Goals of the Laboratory Program

The development of theory in physics is intimately connected with observations of the universe on both the macroscopic and microscopic scales. The apocryphal story about Newton's observation of a falling apple leading to his law of universal gravitation paints a reasonable picture of the relationship between theory and experiment. Sometimes experiments cause us to revise our understanding of nature. For example, late 19th century experiments revealed that the laws of classical Newtonian physics can't be applied to systems on the atomic scale. On the other hand, experiments are sometimes performed to test new theoretical ideas to see whether they have any validity. No matter how you slice it, laboratory science is all about doing the experiments, assessing the significance of the results, and interpreting what they mean.

Consequently, issues such as the design of the experiment, the suitability of the equipment and/or apparatus, or the degree to which the experiment and/or its environment can be controlled, are relevant. The development of critical thinking skills is essential for a good experimentalist. Moreover, the laboratory component of the classes offered by the Physics Department provides practical training in experimental techniques, including (at least) error analysis and graphical methods.

We do experiments because, regardless of what we'd like to think,
Mother Nature's opinion is the only one that counts.

University and Faculty Regulations

The University Calendar contains regulations relevant to the performance of laboratory work assigned in a course. They relate to regular and punctual attendance, the neglect of academic work, plagiarism, and damage or theft of University property. Students should consult the section on Academic Regulations in the calendar for the current, precise wording.

Within the Faculty of Science, the following regulation applies: "If a student fails to complete a mandatory component of a course (laboratory, mandatory term paper, final examination) the grade of NP (no paper) should be recorded."

Department of Physics Regulations

(Approved April 17, 2002)

  1. Students are required to complete all of the assigned laboratory work in order to pass the laboratory component of a course. The assigned work will include the performance of experiments, the writing of laboratory reports, and may also include a laboratory exam.

    Students who miss an experiment or lab exam for a valid reason should consult Chapter 1 of their lab manual on how to arrange the completion of the required material in a timely manner.

  2. Students who achieve an overall lab grade of less than fifty percent will not be permitted to write the final examination for the course.

    In the event that the student inadvertently writes the final exam, it shall not be graded.

  3. Students who have previously received a minimum of 50% in the lab component of a physics course, may request exemption from repeating the lab if they repeat the course.

    Students planning to retake a class should consult with the course instructor to determine whether they will be allowed a laboratory exemption under the departmental regulations.

  4. The weight given to the laboratory component for full-lab classes shall be no less than 25 percent of the final course grade.
  5. The weight given to the laboratory component for half-lab classes shall be no less than 15 percent of the final course grade.