Intermediate Laboratory (PHYS*3510)

Code and section: PHYS*3510*01

Term: Fall 2019

Instructor: Christian Schultz-Nielsen


Course Details

Calendar Description

This modular course consists of experiments in modern and classical physics. Modules include laboratory instrumentation employing computers, modern physics, waves and optics, molecular physics, biophysics, and solid state physics.

Pre-Requisites:  PHYS*2180 or (NANO*2100, PHYS*2310)

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’s scientific communication skills and ability to search the scientific literature will be developed. 

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*3510 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*3510.


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*3510.

Instructional Support

Instructional Support Team

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

Lab Technician:  David Urbshas
Telephone:  +1-519-824-4120 x53995
Office:  MacNaughton 104

Teaching Assistants

Devin Hymers
Office:  MacNaughton 401

Learning Resources

Recommended Resources

  • 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, you should be able to:

  1. operate various experimental physics tools and devices, including multimeters, oscilloscopes, and multichannel analyzers.
  2. operate as a productive and efficient member of a small team with relatively little guidance from the course instructor.
  3. analyze experimental data, using accepted error analysis methodologies, to verify theoretical predictions.
  4. follow proper scientific lab notebook protocols, including the recording of experimental data and experimental conditions, especially in cases where the student's experiment deviated from provided experimental outlines.
  5. demonstrate intermediate proficiency with laboratory and radiation safety protocols, including proper handling of sealed gamma-ray emitting sources.
  6. identify and synthesize relevant scientific literature to present a coherent scientific argument at a level appropriate to your peers.
  7. demonstrate proficiency at incorporating theoretical knowledge developed in other physics courses and/or the scientific literature to draw appropriate inferences and conclusions from experimental results.

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, 6, 7
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
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, 4, 6
1.3 Accurately interpret and use numerical information to evaluate and formulate a position. 2, 3, 4, 6, 7
2 Communication  4, 6, 7
2.1 Accurately and effectively communicate ideas, arguments and analyses, to a range of audiences, in graphic, oral and written form. 4, 6, 7
3 Professional and Ethical Behaviour 1, 2, 4, 5, 6
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. 2, 4, 6
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, 4, 5, 6
3.3 Plan for professional growth and personal development within and beyond the undergraduate program. 4
4 Scientific Method  1, 2, 3, 4, 7
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, 7
4.2 Generate and interpret scientific data using quantitative, qualitative and analytical methodologies and techniques. 1, 2, 3, 4, 7
5 Breadth & Depth of Understanding in a Particular Scientific Discipline 2, 3, 5, 6, 7
5.1 Apply the core concepts of math, physics, chemistry and biology to a chosen scientific discipline. 2, 3, 6, 7
5.2 Demonstrate knowledge of the ethical, economic, commercial and social implications of scientific discovery and technological innovation. 5, 6
5.3 Interpret current scientific concepts and gaps in knowledge (and methods) in light of the historical development of a chosen discipline. 3, 6, 7
6 Scientific Technology & Techniques in a Scientific Discipline 2, 4, 6, 7
6.1 Apply contemporary research methods, skills and techniques to conduct independent inquiry in a chosen scientific discipline. 2, 4, 6, 7

Teaching and Learning Activities

Semester Schedule

Week Course Activities Assessments Due
1 (Sep 09 - Sep 13)
  • Lab Safety Training (Mon Sep 09) in MacN 415
  • Radiation Safety Training (Wed Sep 11) in MacN 415
2 (Sep 16 - Sep 20) Experiment #1  
3 (Sep 23 - Sep 27)   Lab Notebook #1 (Wed Sep 25 at 16:30)
4 (Sep 30 - Oct 04)  Experiment #2  
5 (Oct 07 - Oct 11)   Lab Notebook #2 (Wed Oct 09 at 16:30)
6 (Oct 14 - Oct 18)
  • Thanksgiving (no lab scheduled)
  • Group Presentations (Wed Oct 16 in MacN 222)
7 (Oct 21 - Oct 25) Experiment #3  
8 (Oct 28 - Nov 01)    Lab Notebook #3 (Wed Oct 30 at 16:30)
9 (Nov 04 - Nov 08) Experiment #4  
10 (Nov 11 - Nov 15)   Lab Notebook #4 (Wed Nov 13 at 16:30)
11 (Nov 18 - Nov 22) Experiment #5   
12 (Nov 25 - Nov 29)   Lab Notebook #5 (Wed Nov 27 at 16:30)

Experiment Scheduling

Students will 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 is due that week and begin preparing for the following week's experiment.  All experiments should be completed by Week 11.
Students are required to complete the experiments during the assigned lab periods.  Students requiring additional time to complete an experiment may sign out keys to MacNaughton 417 from the course instructor in the rare occasions that an experiment cannot be completed in the allotted 6 hours of lab time.
Each student will be required to do 5 of the experiments listed below:

Modern Physics

  1. Electron spin resonance
  2. Millikan oil drop experiment

Nuclear Physics

  1. Gamma-ray spectroscopy using a NaI(Tl) detector*
  2. The speed of photons: Galileo's technique modernized

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
Note that students continuing to PHYS*4500 should complete the experiments denoted with an asterisk as these are prerequisites or recommended to have completed for experiments available to PHYS*4500 students.


All assessments submitted late without legitimate cause will be penalized 10% per late day, to a maximum of 50%.  After five days, the late work will no longer be accepted and the student will receive a grade of 0 for that assessment.

Final Grade Breakdown

Assessment Tool Weighting
Lab Notebook (equal weighting for each of the 5 experiments) 40%
Formal Lab - Science Paper (2 experiments, equally weighted) 35%
Formal Lab - Poster First Draft  2.5%
Formal Lab - Poster Presentation 7.5%
Group Project (Oral Presentation)  10%
Course Performance  5%

 Lab Notebooks

Notebooks will be evaluated based on the criteria described below, and will be available for pick-up on the following Monday during scheduled lab time. Students may continue to use their lab notebooks from PHYS*2180.
Students should be working in their lab notebooks as they perform the experiment, and the 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
Please note that your lab notebook does not require a detailed motivation/introduction section for each experiment.  A summary of the key points is generally sufficient, however questions in the lab outline should be addressed and derivations should be completed.  Much of this work can be done before you begin your experiment!  If you are completing your notebook properly, you should only need to generate graphs, perform some calculations, and provide a very brief discussion of the data after the experiment.

Formal Lab - 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 merit of the scientific arguments made in PHYS*3510 science papers will be assessed more heavily than in PHYS*2180, and students are expected to address experimental uncertainties more rigorously.  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 in PHYS*2180 and on the PHYS*3510 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.

Formal Lab - Poster (First Draft)

Each group will produce a scientific poster (48” wide by 36” high) summarizing the results of one of their experiments.  This poster will be submitted electronically as a PDF document via Dropbox. 
The poster draft will be assessed by the Teaching Assistant, and useful feedback will be provided before the final posters are printed.  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.  You cannot submit a poster for experiments that have been submitted as science papers.

Formal Lab - Poster (Presentation)

Incorporating feedback received after the submitted draft, each group will print their poster (this typically costs $30-$40) and present it to their peers in a PHYS*3510/4500 Poster Session scheduled on Monday, November 25th from 2:30 – 5:20 PM in MacNaughton 417.  Attendance at the poster session is mandatory for all students, so plan your extracurricular activities and jobs accordingly.
Students will be divided into two groups, presenters and evaluators.  For the first 90 minutes, the presenters will present their poster in 5 minutes or less (with up to 2 minutes of questions afterwards) to their evaluators, and will be assessed using a provided rubric.   After 90 minutes, the student presenters and evaluators will switch roles. 

Group Project (Oral Presentation)

During the first 6 weeks of the semester, students will work in groups of two, randomly assigned by the course instructor, and research a historically relevant experiment in physics or a related field. Each group will present their work to their peers, providing an overview of the relevant physics, particularly the experimental considerations, and describe the impact of that experiment on physical theories and understanding. The presentations will be no longer than 15 minutes, with 5 minutes for questions.  All students are expected to attend the full 3 hours of the presentation session.  The presentations will be held on Wednesday, October 16th from 2:30 – 5:20 PM in MacNaughton 222.
Suitable historical experiments include:


  • invention of masers and lasers by Townes
  • Michelson-Morley experiment testing the luminiferous aether

Quantum Physics

  • Davisson-Germer experiment proving the de Broglie hypothesis
  • Stern-Gerlach experiment and the discovery of spin angular momentum
  • observation of quantized energy states in atoms by Franck and Hertz

Nuclear and Subatomic Physics

  • Rutherford’s alpha-particle scattering experiment
  • Chadwick’s discovery of the neutron OR discovery of nuclear fission by Fermi, Hahn, Strasser, Meitner, and Frisch OR discovery of artificial radioactivity by the Joliot-Curies

Biophysics and Soft Matter Physics

  • Franklin’s X-ray crystallography experiments with DNA
  • Pockels-Langmuir-Blodgett trough experiments
  • Perrin’s study of colloidal suspensions

Electricity & Magnetism

  • discovery of electromagnetic waves by Hertz

Condensed Matter Physics

  • discovery of the transistor by Bardeen, Brattain, and Shockley
  • experiments revealing the thermoelectric effect by Seebeck and Peltier
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 should avoid choosing presentation topics that are closely related to previous summer research projects.

Course Participation & Performance

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 willingness to pull their weight during the conduction of the experiments, and their contributions during group presentations and poster presentations in terms of peer feedback and/or questions.

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*3510 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 sign out a key to MacNaughton 417 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.

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 Calendar.

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.

For Guelph students, information can be found on the SAS website.

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.


Please note:  This is a preliminary web course description. The department reserves the right to change without notice any information in this description.  An official course outline will be distributed in the first class of the semester and/or posted on Courselink.