Home MXP Home


Methods of Experimental Physics I


This course is the first of a two-semester sequence on the techniques used in a modern experimental physics laboratory. Because of the importance of electronic instrumentation in today's physics experiments, the first semester of the laboratory will deal with the use of digital and analog techniques for processing electronic signals and the use of computer instrumentation. The second semester laboratory will consist primarily of a single experimental project taken by the student through the stages of design, proposal, construction, data acquisition, analysis, oral presentation, and written report.


A knowledge of basic electricity and magnetism and circuits at the 1000 level of physics is assumed, as is elementary modern physics at the 3000 level sequence. English writing skills at the university level are required. No previous knowledge of electronics or digital logic is assumed.


The faculty member for this course is: Paul Crowell (Office: Physics 349, 624-4828, Office hours: M, W: 11:15 - 12:20 and by appointment

Technical and teaching assistance for the laboratory and course is provided by Kurt Wick (Office: Physics 69, 624-2831,

The teaching assistants are:
Doug Rowland Sections 3, 5 (Physics 472, 624-0378,
Mathew Graham:  Section 2 (Physics 246, 624-4557,

WWW Page:

We will update our class WWW page at: with any new information that pertains to the course.


Three lectures will be given per week: M, W, F, 12:20 - 13:10, in room 170 Physics. You will be responsible for all announcements made in class.


A recitation section will be held in Physics 65, Fridays, at 1:25 PM. Course-related topics will be discussed in an informal manner. This session is optional and will be held as long as there is sufficient demand.


Laboratory sections meet twice each week for two hours in room 65 (phone: 625-4829) of the physics department. Students will work in pairs and must attend their assigned laboratory periods. Labs begin Wednesday, September 5.

To keep up, most students will find that a number of hours must be spent in the laboratory each week in addition to their scheduled hours. The laboratory may be used during off hours by checking out a key in the physics office, 148 Physics. The keys may be checked out overnight or over the weekend. Since the number of keys is limited, please return them promptly to allow other students access to the lab facilities.

Laboratory Schedule:

  Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
10:10    Section 5    Section 5  
11:15    Section 5    Section 5  
12:20  Lecture  Section 3  Lecture  Section 3  Lecture
1:25  Section 2  Section 3  Section 2  Section 3  
2:30  Section 2    Section 2    

Grade Policy:

Grading for this course will be based on an absolute scale of 375 points, distributed according to the following table:

Exam / Assignment Number of Exams / Assignments Possible Points Each Total Possible Points
Final Exam  1  50  50
Midterm Exams & Programming Quiz  3  25  75
Long Write-ups  4  25  100
Short Write-ups  10  15  150

Note that the lab write-ups make up approximately 70 % of the total grade. Please see the attached note on the expectations for lab write-ups. Generally speaking, A's will be awarded for outstanding work that shows mastery of the material as demonstrated in both the lab write-ups and examinations. B's will be awarded for good work that exceeds the basic course requirements. C's will be awarded for work that meets the course requirements. Work that falls short of the basic course requirements will earn a D. F's will be given in cases of seriously deficient work. It will be very difficult to get an A or B in this course without doing well on the exams. For this reason, make every effort to really understand what is going on in lab!


Two exams will be held during class on October 1 and November 2 and one take home C programming quiz will be due on November 21. The final exam will be held on Wednesday, December 19, 8:30 - 11:30 AM.

Academic Honesty:

All work on quizzes and the final examination must be your own, and you must follow any rules stated for a given examination. No collaboration is permitted on any of the quizzes or exams in this course. Your lab journal and your written lab reports should also be your own work, although you are expected to collaborate on collecting and discussing the data. Any other work submitted for a grade must be completed according to the guidelines established by the instructor or TA's. Note that it is understood that in handing in your lab report you have actually completed all of the bench work. Failure to adhere to these standards will result in penalties ranging from zero on a particular quiz or assignment to expulsion from the University. Please note the official IT policy statement, which can also be found in the IT Bulletin and Student Guide:

The Institute of Technology expects the highest standards of honesty and integrity in the academic performance of its students. Any act of scholastic dishonesty is regarded as a serious offense, which may result in expulsion. The Institute of Technology defines scholastic dishonesty as submission of false records of academic achievement; cheating on assignments or examinations; plagiarizing; altering, forging, or misusing an academic record; taking, acquiring, or using test materials without faculty permission; acting alone or in cooperation with another to obtain dishonestly grades, honors, awards, or professional endorsement. Aiding and abetting an act of scholastic dishonesty is also considered a serious offense.

Access and Accommodation:

Please inform me in the first few days of the semester if there are any special circumstances which you feel will affect your performance in this course. Reasonable accommodation will be made according to University policies. Additional information can be obtained from Disability Services, Nicholson Hall, 626-1333.

Laboratory Write-Ups:

Two different formats of lab write-ups exist, depending on the chapter in the lab manual covered. Chapters 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12 and 13 are to be handed in as short write-ups and count a maximum of 15 points each. In these write-ups all questions in the lab manual must be answered. In approximately 3 pages, you should describe your work in a way that is comprehensible to the TA, using complete English sentences where appropriate, demonstrating an understanding of the material. The write-ups of chapters 2, 6, 9 and 14 are to be longer and in a more complete format. They each count a maximum of 25 points. They should contain a complete description of the exercises and results, including analysis, diagrams and plots, as well as answering all questions in the lab manual. In addition, you must record all your laboratory results in a lab notebook.

The write-up's are to be handed in to the TA's at the next lab session for the short write-ups and at the second session after the assigned week for long write-ups. For example, the short write-up from chapter 2 must be handed in the first session of week 3. Tardy presentation of reports will be penalized two points per lab session for short write-ups and 3 points per session for long write-ups. (Exceptions: the short write-ups from chapter 1 and 12 may be handed in at the second session after the assigned week without receiving any late points.) All write-ups must be completed and they must be handed in at the beginning of the lab session.

See the timetable for the list of exercises that will be done and their due dates.


(Don't buy the textbook before the first day of class!)

The Art of Electronics, P. Horowitz and W. Hill, (Cambridge University Press). Second Edition.
Electronics and Communications for Scientists and Engineers, M. Polnus, (Harcourt / Academic Press).

Lab Manual:

The lab manual will be handed out in class.


Regular reading assignments are specified in the lab manual. You will be responsible for reading, either in the textbook or in other references, material sufficient to gain a full understanding of what you are doing in the laboratory.


Page Last Updated: 12/11/2001