Research in Physics (PHYS*4001)

Code and section: PHYS*4001*01

Term: Fall 2020

Instructor: Vladimir Ladizhansky


Please retain this material and consult it regularly during the course.  This information will be important to you as the course progresses.

Course Information


Vlad Ladizhansky
Office: SCI 1251
Ext. 53989

Official Class Meeting Times

These have been set for the fall semester by the Registrar’s Office as Thursday at 2:30-5:20. The class only meets as a whole on a few occasions. First meeting: September 10, 2:30 pm, online. ZOOM LINK WILL BE PROVIDED. Times and format of other meetings will be announced. 

Description of The Course

This course aims at introducing students to Physics research through involvement in an original project within one of the research groups of the Physics Department.  The work schedule, laboratory space and apparatus, and other details associated with the project will be worked out with the student’s faculty supervisor. A minimum of six hours work per week is expected. 


  1. During the preceding summer, students will familiarize themselves with the research groups of the department on the Physics website, and will decide what research areas are of interest. It is important to look under BOTH the headings RESEARCH AND FACULTY to get a complete picture. Students are strongly urged to approach faculty members during the late winter and the spring and summer (email, visit, letter, phone) and arrange a project and a supervisor. 
  2. By the start of the Fall semester, it is expected that most students will have identified a supervisor. Any remaining ones must identify a supervisor in the FIRST TWO WEEKS OF CLASSES. The department may need to close admission to the class, dependent on numbers, if a supervisor has not been identified at this time.
  3. The coordinator will meet with the class in mid-September. Lab safety issues and necessary training courses will be arranged at that time.  
  4. During September and October, students are expected to read in depth material provided by the supervisor and to become familiar with their project’s background, approaches and objectives. 
  5. Each student will have to write a “Research Proposal”. The coordinator will advise on the preparation of these proposals, and will provide feedback afterwards. The proposal should not exceed five pages of double-spaced text, and should be submitted to the coordinator no later than November 13. 
  6. Students are expected to commence actual work in the laboratory or at the computer at the very latest immediately after the proposal submission. 
  7. The project will continue through the winter semester: it is expected that students will work for at least six hours per week. The specific hours need not correspond to the formal class schedule (except for class meetings).
  8. Every student will have to prepare a written form of the Progress Report. The report should not exceed five double-spaced pages, and should be submitted to the coordinator no later than February 5. 
  9. In mid-March, students will individually rehearse their final Powerpoint presentations with the coordinator. The coordinator will then provide individual feedback and advice.
  10. In the last weeks of semester, there will be a formal class meeting at which each student will give a 15 minute Powerpoint presentation summarizing her/his research findings. NOTE THAT THIS YEAR, THE MEETING MAY NEED TO BE VIRTUAL..This event will be organized like a real (VIRTUAL) conference, right down to question periods, and all faculty, post-docs and graduate students will be invited to attend. 

Role of the course coordinator

  • Provide guidance and feedback with respect to oral presentations
  • Be available to deal with specific problems or difficulties
  • Organize class meetings and presentations
  • In consultation with the student’s faculty advisor, assess each student’s work and assign the final grade

Role of the faculty supervisor

  • Provide clear guidance as to the scope and objectives of the project
  • Meet with students at least weekly, and more often if required
  • Ensure a safe working environment, consistent with University and departmental safety policies
  • Provide the coordinator, after the project is completed, with an assessment of the student’s overall performance relative to expectations and taking into account any unforeseen difficulties 

Class meetings and important dates

The final presentation gives the students experience in presenting short research talks as one might give at a research conference. It also serves to check on the student’s progress during the year.  Each student will give one presentation, in addition to the one-on-one rehearsal with the coordinator. Assistance with preparation of necessary Powerpoints, overheads, demonstrations, etc can be obtained from the student’s faculty advisor or the course coordinator. 

First meeting: Entire Class (Organization and Safety)

September 10, 2020 at 2:30 pm. ZOOM LINK WILL BE PROVIDED.
By the time of this very brief meeting, all students will have met, on their own initiative, with potential faculty supervisors, selected their project, and should have some idea of the context.  

Research Proposal

Friday, November 13, 23:59:59: deadline for Research proposal.
This report MUST BE TYPED (hand-written reports will not be accepted) and should include:


  • Scientific motivation and purpose of the project
  • Hypotheses or experimental observations that are being tested during the project.
  • Literature review: any similar or related experiments or calculations that have been done and how this project is different from previous work.
  • Specific experimental design and project plan.
  • The apparatus and techniques to be used.
  • How the results are to be analyzed.
  • Any anticipated outcomes and their significance

Progress Report

Friday, February 5, 23:59:59: deadline for Progress report.
Format will be announced in early January.

Second Meeting: Individual Students meet with the Coordinator (Rehearsal for final report)

Dates/FORMAT TBA – mid-March

This presentation must be brief and to the point. The talk should be seen as a rehearsal of the final presentation and should therefore report on the entire project. Data analysis that has been done should also be presented as well as any further experiments or analysis still required.  Any data should be shown in graphical form in Powerpoint. Powerpoint files should be supplied to the coordinator at least 24 hours ahead of time. The coordinator will provide feedback and advice to help in preparing the final public presentation.

ABSTRACTS of final presentation:  DATES TBA.  

One paragraph (maximum 150 words) summarizing your project.  This abstract will be used to advertise your final talk to the faculty and graduate students in the Physics Department.

Third Meeting (Final Presentation)


Finalized Powerpoint files should be supplied to the coordinator at least 24 hours ahead of time. All members of the Physics Department will be invited to attend these talks.

Laboratory Safety

Laboratory safety (for you and for all the other people around you) is an integral part of the conduct of experimental physics. It is not an add-on. Safety issues must be considered in the design of equipment, the procurement, storage and handling of materials, the planning of experimental work, and the actual conduct of the work. 

All students in this course must read and comply with the Department of Physics Safety Policy, which is found on the department intranet via its website.

Students who will be involved with chemicals, lasers or radionuclides must discuss with their faculty advisors if they should attend one of the university’s regular short training sessions. 

Students are not permitted to work alone after normal daytime working hours. If working after hours is contemplated, an explicit arrangement must be put in place whereby the advisor or another expert within the research group is on hand.  

When anything whatsoever causes you to be concerned in the context of safety, raise the matter immediately with your faculty advisor before you take any further action. Do not hesitate on grounds that the matter may be trivial: probing of established procedures by a new person can be valuable in improving the safety of everybody.


The approximate relative weight of each element is indicated, but this does imply a simplistic approach wherein marks are assigned individually to each component and then added up; the coordinator has to employ his experience and his judgment in assessing the interplay of the various components as well as the quality of each.  

  1. The progress made on the project.  (30%) This mark will assess how well the student has progressed toward the anticipated goals of the project.  Account will be taken of the effort (quality as well as quantity) applied to the project, the student’s independent creative input to the project, and how well the student coped with the inevitable problems which arise in any research project.
  2. The notebook.  (PASS/FAIL) Each student must maintain a notebook to be used on a day to day basis to record all relevant information and theoretical developments. The notes should be legibly written and as complete as possible. The notebook should include:
    •    Experimental design
    •    Overall project plan
    •    Apparatus and plan changes
    •    Theoretical background
    •    Details of experiments
    •    Measurements
    •    Relevant observations
    •    Ideas for changes in experimental method
    •    Calculations


    Notebooks will be delivered to the coordinator before a date early in the exam period: this date will be established in consultation with the class.  
  3. Final presentation. (25%) Each student will give an oral presentation. The final talk should be a well prepared overview of the background, methods used and results of the project.  Any conclusions from the work and how these relate to the original purpose of the project should be presented.
  4. 4-6.    Proposal, Progress and Final Project reports.  (total of 45%, 15% each).  

    Proposal (not to exceed 5 double-spaced pages) should address the following points:
    •    Scientific motivation and purpose of the project
    •    Hypotheses or experimental observations that are being tested during the project.
    •    Literature review: any similar or related experiments or calculations that have been done and how this project is different from previous work.
    •    Specific experimental design and project plan.
    •    The apparatus and techniques to be used.
    •    How the results are to be analyzed.
    •    Any anticipated outcomes and their significance
  5. Progress Report (not to exceed 5 double-spaced pages) should describe how you progress: state purpose of the project and key hypotheses or experimental observations that are being tested. Describe your intermediate goals, how they have been achieved, and where the project is headed.  
  6. Final Report: This report should be a more detailed summary of the project.  It will include the details on which the final presentation was based.  It should clearly and succinctly describe:

    •    An abstract
    •    The objectives
    •    Methods
    •    Results
    •    Discussion
    •    Conclusions

    It is expected that the final project report will be no more than 12 pages (double-spaced text) in length. The coordinator will decide upon an appropriate submission deadline.



Course Statements

Collaboration versus Copying

Scientists work alone or in groups, very often consulting fellow scientists and discussing their research problems with peers. Collaboration is a feature of scientific activity and there are many benefits to working with others. However, no ethical scientist would ever publish or claim the work of others as his or her own and generally scientists give reference to the appropriate source of ideas or techniques which are not their own.

You are a young scientist and, in this spirit, I encourage you to discuss with others as you learn the material and work on the problem assignments. However, the work that you submit as your assignment must be your own and not a copy of someone else’s work. Identical scripts will be given a mark of zero and plagiarism will be dealt with severely. I encourage you to cite your references, citing books and other articles when they are used and acknowledging discussions with those who have helped you in your understanding and completion of the problem. This is good scientific practice.

Course Evaluation Information

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 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 Tenure and Promotions Committee only considers comments signed by students. 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.

University Statements

COVID-19 Disclaimer

Please note that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may necessitate a revision of the format of course offerings and academic schedules. Any such changes will be announced via CourseLink and/or class email. All University-wide decisions will be posted on the COVID-19 website and circulated by email.  

The University will not require verification of illness (doctor's notes) for the fall 2020 or winter 2021 semesters. 

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. Undergraduate Calendar - Dropping Courses 

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. Undergraduate Calendar - Academic Misconduct 

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. Undergraduate Calendar