8.13-14 | Fall 2016 | Undergraduate

Experimental Physics I & II "Junior Lab"


Schedule Summaries

8.13 Experimental Physics I Schedule Summary

The first few class sessions will familiarize you with the lab, giving everyone a common foundation in experimental techniques, data analysis, collaboration skills, oral and written communication, and computing tools including MATLAB and LaTeX. The first two sessions are dedicated to important organizational and administrative issues, plus important safety information and an introduction to the basics of work in 8.13.

Next, two 3-hour sessions are scheduled for each of three short preliminary experiments:

  • Optical Interferometry
  • The Photoelectric Effect
  • Poisson Statistics

For useful information on how to prepare for these first experiments, see The Purpose and Format of Junior Lab Preliminary Experiments (PDF).

The second day of each preliminary experiment will include further instruction and in-class exercises on foundational skills. Your work on the preliminary experiments will be graded for feedback, but will not count towards the final course grade.

Following this introductory period, you will plan, execute, analyze, and report on three longer experiments. The first will be executed in 5 sessions, while the last two will be performed in 4 laboratory sessions each. The sequence of experiments performed by each student group is determined by the section leader as early as possible in the semester, based on student preferences. To ensure a proper variety of physical techniques are experienced, you must perform at least one — but no more than two — of the following 5 experiments:

  • Compton Scattering
  • Relativistic Dynamics
  • The Speed and Mean Life of Cosmic-Ray Muons
  • Rutherford Scattering
  • X-Ray Physics

The remaining experimental options are:

  • Optical Emission Spectra of Hydrogenic Atoms
  • Optical Trapping
  • Pulsed NMR: Spin Echoes
  • 21-cm Radio Astrophysics
  • The Frank-Hertz Experiment
  • Johnson Noise and Shot Noise

The term culminates in a week-long series of public oral presentations given by you and your fellow students to peers, friends, and faculty in the style of a parallel session at an American Physical Society conference.

8.14 Experimental Physics II Schedule Summary

The first class period will be dedicated to selecting partners, choosing the first experiment, and brief introductory remarks by the section instructors. The remainder of the term will be divided into four experimental sessions of 5 days each. Experiments for three of the four sessions will be selected from the standard Junior Lab Experiments menu, while the fourth will be an open-ended project of your own design. (For scheduling reasons, the open-ended project will not occur during the first experimental session.)

Before the second experiment begins, each student group will propose a schedule for the use of the remaining three experimental sessions, most notably including the open-ended project, the scientific goals of which should be defined in the proposal. A brief draft proposal will be due near the middle of the first experiment, while a more formal two-page written proposal will be due near the end. Proposals should outline the required resources and scheduling constraints for the open-ended project. Projects beyond the scope of Junior Lab will be identified and scaled back at the draft proposal stage. Examples of projects include:

  • Deeper exploration of a previously performed 8.13 or 8.14 experiment
  • Performing an experiment still under development by the Junior Lab staff
  • Assembling and performing a simple Junior Lab style experiment from the American Journal of Physics
  • Other projects subject to approval

The project schedule:

  • Rough draft project proposal: Due at the end of the second week of the semester
  • Two-page project proposal: Due on the Friday between Experiments 1 and 2
  • Execute project: During time period proposed, usually during the second half of the semester
  • Draft poster presentation: Due about two weeks before the end of the semester
  • Final project poster presentation: Usually done on the last day of the semester

The open-ended project will be evaluated based on a scientific poster prepared by the group and presented in an open poster session at the end of the semester. The student group judged by the 8.14 teaching staff to have proposed and performed the best original project of the year will be awarded the annual Edward C. Pickering Award for the most Outstanding Original Project in the MIT Physics Junior Lab. Note that the additional fifth day per experiment (beyond what you had in 8.13) raises the level of expectations regarding the completion of “challenging” aspects of the lab manuals and an expectation to exceed the standard material.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2016
Learning Resource Types
Instructor Insights