8.13-14 | Fall 2016 | Undergraduate

Experimental Physics I & II "Junior Lab"


Expectations and Grading Policy

ACTIVITIES 8.13 8.14
Lab Performance and Attendance 10% 11%
Laboratory Notebooks 8% 8%
Homework and Exercises 6% Not Applicable
Preparatory Questions (3) 6% 6%
Oral Examinations (3) 30% 27%
4-page Written Summaries (3) 30% Not Applicable
Final Public Oral Presentation 10% Not Applicable
5-page Written Summaries (2)
including Peer Review
Not Applicable 24%

Open-Ended Project

Project Proposal
Project Poster

Not Applicable


Lab Performance and Attendance

The regularity of your attendance will be a factor in determining your grade in the course, as will be your preparedness for the measurements and alternating as the “lead” (with your partner), to carry them out.

It is essential that you efficiently use all of the laboratory time assigned to you. Extra time is available, but should not be essential. Several experienced experimental physicists will be present in every scheduled session, ready and eager to answer your questions and to help you make your apparatus function properly. Calling for help when you get stuck can only improve your lab performance grade.

8.13 Students Only:

Failure to have a “dry run” of the final presentation with a Writing, Rhetoric, and Professional Communication (WRAP) instructor will result in a 2% reduction of the lab performance grade. Failure to submit the preliminary oral exam or written summary will each result in a 1% reduction of the lab performance grade. 

Laboratory Notebooks

Throughout the term, you will be required to maintain a detailed real-time record of your activities in a laboratory notebook which is provided to you by Junior Lab. To help motivate the most effective use of this critical laboratory tool, student notebooks will be comprehensively evaluated twice during the semester:

8.13 Students:

The first check will be after the preliminary experiments (this preliminary grade does not count towards the course total), and the second at the end of the semester for 5% of the final grade. In addition to these comprehensive evaluations, the notebook will also be briefly evaluated at each oral examination, each for 1% of the total grade. Please talk with your section instructors before your notebook evaluations if you have any questions. Spot checks of your notebook may also occur during lab sessions as an indicator of lab performance. Spot checks during the oral exams also provide an indicator of data quality.

8.14 Students:

The first check will be around midterm for 3% of the final grade, and the final check will be at the end of the semester for 5% of the final grade. Having already taken 8.13, you should be well versed in how to maintain a good laboratory notebook. Spot checks of your notebook may also occur during lab sessions as an indicator of lab performance, and as part of the oral exams as an indicator of data quality.

A detailed discussion of how to set up and use a scientific notebook is given in Requirements for Experimental Notebooks, a copy of which is recommended to be taped to the inside cover of your notebook for routine consultation.

Homework and Exercises (8.13 Students Only)

A number of in-class exercises will be performed during the introductory period to help you learn core scientific skills, especially data analysis. Preparation before class and follow-up practice are both necessary to maximize the utility of these exercises. Therefore, the in-class work will be surrounded by a small number of graded homework assignments.

Preparatory Questions

For each experiment, there a set of preparatory questions which point you to the essentials of the experiment, including safety information. You are expected to work out the solutions and/or predictions to the preparatory problems in your notebook and submit the answers before starting the experiment. Late solutions will not be accepted because you will need to know this material before starting the experiment: late solutions do not make sense. [Note: The preparatory questions are not available to OCW users.]

8.13 Students Only:

The preparatory questions for preliminary experiments will be graded for feedback, but will not count towards your final course grade.

Oral Examinations

For each main experiment, a one-hour total length (2 students × 30 minutes each) oral examination and discussion will be scheduled with one or more of your instructors, your lab partner, and yourself within 10 days of the last scheduled session for that experiment. You and your lab partner must both bring your lab notebooks to the exam session. All oral exams are video-recorded so that you may review your presentation technique.

Each student should prepare a 15-minute oral report on the theoretical and experimental aspects of a single portion of the experiment. This is a short time, so it is essential that you rehearse your presentation as you would if you were giving a 15-minute presentation at a meeting of the American Physical Society. Please review the Speaker Tips and Guidelines.

You must prepare your visual aids electronically (e.g. slides in the LaTeX beamer class or MS PowerPoint) for use with a digital projector in a professional-style presentation. We suggest a maximum of ten slides. Written and Oral Report Resources have detailed instructions and templates for generating your own presentations.

The theoretical section should briefly demonstrate a mastery of some portion of theory relevant to understanding the significance of the experimental results. The experimental section should dominate the discussion and demonstrate an understanding of how the equipment works, what was measured, how the data were reduced, and how the random and systematic errors were estimated. Each student must discuss different aspects of the motivating theory and experiment. Furthermore, it is not acceptable to discuss theory only or experiment only; every presentation should contain a balance! Full cooperation with lab partners and others in preparing for the oral reports is encouraged and required. This latter aspect is particularly important to ensure that both partners report the same results!

Orals exams will be graded using the following criteria:

  • Theoretical and/or experimental motivation: 15%
  • Description of experiment: 35%
  • Analysis of data and results: 35%
  • Style and English: 15%

8.13 Students Only:

To familiarize you with the examination procedure, a one-hour oral exam will be held on one of the three preliminary experiments of your choice. This oral will proceed identically as the others. It will be scored but will not count towards your final course grade. (However, as discussed above, failure to execute the preliminary oral exam will result in a 1% deduction from the overall lab performance grade for the semester.) It is designed to give you feedback on content, style and presentation without the pressure of a graded performance. Partners should choose different preliminary experiments for this initial oral exam. Video recordings of these practice orals will be used to facilitate guidance from the Lecturers in MIT’s Program in Writing, Rhetoric, and Professional Practice (WRAP) who are part of the Junior Lab staff. You must schedule a one-hour appointment for feedback with one of these instructors within a week following their practice oral.

Final Public Oral Presentations (8.13 Students Only)

At the end of the term in December, you will give a 15-minute public oral presentation which will be attended by all students in your section and any other interested parties. The last two class sessions are reserved for this purpose. The public oral presentations should be given in the style of a paper presented at a conference, with careful attention paid to the preparation of visual aids — in the form of an electronic presentation — and to the clarity of the oral discussion. Questions from classmates and the audience are encouraged, allowing for a general discussion of the experiment.

This public presentation, in addition to the four jointly prepared oral examinations given earlier in the term, is a major component of the CI-M requirement which 8.13 fulfills. Revision of past work is essential to this requirement, as it is to all formal communication. You are required to make a 1-hour appointment with a WRAP Program instructor to do a “dry run” and receive feedback at least four days prior to your public presentation. The dry run will not be graded, but, as mentioned above, failure to do it will result in a 2% reduction of the lab performance grade. Obviously, to present on an experiment in the public presentation, it must have previously been presented as an oral exam with the section instructor.

Written Summaries

8.13 Students must do three 4-Page Written Summaries:

A written summary must be prepared for each of the three standard experiments, plus the preliminary experiment that was presented orally. (As usual, the preliminary written summary does not count in the final grade, but failure to submit it will result in a 1% reduction from the overall lab performance grade for the semester, as discussed above.) The purpose, theory, and results of the experiment must be summarized in no more than 4 pages, including all figures, with a neat appearance and concise, correct English.

8.14 Students must do two 5-Page Written Summaries:

A written summary must be prepared for two of the three standard experiments. The purpose, theory, and results of the experiment must be summarized in no more than 5 pages, including all figures, with a neat appearance and concise, correct English.

You must prepare your summary individually, not as a group. All of your work on the experiment should be summarized, not just the part you chose for your oral presentation.

You must submit your written summary to your section instructor by the appointed deadline: specifically, written reports for each experiment will be due by midnight on the day after your oral exam. It is expected, however, that the paper will be essentially complete by the time of your oral exam. The delay between oral exam and paper submission allows you to correct any egregious mistakes that were uncovered during the exam so as not to repeat them in your written work and receive a double penalty!

Your summary’s organization and style should resemble that of an article in the Physical Review Letters. In particular, the abstract is essential. It should briefly mention the motivation (purpose), the method (how measured) and most importantly, the quantitative result with uncertainties.

The report must be typeset in a form that would be suitable for submission as a manuscript. To aid you in this process, we have produced a sample paper template written in LATEX that we encourage you to study and use for your own submissions. The sample paper is downloadable from Written and Oral Report Resources along with its associated .tex file.

Papers will be graded using the following criteria:

  • Theoretical and/or experimental motivation: 15%
  • Description of experiment: 35%
  • Analysis of data and results: 35%
  • Style and English: 15%
  • Papers not submitted by the deadline will be deducted 10% for each day they are late.

MIT has excellent resources for technical writing and oral presentations (including on-line writing consultations) at the CMSW Writing and Communication Center website. Use them!

Open-Ended Project (8.14 Students Only)

The open-ended project, usually occurring in the second half of the Spring term, should fall within Junior Lab’s resources and scope of modern physics, but the design and goals of the project are to be determined by the student group.

Each group will submit a single project proposal as a formal 2-page written document. The proposal is due on the Friday between Experiments 1 and 2, and will count as 10% of the total grade. As this may not allow enough time to correct malformed projects before they could begin in Experiment 2, a rough form of the proposal — which nevertheless provides enough detail for the Junior Lab staff to judge its merits — will be due two weeks earlier. This rough proposal will count for 2% of the total grade, and will be graded as either a 2 (for an adequate proposal), 1 (for a proposal which shows little thought), or 0 (for no proposal). It is expected that all groups should receive full credit on the rough proposal. After all proposals are received, the Junior Lab staff will serve as a review committee which will: determine if any proposals are making competing requests for resources, and attempt to adjudicate such conflicts; determine if any proposals have components which are beyond the scope of the program, and scale back these components; and approve a coordinated schedule for the projects to go forward.

Projects will be evaluated based on a scientific poster of comparable detail to the reports due for the other experiments, prepared and presented by the group at a poster session at the end of the semester, making up 10% of the total grade. There is no oral report or written summary for the project. Criteria for grading are themselves open-ended, but will largely reflect how well the project goals were pursued — or adapted, in the case of unforeseen circumstances.

The poster will be preceded by a draft for 2% of the total grade, graded similarly to the rough proposal. Each poster will be peer-reviewed by other students. The written peer-review report of other students’ projects will count for 8% of the total grade.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2016
Learning Resource Types
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