General Information


PHYS 375 : Experimental Physics III

Electromagnetic Waves, Optics and Modern Physics


Fall  2012



Instructor :  Dr.  Andris Skuja

Phys. Rm. 4329; Phone : 301-405-6059 ;  E-mail :


TA :  Chunxiao Liu, Gilad Barlev




Class Schedule  (Section 0101)

Monday,  02:00 – 03:00 pm; Room PHYS 3112

03:00 – 05:50 pm : Room PHYS 3203


Class Schedule  (Section 0102)

Monday,  02:00 – 03:00 pm; Room PHYS 3112

Wednesday, 03:00 – 05:50 pm : Room PHYS 3203


Required Text

 “Introduction to Optics” (3rd Edition)

by F.L. Pedrotti, L.S. Pedrotti, and L.M. Pedrotti



Recommended Texts

"An Introduction to Error Analysis: The Study of Uncertainties in Physical Measurement"  by John R. Taylor (University Science Books, 1997)


"Data Reduction and Error Analysis for the Physical Sciences" by

Phillip R. Bevington and D. Keith Robinson (McGraw Hill, Inc., 2003)



“Optics” (4th edition) by Eugene Hecht (Addison-Wesley)


Recommended Lab Notebook

Computation Notebook, 11 3/4” x 9 1/4”, 4 x 4 Quad.,

~  75 sheets, bound, numbered pages that are not perforated for tear-out




Course Overview: PHYS375 is a three (3) credit course that meets four hours a week.  The primary laboratory objective consists of learning physics through experimental investigation. Topics to be covered include electromagnetic waves, geometrical optics, polarization, interference and interferometers, diffraction, and atomic spectra. There will be six experiments, each lasting for two class periods. Each lab will include a substantial lecture component. This is one of the few opportunities in our undergraduate curriculum to learn some geometrical and wave optics. You will also learn how to carefully take data, analyze it, understand the origins and propagation of errors, and to better appreciate the subtleties of experimental physics. You will also learn how to make useful written presentations of scientific results.


Lectures: The lectures are a required component of this class. This is an excellent opportunity to learn optics and to make connections to your other courses (electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, etc.) and deepen your understanding of physics. Important topics directly related to the labs will be covered in the lectures.


Experiments:  You shall be doing 6 experiments during the semester, spending two weeks on each experiment, in addition to the introductory lab during the first week to learn some basic features of the MATLAB, LAB JACK, He-Ne laser and the photodiode.


Computers: Developing a working knowledge of computers in the context of physics problem solving is an important skill. You will accumulate and analyze data with a computer-based system using MATLAB. We will provide some elementary Matlab code for use in data collection and analysis.


Lab Manual: Because the course emphasizes your own experimental design, we will not be using a traditional Lab Manual . Information necessary for each lab will be made available in the laboratory and will be posted on ELMS.


Lab Notebook: Keeping a detailed record of your experiments is important in Physics 375, and in experimental science in general. It is your responsibility to keep notes on all important aspects of your experiment. Remember that in order to do the analysis in this lab, you will often need a record of how you set up the experiment, including distances, angles, etc.; make sure you have this information recorded before you leave the lab.





Course Grading:

         Lab Report 0                 :    10 pts

         Lab Reports 1 to 6                   :    20 pts each (Total 120)

         Homework  1 to 6          :      5 pts each (Total 30)

         Final Exam                     :    40 pts

         Total                             :  200 pts

         Late submission of homework or lab reports: Loss of 20% of total points / day

         Course incomplete for any missing homework or lab report.





Experiments Schedule:




Expt : Topic


HW Due

Lab Rep Due


August 29

No Lab





Sept. 3 & 5

No Lab (Labor Day week)





Sept. 10 & 12


Lab 1a: Reflection and Refraction

L 1




Sept. 17 & 19

Lab 1b: Reflection and Refraction

L 2

HW 1

 Lab 0  Rep


Sept. 24  & 26

Lab 2a: Geometric Optics

L 3


 Lab 1  Rep


Oct. 1 & 3

Lab 2b: Geometric Optics

L 4

HW 2



Oct. 8 & 10

Lab 3a: Polarization of Light

L 5


 Lab 2  Rep


Oct. 15 & 17

Lab 3b: Polarization of Light

L 6

HW 3



Oct. 22 & 24

Lab 4a: Michelson Interferometer

L 7


 Lab 3  Rep


Oct. 29 & 31

Lab 4b: Michelson Interferometer

L 8

HW 4



Nov. 5 & 7

Lab 5a: Diffraction of Light

L 9


 Lab 4  Rep


Nov. 12 & 14

Lab 5b: Diffraction of Light

L 10

HW 5



Nov. 19 & 21

No Lab (Thanksgiving Week)

Make up week (Mon.  thru Wed.)





Nov. 26 & 28

Lab 6a: Atomic Spectra

L 12


 Lab 5  Rep


Dec. 3 & 5

Lab 6b: Atomic Spectra

L 13

 HW 6



Dec. 10

Final Exam during Lecture Session



 Lab 6  Rep


You must finish all 6 labs and hand in the corresponding reports to successfully complete the course







Guidelines for Lab Reports: Lab reports must be written using either MS Word or Latex and must be submitted as a pdf file to ELMS by the due date. The lab reports should include physics motivation and instrumental details, observations , data analysis, graphs and figures, discussion of results and conclusions and possible ways of improving the quality of results and suggestions for improving the experiment. Lab reports will be graded for the following:

         Introduction - physics, method, apparatus            :  10 pts

         Details of observations                                          :  20 pts  

         Data analysis                                                         :  30 pts

         Discussion of results and conclusions                   :  20 pts

         Discussion of uncertainties and ways to improve :  10 pts

         Overall presentation                                              :  10 pts.

         Total                                                                      : 100 pts



Final Exam: There will be a one hour final exam on Monday, December 10, during the lecture session. It will consist of questions related to your homework.



In case of Bad weather: Winter in the Washington Metro area can bring large snowstorms that make travel dangerous. Should this happen and the University is closed as a result during a scheduled lab, class will be canceled, and we will most likely reschedule the lab for the following week. Closing is announced over local radio and TV as well as on the University’s homepage.


Academic Integrity : "The University of Maryland has a nationally recognized Code of Academic Integrity, administered by the Student Honor Council. This Code sets standards for academic integrity at Maryland for all undergraduate and graduate students. As a student you are responsible for upholding these standards for this course. It is very important for you to be aware of the consequences of cheating, fabrication, facilitation, and plagiarism.” For more information on the Code of Academic Integrity or the Student Honor Council, please visit





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