The four upper-level laboratory courses are Optics & Wave Physics (Phys 316), Electronics Lab (Phys 321), Physical Measurements Lab (Phys 322), and Biophysics Lab (Phys 360). The prerequisite for these lab courses is Freshman Physics (117/197 & 118/198) and math. Professor to student ratio is about one to seven.
The optics course provides the student with an introduction to ray and especially wave optics. There is little optics in the department's other offerings; given the explosion of interest in optics driven by light-wave (fiber optics) communication, the optics laboratory is an important course. The electronics laboratory aims to make the student capable of using electronic circuitry and instruments. Most physicists report that their electronics could be better. So the only question is why the department doesn't offer two semesters of electronics! The Biophysics Laboratory course consists of table-top experiments in biological physics that are designed to introduce the student to concepts, methods, and biological model systems in biophysics.
The Physical Measurements Laboratory presents classic physics experiments and cutting edge technology in a hands-on environment of discovery and learning. The high staff-to-student ratio presents an efficient and enjoyable setting for a voyage through historical and modern science. This laboratory makes use of advanced computer analysis but it relies upon real physical insight, which can only come from personal involvement in the experiment design and measurement process. In this unique laboratory, students follow in the footsteps of historical physics pioneers, rediscovering atomic energy levels in the Franck-Hertz experiment, measuring the universal gravitational constant G in the classical Cavendish experiment (but with the enhanced precision of modern laser techniques), determining the local gravitational constant g using Kater's original technique and following Einstein's of the quantization of light and Planck's constant h.
In addition to classical physics, NMR and the low-temperature physics of high temperature superconductivity and SQUID techniques form the basis of state-of-the-art research experiments. Radiochemical experiments involve fission, x-ray fluorescence, nuclear decay chains and the study of positronium.
In each of these experiments, students discover the successes and failures of science by building and refining each experiment. Experiments offered in the advanced laboratory evolve through both student and faculty participation in the development process. The close working relationships in the Physical Measurements Lab make it a place where the process of learning and discovery become their own rewards.