Course Syllabus

Physics 431 Summer 2016
Modern Physics Laboratory:  Condensed Matter Physics

Tuesday and Thursday:  1:30 – 4:30 pm.     Room PAB B248.




Lab Supervisor

Marjorie Olmstead


David Pengra


PAB B433












Teaching Assistant:  TBA


Lab Manual:        

No text is required for this course.  A list of the available experiments with links to the write-ups, reference material and discussion questions is at Physics 431 Experiment List
These write-ups give an overview of the experiments along with a description of experimental procedures. It is important that you read the write-up before coming to the lab to attempt the experiments, some of which can be somewhat difficult. This will make your time in the lab both more productive and more enjoyable.  Note many labs have additional questions on the course website in addition to those in the formal lab write-up.  You are responsible for answering these questions.
Additional material related to many of the experiments can be found in individual binders that are located in one of the wall cabinets in B248. You may sign one out for the duration of the experiment that you are doing.  You should read the Useful Information page before starting your first lab.


  1. You must purchase a pad of engineering paper (the kind with graph paper on one side) to be used as a lab journal. You should develop a habit of writing down interesting observations as they occur in an experiment, unless you find it more convenient to type into your laptop or tablet. (However, your lab notebook will never crash, and can’t be accidentally erased or revised). You must also purchase (or obtain from the used-folder box in the lab) 2–3 expandable folders in which to place the lab reports, and you should put your original, written-in-ink, numbered and dated, engineering-paper notes into these folders WHILE you are performing the experiment.  If you use an electronic notebook, you need to print out your notes that day and date and sign them.
  2. You should choose your initial set of lab partners and do the Oscilloscope Exercise during the first class.   There is no report for this exercise.  The importance of this instrument is second only to the use of a digital multimeter.  You are excused from these exercises only if you have already done them in PHYS 432 or 433.  
  3. Prepare for and complete five experiments from the two lists located at Physics 431 Experiment List. Each lab group has a pre-set schedule - please join the group that is scheduled for the experiments you wish to do.
    • Of the five graded experiments, at most 2 can be from List 1 (unless you have already performed two of the List 2 experiments in 432 or 433, in which case you should do all 3 List 1 experiments and the other 2 List 2 experiments).
    • Labs may be done in any order, but students who choose to do both NMR experiments generally find it easier to do the continuous NMR before pulsed.
    • If you have already done the pulsed NMR experiment in Physics 432 or the Mossbauer experiment in Physics 433, you may not use it as one of your 5 labs in Physics 431.
    • A schedule that accommodates 7 groups meeting the above requirements is here.
  4. Complete a project that is an extension of one of the five graded experiments.  This may be a different sample, a different analysis method, different experimental conditions, etc. It may also be theoretical or calculation in nature.
    • The topic must be pre-approved by Prof. Olmstead and/or Prof. Pengra.
    • All groups will make an oral presentation to the class on this project on Monday August 14 in C520.  These presentations will be graded by your peers as well as by Prof. Olmstead, and you will receive the same grade as your lab partners unless you make special arrangements with Prof. Olmstead beforehand. 
    • You may pursue the extension either immediately after performing the standard laboratory or later in the quarter.
  5. Lab reports (rubric here) for the Nth lab you perform are due the EARLIEST of:
    • Two weeks after you start Lab N.
    • The day you start Lab N+2
    • The N+3 Friday of Summer Quarter (Canvas will not accept reports after this date).
    • Follow this link for Useful information for preparing your reports
    • The penalty for a late report will be 8% per day, with Sat/Sun counting as a single day.  On Mondays and Wednesdays, you can turn in a report to the box by the door in B248.  On other days, submit as much of your report as possible via Canvas (at a minimum, your summary abstract), which will give a "time-stamp" to your submission, and the hand-written part of the report may be turned in to my office (B433) or my mailbox in the department office before 9 am the following day (e.g., 9 am Monday for a Sat/Sun submission, 9 am Tuesday for a Monday submission, etc.).  
  6. You must obtain the approval of a TA or instructor on your preliminary lab report (the first half of your final lab report, rubric here) before you can start taking data on the next lab experiment. This includes reporting of data, apparatus drawings, error estimates, and basic data analysis.  This should be discussed with the TA or instructor in lab. This should occur during laboratory so you can take your data home to analyze, preferably well before the last few minutes of class (the TA can't be everywhere at once), and will typically be done as a group.
  7. Your grade is based only on the final lab report (rubric here), including the corrected preliminary report.
    • Any handwritten notes, analysis, etc., should be placed in an expandable folder (it can be after a previous report if you use divider tabs) and turned into the box in B248.  If additional information is turned in on line, please state so clearly in the notes.
    • The remainder of the analysis, summary abstract, and answers to questions in the lab write-up should be turned in on line via Canvas Assignments.
    • You may choose one lab report this quarter to re-write for a higher grade. It is due within 1 week of when it is returned to you, or on Friday, August 11, whichever is sooner. Note that means you likely will not be able to rewrite your last lab or two, since they won't be turned in and graded in time to get a re-write in by the deadline.
  8. Students working together are encouraged to discuss their analysis and results with each other (and with other students) but must independently generate their own lab reports.
  9. Typically, List 1 experiments typically take two lab periods (1 to 1.5 for data acquisition, 0.5 to 1 for data analysis/writeup), and List 2 experiments take three (1.5 to 2 for data acquisition, and 1 to 1.5 for data analysis/writeup).   Thus, the 5 main experiments will take about 13 lab days out of the 18 in summer quarter; this leaves 1 afternoon for the first day oscilloscope exercise, 2 for your lab extension, and 2 for student presentation preparation and delivery.  You should also count on a few non-class hours for each lab to write up your summary abstract and answers to the physics questions.  You are not required to do your analysis in the lab period, but most students find it easier to have their lab partners and instructors nearby to screen their ideas. 
  10. You are NOT allowed (except for special circumstances that require permission from Prof. Olmstead) to START any new experiment in the eighth week of the quarter (i.e. the week of August 7).  You may be finishing up your extension project.

Course Summary:

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