Physics 470                    Modern Experimental Physics         Syllabus      Fall 2011


Instructor:  Dr. Brian M. Davies

Instructor's office:  Currens 532 (top floor, northwest corner)

Instructor's office phone:  309-298-1307                      Physics Dept. Fax:  309-298-2850

Office Hours:  MTuWF 11:00 – 11:50 a.m.

Instructor's e-mail address:

Instructor’s web site:

Required textbook:  none, handouts will be distributed

Textbooks on reserve:  Knoll, Radiation Detection and Measurement, 3rd Ed.

                                     Melissinos and Napolitano, Experiments in Modern Physics, 2nd Ed.

Class Schedule:
Laboratory:  Thursday 9:00 – 11:50 a.m. (undergrads) or Monday 2:00 – 4:50 p.m. (grads)
Rooms:  Currens 312, 310A, and others as needed.

Course Objective:  
To introduce the student to some basic principles in modern experimental physics by doing laboratory experiments that illustrate the development of modern physics and/or utilize modern experimental system techniques.  The experiments will cover a range of topics.  Each experiment typically requires two weeks and will be summarized in a lab report due one week later. 

ADA policy: 
“In accordance with University policy and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), academic accommodations may be made for any student who notifies the instructor of the need for an accommodation.  For the instructor to provide the proper accommodation(s), you must obtain documentation of the need for an accommodation through Disability Resource Center (DRC) and provide it to the instructor.  It is imperative that you take the initiative to bring such needs to the instructor's attention, as he/she is not legally permitted to inquire about such particular needs of students.  Students who may require special assistance in emergency evacuations (i.e. fire, tornado, etc.) should contact the instructor as to the most appropriate procedures to follow in such an emergency.  Contact the Disability Resource Center at 298-2512 for additional services.”


The final grade will be determined entirely by your laboratory work and reports.  There will be no exams or other assessments.


The material on the following web pages should be considered part of this syllabus:

Student rights and responsibilities:

Academic Integrity Policy:



Physics 470                    Modern Experimental Physics         Lab experiments


The non-starred experiments are all working and will take two weeks (or less) to perform. 

The starred experiments are not tested and might be good projects for the latter part of the semester.  They should be feasible with equipment that we have, but I have no lab manuals for these so they will require some preparation and faculty guidance. 


Nuclear counting labs

1.         Electronic measurement systems for pulse counting (the NIM bin and modules)

2.         Gamma-ray spectroscopy using a NaI(Tl) detector and a multi-channel analyzer (MCA)

3. *      Pulse height analysis and Gamma spectroscopy

4. *      Alpha spectroscopy with surface-barrier detectors

5. *      Gamma-gamma correlation and coincidence techniques


Magnetism labs

1.         Magnetic force and torque


Low-level signals and lock-in detection techniques

1.         Lock-in amplifier

2. *      Faraday rotation (a one-week demonstration lab set up by the instructor)


Electromagnetic wave and/or Diffraction labs

1.         Microwave optics:  polarization, diffraction, interference, and scattering

2. *      X-ray diffraction (equipment in Currens 109)

3. *      Optical transforms

4. *      Transmission lines


Famous historical experiments

1. *      Cavendish experiment

2. *      Franck-Hertz experiment (parts may be missing)





          Physics 470                    Modern Experimental Physics        

          Lab experiments for students who did not take WIU Physics 214


Some of the students in this course have not taken Physics 214, the prerequisite, at WIU. 

Since I am assuming that students have taken Physics 214 at WIU with its associated laboratory, I expect that they will be familiar with the modern physics experiments done in that course.  For students who have come to WIU from another university, including any grad students without a similar background, we would like you to perform most of the Physics 214 experiments listed below.  These will count as ˝ of a lab at the Physics 470 level because they only take one week to finish (3 hours of lab at most).  The lab report can be rather brief compared to a Physics 470 report.  The rationale behind this assignment is that these are still interesting and instructive experiments, and you should do them in a Physics program like ours.  In addition, many of you may teach Physics some day, and these are experiments that are typically done for a Modern Physics course. 


Students who have taken the alternate prerequisite course sequence, Physics 124-125 will already have done Lab # 4. 


After this group of students finishes this set (in about 4 weeks) they will begin the regular Physics 470 experiments.



Physics 214 and/or 125 Labs


Lab # 1:  The emission spectrum of hydrogen


Lab # 2:  The Photoelectric effect and Planck’s constant


Lab # 3:  Measurement of the q/m ratio of the electron


Lab # 4:  Geiger counter:  half-life, absorption coefficients, and inverse square dependence

                (This uses the labs from Physics 125 rather than from Physics 214.)