Skip to main content

Unit information: Physics Laboratory in 2014/15

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Physics Laboratory
Unit code PHYS10004
Credit points 10
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Heath
Open unit status Not open

Normally A-level Physics and A-level Mathematics


Core Physics I: Mechanics and Matter Core Physics II: Oscillations, Waves and Fields

School/department School of Physics
Faculty Faculty of Science

Description including Unit Aims

The aim of the unit is to introduce students to basic laboratory skills and techniques used by physicists. These include: A practical introduction to the use of basic laboratory equipment including meters, oscilloscopes, signal generators and optical devices. To introduce methods for quantitatively describing and assessing the uncertainties in experimental measurements. This will include the statistical basis for the mean, standard deviation and standard error of a measurement, the treatment of random and systematic errors, the combination of uncertainties in measurements to provide a quantitative assessment of the uncertainty in a quoted result. To introduce the student to the idea of planning an experiment through literature and theoretical review, to decide on the apparatus and appropriate methods to be used, to consider the safety of the procedures and then recording and analysing the collected data. To develop the skill of accurately recording experimental setups and procedures in a laboratory notebook. To introduce data analysis and plotting using advanced computer packages and in particular for the fitting of data to a straight line and the calculation of the associated errors in gradient and intercept. To develop skills in accurately recording experimental measurements in a laboratory notebook and by reference to data recorded on an electronic file. To introduce students to methods of reporting experimental results as documents suitable for formal publication. To introduce students to the methods of reviewing literature and referring to other work through correct referencing and to be aware of issues of copyright. To introduce students to the construction and operation of basic electronic circuits, to include basic LCR circuits, diodes and operational amplifiers.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Students should be able to: use basic laboratory equipment safely and with confidence, carry out a basic experiment investigating a new (to the student) physics principle, make an estimate of the random and systematic errors in an experimental measurement, combine the uncertainties in experimental measurements in order to obtain a quantitative evaluation of the uncertainty in the final result, carry out a basic literature review before commencing an experiment, plan and execute an experiment, noting and minimising the effects of possible sources of error in the measurements, understand the safety requirements of an experimental procedure, know how to record experimental setups and procedures in a laboratory notebook and how to accurately record measurements, use a computer for quantitative data analysis and for the formal presentation of graphical data, present a basic formal report of their results in the form expected for publication in a scientific journal and to understand the relevance of each section (abstract, references etc.) understand the need to correctly reference other people’s work (i.e. not to plagiarise material) and to understand the basic requirements of copyright.

Teaching Information

6 lectures on error analysis and report writing 14 x 4 hour supervised experiment sessions 3 x 4 hours supervised electronics workshops

Assessment Information

Students will carry out their experiments under the guidance of an experienced post-graduate demonstrator who will question and challenge a student’s understanding of the experiment and the apparatus. Formative assessment with verbal and written feedback from the demonstrator is given for the early experiments and the first formal report. Informative feedback is given on each summatively assessed component in notebooks and with formal reports. 60% of the summative assessment of the unit comprises the formal assessment of 6 two week experiments and includes assessment of pre-laboratory work, execution of the experiment and analysis of the data to produce final results. 40% of the assessment comprises the marks assigned to two formal experimental reports that are marked by graduate students and moderated by academic staff demonstrators.

Reading and References

Tipler and Mosca - Physics for scientists and Engineers - Freeman Worth 2008