In the MSU "Description of Courses" catalogue, Phy 451 is described
"General research techniques, design of experiments and the analysis of results based on some historical experiments in modern physics." Our approach is to study a small number of experimental systems or techniques in depth, so you really get some idea of how experimental physics is done. Students work in pairs, and perform three different experiments in the course of the semester.
This is mainly an experimental class with only a few lectures. Each student spends 6 hours/week in lab (room 112 P/A) designing, assembling and doing experiments. In addition he/she will spend several hours each week studying the appropriate physics and experimental techniques. The class meets one hour each week for lectures, or to discuss problems students are having and their possible solutions. These will include brief talks given by the students on the physics or technology of the experiments which they are doing (During the first few Wednesdays we will talk in a general way about the various experiments and will have a lecture on Radiation Safety from Ms. Kristin Erickson of the MSU radiation safety office.)
Each student will keep a bound laboratory notebook in which all of your ideas, designs, data analysis, graphs and mistakes will be kept. (See the handout on lab notebooks for more detail.) Periodically, I will inspect your lab notebook, discuss it with you and enter a current grade (this is a sort of "snap quiz" on how you keep your notebook and what you have been doing.)
Late in the semester each student will give a 20 to 30 minute talk about some aspect of experimental physics which interests her/him. It could be the results of one of your experiments, some neat experimental technique which you "discovered" or whatever. You will be expected to hand in a written report on your talk (no more than 10 +/- 2 pages) by your last lab period.
Grades will be determined as follows: