and administration will be performed remotely. A presence in Gardiner Hall will be maintained as needed to meet these functions, following safety and hygiene protocols (including tracking) as established by the institution at the time.

  1. The physics department office (administrative assistant) in GN 221 will be staffed as needed to maintain departmental functions, such as completion of I-9 forms, receipt and distribution of mail (including paychecks) and packages, maintenance of office equipment, building monitor functions, departmental inventory, space survey, etc. If the office is closed, the office phone number 646-3831 will be rerouted to a home or cell phone and a sign will be placed on the office door how the administrative assistant can be reached (Skype, Zoom, phone). If the administrative assistant works in her GN 221 office, then a physical barrier will provide a six-foot separation between her and visitors or clients. The administrative assistant will clean her work environment at least daily (on days when she is in the office).The seating area in the office will be closed off (by turning around the chairs). No coffee, water, or food will be served.
  2. The fiscal assistant (GN 222) will work mostly remotely in the fall 2020 semester and will only make occasional (monthly or quarterly) trips to her office in GN 221. Her phone (646-3832) will be routed to a cell phone. Reducing the overlap between the administrative assistant and the fiscal assistant will reduce the risk of infection.
  3. The Department Head (GN 223) will work mostly remotely. A sign will be placed on the door of GN 221 how he can be reached by phone or Skype if he is not in the office. He will work from his office as needed for teaching, research, and administration. He will minimize the overlap with other departmental office personnel, unless specifically needed (for example to discuss personnel matters). The layout of the office lends itself to physical separation, since the office contains two tables that are more than six feet apart.
  4. The mailroom (with copier and fax machine) will be open to those with a key (faculty, staff, and graduate students). A sign will be placed that gloves and facemasks are required when entering this room. We will need to rely on the custodial staff to clean this high-use area at least daily.
  5. While most faculty will teach their online courses from home, some will prefer to teach from their faculty offices, where they have reliable internet connections, blackboards, books, lecture demonstrations, or other materials needed for teaching. Perhaps 50% of the faculty offices may be occupied, but probably not all at the same time. Faculty offices are typically too small or not configured properly to allow social distancing. Therefore, few, if any, faculty will meet with students in their offices (for example for office hours or to mentor research students). Such meetings will be held either online or in a larger room, where distancing is possible.
  6. The tutoring room (GN 225), Physics Education Research room (GN 218), and the small classroom (GN 218A) will mostly be closed, but they can used by a single person (faculty or graduate student) to perform research or office work with physical distancing. They can also be used for meetings between one faculty member and one student. PPE will be determined based on the conditions present at the time.
  7. The written comprehensive examination (for 2 students) to advance to Ph.D. candidacy will be held on three half-days in late August in a large conference room, to allow separation.
  8. Most faculty members will perform their research from home, but some have research labs, videoconferencing facilities, or research computers in their offices and therefore will spend time in Gardiner Hall.
  9. Experimental research laboratories (especially those used for grant-funded research, GN 265, 260, 50, 54, 103, 364) and the X-ray Diffraction Facility (GN 265) integrated in CURRL will operate at reduced capacity to allow distancing. Shifts will be staggered to avoid close physical contact.
  10. Faculty and committee meetings will be held online through Zoom.
  11. Oral MS and Ph.D. examinations can be held online or in a large classroom to allow distancing, at the discretion of the student and the committee. For face-to-face defenses, only committee members will be in the classroom. The public portion of the thesis defense (candidate presentation) will be streamed for the public to view.
  12. The occupancy in graduate student offices (GN 216, 361, 363, 365, 063) will be reduced to 50%, either by reducing the number of assigned desks or by assigning shifts.
  13. The SPS Room(GN 125, undergraduate student lounge) will be closed to undergraduate students. This room can be assigned to graduate students during the fall semester. It can also be used for face-to-face meetings between one student and one instructor. PPE will be determined based on the conditions present at the time.
  14. The computer lab (GN 264) will be open, but the number of workstations will be reduced to allow a six-foot distance between students. This room can also be used as a reading room or for homework assignments. It should be cleaned daily by custodial services.
  15. The physics conference room (GN 261) will be open and can be used for small meetings, if social distancing rules are maintained. It will also be available as a reading room. This room should be cleaned daily by custodial services.