Physics 440 – Fall 2014

Department of Physics and Astronomy

Michigan State University

Web Site: http://www.pa.msu.edu/courses/2014fall/PHY440/

The aim of this course is to give students a practical introduction to modern electronic circuits.  It consists of two weekly lectures where the theory and principles of electronic circuits will be discussed, and a three-hour lab where students will get hands-on experience with electronic circuits and related instrumentation such as digital multimeters, oscilloscopes, power supplies and pulse generators etc.  The topics covered in the course will start with simple DC circuits and end in computer design of programmable logic devices (PLD's).  In between we will study AC circuits, filters, diodes, bipolar transistors, FET's, operational amplifiers and a variety of digital circuits.  Where possible we will make use of computer programs such as LabView and software from the Xilinx Corporation to program field-programmable gate arrays (FPGA's).


Please remember to fill out the SIRS form for this course.


· Matt Comstock, Professor, 4216 BPS, 884-5645, comstock at pa.msu.edu

· Joseph Glick, TA, lab sections 1 and 2, glickjos at msu.edu

· Andrew Cudd, TA, lab sections 3 and 4, cuddandr at msu.edu

Weekly schedule

· Lectures: Tuesday and Thursday 8:30 am – 9:50 am, 1300 BPS

· Labs: Room 1254 BPS   Labs start in week 3 (Tuesday, September 9)
Section 1: Tuesday 11:30 am - 2:20 pm, Glick
Section 2: Tuesday 3 pm - 5:50 pm, Glick
Section 3: Thursday 3 pm - 5:50 pm, Cudd
Section 4: Thursday 11:30 am - 2:20 pm, Cudd

· Comstock office hour: Wednesday, 2pm – 3pm, 4216 BPS

TA office hours: The TA’s will hold ‘office hours’ in the lab during the 30 minutes preceding each of their lab sections.

Course Schedule

The schedule of lectures, homework and labs including links to the lab protocols and other handouts is at



Required text:
Martin Plonus, Electronics and Communications for Scientists and Engineers, Harcourt/Academic Press, 2001, ISBN-10: 0-12-533084-7, ISBN-13: 978-0125330848. Corrections for typos in the book are here.

Additional texts:
P. Horowitz and W. Hill: The Art of Electronics, Second Ed., Cambridge University Press, 1995, ISBN-10: 0521370957, ISBN-13: 978-0521370950. This book is an excellent reference and students planning to continue with electronics in future years should consider acquiring it. It is a canonical physics text found in nearly every lab.

Nigel P. Cook: Electronics A Complete Course, Second Ed., Person Prentice Hall, 2004, ISBN-10: 0-13-111066-7, ISBN-13: 978-0131110663. This book is very detailed and easy to follow but doesn't cover all of the material.

Clicker Questions

We will have ungraded i-clicker questions during the lecture (mostly during an initial review).  Please remember to bring your i-clicker to each lecture.

Homework and Quizzes

There will be weekly homework assignments, due at the beginning of class on Thursdays (mostly). Quizzes will be given during lectures; there will be roughly twelve quizzes throughout the semester. The quiz schedule is not announced. Calculators are required for the quizzes; therefore please bring a calculator to each lecture. In general, there are no make-up quizzes (rare exceptions may be made with advance notice).

Laboratory Procedure and Notebook

The laboratory part of the course consists of a series of experiments that students will perform working alone.  Students will need to get the standard lab notebook (no carbon copies) into which they will enter all relevant information associated with an experiment.  The laboratory exercises will be performed during 2h 50min lab periods.  This time is packed with activity.  Thus it is essential for the student to thoroughly prepare for the lab including: carefully reading the lab manual and related text, and completing pre-lab computations.  The data entered into the notebook will be left with a laboratory instructor, for grading.  No additional formal write up will be required, but students are cautioned to enter all relevant data and explanations clearly and succinctly so that the grader can easily follow the work done.  No erasures or page removal is allowed. (This follows standards for maintaining lab notebooks within research practice.)  If an error is made, it should be neatly crossed out and the corrected data re-entered.  In general, there are no make-up labs (rare exceptions can be made with advance notice).

More laboratory procedure tips.


Your quiz, lab and homework scores will be available on D2L. You can also submit comments and questions to the instructor or TAs through D2L (or directly via email).


The scores on the homework assignments, quizzes, and laboratory notebook will determine your Total Score.  The Total Score is weighted as follows: 20%-Homework, 30%-Quizzes, 50%-Laboratory.  Grade assignments at the end of the term will be taken from the table below. (It may be shifted slightly in your favor.)  There will be no midterm or final exams.

Total Score % and Grade

Minimum %