Course Syllabus

Phy 4803L Course Syllabus

Course Details

Contact Information

  • Instructor: Prof. Paul Fulda
  • Office: NPB 2364
  • Email: Use Canvas email
  • Class hours: Tue, Thursday, Periods 6—8 (1:00pm—3:00 pm), NPB 1240
  • Office hours: See availability times in the Instructors and Office hours page
  • Instructor: Prof. Tarek Saab
  • Office: NPB 2354
  • Email: Use Canvas email
  • Class hours: Tue, Thursday, Periods 2—4 (9:00am—11:00 pm), NPB 1240
  • Office hours: See availability times in the Instructors and Office hours page
  • Instructor: Prof. Robert DeSerio
  • Office: NPB 2136
  • Email: Use Canvas email
  • Class hours: Tue, Thursday, Periods 2—4 (9:00am—11:00 pm), NPB 1240
  • Office hours: See availability times in the Instructors and Office hours page
Communication with the Instructors

You can contact your instructors by sending messages via the Canvas mail tool. In case you are not able to access Canvas you may send emails to our individual ufl addresses, however, only messages originating from your GatorLink addresses will be replied to. Please cc all instructors on your emails.


Most of the materials for this course, including experimental descriptions, and physical and statistical references will be posted on the course's website hosted at the Physics Dept:

Other material such as the syllabus, announcements, calendar, and experimental rotation schedule will be posted on the course’s Canvas website. Assignments and lab reports will be submitted and returned through Canvas. The web site for the course is accessed through UF e-Learning or directly at:


There is no required text for this course. However, a large library of reference material and useful resources  is available from the course's website:


  • PHY 4604 and PHY 4802L.

Background: It is expected that students are familiar with various aspects of modern physics and are comfortable with diagnosing and debugging simple experimental problems.

Lab Fees

A $7 materials and supplies fee is for consumables such as chemicals, glassware, and printing supplies. A $90 equipment use fee is for replacing whole experiments or a component such as a meter or data-acquisition computer.


This course will provide an introduction to the techniques found in various disciplines of modern experimental physics. We will see how an experimental concept is designed to measure a physical parameter (e.g. the lifetime of a muon) and how that concept is realized in terms of hardware and electronics. We will also learn about a variety of data and statistical analysis methods that are used to extract the desired physical parameters from the raw measurements.

Course Schedule

The detailed course schedule, including the rotation periods and assignment due dates is available at this page: Course Schedule.

Course Structure

Course Objectives

For each experiment you perform in this laboratory course you will be expected to demonstrate an understanding of the underlying physics, the experimental apparatus, the measurement techniques, and the data analysis. You should reach a level of mastery sufficient to suggest and explore such experimental refinements as improving the quality or quantity of the data, expanding the analysis, or widening the scope of the measurements beyond what is suggested in the handouts.

During your time in and out of the lab, you will:

  • Learn new physics regarding the systems explored in the experiments.
  • Use modern instrumentation and data acquisition computers to collect data on those systems.
  • Learn about measurement uncertainty and systematic error and use statistical analysis procedures to determine experimental parameters and their uncertainties.
  • Learn how to keep a lab notebook and how to communicate experimental results in a variety of formats.
  • Learn the various concepts involved in designing a physics experiment.

General Instructions

Work will be performed in "time-separated"* pairs with experimental rotations determined at the beginning of the semester. Each student will perform a total of 4 experiments, each 3 weeks (6 sessions) in duration. You may choose from the fifteen available experiments which are classified into four groups: (1) Particle/Nuclear Physics, (2) Condensed Matter Physics, (3) Spectroscopy, (4) Optical Scattering and (5) Other Topics. Students will be able to submit a list of their preferred experiments to perform, however the final experimental rotations will be chosen such that students will not perform more than one experiment from each group.

*To accommodate COVID related distancing safety measures you will be working with a parter in a time-separated manner (somewhat like the electrons in a superconducting Cooper pair). One member of the pair will attend the morning section to work on the experiment, they will then communicate with their partner to pass on all relevant information, and the partner will continue the work in the afternoon session. Please make sure you are not in the same space at the same time as that might cause instant annihilation (wait, this applies to matter-anti-matter pairs, not Cooper pairs).


It is important to get up to speed quickly on each experiment. The first day of an experimental rotation should be spent working with the apparatus and getting a start on the experimental procedures and not reading the lab manual for the first time. To prepare for an experiment and complete the exercises on time, be sure to download and read the experiment's lab manual at least one full week (two sessions) ahead. Read it and attempt out the exercises before the first day that you will be working with the new experiment.

This preparatory activity will overlap with the final week of the "previous" experiment, however, it is expected that by that point most of the data acquisition and analysis has been completed and your effort is primarily focused on the writing the report.

The overall course load has been designed to be roughly constant throughout a semester, i.e. as the workload from one experiments beings to decrease towards the end of a rotation the work load for the subsequent experiment will start to rise.


The following table summarizes the breakdown of points which will be used to determine the course grade. The individual lab reports and presentations carry the same weight.

Category Points per Experiment Total Points
Lab report / presentation 10 40
Interim reports 5 20
Personal performance 5 20
Pre-Lab HW 5 20
Stats HW 5 15
LaTeX Assignment -- 5
Attendance -- 5
Total 125
Late Assignments

Please refer to the Course Schedule for a schedule of assignments and due dates. All assignments must be submitted via Canvas by 8:30 am on the day they are due. Assignments turned in late will be given only partial credit. The partial credit factor will decrease by 10% every 24 hrs that the assignment is late. Assignments that are more than a week late will not be accepted and will be assigned a score of zero.

Grading Scale

The course grades are not curved (i.e. your letter grade only depends on your total score). Your letter grade for the course will be determined as follows:

Letter Grade Total Points
A ≥85
A- 80
B+ 75
B 70
B- 65
C+ 60
C 55
C- 50
D+ 45
D 40
D- 35
E <35

The advantage of the fixed scale is that you are not competing with other students to “get ahead of the curve”. Everyone who works hard can do well in the class, and to the extent that it helps you learn, we encourage collaboration.

For further information on UF's Grading Policy, see:

Attendance Policy

Since this is a laboratory course, regular attendance is essential to setting up the experiments, acquiring the data, and analyzing it. Attendance will be used in determining your overall course grade as described below.

Students are generally only allowed access to the laboratory equipment and computers during the regular course hours. It is very important that you attend at these times and that you use your time with the equipment efficiently. Attendance will be recorded via the Canvas attendance tool. Attendance will affect performance in two ways, via pass/fail on individual experiments and through an attendance factor.

Attendance Factor

The experimental rotations are designed to take the full allotted eight sessions to properly be performed. Consequently, a pattern of late arrivals, early departures, and being absent from the apparatus for extended time during the course sessions will be noted and will affect the attendance score portion of the overall grade.

Failing an Experiment

Each rotation consists of eight 3-hour sessions. Unexcused absence from three or more sessions automatically leads to failing a rotation: no points will be assigned in any category for this experiment. Failing two or more rotations automatically leads to failing the class.

Missed Sessions

Any student who anticipates missing an experimental session due to an exam conflict or any other foreseeable reason that is approved under UF attendance policies should inform the instructors (via Canvas) in advance.In the case of an unforeseeable absence, i.e. due to a medical excuses or family emergencies, please contact the instructor as soon as possible, normally within 24 hours after the missed session. In those cases an appropriate and equivalent means of making up the missed work will be provided.

Please consult the official University Policy for Attendance, linked from the UF Registrar’s web site.

Potential Exposure to COVID-19

If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, the seasonal flu, or other health condition that would affect your ability to work in a laboratory setting we recommend you err on the side of caution and avoid coming in to class. We will arrange for an appropriate and equivalent means of making up the missed work.

Students are expected to follow proper hygienic procedures to minimize the possibility of infection by or transmission of COVID-19. These include wiping down all frequently touched surfaces (equipment and flat surfaces) after each session.

To minimize your exposure to possible COVID infection, please follow CDC recommendations at Please bring your own cloth masks to class, which should be worn whenever appropriate social distancing cannot be maintained. Wearing a mask is optional when working alone in a room with closed doors. To protect yourself, please wipe down all surfaces you need to touch with disinfecting wipes and to protect others, please wipe them down when you are finished. Sinks are available in most of the lab rooms with disinfectant hand wash to use anytime.

LaTeX assignment

Well before the due date of the first report, we ask you to submit a dummy report. We do this so that you know that the LaTeX installation you are using can do the job. Here are instructions:

  1. Download from the course website and extract the files. (It is found here:
  2. Edit sample-paper.tex so that it has a different title, your name where the student's name goes, your partner's name in the masthead, and a different abstract.
  3. Replace one figure (and caption). Use any figure you like. We recommend a line drawing rather than a photograph.
  4. Add some sample references, using proper Physical Review format for the references. Make one sample reference be to a journal article.
  5. Produce a pdf that runs without errors.
  6. Upload the pdf to canvas LaTeX assignment.

Rotation and Statistics Homework

All assignments should be submitted individually at the beginning of the scheduled class (eg 8:30 am, through Canvas). the homework question for each rotation, labelled as Exercises, are embedded in each experiment's the lab manual. Although the due date for each rotation's homework set is on the 3rd session of the rotation you are strongly encouraged to work on them as early as possible. The late submission policy also applies to statistical homework, LaTeX assignment, and rotation homework.


Read Writing Scientific Reports Using LaTeX for additional information on writing lab reports. Whereas the notebook is written chronologically and is a complete record of what occurred in the lab, the report components can be placed in a more reader-friendly order and can be more selective in content. Also keep in mind, many of the notebook guidelines apply to the report as well.

The reports are limited to four pages including references, but excluding the appendices. This limit will force you to make some judgment calls about what should be included and what has to left out. Any material beyond four pages will not be graded.

The report should be written in the the style of a scientific publication and should show that you understand the physical system under study, the apparatus, and the experimental results. The sections listed below should be included. The points associated with each section are a rough guideline and not binding.

  • Abstract: (10%) The abstract should briefly summarize the motivation, the method and most importantly, the quantitative results with errors. Based on those, a conclusion may be drawn. 
  • Introduction and Theory: (20%) This section should succinctly report the motivation,
    purpose and relevant background to the experiment. It should define all the major variables involved and provide equations and assumptions.
  • Apparatus and Experiment: (10%) This section should provide schematics of the apparatus and discuss how the raw data are generated. It should also include an
    assessment of their random and systematic errors.
  • Analysis and Results: (40%) This section should explain the data analysis and how it leads to the results, including random uncertainties and possible systematic effects.
  • Conclusions: (15%) Summarize and discuss the findings of the experiment including quantitative comparisons between your results and theoretical expectations or other experimental values. Suggestions for experimental improvements and possible future
    studies are also appropriate here.
  • References cited: (5%) Cite the source any time and every time you use an idea or a fact that you obtained from that source. The lab manual can be one of these but there must be at least one other from the scientific literature. Use the style used in the LaTeX assignment.
  • Appendices: Here you may include any additional information and/or figures that do not fit into the main parts of the report. (The appendices do not count against the four-page limit.) It should not be necessary to read this section in order to understand the results and conclusions presented in the body of the paper.
  • Use of graphs and diagrams you did not prepare:} The creator of an image usually holds the copyright to the image. This right exists even if there is no © attached. If you wish to use such an image in your report, you must make a citation of the source in the report. The citation is required even if the image is in the public domain.
  • You are permitted to use diagrams and images on the lab website and in the lab writeups/manuals. However, it is highly preferred that you create/photograph/sketch your own.


For the final rotation, you will deliver a conference-style oral presentation of your work. In order to keep all of the talks within the time allotted for our lab meeting, strict time constraints will be enforced. Each student has 15 minutes to present plus 5 minutes to answer questions from the faculty or other students.

You should utilize visual slides that help to present your results and organize the flow of your presentation. Each set of slides should be in the form a single PDF file. This PDF file should be uploaded to Canvas by 11:59 pm on the evening prior to the day of the presentations. This is necessary so that we can efficiently transition from one presentation to the next without delays. Other file formats, such as Powerpoint or Keynote are not acceptable.

We strongly recommend that you practice your talk several times before delivering your presentation in class. Given the short time allotted, you will need this practice in order to make sure that you can deliver all of the necessary information clearly and concisely. The breakdown of topics covered in your presentation should roughly follow the breakdown listed for the written reports, minus the abstract. "Appendix" slides at the end of your PDF file can be included that are not presented during the main body of your presentation, but may be shown in order to help answer questions from the audience.

The rules in the section on reports on the use of graphs and diagrams you did not prepare apply to the presentations as well.

In any scientific presentation it is important to tailor what you cover to the specific audience. For this presentation you need to provide enough background information that students that haven't performed your experiment can learn something. At the same time, you should provide enough detail that the instructors and other students that have performed your experiment can gauge your results and any technical issues you may have run into. Some useful (if technologically out-dated) information on scientific speaking can be found here: Advice on speaking.

Lab Conduct

Please read the following section carefully:

  • Safety: We have tried to minimize hazards but there are always possibilities for injury. Follow all safety procedures for handling lasers, X-ray machine, cryogens, radioactive materials, and high voltage sources.
  • Care: Take care of the equipment. Know how to use it. Do not make connections unless you understand what you're doing. Read the equipment manuals.
  • Courtesy: Keep your area clean. Return tools, equipment, etc. to their proper place. Do not remove equipment from other experiments! If you need a replacement part, see an instructor.

You should demonstrate preparation and progress during discussions, which will be conducted informally more or less every session. You should always be prepared to answer the following questions. What are you doing or about to do? Why are you doing it? What do you think will happen? Your ``personal performance'' grade will be based on this.

Do not wait until you are writing your report before you begin graphing and analyzing data. Mistakes are common in laboratory work and can often be discovered as the data come in by graphing and/or analysis. Graphs and analysis should be displayed in your lab notebook. If your data consists of a modest number of points, just draw appropriate axes in the notebook and mark the data points by hand. If there are are many points, import into excel or a plotting program, print the plot, and tape it to a notebook page.

Instructors will be looking specifically for this analysis during discussions and notebook inspections. In addition, a ``checkpoint'' has been included in each experimental writeup containing benchmarks that should be achieved by the end of the fourth session of an experiment. Evaluating data as it comes in and meeting the benchmarks on time
will be a significant part of your in-class performance score.

By the end of the sixth session, data acquisition and data analysis should be mostly complete, as should be your understanding of all aspects of the experiment. You may be individually interviewed during that period where you will be expected to show your data and analysis. The seventh session is to clean up any remaining details, work on the report and prepare for the next experiment.

Notebook/Flash drivE

Refer to the Laboratory Notebook Guidelines for details on maintaining a laboratory notebook. Notebooks will be kept electronically using the OneNote class notebook on Canvas. These will be accessible to you in the lab (and anywhere with an internet connection). The notebooks will be readable by the instructors for the purposes of evaluating your progress in an experimental rotation.

Bring a flash drive to each lab session for storing your data and other files for an experiment. Use a separate directory for each experiment and sub-directories within it when appropriate. Do not assume your data will be on the lab data acquisition computer from one day to another. Back up your flash drive files to your personal computer after each session in case your flash drive is lost or damaged.


A list of the available experiments and a brief description of each can be found on the Experiments page.

UF Policies

Academic Honesty

The UF Honor Code applies to all aspects of this course. It is required that you report any possible infractions to your instructor immediately.

Violations of the UF Honor Code, including any identified online homework related academic fraud, will be processed to the full extent of the Honor Code. For a code violation, the automatic minimum penalty we recommend to the Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution office will be a failing grade in the course. According to the Honor Code, a student who receives a course grade penalty is not permitted to withdraw from the course.

All University of Florida students are required to abide by the University's Academic Honesty Guidelines and by the Honor Code:

The Honor Pledge

We, the members of the University of Florida community, pledge to hold ourselves and our peers to the highest standards of honesty and integrity by abiding by the Honor Code. On all work submitted for credit by students at the University of Florida, the following pledge is either required or implied:

"On my honor, I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid in doing this assignment."

Full documentation about the honor code can be found at the following link:

Accommodating Students With Disabilities

Students requesting classroom accommodation for disabilities must first register with the Disability Resource Center (DRC). The DRC will provide documentation to the student who must then provide this documentation to the instructor (Dr. Saab) when requesting accommodation. You will need to fill out online ATR forms for exams and for quizzes. Accommodations are not retroactive, and do not carry over from previous semesters; therefore, students should contact the office as soon as possible at the beginning of the semester.

More information about the Disabilities Resource Center can be found at

Online Course Evaluation

Students are expected to provide professional and respectful feedback on the quality of instruction in this course by completing course evaluations online via GatorEvals. Guidance on how to give feedback in a professional and respectful manner is available at Students will be notified when the evaluation period opens, and can complete evaluations through the email they receive from GatorEvals, in their Canvas course menu under GatorEvals, or via Summaries of course evaluation results are available to students at

Campus Resources

Health and Wellness

U Matter, We Care: If you or a friend is in distress, please contact or 352 392- 1575 so that a team member can reach out to the student, or visit

Counseling and Wellness Center:, 392-1575; and the University Police Department: 392-1111 or 9-1-1 for emergencies.

Sexual Assault Recovery Services (SARS): Student Health Care Center, 392-1161.

University Police Department: 392-1111 (or 9-1-1 for emergencies).

Academic Resources

  • E-learning technical support: 352-392-4357 (select option 2) or e-mail to Learning-

  • Teaching Center: Broward Hall, 392-2010 or 392-6420. General study skills and tutoring.
  • Library Support: Various ways to receive assistance with respect to using the libraries or finding resources.
  • Writing Studio: 302 Tigert Hall, 846-1138. Help brainstorming, formatting, and writing papers.
  • Student Complaints:
  • Career Resource Center: Reitz Union, 392-1601. Career assistance and counseling.

UF COVID-19 Policy for F2F Courses

We will have face-to-face instructional sessions to accomplish the student learning objectives of this course. In response to COVID-19, the following policies and requirements are in place to maintain your learning environment and to enhance the safety of our in-classroom interactions.

  • You are required to wear approved face coverings at all times during class and within buildings. Following and enforcing these policies and requirements are all of our responsibility. Failure to do so will lead to a report to the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution.
  • This course has been assigned a physical classroom with enough capacity to maintain physical distancing (6 feet between individuals) requirements. Please utilize designated seats and maintain appropriate spacing between students. Please do not move desks or stations.
  • Sanitizing supplies are available in the classroom if you wish to wipe down your desks prior to sitting down and at the end of the class.
  • Follow your instructor’s guidance on how to enter and exit the classroom. Practice physical distancing to the extent possible when entering and exiting the classroom.
  • If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms (Click here for guidance from the CDC on symptoms of coronavirus), please use the UF Health screening system and follow the instructions on whether you are able to attend class. Click here for UF Health guidance on what to do if you have been exposed to or are experiencing Covid-19 symptoms.
  • Course materials will be provided to you with an excused absence, and you will be given a reasonable amount of time to make up work. Find more information in the university attendance policies.


Course Summary:

Date Details Due