Spring 2016


Lecture Room 1219 Physics Building

Laboratory 3210 Physics Building


Physics 405 is an advanced undergraduate laboratory course with experiments from many fields of modern physics for physics majors. Students have full access to the experimental equipment and establish their own work schedules and procedures with the guidance of faculty and staff. Emphasis is on independent experiment organization, data acquisition, data analysis, and scientific report preparation.




LECTURES:  Wednesday 12:00-1:00 PM, Lecture Room 1219 Physics Building






Professor Hassan Jawahery

Phone: 301-405-6062

Office: 3208G Physical Science Building (PSC)



Professor Luis Orozco

Phone: 301-405-9740

Office: 2201 Computer and Space Science Building









Mr. Allen Monroe

Phone:  301-405-6002

Office: 3311 Physics Building

Office Hours: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. M-F



Mr. Thomas Baldwin

Phone: 301-405-6004

Office: 3202 Physics Building

Office Hours: 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. M-F





Instructor and Teaching Assistant laboratory hours will be announced in class and posted in the laboratory and on the course web site.


The laboratories are open Monday through Thursday from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. and on Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  The last person to leave a laboratory must close the door.  When returning to a laboratory, Mr. Monroe or Mr. Baldwin will open the door again.  Work is to be finished at the end of the laboratory period.  If data acquisition is not complete at 5:00 p.m. and the experiment is reserved for the following day, a note should be left on the experiment to avoid its being disassembled.






Physics 405 Laboratory Manual – Department of Physics, Fall 2008 edition.

This will be available electronically on the Physics 405 web site.  This version is not available in print.


Two (2) laboratory notebooks are required so that one is available for laboratory work while the other is being graded.  Notebooks are to be 8.5" x 11" or larger, with bound, numbered, quad-ruled pages that are permanent and unperforated.


Recommended References:


Data Reduction and Error Analysis for the Physical Sciences - Phillip R. Bevington and D. Keith Robinson (McGraw Hill, Inc., 2003, ISBN 0-07-247227-8)


An Introduction to Error Analysis: The Study of Uncertainties in Physical Measurement – John R. Taylor (University Science Books, 1997, ISBN 0-935702-75-X).


Building Scientific Apparatus – J. H. Moore, C. C. Davis, and M. A. Coplan (Cambridge University Press, Fourth Edition, 2009, ISBN 978-0-521-87858-6).





There will be a one-hour lecture from 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. in room, 1219 Physics Building every Wednesday during the course of the semester. The lectures will cover error analysis, laboratory measurement techniques, vacuum technology, detectors, basic electronics, signal analysis and other topics germane to experimental physics. Students are responsible for understanding the material presented in lecture and, when appropriate, including this material in notebook reports and in the final formal report. Students missing a lecture are responsible for obtaining the lecture material from classmates. During the latter part of the course, the lecture period will be used for 12-minute student presentations. Attendance at the Wednesday lectures and presentations is mandatory. The lecture and presentation schedule will be posted on the course website.




To pass the course, you must complete four experiments, with at least two from group B experiments.  Completion is defined as performing the laboratory work, data analysis, and submitting a laboratory notebook for gradingFailure to complete four experiments will result in failing the class. Each student is required to work on the experiments independently. At the completion of each experiment the laboratory notebook must be submitted to the instructors for grading. It is necessary to have at least two laboratory notebooks so that one is available for laboratory work while the other is being graded. The notebooks will be graded promptly so that improvements can be made in subsequent experiments and reports. The notebook reports are meant to be the notes and documentation of the work in the laboratory, and are not the Formal Report. (Please refer to the laboratory manual for more information on the notebooks.)




There is an online sign-up sheet that can be accessed from any computer with an internet connection or from the computer in Rm. 3210. The url is  Prior to carrying out an experiment, the preparatory questions at the start of the experiment must be answered.  The answers are to be written in the laboratory notebook.  You must have the preparatory questions examined and initialed by either the instructor or the TA before beginning the experiment.  Work on the experiments must be formally scheduled. Time slots are available in half-day periods.  In order to save an experimental setup, two consecutive periods must be reserved.  When an experiment has been completed and data acquisition finished the experiment must be dismantled.




Notebook reports are due according to the schedule shown in the syllabus.  There is a 2-point penalty, out of a total of 20 points, per day for late reports.




A formal report on the second experiment is required and is to be submitted according to the schedule below. The format of the formal report is given in the laboratory manual and on the Blackboard website.




Each student is required to give a 12-minute presentation on an experiment. The talks will be followed by questions from students, the instructors, and TA. (10 minutes for the talk and 2 minutes for questions).




During the semester homework problems will be assigned. The purpose of these problems is to review and strengthen understanding of error analysis that will be used in the interpretation of data, as well as provide experience with experimental topics.  








Formal Report


12-Minute Presentation








If you have a valid excuse for missing a due date for a notebook report or a 12-minute presentation (e.g. a medical emergency) see one of the Professors to make alternate arrangements, beforehand. Ex post facto (after the fact) excuses will require validation and may not be acceptable. You must speak to one of the Professors. The TA does not have the authority to make alternate arrangements.




Academic dishonesty is a serious offense that can result in suspension or expulsion from the university. In addition to any other action taken, the normal sanction is a grade of "XF", denoting "failure due to academic dishonesty," and will normally be recorded on the transcript of the offending student. Students are required to perform all experiments, analysis, and write-ups independently. The experiments may be discussed with other students, but each student must work independently..




Read the laboratory manual carefully before beginning an experiment. Answer the pre-laboratory questions in your notebook and have them checked by the Professor or TA before beginning the experiment.  

Keep a complete log for the experiment including equipment diagrams, measurement configurations, results, estimates of errors and limitations to the measurements, analysis used to obtain final results and a proper estimate of all errors including systematic as well as statistical errors.  

Record clearly the reasoning used to arrive at conclusions. If the experimental result does not agree with the known or accepted value, documented reasoning may be the only means for determining what went wrong.  Additional information, a list of experiments, and more detailed help can be found at the course website.  

Good time management is essential for success in this class. Don't fall behind!  Don't wait until the last day to do an experiment!





First meeting:  Wednesday, January 27; Introduction to the Laboratory


First Class Lecture:  Wednesday, February 3

Spring Break: March 14 – March 18

Last day of Classes: Tuesday, May 10



TENTATIVE SCHEDULE (subject to revision)





Lecture Period Topic



Due Dates



Introduction to Experiments


Laboratory Manual


 Unit #1 Prelab*



Lecture 1

Radiation Safety






Lecture 2


 Random/Systematic Errors


Bevington Ch. 1-2
, Taylor Ch. 3,4,5,10,11



Homework #1

Preliminary report Exp#1



 Lecture 3

Vacuum Technology



Building Scientific Apparatus, 
Ch. 6



Expt #1



Homework #2



   12 Min. Presentations





Homework #3



12 Min. Presentations



Preliminary report Exp#2



12 Min. Presentations


 Expt #2





Spring Break





12 Min. Presentations


Experiment 1 or 2 Formal Report




12 Min. Presentations





12 Min. Presentations


Preliminary report Exp#3



12 Min. Presentations 


Expt #3




12 Min. Presentations





12 Min. Presentations


Preliminary report Exp#4



12 Min. Presentations


 Expt #4




*All pre-laboratory questions must be completed and checked (initialed) by the TA or an instructor before laboratory work can start.  Reports are due at 12:00 noon on Wednesdays.




Laboratory notebooks must include a complete description of how the experiment was performed and the way the data were analyzed. Other scientists should be able to take the notebook and duplicate the experimental results. Below is a list of the essential elements of the notebook report:


   Notebook reports written in ink in a laboratory notebook with quad-ruled, numbered pages. Mistakes are not to be erased, scratched over or covered with White-Out. A single line is to be drawn through mistakes.


   All graphs stapled, pasted or taped in the notebook. Graph axes labeled with units. Formulas, derivations, and discussions necessary to understand the graphs included.


    A brief description of theory of the experiment followed by a clear description of the procedure used to take data. Schematic diagrams of the experimental arrangement along with circuit diagrams of electronics.  Raw data in tabular form with units and proper significant figures.


    Units for all numbers with appropriate significant figures.


   Estimates of random and systematic errors and the justification for the estimates.


   Analysis of the data using proper error analysis and a description of the analysis methods. If Mathematica is used, include the analysis steps in addition to the Mathematica notebook included in the laboratory notebook.


   Comparison of statistical error with random error (reduced  c2).


  Final results with total error (including systematic errors), comparison of the final results with expected values and a discussion of discrepancies.


   Answers to all questions in the Laboratory Manual including discussion questions.


   All parts of the experiments completed.




Procedure (including preparatory questions) 2 points


Preliminary report                                         4 points


Raw data (including tables, plots)               4 points


Analysis (including errors and final results) 7 points


Remaining topics listed above 3 points


Two points will be subtracted from any report grade for each day late. Failure to submit all reports will result in an F for the course.




Last Modified December 24, 2015