General Information


PHYS 375 : Experimental Physics III

Electromagnetic Waves, Optics and Modern Physics


Fall  2013



Instructor :  Dr.  Andris Skuja

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


TA :  I-Lin Liu

Section 102: Wednesday 3pm to 5:55pm


TA :  Nightvid Cole

Section 103: Tuesday 3pm to 5:55pm



Class Schedule  (Section 0103)

Monday Lecture,  02:00 – 03:00 pm; Room PHYS TBA

Tuesday Laboratory 03:00 – 05:50 pm : Room PHYS 3203


Class Schedule  (Section 0102)

Monday Lecture,  02:00 – 03:00 pm; Room PHYS TBA

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


Highly Recommended Text

 “Introduction to Optics” (3rd Edition)

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




Alternate Text

 “Introduction to Modern Optics” (2nd Edition) 

Grant R. Fowles

This text is considerably older than the Pendrotti one and does not contain all modern applications. However it is considerably cheaper than the recommended text. If you buy a copy get the Dover edition.



Other 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. You will not get full credit for the course if you do not attend the lecture. Attendance will be taken via weekly hard copy submissions of assignments and lab reports during the lecture class. Not that no student shall be allowed into the lab unless they have participated in the week’s lecture.


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 Reports  1, 3, 5 & 6                   :    50 pts each (total 200)

         Lab Reports 2 and 4                :    100 pts each (Total 200)

         Homework 1 to 6                    :    5 points per question + 5 points for Lab Zero

         Final Exam                              :    70

         Attendance (including

                   Lectures)                        :     TBA

         Total                             :  700 pts

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

Your Course submission will be judged incomplete if missing any homework or lab report. You must submit all required lab reports to pass the course even if you do not get numerical credit for the course.



Schedule of Experiments:




Lecture and Experiment Topics

Reading from Pedrotti

HW Due

Lab Rep Due


Sept. 3 & 4

No Lab (Labor Day week)





Sept 9


Sept. 10 & 11

Lecture 1: Maxwell’s equations & error analysis     






Sept 16


Sept. 17 & 18

Lecture 2: Fermat’s principle, Snell’s Law

Lab 1a: Reflection and Refraction


HW  assignment 1

 Lab 0 Summary

is included as part of HW1


Sept 23


Sept. 24 & 25

Lecture 3: Imaging, spherical surfaces, thin lenses

Lab 1b: Reflection and Refraction


HW assignment 2



Sept. 30


Oct. 1  & 2

Lecture 4: Magnification, TE/TM waves, Snell’s law again

Lab 2a: Geometric Optics



 Lab 1  Rep

Summary Report only


Oct. 7



Oct. 8 & 9

Lecture 5: Polarized Light, Jones vector, Malus’ Law, Brewster’s Angle

Lab 2b: Geometric Optics


HW assignment 3



Oct. 14


Oct. 15 & 16

Lecture 6: Fresnel eq’s, phase changes, evanescent waves

Lab 3a: Polarization of Light



 Lab 2  Rep

Complete Report


Oct. 21


Oct. 22 & 23

Lecture 7: Two beam interference,

Young’s double slit experiment

Lab 3b: Polarization of Light


HW assignment 4





Oct. 29 & 30

Lecture 8: Thin films, Michelson interferometer, Fabro-Perot

Lab 4a: Michelson Interferometer



 Lab 3  Rep

Summary Report


Nov. 4


Nov 5 & 6

Lecture 9: Fraunhofer diffraction – single slit

Lab 4b: Michelson Interferometer


HW assignment 5



Nov. 11

Nov. 12 & 13

Lecture 10: Double slit diffraction

Lab 5a: Diffraction of Light



 Lab 4  Rep

Complete Report


Nov. 18



Nov. 19 & 20

Lecture 11 : Resolution, apertures, multi-slit diffraction, Babinet, Fresnel

Lab 5b: Diffraction of Light


HW assignment 6



Nov. 25


Nov. 26 & 27

Lecture 12: Diffraction grating,

Atomic Spectra

No Lab (Thanksgiving Week)

Make up week (Mon.  thru Wed.)



Lab 5 Rep

Summary Report only


Dec. 2


Dec. 3 & 4

No Lecture


Lab 6a: Atomic Spectra





Dec. 9



Dec. 10 & 11

Final Exam during Lecture Period


Lab 6b: Atomic Spectra (if necessary)



Lab 6 Summary Report due at end of  Lab class









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. A hard copy of the Lab Report must also be submitted in the lecture class on the date indicated above.    There are six experiments in this course plus an introductory one. You are required to submit a written report of your results for each experiment consisting of either an extended Full Report (~15-20 pages) or a short Summary Report (i.e. ~5 pages) as explained below. All reports will be submitted both electronically using the ELMS system and a hard copy will be due at the start of each lecture following the completion of the lab (see schedule).  Reports should be submitted as a Word or PDF file, complete with embedded data and figures, and hard copies must be printed using color ink and appear as professional documents


Ø     FULL REPORTS (labs 2 and 4) consist of two main parts – the record of what you did in the lab, including notes on the apparatus, how you acquired data, and the raw data. The second part is data analysis, including plots, extraction of the actual quantities to be measured, and uncertainty analysis. It should end with a discussion of ways to improve the measurement. This may be a different form for a lab report than what you are used to – rather than having you repeat the material we already know (what the problem is, what the equipment is,…) you should focus on what you did and what conclusions you drew.  This type of report serves as a full record of your experiment and results, and should be directed to a scientific audience not familiar with the lab.

Every Full Report must have:

·       title page, with name, title, abstract etc.

·       introductory material, explaining the theory required to understand the reason for the experiment and the analysis used to arrive at conclusions.

·       record of experiment (description of actual experimental setup you used)

o      schematics and diagrams of equipment and experimental setup

o      notes on experimental procedures, attempts, success/failures, etc.

o      raw data (provide units!)

o      comments about experimental conditions/ discoveries

o      referrals to appendices, tables, electronic files etc with raw data

·       experimental results, including raw data plots, tables etc., as well as summary plots.

·       data analysis

o      plots of analyzed data

o      formulae used to extract measured quantities

o      uncertainty analysis/propagation, sources of error, methods of error assignment

·       discussion of results and conclusions

o      final results with uncertainties

o      comparisons to expected/known/previous results and other sources

o      identification of predominant source of uncertainty

o      discussion of ways to improve measurement and other possible measurements


Ø     SUMMARY REPORTS (labs 1, 3, 5 and 6) are abbreviated versions of a full report, consisting of a summary of the procedures used, a record of the data required for analysis and discussion about analysis, results and conclusions. This report serves as a record of your lab performance and results, and should reflect that fact.

Every Summary Report must have:

·       title page, with name, title, abstract etc.

·       brief summary of experimental setup and procedures

·       summary plots of experimental results and data analysis

·       data analysis summary and brief discussion of uncertainty assignment, analysis, etc.

·       discussion of results, including values, comparisons, uncertainty, improvements, conclusions, etc.


All lab report grading will follow this rubric:


Laboratory skill

20 %

Organization and logic of report

20 %

Data analysis

50 %

Discussion of results, uncertainties and methods of improvement

10 %


100 %


Late Reports:

Lab reports submitted after the deadline will be receive a 20% penalty  for each day they are late, and therefore a 100% penalty for >1 week late -- No Exceptions!!!!



Missed Labs

If you should miss any lab for any reason, contact the instructor as soon as possible to make an arrangement for makeup. Labs may be missed only for valid reasons as specified by the University rules book. If you plan to miss any of the six labs for a valid reason it should be PRE-APPROVED by the instructor. The instructor will attempt to let you take the lab in the same week that it was originally scheduled (if possible). If it proves not possible to do so, you will be able to make-up the lab during one of the designated make-up times (primarily Thanksgiving week). You will get credit for missed labs only if you have made appropriate arrangements with the instructor.



Homework material is designed to complement the lecture and laboratory segments of the course. Homework is assigned every two weeks, with due dates that fall in between the lab report due dates. Late homework will not be accepted and will receive a zero grade. You have at least a week to turn in all assignments, and the assignment due date schedule is given to you on the first day, so there are ZERO EXCUSES!


Tips for Doing Well:

·       Read the lab instructions carefully before you go to the lab and attempt an experiment.

·       During class, keep a neat, well-organized and complete record in your lab notebook of the experiment including diagrams of measurement configurations actually used to obtain data, your results, and the analysis used to obtain the results

·       When something in the lab isn't making sense or isn't working raise your hand and discuss with your instructor - do not hesitate to ask even the most trivial questions if you are not sure!

·       Do not leave class unless you have finished your data analysis and discussed your results with your instructor or TA.

·       Do the assigned homework and submit it for grading on time.



Final Exam: There will be a one hour final exam on Monday, December 9, 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