Spring 2017: Senior Physics Lab (PHYC 493L)
Instructor: Victor Acosta, email@example.com
Office: CHTM, Rm 115A (please make an appointment)
Teaching Assistant: Yaser Silani (CHTM), firstname.lastname@example.org
Class meets: Monday and Wednesday 2:00 -- 5:00 pm; P&A Rm 116, Wednesdays 2-2:30 in P&A 190
Final exam: Wednesday, May 10, 2:00 - 4:00 pm in P&A 4. Pairs of students deliver oral presentations (20-30 min).
Intro slides: here.
Overview: Senior Lab is organized around modules that are expected to last about 3.5 weeks (7 class meetings). The modules are more complicated than 100--300 level undergraduate labs. You will find less specific instruction; independent problem-solving is expected. This is an excellent environment in which to develop laboratory skills.
Students should work in teams of 2, but the team members will be rotated at the conclusion of each module, i.e. every 3.5 weeks. Students are required to complete the following by Wednesday before finals:
-2 standard modules from the list below
-the mandatory machine shop module
-a final project module (4 modules total) by the end of the semester.
1) Nuclear Physics. Instructions
UCS 30 multi-channel analyzer manual
This 1962 video shows how muon (mu-meson) decay can be used to demonstrate time dilation in special relativity. Although not exactly the same experiment performed in this module, it illustrates the experimental difficulties physicists dealt with more than a half-century ago when trying to measure muon decay.
2) Wavemeter. Instructions. This experiment is shared with Optics Lab.
3) Diffraction of Single Photons. Instructions
4) Doppler Velocimetry. Instructions. This experiment is shared with Optics Lab.
5) Lock-in Amplifier. Instructions
Machine Shop Module: Students will learn elementary machine shop skills and how to interpret drawings. Individual instruction is from the department's prototype machinists Anthony Gravagne and/or Robert Chavez, who will evaluate your work. This module will be performed in two separate periods of 3 weeks (milling) and 1--2 weeks (lathe). There will also be a multiple-choice, written quiz at the end of the semester. A description of this module is here.
Final Project Module: Students will choose one of the following projects:
-Automated pulse counting and LabVIEW control of the single photon experiment
-Large-scale data analysis of wavemeter experiment (laser frequency, intensity, and lab temperature)
-Saturated absorption spectroscopy of Rb vapor
-An independently chosen project approved by the instructor (provided two students agree to work on it).
Grading: Students will be graded on electronic lab notebook (15%), standard module writeups (20% x2), completion of the machine shop module (15%), and final project module writeup (15%) and oral presentation (15%).
Each module will be graded 50 percent on the quality of the work and 50 percent on the clarity and professionalism of the writeup/oral presentation (machine shop module excluded). Late modules will be marked down one full letter grade for each week late. The instructors will often be working directly with the student teams and will have plenty of opportunity to assess your progress. Be sure to engage them in discussion and ask plenty of questions. Students must attend each lab session unless explicitly excused by the instructor. Participation is important and unexcused absences will affect the first component of grading.
Lab Notebook: On every module, each pair of students will be responsible for maintaining a detailed electronic notebook file. Thus in total, each student will have 4 different notebook files and each file will have two co-authors. We will use Google Docs to record all information; this will make writeups easier and allow for easy collaboration between the pairs. Relevant information should be recorded as the experiment progresses. A useful description (if somewhat outdated) of the lab notebook procedure can be found here. The instructors will periodically look through the lab notebooks unannounced. You will be graded on completeness and clarity of information. This is a case where style is less important and we encourage you to use shorthand, photos, screenshots, etc. to make the note-taking process less time consuming.
Writeups: Developing technical writing skills is an important component of this course. An accomplished scientist must be adept at properly explaining and documenting his/her work following established conventions. There are many brilliant physicists who have been hampered in their professional careers because of an inability to do this well.
For the standard modules, each student on the team is responsible for producing a separate report no later than 2 weeks after the completion of the module. For the final module, each team submits a single writeup due on our final exam day. The writeup should follow the format of a formal technical document that you would see in a physics journal. There should be an abstract that concisely summarizes what you have done. An Introduction orients the reader to the work with background material. There should be a section that clearly describes the experiment with diagrams and details. This is followed by sections for Results (graphs and/or tables are almost mandatory), Analysis/Discussion, and a short Conclusion. References are listed last.
Use a template from a research journal of your choice (eg. APS, OSA). Search online or simply look in the hallways of our physics building for plenty of examples. There is no page requirement, but be sure to write clearly and concisely. The 2-week deadline is in place for two reasons: i) it's best to work on the report while details are fresh in your mind and ii) you should begin organizing your ideas and thoughts for the writeup while the experiment is in progress.
To create the writeups, may use latex, Google docs, Word, or any other standard processor. For the collaborative final project writeup, I recommend using a cloud-sharing prcoessor such as google docs, sharelatex, etc.
Each pair of students will deliver an oral presentation during our final exam timeslot. Presentations will cover the work done on the final projects. They should be 20-30 minutes in length. The format of the talk should follow that of a standard research talk at, for example, APS March Meeting. There are three great example talks here, and many more on the APS website.