Physics 440 – Electronics – Spring 2020


The aim of this course is to give students a practical introduction to modern electronic circuits. It consists of three weekly lectures where the theory and principles of electronic circuits will be discussed, and a three hour lab where students will get some hands-on experience with electronic circuits and a variety of instrumentation such as oscilloscopes, pulsers, power supplies and digital multimeters. The topics covered in the course will start with simple DC circuits and end in microcontrollers. In between we will study AC circuits, filters, diodes, bipolar transistors, FET's, operational amplifiers and a variety of digital circuits including Arduino devices.  Where possible we will make use of computer programs such as LabView in the data acquisition.


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


Weekly schedule

Office Hours

Course Schedule

The schedule of lectures and labs 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.

Suggested Reference:
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.
Optional Reference:
A. J. Diefenderfer and B. E. Holton, Principles of Electronic Instrumentation, Third Ed., Thomson Brooks/Cole, 1994, ISBN-10: 0030747090, ISBN-13: 9780030747090. This book was previously used in this course, it is older but some of the descriptions/explanations are more detailed.

Clicker Questions

We will have clicker questions during the lecture. Remember to bring your i-Clicker to each lecture.


Quizzes will be given during lecture; there will be roughly six quizzes throughout the semester. Calculators are required for the quizzes, therefore please bring a calculator to each lecture.

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 purchase a lab notebook into which they will enter all relevant information associated with an experiment. The laboratory exercises will be performed during 2h 50min lab periods. The data entered into the notebook will be left with a laboratory instructor, for grading. No 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.

The lab notebook should be a soft-sided 9"x12" '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).

Course Prerequisites

Algebra based: 1st semester: PHY 231 (lecture and PHY 251(lab). 2nd semester: PHY 232 (lecture) and PHY 252 (lab).
Calculus based: 1st semester: PHY 183 (lecture) and PHY 191 (lab). 2nd semester: PHY 184 (lecture) and PHY 192(lab).

Tier II Writing Requirement

Because this course can partially fulfill the Tier II Writing requirement for physics majors, there will be a 5-10 page research paper written as a journal article due near the end of the semester. Your score on the research paper will weight 8% in the final grade.


Your quiz, lab, homework, and research paper scores will be available on D2L. You can also access homework solutions through D2L.


Course grades will be based on performance weighted as follows:
8%-Research Paper, 20%-Homework, 22%-Clicker Questions and Quizzes, 50%-Laboratory. 

Below is a reference grading scale based the courses taught in the past. The final grades may be (slightly) curved in your favor to reflect the harshness and the potential differences in the grading across the sections.

Total Score % and Grade

Minimum %



















Course Policies: Student Expectations

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

University Writing Center:
The Writing Center (WCMSU) is a free resource for MSU undergraduates and graduates. At the WCMSU, a trained writing consultant will work individually with you on anything you're writing (in or out of class), at any point in the writing process from brainstorming to editing. For more information or to make an appointment, visit the WCMSU website at

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.
Interfering 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.