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Michigan State UniversityPHY 431 Optics at MSU

PHY 192 | Spring 2015 Syllabus

I. Instructors:

Lead Instructor:

Professor Chong-Yu Ruan, Room 4222 BPS, Phone: 884-5655, Email: ruan[AT]pa[DOT]msu[DOT]edu

Teaching Assistants:

Lena El-Mogaber, Email: elmogabe[AT]msu[DOT]edu

Joe Williams, Email: will2456[AT]msu[DOT]edu

Sarah Schwartz, Email: schwa375[AT]msu[DOT]edu


II. General Information:

Physics 192 consists of a series of experiments in optics and modern physics. The experiments are all described in the laboratory writeups (available as pdf files through the links below) and you are expected to read the material and prepare yourself before coming to class as there will not be sufficient time to start from scratch during the three hour laboratory session. The laboratory period for new experiments will start with you handing in the introduction portion of the lab report (see below for more detail). Please note that PHY192 is significantly more demanding than PHY252, as the level is set by the fact that it is required of physics and astrophysics majors.

You will do the experiments in groups of two. You will change lab partners every 2 weeks. You may collaborate with your partner in data taking, but you are expected to do independent calculations and write independent reports. The Lab meets in room 1263 BPS.


III. Course Objectives

During this course, we expect you to:

  • become familiar with some laboratory experiments and procedures.
  • make careful measurements and think about them critically.
  • record and organize your observations.
  • estimate uncertainties in your measurements and use them to judge whether your measurements are consistent with previous measurements or standard values.

Before each class, you will be expected to read the description of the experiment, write an introduction to your lab report, and read sections of the book by Taylor to clarify how to perform the necessary error estimations. This advance preparation is essential if you wish to finish the lab successfully. Your laboratory measurements will be performed during class. You should also perform calculations during class to determine whether your measurements are valid. If you blindly take data without checking it, your grade will suffer.

This class assumes you have learned certain skills from PHY191: using Kaleidagraph, using Excel with formulas, performing a General Fit in Kaleidagraph, performing uncertainty calculations, making error bars in Kaleidagraph, choosing an appropriate number of significant figures, calculating the significance of a deviation from expectations by the "t-value", and using summary tables to organize and summarize your results.


IV. Texts, Materials, and Schedules

The reference for this course is "An Introduction to Error Analysis" by John R. Taylor, published by University Science Books. Readings and sample problems will be assigned from this text. The sample problems are selected to help you prepare for the error calculations needed for the week's lab, and will have answers provided so you can check that your technique is correct. The actual error calculations for drawing the conclusion (see below) for your lab report will be turned in as part of each lab report, and will count for 15% of your grade. The lab instruction manual, the sample problems and this syllabus are on the web at: . There is no coursepack; download and print from the web site.

The lab writeups are available as pdf files from the links of "Lab Schedule" on the left.


V. Laboratory Reports:

The Lab Notebook: You must purchase a lab book for this course. This must have an x-y grid of lines, bound or spiral, but not a looseleaf notebook. If you have an old lab notebook from a previous class that still has unused pages, it is fine to use that.

Using the experimental data taken during the lab period, you will prepare a lab report to be handed in, along with photocopies of the relevant lab book pages containing the data, at the beginning of the next week's lab.

You will analyze your data in Excel. Here is a sample spreadsheet showing you how to organize uncertainty calculations, and a sample summary table for your lab report.

The lab report should “tell a story”: explain what you did, and what you concluded from your work. Your report should be a short scientific paper readable by a peer: a student in your major who didn’t perform this lab but otherwise has same general background as you. Writing lab reports at this level is practice in the kind of writing and analysis you would perform professionally on real research projects, just as keeping your lab book should build good habits for your scientific record keeping. Here is a sample of a good lab report. This lab report shows a simple example of a page on uncertainty calculations; here is an example of a more complex set of calculations.

We expect you to produce the summary table and carry out the uncertainty calculations in class, so writing the report outside class is mainly to patch the information together and draw conclusions.

A lab report template is available as a Word document. This document explains the expectations for the various parts of the lab report. Start writing your lab report by downloading and modifying this document, which describes the report's organization and contents.

Two specific requirements:

1) write the introduction and bring it to class at the start of each new experiment; your TA will initial it.

2) photocopy the relevant pages from your lab book and turn it in as part of your report

A typical assignment of points for grading labs is given below to give you a feeling for the emphasis on different parts of the lab report. For specific labs with particular emphases, the relative weights may be adjusted somewhat from this general guideline.

5 introduction

5 procedure

As the semester proceeds and you get better at writing the introduction and procedure, fewer points will be allocated to these sections and more to the measurement quality, results, and conclusions.

8 lab book:

Record the sketch of the instrument, and data table.
Goal: enough info so you can reconstruct what you did.

Justification of uncertainties of measurements requirements. This part forms the basis of Uncertainty Calculations (see below).

10 measurement quality
Goal is careful measurement
Accuracy of your final results will be compared with those obtained by the TA's and those of other students

10 results, answers to questions
Excel calculations and formulas used (and sample calculations if not using Excel)
explanation of formulas you needed to derive
(refer to lab book for derivation or sketch as needed)
graphs, possibly including fits, as appropriate
answers to questions posed in lab writeup, or by your TA

8 drawing conclusions
appropriate summary tables of key results and uncertainties: ( typically 3-6 points)

what can you conclude, based on your results? (typically 2-4 points)
use of uncertainties, t values to back up conclusions
discuss inconsistencies/possible systematic errors
constructive suggestions for improvement of lab writeup or procedure

4 miscellaneous:
labeling of tables and graphs, units, significant figures,
spelling, grammar, coherent organization of lab report

10 Uncertainty Calculations and any other sample calculations requested by your TA


50(lab) + 10(sample calcs)


VI. Course Grading

Your grade will be based on the results of your experiments, on the quality of your reports and on a practical exam. Each lab will be graded on a scale of 0-50 (see rough point allocation above), and another 10 points will be allocated for the uncertainty calculations. The weighting of the reports (and uncertainty calculations) will be 1 for single-week lab reports, and 2 for 2-week labs. The lab reports form 70% of the grade, the uncertainty calculations 15% of the grade, and the practical exam 15% of the grade.

The instructor of each section will normally grade the work of students in their sections. The average grade will be approximately 3.0, for students of each instructor.


VII. Course Policies: Student Expectations

Attendance is mandatory. If you have an excused medical absence, your instructor will determine whether you will be permitted to do a makeup or whether you will be graded on the remaining lab reports. If you must miss, let your TA know as soon as possible, as opportunities for a makeup lab are limited.

Late Assignment Policy: If an emergency arises and you cannot submit your lab report on or before the scheduled due data, you MUST inform your instructor and obtain approval NO LESS than 24 HOURS BEFORE the scheduled date/time

Professionalism Policy:
Per university policy and classroom etiquette; mobile phones, iPods, etc. must be silenced during all classroom and lab lectures. Those not heeding this rule will be asked to leave the classroom/lab immediately so as to not disrupt the learning environment. Please arrive on time for all class meetings. Students who habitually disturb the class by talking, arriving late, etc., and have been warned may suffer a reduction in their final class grade.

Disability Access:
Students with disabilities who need accommodations in this course must contact the professor at the beginning of the semester to discuss needed accommodations. No accommodations will be provided until the student has met with the professor to request accommodations. Students who need accommodations must be registered with the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities (RCPD) at MSU, before requesting accommodations from the professor.

Academic Conduct Policy:
Academic dishonesty in any form will not be tolerated.
Academic dishonesty at Michigan State University is defined by the General Student Regulations ( as conduct that violates the fundamental principles of truth, honesty, and integrity. The following conduct is specifically cited:

Supplying or using work or answers that are not one's own.
Providing or accepting assistance with completing assignments or examinations.
Interferring through any means with another's academic work.
Faking data or results.

If you are uncertain as to what constitutes academic dishonesty, please consult the General Student Regulations for further details. Violations of these rules will result in a record of the infraction being placed in your file and receiving a zero on the work in question AT A MINIMUM.  At the instructor’s discretion, you may also receive a failing grade for the course. 

When necessary, we may utilize, an automated system which instructors can use to quickly and easily compare each student's assignment with billions of web sites, as well as an enormous database of student papers.