PHYS 4211 Overview

Last edit: 2 Feb 2016

Prof. Thomas Coan (x8-2497)
Office: 47 Fondren Science               Lab Location: 2 Fondren Science

Welcome to PHYS 4211, the most distinctively structured physics course you will take in your undergraduate career. Of the entire spectrum of your physics courses at SMU, PHYS 4211 not only most resembles how people actually "do physics" in the real world, but most closely resembles how people doing technical work in a laboratory-like setting actually function. To perform well in this course and in almost any technical field after your graduation, you will need to learn to work collaboratively, to develop general debugging skills, to communicate technical matters clearly, and to learn to be able to apply all of your physics knowledge to solving problems. You will be pushed very hard in this course because the intellectual benefits are large. I urge you to work daily to avoid mental saturation. If you fall behind in this course, catching up will be painful. Good luck.

This course has three components. The first component is an introduction to analog electronics. You will learn, if you have not already done so, some minimal but meaningful amount of electronics so that you have some idea of how the measuring instruments you will use later in the course work. At the very least, you will become familiar with the oscilloscope, the most important instrument in any physics lab. See the instrumentation assignments page for more details.

The second component of this course is a set of physics labs that emphasize the quantum nature of the physical universe. You will perform a variety of experiments that emphasize the quantum mechanical behavior of the universe. This section will teach you some new physics, review some physics you should already know, provide you with practical experience with some general lab equipment, and provide you with ample opportunity to hone your technical writing skills.

The third component is a general introduction to some important ideas in statistics and data analysis. You will be assigned error and data analysis homework problems to help you understand some simple data and error analysis techniques. I will provide more details later.

You need to self-organize yourselves. You will perform the weekly labs in pairs so you first need to find a lab partner and then collectively determine a 3-hour time slot to perform the weekly lab assignment. You then need to promptly communicate this time to me. This time cannot be changed without my explicit permission. Failure to appear at the designated time will earn you a zero for that lab. Late arrival by more than 10 minutes will earn you a zero for that lab.

You will also be able to work on the lab outside of your primary lab time and are encouraged to do so. If I am not around, find either an admin assistant in the front office or another faculty member of the physics department to let you into lab 2.

During lab, you and your lab partner will take data together, argue over the data together but you will individually write any lab reports that are required. You can share data and ideas but not written words.

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