Syllabus for PHY252

Summer II 2015




Laboratories will begin on July 6, 2015 and run through August 18, 2015 . There will be 13 experiments. The purpose of this course is to learn how to make measurements of physical quantities and how to analyze and interpret them. Working in groups of two, you will make measurements, tabulate and graph your data, evaluate uncertainties in your measurements, analyze the results of your experiments, and answer the questions given in the laboratory manual. Two of these experiments will be practical labs in which you will work alone. You will rotate lab partners throughout the semester. Experiments in the course will involve material before it is covered in PHY 232C. With the exception of the first experiment and the two practical labs, each lab will have a pre-lab LON-CAPA homework assignment. There will be a syllabus homework assignment due at 8AM on the first Friday of the session.


You will find it very helpful to prepare ( i.e. read and study the materials for the laboratories) before you come to class. Being prepared before you come to your lab session will enable you to finish on time, enjoy the lab more and help you get a higher grade. In addition to preparing for the class, reading the lab materials will help you to answer the pre-lab homework assignment.


With the exception of experiment 1 and the practical labs, there will be a pre-lab LON-CAPA homework assignment. The due time for the pre-lab homework is 8AM on Monday (for labs meeting Monday or Tuesday) and 8AM on Wednesday (for labs meeting Wednesday or Thursday). Additionally, there will be a syllabus homework assignment due at Friday, July 10 at 8AM. Each homework assignment will be worth 5 points. The number of questions within an assignment will vary, but the total points per assignment is always 5. For example, one assignment might have 4 questions. Answering 3 correctly will result in (3/4)*5=3.75 homework points. Another assignment may have 5 questions. Answering 4/5 correct will earn 4 homework points for the assignment. Within LON-CAPA each click of the submit button is considered one question. For example, some questions may be several true-false type statements, but have only one submit button associated with them. While multiple true-false statements are present, questions like this are considered one question.

The answers to these pre-lab homework questions and the formulas needed to solve for any numeric questions are in the lab manual linked HERE. The purpose of the pre-lab homework is to make sure all are prepared to immediately start work on the experiment and have thoroughly read the lab manual prior to class. With this in mind, the As have been instructed not to assist with answering questions about how to do the pre-lab homework.

You will need to use your MSUnet ID and password to log into LON-CAPA

There are a total of ten pre-lab homework sets plus the syllabus homework set for a total of eleven sets. You are allowed to miss two of these sets. Your final grade will be based on the best nine pre-lab homework sets.


All the materials to be graded (your lab report including data sheets, graphs, answers to questions) must be completed during your lab period and handed in to the instructor before you leave the lab; there will be ABSOLUTELY NO EXCEPTIONS. The lab report consists of a cover sheet (that can be downloaded from here) plus any spreadsheets (both data and formula views from Excel) and plots requested. Please print out and fill in the cover sheet each week BEFORE coming to lab. Sample calculations are required for each formula that was entered into your spreadsheet to verify it was done correctly. At the bottom of any graph must be a statement of what is being plotted, and if a straight line fit is done, a brief statement as to why you are plotting this data and what you want to find from the graph (i.e. what is the significance of the slope and/or intercept). In addition, any worksheets containing questions to be answered should be turned in with your data.

All labs, including practical labs will be graded by your instructor on a 15 point scale and will be handed back at the beginning of the next lab. The points will be distributed roughly as follows: acquisition of data (4 pts), graphs and calculations (5 pts), and answers to questions (6 pts).

The questions in each lab are meant to assess the understanding of the material covered in the lab. As such, your TA has been instructed not to answer questions like "is this right?" or "how do I do this?"


During practical labs, no outside notes, use of the Internet, calculators or discussions with other students are allowed. Students making use of unauthorized help for the practical will receive a 0.0 for that practical. Each student will perform one of the experiments that was done earlier in the semester by him or herself. The experimental write-up for the practical will be posted on the course website after the last section has completed RC Circuits for practical 1 and The Rydberg Constant for practical 2. During the practical lab, you will be given a copy of the experimental write-up to use. The practical lab will be based on one or more of the experiments that you have already completed. It could consist of measuring and analyzing data, analyzing a prepared set of data and/or answering questions. The time limit on the practical lab will be 45 minutes.

Each of the eleven best in-class experiments are 15 points for a total of 165 points. Each of the nine best pre-lab homework assignments are 5 points for a total of 45 points. The total number of possible points are 210 points. In order to ensure equality of grading between different lab instructors, the in-class experiment score out of 165 points will be normalized so that the mean for each instructor is the same. The pre-lab LON-CAPA homework points will not be normalized. The grade you receive in the class will be based on the normalized total experiment score plus the pre-lab homework score


Normalized points ≥
















Please obtain from your instructor and save your graded lab reports. You will need all of these if, at the end of the semester, you think your score wasn't correctly calculated.

Lab partners are expected to turn in copies of the same Excel data sheets and graphs BUT answers to the questions and comments on graphs are not to be the same. Lab partners turning in identical answers (or slightly modified versions) will BOTH receive a penalty grade of zero for that lab. Any plagiarism, copying or cheating will result in a penalty grade of zero for the lab and the submission of an Academic Dishonesty Report for placement in the student's permanent record. MSU's policy on Academic Integrity is part of this syllabus, please review it at Penalty grades will not be used as a dropped lab.

Attendance in the lab is mandatory and there will be a penalty for arriving late to class. Point deductions for tardiness are as follows


There are no make-up labs in PHY 252. You must attend the section in which you are enrolled. You are allowed to miss two labs for any reason. For example, you may be sick, it may be a religious holiday, you may have enrolled after the official start of the session, you may missed your bus, had car trouble, had to return home for a family emergency or any other reason. Your in-class experiment part of your grade will be based on the best eleven out of the thirteen experiments (165points). Any additional miss will be scored as a grade of zero for the experiment and as such, will have a substantial negative impact on your final grade.

Students with disabilities and/or any other special needs should identify themselves to the instructor during the first week of class. You must provide a copy (or an e-mail) of your VISA from the RCPD office to both your TA and the lab coordinator by the end of the first week of class. Individual arrangements will be made to accommodate those needs on a case-by-case basis. It may not be possible to honor VISAs that are presented to the instructor after the first week of class.

Your lab instructor (the TA) is in charge of all aspects of laboratory procedures. Please confer with him/her if you have a problem, since they can ordinarily solve most of them. Communications regarding the day-to-day operations, such as a missed lab should be directed to your TA, NOT the lab coordinator. Your TA will provide you with his/her e-mail address and office hours at the beginning of the semester. If you have concerns about a score on a lab you must make an appointment to meet with your lab instructor outside of lab time. TAs will not respond to questions concerning individual lab grades while a lab section is in session.

If there are issues that your TA cannot address, you should contact the lab coordinator Richard Hallstein. His office hours are Wednesdays 11AM - noon in room 1253BPS; except the week of August 5. If you cannot make this office hour and would like to make an appointment send an e-mail to Please include a phone number and a copy of your academic schedule so he can get back to you and set up a mutually convenient time. Richard Hallstein will be away from MSU, but still have limited email contact from August 3 through August 9.



Computers will be used in all the physics undergraduate labs and they are controlled by a central server. It is your responsibility to close all applications and log-out of your computer account when you leave the laboratory.

There are four software tools you will use in the physics labs:

I. Microsoft Excel
This is a spreadsheet program which you use to record/store your data. An empty spreadsheet is available at the start of each lab. The program allows you to do ALL calculations on your data. This tool removes all repetitive calculations from the lab, so you can concentrate on graphing and interpreting your data. However, the spreadsheet does not do ALL the calculations for you. In order to start the calculations you must perform at least one of them by hand. After you enter the correct formula into the spreadsheet for that particular quantity, the program will do all the other calculations for you.

II. Kaleidagraph
This tool is a general plotting program. It takes its input from columns of data and allows you to either plot a histogram of the contents of one column and/or graph any column versus any other column. Although some of these things are possible in Excel, Kaleidagraph has a very user friendly interface for adjusting axes/labels/text/bins etc. in any of the graphs. The input for the graphs is copied/pasted from the Excel spreadsheet. Once you are satisfied with your graph (binning is correct, labels are clear, axes are labeled and have units!!), you should save the graph to your user space on the server or on a floppy disk. It can then be printed separately or copied/pasted into your final lab report.



Your lab report must be completed during the lab period and handed in to the instructor before you leave. More details and instructions regarding the components of a lab report are listed in Appendix C of your lab manual. In brief, the report should include the following components in this order:

In your report, explain how you identified and tried to solve problems in the experiment. If your data do not correspond to the anticipated results, you should explain what went wrong. "Human error" does not count as an explanation, be more specific if your results are different from what you expected. Your grade will depend on how clear, accurate and brief you are. Copying of text from others, the internet, old lab reports, the lab manual etc. is expressly forbidden. Lab reports that show evidence of plagiarism will receive a penalty grade of 0.


Last update: June 16, 2015