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Physics Labs

Senior Lab (PHYS 4711/4721)

Senior Lab

Advanced Physics Experiments

In senior lab, you are given the opportunity to develop a single new experiment over the entire semester. Topics are determined by a discussion with your instructors, with other faculty who are willing to assist you in specialized areas, and availability of resources. Often, senior lab projects are precursors to experiments that we ultimately want to offer in junior lab. However, senior lab projects can also be related to research that you are doing with a faculty member, as long as there is a clearly defined experimental goal that is achievable within a single semester.

A key outcome of senior lab is a portfolio put together in a three-ring binder. (Of course, you are also expected to keep a lab notebook during your actual experimental work.) The portfolio should display six or more "technical quanta" under different tabbed sections: these quanta are solutions that you have found to particular technical challenges in the course of your experiment. They are steps in your progress toward completion of the project and can include designs (and testing) of key components of the apparatus, electronic circuits, optical systems, extended calculations (including computer programs) and whatever other significant accomplishments brought you closer to your project goal.

Since senior lab projects tend to be exploratory, you are encouraged to work out with your instructor(s) some "fall-back" positions in case certain parts of the project don't work as planned. It is a good lesson to learn how to make mid-course corrections that ensure that you still get useful results by the end of the semester.