Resources for Developing an Advanced Experimental Lab

Course Goals

(copied from U. Michigan 441/442)

This course is a hands-on survey of the experimental foundations of modern physics. Some of the goals of this course are:

  1. To allow you to reproduce and understand the experimental results that are the underpinnings of modern physics.
  2. To provide you with an opportunity to develop critical writing skills and understand how to effectively present your scientific work to a larger audience.
  3. To familiarize you with experimental techniques employed in contemporary research and industrial laboratories.
  4. To give you a survey, via experiment, of many of the sub-fields of modern physics, and the pertinent experimental issues in each.
  5. To expose you to the realities of the laboratory experience, where things don’t always work, where the issues are not always clear, and where progress depends on perseverance, ingenuity, and judgment.
  6. To learn and appreciate the ethical and social issues that are involved in scientific research. These include the handling of proprietary information, respect for colleagues and adherence to high standards of honesty in reporting scientific results.

You should be prepared for a fundamental difference in difficulty and philosophy between this course and preceding physics labs. This is going to be a “problem solving” experience, as distinct from a “cook-book” laboratory. You may have to teach yourself how to use and calibrate many different kinds of test equipment. You may have to search for weak signals 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.

Articles about Advanced Labs

2012 Opinion piece by founder of TeachSpin: http://www.aps.org/publications/apsnews/201206/backpage.cfm

2007 Opinion piece by Dick Peterson: http://advlabs.aapt.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=5179

Online resources about Advanced Labs


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