PH317 - Experimental Physics (3 credits) - is one of two WIC (Writing Intensive Curriculum) courses in Physics (the other is PH403 - Thesis). PH317 offers an in-depth experience with a few experiments, coupled strongly to the writing experience, just like the thesis option. We expect to offer the course in standard in-person mode in W2022 with enrollment limited to 12 students. The course was offered in hybrid mode W2021, and as W2020 as PH317X. Future courses may feature different experiments.

Experiment 1: We measure the air exchange rate in the Weniger labs using dry ice and a carbon dioxide sensor. It's certainly relevant to COVID practices and is an interesting test of exponential decay models.

Experiment 2: We measure x-ray emission from metals and x-ray absorption by metals. We uncover some fascinating quantum mechanics of multi-electron atoms and we learn how this technique is applied in modern chemical analysis of solids. It is also an ideal situation to apply some basic statistics to quantify the uncertainty in the measurements.  Understanding the underlying physics of the apparatus is a key part of making sense of the entire experiment. Writing about the physics, the apparatus, the analysis and communicating with graphs and pictures takes place all through the experiment. You keep an electronic lab notebook (OneNote) and present your results and analysis weekly to your peers. We spend 3-4 weeks on the experiment, so you can refine data, retake it, analyse carefully, just as we do in a research lab. Those who have time to explore independently can design an experiment to investigate x-ray diffraction.

Experiment 3: We measure the diffusive motion of micron-sized polystyrene spheres in water.  We find evidence for atoms! We learn to quantify this random motion. We learn how this technique is important in modern biophysics. We use advanced microscopes and learn the basics of image analysis, a highly sought-after skill. We again have an ideal situation to apply some basic stasistics.  Writing about the physics, the apparatus, the analysis and communicating with graphs and pictures takes place all through the experiment. You keep an electronic lab notebook (OneNote) and present your results and analysis weekly to your peers. We spend 3-4 weeks on the experiment, so you can refine data, retake it, analyse carefully, just as we do in a research lab. Those who have time to explore independently can investigate the motion in another fluid (pond scum?) or design an extension of the basic experiment.  

WIC: The goal of this WIC course is for you to write as a professional experimental physicist would, just as in PH403. You write technical reports during both experiments, and review your peers' work. The time devoted to each experiment allows for revision and rewriting.

COVID-19: How do we do run a course in experimental physics in this cornonavirus pandemic situation?  This is a very serious question and requires a detailed and serious answer.
This is a course in experimental physics, and the equipment simply cannot be duplicated or even approximated at home. Part of the course is learning experimental technique, and you also learn about lab management and safety. But in fact most of "experimental" physics involves intensive data analysis, research into existing literature, writing, revising, thinking and discussion, all of which are done outside the physical laboratory. So we will adapt to the pandemic as we do in the research lab ....

  1. First and foremost, this activity is opt-in only. If you do not wish to be on campus for any reason, we can discuss alternative options.
  2. Second, as coronavirus conditions change, the class may change modality. e.g. we might change to a completely remote mode, even as the class is in progress. The instructor makes this determination. The university may also change its operating level to level 3 or level 4, in which case we will suspend lab operations.
  3. Everyone behaves professionally as in a real research lab, adapting to this new reality in a sensitive and compassionate way, helping each other and the community. Our health is paramount.
  4. There will be strict adherence to OSU, College of Science and Physics Department coronavirus pandemic protocols.
  5. Everyone is expected to sign up for OSU's covid-19 testing program, TRACE, and to take any test offered.
  6. All tasks that can be done remotely will be done remotely. This does not mean that the tasks will be done alone or in isolation. We will not avoid the necessary interactions; we will manage them differently.
  7. Training will have a large remote component. You will study the equipment via videos and manuals and be expected to be quite familiar with the apparatus before you get your first hands-on experience (think pilot and flight simulator!). You will watch a remote demonstration, then have a (distanced) in-person training, and afterwards operate quasi-independently with an instructor in a nearby room.
  8. We will keep the building and room occupancy low by opening up new labs to have no more than 2 people per lab (about 1 person per 400 sq. ft.)
  9. We will adopt a "get-in-get-data-get-out" approach (that I would discourage in non-covid circumstances!) to minimize time spent in proximity with others.
  10. Face masks will always be worn in Weniger Hall; physical distance of 6 feet or more will be maintained; frequent hand-washing and sanitation of high-touch surfaces is expected; gloves are worn in many cases reagardless of covid.
  11. We will make a new, written health attestation each and every day we are in the physical laboratory. We will affirm that we are healthy, that we have no covid-like symptoms, nor been in contact with anyone who has tested postive for covid-19 or presumed to have covid-19,  and we will reaffirm that we are adhering to OSU's code of conduct by NEVER gathering in a group larger than 10 people. If any one of these conditions is not met, we agree to stay out of the laboratory.
  12. We will cooperate and collaborate. We will adapt and be nimble. We will accept a slower pace and make the best of it.

The estimated actual time in the lab can be reduced to 4-6 hours per experiment, perhaps distributed over several days. We will try to maximize the time you have in the lab , but in the event of a decision to go to remote instruction, we may not be able to access the lab at all. In that case we will use previously gathered data to analyze. Not so satisfying, but we will complete the course remotely, even in the worst-case scenario.

Some of the original goals of the course, such as using research-grade equipment on campus, will have to be set aside under pandemic conditions. Nonetheless, there will be room for innovation and working on your own projects within each experiment.

Please check the schedule of classes for scheduling information. Departmental permission is needed for enrollment - contact Janet Tate (PH317 instructor). Priority for enrollment goes to graduating seniors who have not enrolled in PH403, but they must make their intentions known early. Second priority goes to juniors who do not intend to enroll in PH403. For these students, the PH401requirements will be waived and elective physics courses substituted. This prioritization allows the department to allocate resources equitably (in this case faculty time). Third priority goes to juniors who wish to take PH401/403 in addition and to seniors who are currently enrolled or who have completed PH401/403. Once Dr. Tate has approved enrollment, the Physics Office will set registration privileges for you.

Please contact Janet Tate (PH317 instructor) or David McIntyre (head undergraduate advisor) with questions or for further information.
Last update 1/24/2021