Welcome to Physics 390, Research Seminar.  In your college career you have learned physical theory, explored laboratory techniques and error analysis, written papers, and presented convincing arguments.  The aim of this course is to put all of these together in the complete process of doing research in physics.  This course stands between the traditional 3 hour labs you had in quantum physics, and a semester of independent research in the senior project.  There are a number of areas of research that we could emphasize, but we will emphasize the following

The only way to learn these skills is by doing them.  This is NOT a lecture course, this is a lab seminar and you are expected to direct discussion.  The more you get involved, the better this course will go.  If we tell you what to do you will never learn the creative process of spinning your wheels, discussing options, trying the wrong things, learning from your mistakes, and finally presenting a coherent picture as if you knew what you were doing all along.

While preparing the papers and the talks you will be given the same help that is available in the real world: feedback from others (your classmates and/or us), literature, and the internet. 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.  Class time will be devoted to the entire research process:   the design and operation of the experiments, methods of analysis, presenting a concise argument with figures, equations and words, and wrapping up loose ends without detracting from the main argument.

Three Experiments

We will do three-ish projects this semester.  Each has its own set of goals.

Millikan oil drop experiment:  The apparatus is very straightforward, so you can concentrate fully on analyzing data and on learning to write in the style required for a scientific journal.  Data acquisition will require patience and care!

Deuterium spectroscopy:  You have dealt with gratings before and analysis is relatively straightforward, but you will need to write your own code to control equipment and take data.

Pulsed nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), OR Rare Earth Spectroscopy OR  Rb optical pumping: The theory behind these experiments is quite demanding.  After an experimental introduction to the basics, different students will choose different experimental projects.

Lab Notebook

Purchase a lab binder today! Every time you go into the lab, analyze some data, or go to class, you should write everything on paper in your binder. Every graph you produce should be printed and included in your binder.  When you meet with us to discuss your analysis or your rough draft, we will need to see your notebook.

Additional comments

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.

Physics 390