Advanced Physics Laboratory (PHYS*4500)

Code and section: PHYS*4500*01

Term: Fall 2022

Instructor: Christian Schultz-Nielsen


Course Details

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.
Pre-Requisites:  PHYS*3510

Course Description

This course allows students to perform important 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 will master the scientific communication skills and ability to search the scientific literature skills developed in PHYS*3510.

As discussed in the University of Guelph Undergraduate Calendar, a 0.50 credit course carries an expectation of 10-12 student-effort hours per week, including time allocated to lectures, labs, and tutorials.  Students enrolled in PHYS*4500 should ensure that they allocate hours to this course every week, as the workload is significant and can become overwhelming if left to the last minute.



There are no lectures associated with PHYS*4500.


Mondays and Wednesdays 14:30 - 17:20 in MacNaughton 417

See the semester schedule below for more details – there will not be laboratories every week. 

Final Exam

There is no final exam associated with PHYS*4500.

COVID-19 Disclaimer

Student health and safety is always paramount.  Any students with concerns should contact the course instructor at their earliest convenience to discuss possible alternate arrangements, if necessary.  The University of Guelph does not presently have a vaccination or masking mandate in place, but does reserve to reinstate either or both on short notice.  Students in this course will be required to spend significant time together in the lab spaces.  Studies have shown that wearing medical-quality masks have helped dramatically mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on individual health.  The instructor for this course strongly encourages students to continue wearing medical-grade masks during the lab times to minimize potential disruptions to students' academic semesters due to COVID infections and the potential for longer term symptoms.  Complementary N95-equivalent masks will be provided in the lab space for students.

During the Fall 2022 semester, do not attend a scheduled experiment if you are feeling ill.  Rescheduling experiments in these circumstances is not an inconvenience!

Instructional Support

Instructional Support Team

Instructor:  Christian Schultz-Nielsen
Telephone:  +1-519-824-4120 x56618
Office:  MACN 413

Teaching Assistant: Zarin Ahmed
Office:  MACN 401

Learning Resources

Useful References

  • A.C. Melissinos and J. Napolitano, Experiments in Modern Physics (2nd Edition), Academic Press, 2003. (University of Guelph Library Call #: QC33.M52 2003) (Textbook)
  • 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) (Textbook)
  • D.W. Preston and E.R. Dietz, The Art of Experimental Physics, Wiley & Sons, 1991. (University of Guelph Library Call #: QC33.P74 1991) (Textbook)

Learning Outcomes

Course Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will have:

  1. mastered the use of various experimental physics tools, including multimeters, oscilloscopes and multichannel analyzers.
  2. become autonomous in an experimental physics setting.
  3. mastered the analysis of experimental data, using accepted error analysis methodologies, to verify theoretical predictions.
  4. mastered proper scientific lab notebook protocols, allowing them to recreate experiments and or write technical documents using only their notes and data.
  5. demonstrated mastery with laboratory and radiation safety protocols, including proper handling of sealed gamma-ray emitting sources.
  6. demonstrated mastery of the written and verbal skills required to disseminate experimental results to a variety of audiences via scientific papers, posters, and oral presentations.
  7. identified and synthesized relevant scientific literature to present a coherent scientific argument at a level appropriate to their peers and the more general population.
  8. demonstrated mastery at incorporating theoretical knowledge developed in other physics courses and the scientific literature to draw appropriate inferences and conclusions from experimental results and suggest appropriate improvements to the design of the performed experiments.

B.Sc. Honours Degree

Successfully completing this course will contribute to the following:

# Outcome Learning Outcome
1 Problem Solving & Critical Thinking 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
1.1 Critically evaluate ideas and arguments by gathering and integrating relevant information, assessing its credibility, and synthesizing evidence to formulate a position. 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8
1.2 Identify problems and independently propose solutions using creative approaches, acquired through interdisciplinary experiences, and a depth and breadth of knowledge/expertise. 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8
1.3 Accurately interpret and use numerical information to evaluate and formulate a position. 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8
2 Communication 3, 4, 6
2.1 Accurately and effectively communicate ideas, arguments and analyses, to a range of audiences, in graphic, oral and written form. 3, 4, 6
3 Professional and Ethical Behaviour 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
3.1 Demonstrate personal and professional integrity by respecting diverse points of view and the intellectual contribution of others, and by demonstrating a commitment to honesty and equity, and awareness of sustainability, in scientific practice and society at large. 4, 5, 7
3.2 Collaborate effectively as part of a team by demonstrating mutual respect, leadership, and an ability to set goals and manage tasks and timelines. 1, 2, 5, 8
3.3 Plan for professional growth and personal development within and beyond the undergraduate program. 6
4 Scientific Method 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8
4.1 Apply scientific methods and processes by formulating questions, designing investigations and synthesizing data to draw conclusions and make scientifically-based decisions. 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8
4.2 Generate and interpret scientific data using quantitative, qualitative and analytical methodologies and techniques. 1, 2, 3, 4, 8
5 Breadth & Depth of Understanding in a Particular Scientific Discipline 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8
5.1 Apply the core concepts of math, physics, chemistry and biology to a chosen scientific discipline. 1, 2, 3, 5, 8
5.2 Demonstrate knowledge of the ethical, economic, commercial and social implications of scientific discovery and technological innovation. 2, 6
5.3 Interpret current scientific concepts and gaps in knowledge (and methods) in light of the historical development of a chosen discipline. 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8
6 Scientific Technology & Techniques in a Scientific Discipline 2, 3, 4, 5, 8
6.1 Apply contemporary research methods, skills and techniques to conduct independent inquiry in a chosen scientific discipline. 2, 3, 4, 5, 8

Teaching and Learning Activities

Semester Schedule

Week Course Activities Assessments Due
1 (Sep 05 - Sep 09) No activiites scheduled  
2 (Sep 12 - Sep 16)    
3 (Sep 19 - Sep 23)   Early Bird Bonus - Lab Notebook #1 (Wed Sep 21)
4 (Sep 26 - Sep 30)    
5 (Oct 03 - Oct 07)   Early Bird Bonus - Lab Notebook #2 (Wed Oct 05)
6 (Oct 10 - Oct 14) Thanksgiving Holiday (Mon Oct 11)
7 (Oct 17 - Oct 21)   First 2 Lab Notebooks (Wed Oct 21)
Science Paper #1 (Wed Oct 21)
8 (Oct 24 - Oct 28) CUPC Hosted at Guelph (Oct 27 - Oct 30) Early Bird Bonus - Lab Notebook #3 (Wed Oct 26)
9 (Oct 31 - Nov 04)    
10 (Nov 07 - Nov 11)   Early Bird Bonus - Lab Notebook #4 (Wed Nov 09)
11 (Nov 14 - Nov 18)    
12 (Nov 21 - Nov 25) Poster Presentations (Wed Nov 23) Early Bird Bonus - Lab Notebook #5 (Wed Nov 23)
13 (Nov 28 - Dec 02) Last Day of Classes (Fri Dec 02) Final 3 Lab Notebooks (Wed Nov 30)
Science Paper #2 (Wed Nov 30)

Experiment Scheduling

Students typically perform experiments in alternating weeks, and should sign up for the experiments they intend to do on the Google Sheets link provided in Courselink.  Experiments are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.

During a week where no experiment is scheduled, students should complete the analysis for the lab notebook that was done the previous week and begin preparing for the next week's experiment.  All experiments should be completed by the end of Week 11.  Students are required to complete the experiments during the assigned lab periods.  

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

Modern Physics

  • Electron spin resonance
  • Zeeman effect

Nuclear Physics

  • Gamma-ray spectroscopy using a NaI(Tl) detector
  • The speed of photons: Galileo's technique modernized
  • X-ray spectroscopy - Moseley's law (must have completed Gamma-ray spectroscopy using a NaI(Tl) detector previously)
  • High-resolution gamma ray spectroscopy (must have completed Gamma-ray spectroscopy using a NaI(Tl) detector previously)

Thermodynamics and Statistical Physics

  • Noise fundamentals

Condensed Matter Physics

  • X-ray diffraction (must have completed Fourier optics previously)

Waves and Optics

  • The transmission line
  • Physics of ultrasound


Late assessments will not be accepted and the student will receive a grade of 0 for that assessment.  Please do not submit requests for extensions due to heavy courework in other courses.  The deadlines in PHYS*4500 are laid out at the beginning of the semester, and students should have the time management skills at this point in their degree to complete the assessments by the posted due dates.  Acceptable grounds for extensions include compassionate accommodations or medical accomodations, as described in the Undergraduate Calendar.

Final Grade Breakdown

Assessment Tool Weighting
Lab Notebook (equal weighting for each of the 5 experiments) 45%
Science Paper (2 experiments, equally weighted) 35%
Scientific Poster 15%
Course Performance & Participation 5%

Lab Notebooks

Students should have two lab notebooks so that they have a notebook to work in if the other notebook has been submitted for assessment.  Hardbound notebooks are not required - spiral-bound or soft-cover notebooks are perfectly adequate for this course (and they usually cost less).  Loose-leaf paper in folders or binders are not acceptable.  Students may continue to use their lab notebooks from PHYS*3510, if they choose. 

There are two scheduled Lab Notebook due dates.  Your first two labs will be due by no later than Wednesday October 21st at 4:30 pm, while the final three labs must be submitted by no later than Wednesday November 30th at 4:30 pm.  There are 5% early bird bonuses available for each lab notebook assessment (see the timetable above) for students that submit a lab every two weeks.

Students must work in their lab notebooks as they perform the experiment; do not work on loose sheets of paper and then write up a "good copy" in your lab notebook at a later date.  Nobody expects your lab notebook to be mistake free or perfectly neat - it is a log of your work that evolves as you conduct your research.  It should be clear enough for an external party (your teaching assistant) to be able to follow what you did, but it is expected that you will need to cross things out on occasion or perhaps work in a different sequence than the lab outline instructions.

Notebooks will be assessed using the following criteria:

Materials & Methods (8 marks total)

  • briefly describe what was done as it is done – you should be able to reproduce the procedure from the notebook without the lab outline!
  • logging experimental conditions
  • data recording
  • dates, run times, file names, etc.

Results & Analysis (10 marks total)

  • raw data (where applicable) and quality of that data
  • graphs and brief discussions of the data
  • questions asked in the lab outline, including derivations

Clarity (2 marks total)

  • notebook should be legible
  • anybody should be able to navigate through your lab notebook

A more detailed summary of lab notebook expectations is available on Courselink. 

Science Paper

Each student will hand in two written formal lab reports, written in the style of a scientific paper.  Formal lab reports will be submitted as PDF documents via Dropbox on Courselink, and the due dates are given in the course schedule. 

Evaluation of the science papers will be based on students’ ability to properly motivate the experiment that was performed, to interpret and discuss their experimental data while using proper scientific writing styles, and to properly discuss experimental limitations within accepted error analysis frameworks. Spelling and grammar will be assessed in these reports.  In general, your science papers should not exceed 8-10 pages (1.5 line spacing) for most experiments.  The page count is a guideline, not a firm restriction; students that choose to exceed 10 pages should ensure that it is for a good reason and not simply due to poor editing or rambling logic.

The merit of the scientific arguments made in PHYS*4500 science papers will be assessed more heavily than in PHYS*3510, and students are expected to address experimental uncertainties more rigorously.  Papers at this level should include 10 or more suitable references, such as journal articles or textbooks; websites are not generally included in this reference count, and the lab outline should not be included as a reference.  

Please note that you cannot submit a science paper for an experiment that was presented as a poster.

For each paper, students will also submit the outline they used to generate the paper.  Outlines are commonly used while preparing scientific documents and generally streamline the process of writing scientific papers.  Following the guidelines given previously in PHYS*2180 and on the PHYS*4500 Courselink page, outlines should demonstrate the intended flow of the document and indicate which equations, tables and/or graphs, and figures need to be included in the final paper.  Please note that a rough draft of your paper does NOT constitute an outline.  Outlines will be submitted via Courselink Dropbox at the same time as the science paper.

Scientific Poster

Each student will produce a scientific poster (48” x 36”, but choice of whether to go with portrait or landscape format is up to students) summarizing the results of one of their experiments.  This poster will be submitted electronically as a PDF document via Dropbox. Students are encouraged to browse the scientific posters found throughout the MacNaughton building for guidance.  A good principle while designing your poster is to maintain a balance of roughly 30% text, 30% visuals, and 30% empty space.  See Courselink for other recommendations. Students should get an early start on their posters and consult their instructor/teaching assistant for guidance before submitting the finished poster- we will provide feedback so long as you aren't approaching us at the last minute. 

Students are responsible for printing their posters and will present them to their peers and the course instructors on Wednesday, November 23rd.  The poster boards will be set up in MacNaughton 417/422, and half the students will be presenters while the other half will listen to those presentations and evaluate their peers.  Halfway through the sessions, students will flip roles (judging students will now present, while presenting students will now act as judges).  A rubric will be provided to judges.

You cannot submit a poster for experiments that have been submitted as science papers.

Course Performance & Participation

This grade will reflect the student's contributions and initiative during the scheduled laboratory hours.  Students will be assessed on their ability to follow lab protocols, their autonomy (within reason) while conducting experiments, and their contributions during oral presentations in terms of peer feedback and/or questions.  A portion of this grade will also be allocated to peer review of each student's contributions to the midterm project.

Course Statements

Lab Safety

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:

  • γ -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 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.

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.

After-Hours Access to the Laboratory

Students who need to work on their experiment outside normal course hours may request permission from the course instructor, on a case-by-case basis.  Students 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, the offenders will be removed from the lab and receive a mark of 0 on that experiment.

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.

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

University Statements

Email Communication

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.

When You Cannot Meet a Course Requirement

When you find yourself unable to meet an in-course requirement because of illness or compassionate reasons please advise the course instructor (or designated person, such as a teaching assistant) in writing, with your name, id#, and e-mail contact. The grounds for Academic Consideration are detailed in the Undergraduate and Graduate Calendars.

Drop Date

Students will have until the last day of classes to drop courses without academic penalty. The deadline to drop two-semester courses will be the last day of classes in the second semester. This applies to all students (undergraduate, graduate and diploma) except for Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Associate Diploma in Veterinary Technology (conventional and alternative delivery) students. The regulations and procedures for course registration are available in their respective Academic Calendars.

Copies of Out-of-class Assignments

Keep paper and/or other reliable back-up copies of all out-of-class assignments: you may be asked to resubmit work at any time.


The University promotes the full participation of students who experience disabilities in their academic programs. To that end, the provision of academic accommodation is a shared responsibility between the University and the student.

When accommodations are needed, the student is required to first register with Student Accessibility Services (SAS). Documentation to substantiate the existence of a disability is required; however, interim accommodations may be possible while that process is underway.

Accommodations are available for both permanent and temporary disabilities. It should be noted that common illnesses such as a cold or the flu do not constitute a disability.

Use of the SAS Exam Centre requires students to book their exams at least 7 days in advance and not later than the 40th Class Day.

Academic Integrity

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 encourages academic integrity. 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.

Recording of Materials

Presentations that are made in relation to course work - including lectures - cannot be recorded or copied without the permission of the presenter, whether the instructor, a student, or guest lecturer. Material recorded with permission is restricted to use for that course unless further permission is granted.


The Academic Calendars are the source of information about the University of Guelph’s procedures, policies, and regulations that apply to undergraduate, graduate, and diploma programs.

Academic Calendars