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Physics lab sessions consist of one two-hour period per week, with most experiments given two periods to complete. During the first period the experiment is set up, data is taken and some preliminary calculations are made. During the second period the calculations and error analysis are completed and conclusions are drawn. You are required to come prepared for the lab by having read and understood the experiment and any related material, and having completed any homework assigned.

All experimental work is done in the lab and recorded into a lab notebook called a logbook. The logbook is left in the lab at all times; no work in the logbook is permitted to be done outside the lab. Any materials (such as quizzes, formals, notes) from a previous physics lab course are not permitted in the lab. In addition to the work done in the lab, there are two formal reports assigned during the term that are to be completed at home.

The physics lab sets as its standard a research lab in industry or university. Students are expected to conduct themselves professionally. The grading of work is based on what is expected in scientific research.

Overview of Physics Labs

First year physics labs provide enthusiastic students with several broad-ranging opportunities, such as:

In addressing these objectives, the physics lab is independent from the course. Although the experiments will roughly follow the material taught in the course, the theory and background of an experiment may not have been covered in the course. You are expected to learn material for the lab in addition to your course work. New material will be covered in the lab as well as in the classroom.

Fundamentally, you will find that the physics lab differs from biology and chemistry labs in that the physics lab does not provide detailed step-by-step procedures, but rather expects you to develop your own approach to experiments. The goal here is for you to learn an accepted approach to conducting experiments in general through the practice of conducting specific experiments.

You will, however, be constrained by Specifications in all the work that you present. Specifications for the publication of your work will be presented in class, in the Appendices, and in the Supplements section of the manual.

Grading Outline for Physics lab

The division of marks for the lab is as follows:

Short evaluations (usually 5 marks each)  60% of lab grade
Formal report  20% of lab grade
Final lab quiz  20% of lab grade
Total lab grade  100%

The total lab grade forms 20% of the final course grade. In order to pass for the physics lab, a student must complete all the lab components and achieve at least 45% in their total lab grade. A physics lab pass is required to pass the associated physics course.

Final quiz covers the semester's work. Student must have attended and conducted the experiment, to receive credit for related quiz questions.

Short Evaluations

There is usually one short evaluation associated with each lab period of the semester (roughly twelve in a semester). Missed short evaluations will be assigned a grade of zero.

Short evaluations can take a variety of forms, from quizzes to marking all or part of the lab notebook, including current and previous work. Some lab period short evaluations might be combined into a single larger evaluations (such as an evaluation for over two weeks). Students are usually informed of the nature of the next period's short evaluation. The short evaluations are based on the material covered during the lab period or learned from the lab manual and its Supplements.  The nature and content of Short Evaluations are at the discretion of the Lab Supervisor.

Beware there may be one short evaluation grade for keeping of a notebook as outlined in the appendix. This evaluation is done, without warning, at anytime during the semester.

Formal Evaluations

During the semester each student will be assigned a formal report. The formal report write-up is based on the material you enter into your notebook during the lab classes. Formal reports can be assigned at random throughout the semester and are based on any experiment that has already been completed.

A formal report is due at the beginning of the following week's lab period, one week after the period it was assigned. Formal reports are considered late if handed in beyond 5 minutes into the period. Late reports are penalized two marks per day late. Late reports can be handed in through the Physics lab mail slot beside the lab entrance. Reports must be submitted by 4:00pm to avoid being penalized for an additional day late. Formal report submission by email is not accepted (a hard copy is required).

Your graded formal reports can be used during the semester as a reference but must be returned to your lab supervisor by the end of the semester.

Physics Lab Attendance

Labs are a fundamental part of a Physics requirement. Lab credit is divided between lab theory and lab attendance (doing hands-on work in the lab). Lab attendance is compulsory for lab credit.

Missing a lab period results in losing all lab marks associated with that lab period and any marks dependant on that missed lab period. A makeup lab can recoup some (but not necessarily all) of the lost marks. Missing two or more lab periods without lab makeups results in a failed lab grade.

A makeup lab is offered at the discretion of the lab supervisor. A makeup is offered only for a valid excuse that includes supporting documentation. In general, any make-up lab is done before your next regularly scheduled lab period.

If missing a lab period is unavoidable, inform your lab supervisor immediately (preferably before missing the period). Your lab supervisor will guide you to meeting the requirements of the lab (such as a makeup) and advise what documentation is required.

Help Hours

For additional help on your lab work, you may bring your questions to a Lab Supervisor during the second hour of any scheduled physics lab period. For example, help might be required in writing up a formal report or in elucidation of some point of an experiment before the lab period.

See the schedule posted outside the physics lab (FR302) door for the times when labs are in progress. Your physics course instructor or any member of the physics department may also be approached for help.

Electronic or Film Recording in the Physics Lab

Students are not permitted to record video or audio of the labs without written permission from the lab supervisor. Still recording (such as still photography) of the experiments is permitted for notebook use. Students should note that a photograph does not suffice as a diagram for a formal report procedure. Still recording in the lab other than of the student's experiment (such as of other students or other experiments) is not permitted without written consent of the lab supervisor.

Students with Disabilities

Lab Notebooks

You are expected to keep a proper notebook in the lab. The notebook and the keeping of records therein are described in the appendix. Parts of your notebook may be graded for short evaluations. In addition, you will be using your notebook to produce formal reports as well as answer short evaluation questions.

Your notebook will not be returned to you and will be destroyed after one year. An exception can be made for the return of your notebook after one year by submitting a letter stating the request and the reason to the Physics Department.

Significant Figures

Significant figures in quoting a value or result is an area of some confusion for students. The physics lab teaches the determination of the significance of a result by a formal analysis of uncertainties. In other areas, uncertainties may not be analyzed and the significance of a result is estimated. In your physics class most results are requested to be rounded to three significant figures. In chemistry, the least significant value in the calculation is used while in math the exact form may be required. Note that all of these areas expect values to be estimated to a reasonable significance as defined by the area, with the physics lab teaching the formal approach to error analysis and significant figures.

For the physics lab, the best estimate is expected to have an uncertainty. The final resultant uncertainty is to be rounded to two significant figures. The final best estimate is to be rounded to the same significance (decimal place) as the uncertainty.

First Lab Period Requirements