Skip to main content
Michigan State UniversityPHY 431 Optics at MSU

PHY 451 Adv Lab, Spring 2018 | Home


Physics 451 Advanced Physics Laboratory is a required one-semester course for students majoring in Physics at the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Michigan State University.

Course Description

The focus of PHY 451 is “general research techniques, design of experiments and the analysis of results based on historical experiments in modern physics.” Our approach is to study a small number of experimental systems and techniques in depth, so that you learn how experimental physics is done. As oral conference presentations and written scientific reports are the primary means by which new findings are communicated, students will develop skills in both forms of scientific communication. In the process, this course fulfills the Tier II writing requirement (assuming completion of PHY 431 or PHY 440 as well).

Course Credits

3 credits (1 hr lecture, 6 hr lab)


To Students

Please read the Syllabus and schedule. You should be prepared for a fundamental difference in difficulty and philosophy between this course and introductory physics laboratory courses. This is a "problem solving" experience, as distinct from a "cook-book" laboratory. You may need to teach yourself how to use and calibrate various kinds of test equipment. You may have to search for a weak signal in the presence of noise. You may have to use statistical techniques to extract results from ambiguous data sets. Your success with the experiments, and with the course, will depend on the dedication and initiative that you apply to solving whatever puzzles arise. This is simply part of the reality and joy of the experimental method.

There is no textbook for this class. All the materials are available from this course website. However, you are required to purchase a soft-sided 9" x 12" ‘Computation Notebook’, which is available from University Stores in the Angell Building at 166 Service Rd., Room 101 ( item number 14042680), or from the Spartan Bookstore (with slightly higher price).


Staff and Class Schedule

PHY 451 Adv Lab (Syllabus .pdf)
Department of Physics and Astronomy
College of Natural Science, Michigan State University


(Sec. 001 lab) 9:10 am - 12:00 pm, 6:10-9:00 pm Tue

(Sec. 002 lab) 9:10 am - 12:00 pm, 6:10-9:00 pm Thu

(all - lecture) 5:20 pm - 6:10 pm Wed


1245 BPS (lab) & 1420 BPS (lecture)


Prof. Xianglin Ke

Prof. Tyler Cocker


4223 BPS (Ke)

4252 BPS (Cocker)



(517) 884-5658 (Ke)

(517) 884-5682 (Cocker)


E-Mail: (Ke) (Cocker)


Teaching Assistants:

Nicholas Breslin : Email: Office: 4256 BPS; Phone: 309-299-9946                   

When sending e-mail to the instructor, please begin the “Subject:” of the message with the following:
PHY 451: <space>           

Course Prerequisites

The listed prerequisites are PHY 440 and completion of Tier I writing requirement. However, you should be familiar with electricity and magnetism and quantum mechanics as well.

Specifically, two semesters of introductory physics, one semester of physics laboratory, and one semester of modern physics.

  • PHY 183A or PHY 184 or PHY 184B or PHY 234B or PHY 294H (Introductory Physics)
  • PHY 192 (Physics Laboratory)
  • PHY 215 or PHY 215B (Thermodynamics and Modern Physics)
  • PHY 440 (Electronics) or PHY 431 (Optics)
  • Completion of Tier I writing requirement.

It is necessary that you are familiar with Euclidean geometry, calculus with complex numbers, Taylor series approximation. It is helpful to know electrodynamics, wave propagation, and Fourier analysis.
If you haven’t completed these prerequisites, you may still be permitted to take the course. You need to meet me to discuss this within the first two weeks.