Advanced Physics Laboratory (PHYS*4500)

Code and section: PHYS*4500*01

Term: Fall 2016

Instructor: Christian Schultz-Nielsen


Section 1: Instructional Support

Section 1.1: Course Instructor

Course Instructor Office Email
Christian Schultz-Nielsen MacNaughton 431

Section 1.2: Graduate Teaching Assistant

Teaching Assistant Office Email
Andrew Harris MacNaughton 406

Section 1.3: Laboratory Technician

Laboratory Technicians Office Email
Dave Urbshas MacNaughton 104
Sean Thibeau MacNaughton 303

Section 2: Learning Resources

Section 2.1: Course Website

Course material, news, announcements, and grades will be regularly posted to the PHYS*4500 Courselink site. You are responsible for checking the site regularly. Please ensure that your grades are recorded correctly and notify the course instructor of any discrepancies.

Section 2.2: Primary Course Reference


Section 2.3: Recommended Course References

  • A.C. Melissinos and J. Napolitano, Experiments in Modern Physics (2nd Edition), Academic Press, 2003. (University of Guelph Library Call #: QC33.M52 2003)
  • J.R. Taylor, An Introduction to Error Analysis: The Study of Uncertainties in Physical Measurements (2nd Edition), University Science Books, 1997. (University of Guelph Library Call #: QC39.T4 1997)
  • D.W. Preston and E.R. Dietz, The Art of Experimental Physics, Wiley & Sons, 1991. (University of Guelph Library Call #: QC33.P74 1991)

Students will make extensive of various textbooks from the physics major. Refer to specific lab outlines for more detailed references.

Section 2.4: Communication and Email Policy

Laboratory sessions are your primary opportunity to ask questions about the course.

The course instructor is available to provide help in their office during designated office hours, which will be assigned during the introductory lecture. If you wish to obtain help from your instructor at another time, please email to make an appointment or see them before or after labs to arrange a mutually convenient time. As per university regulations, all students are required to check their <> e-mail account regularly: e-mail is the official route of communication between the University and its students.

Section 3: Assessment

Section 3.1: Final Grade Breakdown

Assessment Tool Weight
Lab Notebook (equal weighting for all labs) 25%
Formal Lab Report (3 reports, equally weighted) 40%
Lab Skills & Performance 5%
Final Group Project – Essay 15%
Final Group Project – Oral Presentation 10%
Final Group Project – Peer Evaluation 5%

Lab Notebooks: Students will submit their lab notebooks on the Wednesday (by 5:30 pm) following each assigned week for your group, and these will be evaluated based on the criteria developed during the first lab. Students are encouraged to keep two separate lab books to allow the GTA sufficient time to grade the lab books.

Written Formal Lab Reports: The student’s evaluation on this performance assessment will be based on students’ ability to give rationale for, to interpret, and to discuss the data that they generate during the labs. Each student will hand in two written formal lab reports, written in the style of a scientific paper, and one formal lab report presented in the style of a scientific paper.

The due dates for your formal lab reports are 5:30 pm on the dates below:

Formal Lab Report Due Dates
Paper #1 Week 6: Wednesday, October 19 (Group A)
Week 7: Wednesday, October 26 (Group B)
Poster Week 9: Wednesday, November 9 (Group A)
Week 10: Wednesday, November 16 (Group B)
Paper #2 Week 11: Wednesday, November 23 (Group A)
Week 12: Wednesday, November 30 (Group B)

Please note that the deadline dates for PHYS*4500 (like PHYS*3510) are heavily stacked to the second half of the course. We will not be moving these deadlines to accommodate the assignment or midterm deadlines of other courses. Students should budget their efforts accordingly, and are encouraged to complete their formal labs long before the deadline if they have suitable experimental data to work with.

Late work will be penalized at 10% per day, and will no longer be accepted one week after the due date.

Final Group Project – Essay: Throughout the semester, students will work in groups of two randomly assigned by the course instructor. Each group will submit a collaborative essay describing an experimental effort at the forefront of physics, with great examples including Nobel Prize winning research. This essay will provide an overview of the relevant physics and describe at least one relevant research paper.

Suitable topics include:

  • gravitational wave observatories (good chance of winning this year’s Nobel Prize)
  • neutrino observatories (Nobel Prize – 2002 and 2015)
  • invention of blue light-emitting diodes (Nobel Prize – 2014)
  • CERN Large Hadron Collider and the Higgs boson (Nobel Prize – 2013)
  • quantum particle tracking/quantum computing (Nobel Prize – 2012)
  • discovery of accelerating expansion of the universe (Nobel Prize – 2011)
  • experiments with the two-dimensional material graphene (can also include more recent experiments with silicone) (Nobel Prize – 2010)
  • transmission of light in optical fibers (Nobel Prize – 2009)
  • invention of the CCD sensor (Nobel Prize – 2009)
  • giant magnetoresistance (Nobel Prize – 2007)
  • discovery of the blackbody form and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation (Nobel Prize – 2006)
  • laser-based precision spectroscopy (Nobel Prize – 2005)
  • achievement of Bose-Einstein condensation (Nobel Prize – 2001)
  • laser cooling and trapping of atoms (Nobel Prize – 1996)

Students who wish to discuss a different project or experiment can do so if they receive permission from the instructor. Student topics must be unique, to avoid overlap with other groups in the class. Students taking PHYS*4001/2 are prohibited from choosing topics associated with their senior projects to avoid getting double credit for the same academic work.

Essays will be submitted in the same lab period that students present their final project in Week 12.

Final Group Project – Oral Presentation: During one of the two assigned lab periods in Week #12, each group of students will present their chosen research technique to their classmates. The presentations shall be limited to 20 minutes, with 5 minutes for questions.

Final Group Project – Peer Evaluation: During the assigned lab periods in Week #12, each student will use a provided rubric to grade the oral presentations of their peers. Constructive feedback must be provided, and this will be assembled by the course instructor and forwarded to the presenters.

Lab Skills & Performance: Throughout the semester, the instructor and teaching assistant will be monitoring student attitudes and initiative in the laboratory. Students will be assessed on their willingness to try to understand experiments on their own (within reason – we do not want students wasting their time when they have no idea what to do next), their preparedness for labs throughout the semester, and their ability to adhere to established lab safety protocols (e.g. no food or drink of any type in the lab room!).

Section 3.2: Time Conflict Between Courses

Sometimes students will have a time conflict between a midterm exam in another course and either a lecture or a lab in this course. The University has a very clear policy to cover this situation: the regularly-scheduled lecture or lab holds priority. In other words, it is the responsibility of the faculty member who has scheduled the midterm exam to make special arrangements with students who have conflicts. This policy is stated explicitly in the 2016-2017 Undergraduate Calendar.

Section 3.3: Course Grading Policies

Missed Assessments: If you are unable to meet an in-course requirement due to medical, psychological, or compassionate reasons, please email the course instructor or TA. See the undergraduate calendar for information on Regulations and Procedures for Academic Consideration.

Accommodation of Religious Obligations: If you are unable to meet an in-course requirement due to religious obligations, please email the course instructor within two weeks of the start of the semester to make alternate arrangements. See the undergraduate calendar for information on regulations and procedures for Academic Accommodation of Religious Obligations.

Mark Adjustments: If you have questions about any grade, please inquire promptly after the material has been returned to you. Students are ultimately responsible for ensuring that the grades on all submitted material were entered properly in Courselink – check the entered grades
frequently throughout the semester and report any discrepancies to your teaching assistant or course instructor.

Passing Grade: To receive credit for PHYS*4500, the student must obtain a final grade of 50% or higher. For students that do not obtain a passing grade in the course, their final transcript will show the grade that they actually achieved in the course.

Section 4: Aims and Course Objectives

Section 4.1: Calendar Description

This is a modular course for students in any physics-related major in which techniques of nuclear, solid state and molecular physics will be studied.

Section 4.2: Course Aims

This course allows students to perform some basic experiments that illustrate topics discussed in third and fourth year physics courses. The students will obtain experience using modern laboratory instruments and practice methods of data acquisition and analysis. The student’s scientific communication skills and ability to search the scientific literature will be developed.

Section 4.3: Learning Objectives

At the successful completion of this course, the student will have:

  • refined the scientific presentation skills developed in previous courses.
  • mastered the identification of relevant scientific literature and learned to assimilate various sources together to create a coherent scientific argument.
  • mastered the analysis of experimental data, using accepted error analysis methodologies, to verify theoretical predictions.
  • become relatively autonomous in an experimental physics setting.

Section 4.4: Instructor’s Role and Responsibility to Students

The instructor’s role is to aid students in their performance of various experiments and provide guidance as students develop their mastery of the underlying physical concepts associated with these experiments.

Section 4.5: Students’ Learning Responsibility

Students are expected to take advantage of the assigned laboratory hours, as these are the only hours where students are guaranteed access to the course instructor and teaching assistant. All students are expected to attend the assigned classes and the lab performance grade will be based on assessments of student performance during these time periods.

Students who do (or may) fall behind due to illness, work, or extra-curricular activities (including varsity sports, student leadership activities, etc.) are advised to keep the instructor informed such that extra resources or accommodation can be provided if appropriate.

Students are expected to complete their lab notebooks, formal lab reports and term projects in a timely fashion. Students are provided with deadlines for course materials at the beginning of the semester and are expected to work towards those deadlines accordingly. Extensions will not be granted except in exceptional medical or compassionate circumstances. Students should not wait until the deadlines to complete their coursework, as other course deadlines will start to interfere with the posted deadlines in PHYS*4500.

Section 4.6: Relationship With Other Courses & Labs

Prerequisite Courses: Students must have completed PHYS*3510. Some labs will draw upon material previously discussed in PHYS*2180, PHYS*3230, PHYS*3220, and PHYS*4040.

Restrictions: None.

Follow-on Courses: Some experiments in PHYS*4500 complement lecture material in other fourth year courses, most notably PHYS*4120, PHYS*4130, and PHYS*4150.

Section 5: Teaching and Learning Activities

Section 5.1: Timetable


Day Time Classroom
Monday 14:30 – 17:20 MacNaughton 417
Wednesday 14:30 – 17:20 MacNaughton 417

Every student has the right to participate and contribute in the lab. If a student feels that there is something preventing their full contribution, they must notify the course instructor or lab/tutorial instructor as soon as possible. We cannot fix problems that we are not aware of!

The learning environment must be free from harassment. Offensive or inappropriate (homophobic, racist, sexist, etc.) comments are strictly prohibited. Offending students will at the very least be required to leave the lab or class, and a mark of zero will be given for any assessments arising from that course activity. More serious cases will be forwarded to the University of Guelph Judicial Committee, where the maximum penalty is suspension or expulsion from the University of Guelph. For more details, students should consult the University of Guelph’s current Policy on Non-Academic Misconduct.

Section 5.2: Experiment Scheduling

Students will be asked to split into two equal groups, Group A and Group B. Those in Group A will begin experiments in Week 2 and will have one week to complete the data collection for that experiment. Students in Group B will then have access to the equipment in Week 3, for one week. The two groups will alternate in this fashion throughout the semester with Group A doing experiments during the even weeks and Group B doing experiments during the odd weeks. All experiments should be completed by Week 11, and the students will be given keys to access the lab at their leisure. If students choose to work outside of normal university hours (8:30 AM – 5:30 PM), they are prohibited from being alone in the lab.

Each student will be required to do 5 of the labs listed below:

Modern Physics

  1. Electron Spin Resonance
  2. Zeeman Effect
  3. Millikan Oil Drop Experiment
  4. X-Ray Fluorescence: Moseley’s Law

Nuclear Physics

  1. Gamma-Ray Spectroscopy Using a NaI(Tl) Detector
  2. The Speed of Photons: Galileo’s Technique Modernized

Solid State Physics

  1. X-Ray Diffraction
  2. The Hall Effect and Semiconductor Band Gap

Thermodynamics and Statistical Physics

  1. Noise Fundamentals

Waves and Optics

  1. The Velocity of Sound: The Debye-Sears Experiment
  2. The Transmission Line
  3. Fourier Optics
  4. Physics of Ultrasound

The Superconductivity of Tin experiment is presently unavailable as we identify a supplier for new superconducting samples. If samples are procured before the end of the semester, we will do our best to get this experiment operational again, but students should not count on this.
Other experiments are continually under development and may be available for motivated groups to perform as troubleshooters. These will be announced on Courselink.

Section 5.3: Signing Up for Experiments

Students can sign up for experiments using the Google Sheets link provided on Courselink. Please do not sign up for experiments outside of your assigned weeks until after all the students in Group A or Group B have chosen their own labs. Do not sign up for the same experiment as another group in the same week! Experiments are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.

Section 5.4: Other Important Dates

Friday November 4th is the fortieth class day, the last day to drop one semester courses.

Section 6: Lab Safety

Section 6.1: Department of Physics Laboratory Safety Policy

The Department of Physics is committed to ensuring a safe working and learning environment for all students, staff and faculty. As a student in a laboratory course, you are responsible for taking all reasonable safety precautions and following the lab safety rules specific to the lab you are working in. In addition, students are responsible for reporting all safety issues to the graduate teaching assistant or course instructor as soon as possible. Students are not required to work in an environment that they deem to be unsafe. If you have any concerns whatsoever, please consult your teaching assistant or course instructors!

In this course, students may be exposed to the following potential hazards:

  • \(\gamma\)-radiation and x-ray sources
  • intense light, including laser light and strobe lights
  • voltages and currents that can be harmful if proper precautions are not taken
  • compressed gases
  • cryogenic liquids: liquid nitrogen and liquid helium

All experiments have been designed to such that students have minimal (but not zero!) risk if proper laboratory protocols are followed. At all times, students must be aware of the risks of their experiment and the positioning of their fellow students and behave accordingly.

Section 6.2: Food and Drink in the Laboratory

As with all laboratories on the University of Guelph campus, ALL food and drink is strictly prohibited in the laboratory. This applies to all faculty, staff, and students. In the PHYS*4500 laboratory, this rule is strictly enforced as a criterion for lab certification with the Radiation Safety Office at the University of Guelph. Students must not, under any circumstances, bring any food or drink into the laboratory. If students have water bottles or food in their backpacks, these must be left at the front of the room and not be accessed within the room at any time.

Section 6.3: After-Hours Access to the Laboratory

Students will sign out a key for the laboratory for the duration of the semester, allowing them to access the laboratory throughout the week. Students who wish to work on their experiments outside normal university working hours (8:30 AM – 4:30 PM) must ensure that they are never in the laboratory alone, and must obey all safety rules. Should a course instructor, teaching assistant or lab supervisor come across students with food or drink in the laboratory, that student will lose their key access for the remainder of the semester and will receive a mark of 0 on that experiment.

Section 7: Academic Misconduct and Collaboration

Section 7.1: Collaboration

Collaboration and communication are essential for progress and advancement; much of modern society is built upon these skills. Students are encouraged to collaborate and discuss course concepts! However, all material submitted for grading must be each student's own work. Plagiarism is a form of academic misconduct, and will not be tolerated.

A good guideline when it comes to crossing the line from collaboration to academic misconduct (see next section) is that a student must never look at another student’s written work. For the vast majority of students, they will be incapable at arriving at their own form of a derivation or analysis after they have looked at another student’s work. For students seeking help from their peers, ask conceptual questions as opposed to, “How do you derive Equation 4?” For student helping their peers, never give the answer explicitly, but explain your reasoning.

Section 7.2: Academic Misconduct

The University of Guelph is committed to upholding the highest standards of academic integrity and it is the responsibility of all members of the University community – faculty, staff, and students – to be aware of what constitutes academic misconduct and to do as much as possible to prevent academic offences from occurring. University of Guelph students have the responsibility of abiding by the University's policy on academic misconduct regardless of their location of study; faculty, staff and students have the responsibility of supporting an environment that discourages misconduct. Students need to remain aware that instructors have access to and the right to use electronic and other means of detection.

Please note: Whether or not a student intended to commit academic misconduct is not relevant for a finding of guilt. Hurried or careless submission of assignments does not excuse students from responsibility for verifying the academic integrity of their work before submitting it. Students who are in any doubt as to whether an action on their part could be construed as an academic offence should consult with a faculty member or faculty advisor. The Academic Misconduct Policy is detailed in the Undergraduate Calendar at the following link.

Section 8: Accessibility

Section 8.1: Accessibility

The University of Guelph is committed to creating a barrier-free environment. Providing services for students is a shared responsibility among students, faculty and administrators. This relationship is based on respect of individual rights, the dignity of the individual and the University community's shared commitment to an open and supportive learning environment. Students requiring service or accommodation, whether due to an identified, ongoing disability or a short-term disability should contact the Student Accessibility Services as soon as possible.

For more information, contact SAS at 519-824-4120 ext. 52073 or email or see the accessibility website.

Section 8.2: Electronic Recording of Classes

The electronic recording of classes is expressly forbidden without the prior consent of the instructor. This prohibition extends to all components of courses, including, but not limited to, lectures, tutorials, and lab instruction, whether conducted by the instructor or teaching assistant, or other designated person. When recordings are permitted they are solely for the use of the authorized student and may not be reproduced, or transmitted to others, without the express written consent of the instructor.

Section 8.3: Posting Course Materials on Websites

Posting any course materials, including lecture notes or experiment outlines, is strictly prohibited. These materials are copyright of the course instructors, Department of Physics and University of Guelph.

Section 9: Course Evaluation

Section 9.1: Course Evaluation

The Department of Physics requires student assessment of all courses taught by the Department. These assessments provide essential feedback to faculty on their teaching by identifying both strengths and possible areas of improvement. In addition, annual student assessment of teaching provides part of the information used by the Department’s Tenure and Promotion Committee in evaluating the faculty member's contribution in the area of teaching.

The Department's teaching evaluation questionnaire invites student response both through numerically quantifiable data, and written student comments. In conformity with University of Guelph Faculty Policy, the Department’s Tenure and Promotions Committee only considers comments signed by students (choosing "I agree" in question 14). Your instructor will see all signed and unsigned comments after final grades are submitted. Written student comments may also be used in support of a nomination for internal and external teaching awards.

Note: No information will be passed on to the instructor until after the final grades have been submitted.