Experimental Physics Courses?

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Experimental Physics Courses??

Hi everyone,

I have some problems with Experimental Physics courses. I'm senior physics student and I have taken 2 experimental course (out of 3) so far. In my university we spend six hours doing one experiment and submit a report at the end of the lab.

The problem is that I didn't enjoy the labs and I can't finish the report on time!
The procedures we follow are very mechanical:

1-read the experiment before the lab
2-follow the instructions in the manual
3-conduct the experiment
4-struggle to figure out what to do exactly! (or wait 15 min at least for the instructor to come and he/she might answer our questions or just let us think longer!)
5-try very hard to finish the report and answer the questions given the the manual.

I think we that we are not given enough background about the experiments (we don't have books just the lab manual), therefore we can't think deeply about the experiment and answer the questions.

Is there anybody facing the same problems? or I just don't have experimentalists skills?


Thanks,
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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It seems like you're not trying too hard. The whole idea of experimental physics isn't to follow a set of instructions.

You're trying to solve a problem that, in real life, hasn't been done before. Struggling to figure out what to do is what you're supposed to be learning how to overcome in lab. If something isn't working you need to take a step back and think about how your experiment is setup does it all make sense?

If you're not given enough background information go research information in journals/books. You should be doing this anyways for preparation.

The physics labs we're required to take don't have instructions just some vague topic like measure muon decay as an observer on earth.
 
  • #3
Choppy
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I find it odd that you have to hand in the report at the end of class for a senior lab. For my senior labs I remember we were essentially shown where the lab equipment was, told when we had to hand in the reports, and where our TA's office was.

However, you have to work with the conditions you have. The biggest tip that I can offer is spend lots of time preparing for the lab. Just reading it over before hand is not going to help much. You need to determine:
- the final goals of the lab
- what specifically you will be measuring
- how you will dervive the results from the measurement, and
- how you will perform your error analysis.
If any of these steps are unclear, visit your TA or your professor before the lab.

When you're in the lab you can spend your time figuiring out equipment, making measurements, tabulating results, and writing up the report.
 

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