Experimental Physics Requirement

All Ph.D. students must fulfill the experimental physics requirement during their first year, either by taking the Advanced Experimental Physics course (PHYS 334) or by carrying out an Advanced Experimental Physics Project (PHYS 335). Students must make a decision as to which of these options they will choose very early in the academic year.

PHYS 33400: Students electing to take PHYS 334 (instead of 335) must register for Physics 334 in the spring quarter of their first year. Students taking PHYS 334 will perform two experiments and will produce independently written, formal reports for each experiment. Students will give an oral presentation for one experiment, and all students will attend the oral presentations of their colleagues in the course.

Students who feel that they have done work in an instructional laboratory elsewhere at the level of PHYS 334, may appeal to the Experimental Requirement Committee to be excused from a portion of PHYS 334. (The Experimental Requirement Committee consists of the Department Chair, the Department Executive Officer, the PHYS 334 instructors, and the faculty member assigned to the oversight of PHYS 335.) To be excused, a student must show documentary evidence (e.g., lab reports) of very good quality work done at the graduate level. Traditionally, successful appeals have been very rare.

PHYS 33500: In order to carry out an Advanced Experimental Physics Project, the student must find a faculty sponsor who agrees to supervise the work. The project must introduce the student to several aspects of an experiment---building the equipment, data taking, data analysis, and presentation. It is not necessary that the project involve the student with all of the above aspects, but it is essential that the student get some "hands-on" experience with apparatus and that some analysis be performed of the data taken with the equipment. If the student holds an RA, the project must be separate from the RA work. The work on the project will normally be spread out over 2 or 3 quarters, but the total amount of work should correspond to a single one-quarter course. The major portion of the work is normally done in the winter quarter.

The faculty instructor for PHYS 335 will meet very early in the Autumn Quarter with all first-year students who are potentially interested in pursuing the Advanced Experimental Physics Project option. At this meeting, the instructor should explain all of the requirements for the project as stated in the previous paragraph, and should offer guidance and advice for linking students with potential faculty supervisors. After a student has obtained the agreement of a faculty member to supervise a proposed project, the student must submit a written abstract of the proposed project to the PHYS 335 instructor. The PHYS 335 instructor will set a deadline for receipt of such abstracts, which should be no later than mid-November. Only those students whose abstracts are approved by the PHYS 335 instructor will be allowed to take PHYS 335. Such students must register for PHYS 335 in both the Winter and Spring quarters (but not in the Autumn quarter). Any student who does not obtain approval to take PHYS 335 must take PHYS 334 in the Spring Quarter. If a student who has registered for PHYS 335 decides to switch to PHYS 334 he/she must obtain approval to do so from the PHYS 335 instructor.

It is the responsibility of the PHYS 335 instructor to closely monitor the progress of all students performing the Advanced Experimental Physics Project, to ensure that the project is being carried out in a manner consistent with the original, approved proposal. If the project depends on contingencies not entirely under the control of the student (such as the arrival of certain equipment or the completion by others of another part of the experiment), it is essential that good "back-up" plans be in place. Any "problem cases" that may arise should be discussed with the Experimental Requirement Committee before a final decision is reached.

The results of the Advanced Experimental Physics Project will be presented in a poster session late in the Spring quarter, which will be open to the entire Physics Department.