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PX110 Physics Laboratory

Organiser: Tom Hase
Weighting: 24 CATS

The Physics Laboratory introduces experimental science and teaches the skills required for successful laboratory work. These include how to work with apparatus, how to keep a laboratory notebook, how to handle data and quantify errors. The module also asks you to think critically and solve problems. Initial experiments build core skills while later experiments explore important areas of physics including: i) The measurement of fundamental constants including c and e/m for an electron; ii) Wave phenomena; iii) Electricity and Magnetism, iv) Condensed matter physics, v) Geometrical Optics and vi) Astronomy. The experiments can help give a different and more 'tangible' perspective on material treated theoretically in lectures. You will also begin to learn the ‘art’ of scientific writing.


The first year Physics Laboratory should provide a grounding in practical laboratory work and preparation for the more sophisticated practical work of the later years of the degree programme


At the end of the module you should:

  • have learnt how to keep a laboratory notebook as an accurate record of the experiment that you have undertaken
  • be confident in the use of the commonly-encountered laboratory equipment e.g., the cathode ray oscilloscope and the travelling microscope.
  • know the meaning of random and systematic errors in experimental measurements.
  • be able to estimate sensibly the uncertainty in individual measurements and to combine these to estimate the error in your final result.
  • be able to analyse your results critically and draw the relevant graphs with error bars showing the uncertainty in the measurements where appropriate.
  • have learnt how to plan your time effectively in performing an experiment and to use it efficiently.
  • be able to assess critically the effectiveness of an experimental procedure and suggest possible improvements.
  • have learnt how to write a scientific report


The laboratory module consists of 9 lectures, one workshop and 14 laboratory sessions with these sessions supported by 3 assessed reports. The module is a Designated Module requiring a pass mark of 40% for students to progress into year 2.

Laboratory sessions are graded at the end of each session out of 10 by the laboratory demonstrators, with all lab sessions contributing towards the final module mark. The total laboratory marks contribute 50% of the module mark - each lab session being worth 0.85 CATS. The marks from the reports, which are marked by members of staff, contribute the remaining 50% of the module mark. The first report is worth 3 CATS, the second report is worth 4 CATS, and the final report is worth 5 CATS.

The module teaches skills required for the successful implementation of laboratory practice including the use of apparatus, keeping a laboratory notebook, error analysis and graph plotting as well as critical thinking and problem solving. It supports core physics in the first year courses as well as exploring new physics concepts through experimental approaches.

Assessment: 100% assessed

This module has a home page.

Leads to: PX271 Physics Skills