Welcome to Physics 390, Research Seminar. The aim of this course is to learn about different aspects of doing research in physics.

We will do four projects this semester. Each has its own set of goals.

1) Millikan oil drop experiment. The class will collaborate on data acquisition and analysis for this experiment. We will concentrate on statistical analysis and uncertainties. Data acquisition will require patience and care! The theory behind this experiment is fairly straightforward, so you can concentrate fully on analyzing data and on learning to write in the style required for a scientific journal.

2) Weighing the Deuterium nucleus. This project will use two different spectroscopes to measure the relative masses of the hydrogen and deuterium nuclei by comparing their spectra. This will develop familiarity with spectral methods and with computer controlled instrumentation.

2) Rare Earth Spectroscopy. This project involves analysis of absorption and fluorescence spectra, as well as time-resolved measurements. A major goal of the project is engagement with current physics literature.

3) Pulsed nuclear magnetic resonance. In this project you will pull together theoretical ideas from quantum physics, thermal physics, and nuclear physics. The theory behind the experiment is the most demanding of all our projects, and the theory section of your paper will be longer than in the other papers. Different students will choose different experimental directions.

Grading: This course will have no exams and no quizzes. Papers will be 10 -15 written pages plus figures, tables, and appendices.

Typical grading scheme for individual experiments:

15%- Timeliness and quality of the data.

15%- Contributions to group discussion.

70%- Paper. The paper grade will be determined ~like this:

15%Timeliness of both the rough draft and the final paper. -1%/day late on either.

60% Rough draft

25% Final draft

The paper’s content will be evaluated for correct physics and completeness. The writing will be evaluated as well for clarity, style, and presentation.

Course Grade:

In addition to the experiments, you will each do one oral presentation and at least one peer-review. Finally, grades for your lab notebook, and for your “initiative/independence” will be added in. Your course grade is comprised of 2 parts:

3 experiments with papers ≈ 70% (20, 20, 30 on 3 projects) of total grade

lab notebook, presentations, peer reviews ≈30% of total grade

Obtain a lab notebook as soon as possible. I recommend a 1" 3-ring binder and some dividers and loose-leaf.

Every time you go into the lab, every time you sit down to analyze some data, you should write everything in your notebook.

Every page that you write on should be numbered in the top right corner.

Every graph and spreadsheet you produce should be printed and clipped into your notebook. Each item should be labelled with the number of the page to which it is related and with a subscript letter. Thus the first item behind page 4 would be 4a, the second 4b, and so on.

You will bring it to all classes and take it into lab with you all the time. When you meet with me to discuss your analysis or your rough draft, we will probably refer to your notebook. Absolutely no data or calculations written on loose bits of scrap paper. And no pages stuck into the notebook and not attached or labelled.

Additional comments

While writing, you will be given the same help that is available in the real world. You will write your reports and then you will revise them after getting feedback from others on your work (your classmates and/or me). We will spend time discussing the writing process from beginning to end and there will be ample opportunity for revision and consultation on each paper. While there will be no final exam, your last report will be due during finals week.

You will receive similar help with your oral presentation. You will prepare a formal presentation, get feedback from the class after a practice talk, then give your talk a second time.

In order to use time as fruitfully as possible, we will be overlapping experiments. The final presenting and writing stage of one experiment will overlap with the early data taking and theory development stage of the next experiment.

In addition to time spent discussing the reports, we will spend class time discussing the design and operation of the experiments as well as methods of analysis. This is NOT a lecture course, this is a lab seminar and you are expected to direct discussion. The more you all get involved, the better this course will go.


Much of this material was adapted from Ann Silversmith's material from the 2010 version of this course.

Physics 390