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Department of Physics and Astronomy

200 Level Laboratories - 100% Online Syllabus

Course Objectives

  The objective of this course is for the student to learn:

  • How to perform a careful experiment, estimate the uncertainties, and present the results graphically.
  • How to use the graph as an analysis tool. In particular, methods for finding the straight line and the uncertainties best representing the data are emphasized.
  • How to prepare technical material for oral presentation to a group of peers.
  • The connections among the concepts taught in the lecture portion of the course, experiences from the 'real world', and the laboratory exercises.
  • The specific physical principles involved for each of the labs performed.



  To be eligible for enrollment in PHYS 2xxL a student must satisfy one of the following three conditions:

  1. Have completed the corresponding lecture course PHYS 2xx with a grade of C or better.
  2. Be concurrently enrolled in the corresponding lecture course PHYS 2xx.
  3. Have a written waiver from the Undergraduate Director for Physics and Astronomy.


Organization of the Course


Course Overview

     For 20XL/21XL, the 100% online course meets in a virtual format.   Class will meet weekly at a scheduled time online, rather than on campus face-to-face.  You will have videos to watch and homework to complete between class sessions. Once during the semester, each student will deliver an oral presentation.

In the 200 level labs, the semester is divided into four equal time-blocks, called cycles. During a typical cycle, you will complete two laboratory project modules using unique data sets provided by the instructor.  Lab project modules include video explanations and demonstrations of each experiment, written project descriptions, data analysis exercises (often in the form of graphs), and questions.  Project reports are assigned for each laboratory project to be turned in.

Each cycle lasts for three weeks. Two weeks are used for lab projects.  The third week of each cycle may be used flexibly by the instructor as (a) an oral presentation opportunity; and/or (b) to offer additional instruction in related topics, such as uncertainty analysis and error propagation, statistics, spreadsheet proficiency, and problem solving techniques.

It is important to understand that this is not a self-paced class or an independent study.  You must attend the online class sessions, and work must be submitted on time, according to the course schedule.


Required Text

Physical Sciences - Student Lab Notebook
By: Hayden-McNeil
ISBN: 9781533922847

Attendance and Grading


8 final lab reports (each out of 40, up to 320 points).
1 oral presentation (50 points).
Online Class participation (up to 30 points).

Each absence will cost a penalty of -10 points plus loss of credit for missed work.

Total Points = 400

360-400   A
340-359   B+
320-339    B
300-319    C+
280-299    C
240-279    D
0-239        F

No grades will be dropped


     Online attendance in the course is required. Consistent with the University "10% rule", the attendance policy for this course is as follows:


 Tardy arrival at class by more than 20 minutes will constitute an unexcused absence.

  1. Tardy arrival by 20+ minutes will be automatically excused on the first occasion.
  2. Tardy arrival by 20+ minutes on the second and subsequent occasions will constitute an unexcused absence.


Unexcused Absences

One unexcused absence from any class meeting will result in -10 points plus loss of credit for the work missed.

  1. Two unexcused absences in the same cycle or more than two unexcused absences total will result in a failing grade, F, for the course.


Excused Absences

  1. One or two excused absences will have no direct effect on your grade. You are still responsible for turning in your assignments on time, getting missed data from your partner and participating in one oral presentations. If you miss the oral presentation session on the day you are to present, see your instructor to discuss options for making up this deficiency.
  2. More than two excused absences will result in an incomplete (I) for the course.

     An absence will be considered excused only if you present to your instructor a copy of a valid excuse prior to the class meeting during which you will be absent. (Notification of excused absence after an absence will be accepted only in cases of demonstrable emergency; for example, you were rushed to the hospital and unable to notify the lab instructor.) A valid excuse is a signed and dated letter from a person in authority (your doctor, minister, judge, policeman, dean, etc.) on official stationery stating why you are unable to attend class on the date in question. A note from a parent or friend is not acceptable.

     Excuses should be presented to the laboratory instructor prior to the class meeting during which you will be absent. Excuses that are presented after an absence will be adjudicated by the course supervisor.


Project and Oral Presentation Assignments

     Projects will be assigned by the instructor during an online session. The project assignments can be found on the web. The instructor will assign oral presentations at the appropriate time.

 It is your responsibility to ensure that you have a current copy of the project description when you come to class.

    Project descriptions may contain material not covered in lecture. Students are expected to use their text and other reference sources to prepare for this material.

Report Submission Policy:
     Work submitted after Reading Day will be considered only under extraordinary circumstances.
     Work submitted by any means other than by upload to Blackboard will be considered only under extraordinary circumstances. 


    Students are encouraged to work together; however, each type of assignment has a set of requirements as to the extent of collaboration permitted in the final submitted version. These requirements are as follows


  1. Final Project Reports: Each group may choose to turn in one report as a group or each member of the group may turn in a separate report. Each report turned in must be original and data cannot be shared between groups. If a group report is turned in, all members of the group will receive the same grade for the report. Individual reports will receive separate grades.


General Requirements

     Always have the lecture course textbook available to you when meeting online.  If you don't have one, you must borrow or buy one for use in this course.

    Students are presumed to have an electronic mail account, to have their address published in USC's online directory and to check their e-mail regularly. The laboratory instructors, support staff, and faculty in charge of the laboratory can all be reached via an e-mail link at the laboratory web site.

    The laboratory instructors, support staff, and faculty in charge of the laboratory may choose to send important information by e-mail. Students are responsible for supplying a functioning e-mail address and checking for messages on a regular basis.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.