Physics 405 - Advanced Physics Laboratory
Department of Physics University of Maryland


Instructor: Dr. Wendell T. Hill, III        


Office: 2120 IPST

Lab Hours: Tu 1-3; W 1-3; Th 1-3


Phone: 301-405-4813

(Additional office hours by appointment – phone or email)


Email: wth@umd.edu


TA: Jupiter Bagaipo


Office:  Physics

Lab Hours: M 11:00 - 13:00


Phone: 301-405-8577

(Additional office hours by appointment – phone or email)

  Email: jbagaipo@umd.edu  

Schedule: Instructor and TA lab hours are below.

  Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday

Opens 9:00 AM
Opens 9:00 AM
Opens 9:00 AM
Opens 9:00 AM
Opens 9:00 AM
12-13     Lecture    
2-3     WH WH  WH



Closes 5:00 PM
Closes 5:00 PM
Closes 5:00 PM
Closes 5:00 PM
Closes 4:00 PM

The lab is open Monday through Thursday from 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM and on Friday from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM.  If you arrive before the door is open, ask Tom or Allen to open the lab for you.  If you are the last person to leave one of the lab rooms, please close the door.  If you are coming back, have Tom or Allen open the door again when you return.  You must be done for the day at the time the lab closes.  If you are not done taking data at 5:00 PM and you are signed up for the following day, leave a note on your experiment so that a staff member does not disassemble your experiment.

Laboratory Staff:

Allen Monroe

Office: 3311 Physics


Phone: x56002

Office Hour: 8AM-3PM M-F


Email: amonroe@physics.umd.edu

  Tom Baldwin

Office: 3202 Physics

  Phone: x56004

Office Hour: 9:00AM-5:30PM M-F

  Email: tbald@physics.umd.edu  

Prerequisite: Physics 375


Wednesday 12:00-12:50, Lecture Room 3112 Physics

Text and Materials:

Physics 405 Laboratory Manual – Department of Physics

        AND at least one of the following:

Data Reduction and Error Analysis for the Physical Sciences - Phillip R. Bevington and D. Keith Robinson (McGraw Hill, Inc., 2003, ISBN 0-07-247227-8);

An Introduction to Error Analysis: The Study of Uncertainties in Physical Measurement – John R. Taylor (University Science Books, 1997, ISBN 0-935702-75-X).

You will need TWO (2) lab notebooks.  Two are required so that you can work in one notebook while the other is being graded.  Acceptable lab notebooks should be 8.5" x 11" or larger, should be bound (with spiral or book binding), and have numbered, quad-ruled pages.  Pages should be permanent, not perforated for tear-out.


For approximately the first half to the semester there will be a 50 min lecture from 12:00 – 12:50 in Rm. 3112 on Wednesdays. We will cover error analysis, laboratory measurement techniques and any other material germane to the course. You will be responsible for understanding the material presented in lecture and, when appropriate, expected to include some of this material in your notebook reports and in your final formal report. If you miss a lecture you are responsible for finding out from a classmate what was covered.  The lecture slot will be used for 12-minute presentations by students during the second half of the course. Attendance at talks is mandatory! Without a valid excuse approved by your instructure, you will not pass the course if you do not attend all presentations. You are responsible for knowing the dates of the presentations, which are subject to change!


It is required that all students complete the work for 6 units, which will typically consist of four to six experiments. Failure to complete all 6 units will result in failing the class; completion is defined as performing the lab and turning a lab notebook to be graded. Each student is required to work on the experiments entirely by her/himself. At the completion of each experiment, students are expected to hand in the laboratory notebook for grading. This means that it will be necessary to have at least 2 laboratory notebooks in order to have one available while the other is being graded. Every attempt will be made to grade your experiments promptly so that you will be able to improve your next report before handing it in. The notebook reports are meant to be your notes and documentation of your work in the lab, and are not meant to be a formal write-up. (Please refer to the laboratory manual for more information on the notebook reports.)

Your first experiment must be a one-unit experiment. (in order to total six units, you must therefore complete at least one other one-unit experiment).  You may do either zero, one, or two two-unit experiments.  However, you may not do all three of experiments VII, VIII, and IX (these are too similar in their experimental methods). 

Scheduling Experiments:

There will be an online sign-up sheet that can be accessed from any computer with an internet connection or from the computer in Rm. 3210. The url is
http://www.physics.umd.edu/cgi-script/courses/p405.pl You must request time each week to perform your experiments. You may be sign up for only two days each week and it is strongly suggested that these days be consecutive so that your experimental setup may be saved. 

Prior to carrying out an experiment, you are required to complete the preparatory questions at the start of the experiment. Write the answer to the prep questions in your lab notebook.  You must have the prep questions examined and initialed by either the instructor or the TA before you begin the experiment.

Formal Report:

One of the 4 to 6 notebook reports is to be rewritten as a formal report and is to be turned in by Friday, December 15, 2006. Please refer to the laboratory manual and the information here for the format of the formal report.

Twelve-minute talks:

Each student will be expected to give one 12-minute talk on an experiment of his or her choice.  The talks will be followed by questions from the instructor, the TA, and the other students.


Several times during the semester a short set of homework problems will be assigned. The purpose of these assignments is to review and strengthen your understanding of the type of error analysis you will be performing in your laboratories. These assignments will be graded on an all or nothing scale, however you may attempt the assignment more than once.


Notebooks (20 per unit) 60%
Homework 15%
Formal report 15%
12-minute talk 10%
TOTAL                                         100%.


If you have a valid excuse for missing a due date for a notebook report or a 12 minute talk (e.g., you will be having an operation) see me to make alternate arrangements, beforehand if at all possible. Ex post facto (after the fact) excuses will require validation and may not be acceptable. You must speak to me. Your TA does not have the authority to excuse you from any required class activity.

Tips for Doing Well in 405:

Don't fall behind!

Read the lab manual carefully before attempting an experiment.

Answer the preparatory questions in your notebook and have them checked by the professor or TA before you begin the experiment.

Keep a complete log for the experiment including experimental diagrams of measurement configurations actually used to obtain data, results, estimates of various errors and limitations to the measurements, analysis used to obtain final results and a proper estimate of all errors including systematic errors as well as statistical errors.

Show clearly the reasoning that you used to arrive at various conclusions. If your experimental result does not agree with the known or accepted values, your reasoning may be the only clue that the TA or the instructor has as to where you, or the experimental apparatus, went wrong.

Additional information, a list of experiments and more detailed help can be found here.

Important Dates:

First Class Lecture Wednesday, August 30
Last Day for Schedule Adjustment Wednesday, September 13
Last Day to Drop with a "W" Wednesday, November 8
Thanksgiving Break Thursday and Friday, November 23-24
Last Notebook Due Wednesday, November 29
All Notebooks Due Wednesday, December 6by 6:00 PM
Final Report Due Friday, December 15 by 6:00 PM

Modified Schedule:

Dates Subject Reading Assignments Due Dates*
8/30 Introduction

Bevington Ch. 1
Taylor Chs. 1, 2 & 4

9/6 Lecture #1 Bevington Ch. 2
Taylor Chs. 5, 10 & 11
Unit #1 Prelab Questions
Homework #1
9/13 Lecture #2 Bevington Ch. 3
Taylor Chs. 3, 5 & 7
Homework #2 due
9/20 Lecture #3 Bevington Chs. 4 & 6
Taylor Chs. 8 & 12

Unit #1 Lab Notebooks

9/27 Lecture #4 Bevington Ch. 7 & 8 Homework #3
10/4 Lecture #5 Bevington Ch. 9 & 11 Unit #2 Lab Notebooks
10/11     Homework #4
10/18     Unit #3 Lab Notebooks
Homework #5
11/1 12 Min. Talks   Unit #4 Lab Notebooks
11/8 12 Min. Talks    
11/15 12 Min. Talks   Unit #5 Lab Notebooks
  Unit #6 Lab Notebooks
12/6  12 Min. Talks    All Lab Notebooks (by 6:00 PM)
12/15     Final Report (by 6:00 PM)

*All subsequent prelab questions must be completed and checked (initialed) by the TA or the instructor before you start your lab. The lab notebook due dates correspond to 1-unit labs. You will have twice as long to complete 2-unit labs. The due dates correspond to 12:00 noon unless otherwise specified.

Grading of Notebook Reports:

Your lab notebook should give a complete description of how you did your experiment and how you analyzed your data.  Another person should be able to take your notebook and duplicate your experiment.

For the notebook reports you must do the following:

1. Write in a real lab notebook: notebook should be quad ruled, with numbered pages
2. Write in ink. If you make a mistake, draw one line through it - don't erase it, scratch over it, or use white-out.
3. Staple/past/tape all graphs and analysis in notebook. Label axes.  Include any formulas, derivations, etc. needed to understand your graph.
4. Give a brief description of theory behind experiment.
5. Provide the actual circuit diagram you used to do the experiment (do not photocopy lab manual).
6. Provide a clear description of the procedure used to take data.
7. Provide the units of all numbers.
8. Provide and explain your estimate of the random and systematic errors in all important quantities effecting your final result. Must use proper error analysis techniques.
9. Pay attention to significant figures.
10. Analyze your data. Write down the methods you used.  If you use Mathematica, do not simply paste your Mathematica notebook into your lab notebook - write down in your lab notebook your analysis steps.  Compare statistical error with random error (reduced χ2).  Discuss.
11. Quote your results with final total error (including systematic errors).
12. When appropriate, compare your answer to the expected value and discuss discrepancies.
13. Be sure you have answered all the questions asked for in the lab manual, including discussion questions at end of unit.
14. Be sure you have done all the experiments you were asked to do.

Grading Scheme for lab reports per unit:

Description of procedure (including prep questions) 3
Raw data (including tables, plots, etc.) 5 pts
Analysis (including errors and final results) 8 pts
Everything else on above list 4 pts
Late reports -5 pts /week
No notebook for one lab, F for the course!

Last modification Wednesday October 11, 2006