Syllabus & Info

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This syllabus describes the general requirements, structure, and goals for the Physics 111 Advanced Laboratory. Detailed information concerning logistics, due dates, and any changes due to dynamic conditions such as global pandemics or wildfires will be provided through the bCourses site for the class.


Welcome to UC Berkeley's Physics 111B, our Advanced Laboratory Course.  Here, after years of theory, math, problem sets, and textbooks, you come finally to learn about how physics is discovered and verified through direct, quantitative experimentation.  While many students over the years have found this course challenging -- mainly because both the course and the way of approaching physics is so different from what they had experienced thus far -- they have also found it to be an eye-opening and inspiring entry into experimental physics.

Learning goals

The general goal of the Advanced Lab course is to give our students familiarity with experimental physics research and the experimentalist's approach to studying and testing physics.  We approach this goal by guiding the student through many of the every-day practices of experimental physicists, including becoming familiar with and operating experimental apparatus, understanding the predictions of theoretical physics in order to design and conduct meaning experiments to test those predictions, analyzing data and drawing meaning conclusions therefrom, and communicating the results of experimental work in an effective, direct, convincing, and succinct manner.

We aim to train you to act and think as an experimental physicist.  As you conduct your lab work, analyze your data, and then determine and present your conclusions, you should find yourself asking the following questions:  What am I trying to find out, and why?  What does my experimental apparatus do?  How does each component of my apparatus function, and how are the components connected?  What parts of my experimental apparatus, procedure, and data are most central to the goals of my experiment, and which are peripheral (how do I separate wheat from chaff)?  What quantities are the most important for me to determine?  What precision do I require, what accuracy do I require, and what is the difference between these two quantities?  What is limiting the quality of my experiment and my ability to make meaningful conclusions?  Is there anything I can do differently to improve that quality?  How trustworthy is my result and my conclusions, and how can I convince somebody else of that trustworthiness?  What are the statistical errors in my measurement, and what is their cause?  What are the systematic errors in my measurement, and what is their cause?  What are the most honest estimates I can make of both these kinds of error (neither under- nor over-estimates), and how can I test whether those estimates make sense?  Regardless of how I spent my time at the lab apparatus or doing data analysis, or in what order I did things in practice, what is the most important information that I should convey in presenting my experimental work and its results to others?

111-Lab Manager

  Winthrop Williams  282E Physics North Hall  510-685-1164

Please contact Winthrop Williams about any equipment, electronics, or computer problems in the 111-Lab. 

Unit credit

  • Three (3.0) units of Experimentation Lab are required for the Physics major.
  • Due to high demand, this semester you may not enroll for an additional semester of 111B.

Course Lab Location and Hours

Lab location:  286 Physics North Hall

Lab hours: Monday 12-4pm, Tuesday-Friday 1 pm-5 pm

Lab phone: 624-1937 (No answering machine)

Health and Safety

Use common sense and think before acting.

  1. Following campus guidelines, Do NOT come in if you are sick or need to quarantine/isolate. Reach out to staff for accommodations. Follow campus COVID guidelines.  Masks are requested, but not required in lab.  If you forget your mask, we can provide one for you.
  2. Do not come to lab if you are feeling unwell.  If you are unwell on a day that you have scheduled to perform lab work, or that you have planned to complete a Pre-Lab Review, Mid-Lab Review, or Check Point with one of the course staff, please consider instead working with your lab partner over Zoom and participating that day remotely.  Let's work together to keep the 111B lab safe and open.
  3. If you are unwell and must stay away from lab for an extended time, please contact course staff as soon as possible to make any necessary arrangements.  We may ask you to provide a note from a medical professional explaining your absence.
  4. No eating or drinking is allowed in the lab at any time.
  5. Some experiments that use radiation or lasers will require safety training.
  6. View the Radiation Safety Video on YouTube. Then get a pink Radiation Safety form from a 111-Lab staff person. Fill it out & sign the form for getting a Radiation Ring. Also, complete the Radiation Safety Training. After completion of the training, turn in all forms to Winthrop Williams or teaching staff.
  7. View the Laser Safety video here.
  8. Complete the read and sign laser training Laser Safety Training
  9. Spill of any chemical see the Chemical Data Sheets Campus MSDS;
    Any Questions contact Lab Staff and or call EHS 642-3073 between 8AM and 5PM after hours
    call from cell UC Police 642-3333 or 911 from campus phone

Course content and assignments

To complete this course, you will complete FIVE assignments.

The first of these is an error analysis exercise (see Error Analysis Exercise (EAX)).

Next you will complete FOUR experiments, which you and your partner will chose from a list of many experiments maintained for your use.  It is required that one of these experiments be the Optical Pumping experiment (OPT), for the reason that we have found this experiment to be the most straightforward in terms of its scientific content and experimental procedure and that it presents students with a clear example for applying methods of data analysis.

For each of those experiments, you must complete all indicated Pre-Lab Reviews, Mid-Lab Reviews, and other Check Points, and, following your lab work and data analysis, submit a laboratory report.  One of the first three laboratory reports is delivered as an oral presentation; the others are delivered as written reports.  You must complete all FIVE assignments to receive a passing grade in the course.

Texts: Required/Recommended

These texts are good references and available on reserve in the Physics 111 Library Site on campus. Please note that you can access the texts only via the campus-network. To set up access from outside the campus see


Below we list all the experiments available for your use during Physics 111B.  Note the following:

  • Before starting any of the labs, and certainly before the first day on which you signed up to start the lab, you should spend several days learning about the experiment, the underlying physics, the apparatus, and reviewing any relevant safety information.
  • We have recorded videos describing each of the labs.  Here are Links to all available Physics 111-Lab videos.  Be sure to watch carefully (several times if needed).  Feel free to ask course staff any questions that come up.
  • Several labs have accompanying safety videos.  These refer the students to some paperwork that they must complete and turn in to the teaching staff before starting experimental work.
  • Each laboratory is accompanied by a detailed "Lab Writeup," which describes the underlying physical concepts, the objective of the experiment, the operation of the apparatus, the experimental procedure, and some suggestions for data analysis and interpretation. You should read this lab manual thoroughly before the first day on which you signed up to start the lab.  Be sure to manage your time properly.
  • Lab writeups are accompanied by many references.  These are available on the [Physics 111 Library Site].
  • Each lab is preceded by a Pre-Lab Review.  You must complete this Review before starting your lab work.  You are STRONGLY ADVISED to complete this Review BEFORE the first day on which the experiment is assigned to you.  Do not waste the precious time you have on the experimental apparatus by delaying your Pre-Lab Review.
  • For some of the more sophisticated (and all extremely interesting!) experiments, we request that you not choose them as your first lab, as indicated below.


Experiment Name First Lab Abbreviation Days Allotted Sign up Consecutive Days needed
Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) X AFM 8 Yes
Atomic Physics (Balmer Series & Zeeman Effect) X ATM 6 Yes
Atom Trapping with Rubidium (See Note Above) λ* No MOT 9 Yes
Beta–Ray Spectroscopy X BRA 6 Not Available
Brownian Motion in Cells X BMC 8 Yes
CO2 Laser λ X CO2 8 Yes
Compton Scattering X COM 7 Yes
Gamma–Ray Spectroscopy X GMA 6 Yes
Hall Effect in a Plasma X HAL 6 Yes
Hall Effect in a Semiconductor X SHE 6 Yes
Josephson Junction X JOS 8 Yes
Low Light Signal Measurements X LLS 8 Yes
Magneto Optical and Non Linear Laser (See Note Above) λ* No MNO 9 Not Available
Muon Lifetime X MUO 6 Yes
Nonlinear Dynamics & Chaos $ X NLD 7 Yes
Nuclear Magnetic Resonance & Pulsed NMR No NMR 9 Yes
Optical Trapping (Laser Tweezers) λ* X OTZ 8 Yes
Optical Pumping – REQUIRED (Two Setups available) X OPT 3 Yes
Quantum Interference and Entanglement X QIE 6 Yes
Rutherford Scattering X RUT 6 Yes

$ = You will do some LabView programming   λ = Lasers used

Choosing Experiments

The available experiments cover a wide range of sub-fields of physics, such as atomic physics, condensed-matter physics, optics, nuclear and particle physics.  Take this opportunity to try out a diverse set of experiments, both to challenge yourself and to discover which type of experiment appeals most to you.

Students will be allowed to sign up sequentially for the four labs that they will conduct.  For this, the online signup sheet for each lab (Lab 1, Lab 2, etc.) will be made available to students on specific sign-up days (to be announced).  Lab partnerships will be assigned to different "sign-up groups", with each sign-up group gaining access to the sign-up sheet at a different time.  This way, each of you will have, at some point, first pick of the experiments, while, for other labs, you might end up picking last.

When accessing the online sign-up sheet, you should find a consecutive range of dates (color coding indicates the different ranges) during which the experiment is available for your use.  You cannot break up your lab time to span several ranges of dates. It may not be possible for you or your partner to be free for all hours in the consecutive days you select. Choose the best available blocks of time and make the most efficient use of your time in lab. Make sure that the dates you have selected give you plenty of time between completing the lab work and preparing your report by its due date. Contact the teaching staff if you have any questions about the lab signup process.

Owing to the finite number of experimental setups and large enrollment in the course, you might have to start your Lab N before you turn in your Lab N-1 report.

If you are repeating this class for any reason, be sure to talk to an instructor about which experiments you should choose. You are not allowed to repeat an experiment that you conducted in a previous semester.

Lab partnerships

You will conduct your lab work for the semester in partnership with another student in the course.  You will need a partner to sign up for your first lab and should select your partner on the first 1-2 days of the course.  Working along somebody else is common practice in experimental science.  You will find it is helpful to bounce ideas off your partner, ask questions, and double check as you go.  If you are unable to find a lab partner or if you need to modify your partnership during the semester, contact the lab teaching staff.

Note: While you conduct your lab work with a lab partner, your data analysis, interpretation, and your oral and written reports, should be entirely your own work.  The text of your report, graphs, figures, and derivations of equations must be your own. (This includes graphs generated using standard software: you must each make your own). Please be sure to acknowledge any sources that you use in your reports and be careful not to copy another's work.  If you have any questions about the boundary between work you conduct together with your partner and work that you must conduct on your own, please contact the course teaching staff.

In the Laboratory

For successful experimentation, you must have a good understanding of the underlying physics. The pre-lab questions are there to guide you towards the important concepts and we require you to go over them with the teaching staff before starting to do the experiment. You do need to turn in and show your written answers to the pre-lab questions. You must demonstrate a sufficient understanding of the physics related to the questions, otherwise you will not be allowed to start the experiment.

Before experimenting:

  • Get familiar with the apparatus.
  • Be patient and careful. Safety is essential.
  • If a piece of equipment is believed to be malfunctioning, inform the lab staff.
  • Have a plan for your time in lab. In some cases, it makes sense to take and analyze a preliminary set of measurements to verify that the apparatus is working as expected before acquiring a large, or time consuming, data set. ​

Due dates and grading policy

  • Due dates for the lab reports are listed on the bCourses page. You should look there for any updated information on course logistics or due dates.
  • You must present one of your first three lab reports as an oral report.  In the days before the written lab report is due, we will make available a sign-up sheet for oral presentations.  If you will be giving an oral presentation, you must sign up on that sign-up sheet before the due date for that lab's written report.  The oral presentations will be scheduled to take place during the days just after the due date of the written report.  The oral presentation is given by the student to one of the course professors in a closed-door, roughly hour-long session.  (The oral presentations will be conducted over Zoom).
  • Written reports are submitted as PDF documents through the bCourses website.  It is up to you to make sure that all graphics are legible and that the file size is appropriate.
  • We HIGHLY recommend that you turn in ALL your assignments on time.  We have seen so many unfortunate cases where students delay submitting their reports, for whatever reason (most often time management challenges), with the hope that they can still do well in the course, only to find themselves impossibly behind and destined for a disappointing low course grade (or failure).  PLEASE keep up with the pace of the course and complete your work ON TIME.  Contact the course staff immediately if you find yourself stuck and falling behind -- we can probably help get you unstuck and help you structure and manage your work.


You must complete one oral report per semester on an experiment see Oral Report Guidelines and view the How to do an Oral Report Video. All other reports are in written format (see Written Report Guidelines).

All written reports must be submitted online through bCourses.

Oral report (roughly 30 minutes presentation + roughly 10 minutes questions)

  • Review the Oral Report Guidelines and view the How to do an Oral Report Video. 
  • Hand in the signed pre-lab page and show the faculty instructor copies of your data and analysis.
  • You should plan on using some kind of software tool for presentation (PowerPoint, Keynote, Adobe Acrobat, etc.) as is common practice professional experimental science.
  • Do not be late for your oral report!  You will do poorly if you're forced to rush, and this will be reflected in your grade.
  • If you sign-up for an oral report and miss your appointment, your presentation will be considered late (see late grading policy) and will be rescheduled at the instructor's convenience (not yours).
  • While we expect a coherent and well-structured presentation, be prepared that questions will be discussed as they come up during your presentation.

Written report: Note All reports must be submitted online through bCourses.

Please read here:

Some advice on writing the report:

  • Latex is a free powerful word processor that is extensively used by physicists and mathematicians and will be useful to you in the future. Thus, we recommend using it to write your lab reports. (The online version of Latex, "Overleaf", is available to you and is fairly easy to use).  Illegible reports will receive poor scores.
  • We encourage you to analyze your data with Python which is available in the lab; otherwise consider MATLAB or Octave as an alternative. Excel for performing fits is strongly discouraged. 
  • You don't need to provide long derivations.
  • You should cite references in the text. For example, to cite a paper: J. Last, Phys. Rev. Lett. volume number, page number (2013); to cite a book: J. Last, title of the book, page, publisher (2012).
  • You should only provide relevant information: think what a student in your position needs to know to understand what you did.


If you encounter difficulties with the analysis or physics, do not hesitate to contact the staff in the lab; we are there to help you.


Your final semester grade will be determined from the total points you receive for the reports where we will take the difficulty of each experiment into account. Each of the four lab-reports is graded on a 0-to-100 point basis, while for the error analysis report you can receive up to 50 points. There are many factors that go into determining the grade that a report receives, but we offer the following rough grading guidelines, where >50% is considered a passing grade:

  • Excellent (80% - 100%): Student completed most parts of the experiment, and report demonstrates a clear understanding of each part and the overall picture. The report is easy to follow (would be clear to another student) and is complete without being padded. Report contains complete error analysis and contains no or few mistakes.
  • Average (60% - 80%): Student completed most parts of the experiment, and report demonstrates a general understanding although student may appear confused over some points. Analysis is difficult to follow, and conclusions drawn from the data are not clearly stated.
  • Poor (40% - 60%): Student completed major parts of the experiment but fails to draw conclusions from the data. Report is difficult to follow and contains many errors.
  • Insufficient (0% - 40%): Student fails to demonstrate an understanding of what the experiment is about and/or major parts of the report are missing.

Unlike, say, a physics homework problem, experimental work does not always result in a single clear-cut answer.  Thus, we do not grade your reports based on whether or not your experimental measurements agreed perfectly with some theoretical prediction (maybe that prediction is wrong!).  Rather, your grade will depend on how systematically you approach the tasks and solve the inevitable problems that come up in conducting experiments.

We try to grade reports in a timely fashion; usually about two weeks. For feedback on content and style, we encourage you STRONGLY to go through the report together with the GSI/faculty who graded it.


For each day late for the EAX exercise 10 points will be subtracted.  This ensures that we can distribute the solution for the EAX before the
due date of lab #1.

All written reports are due by 11:59 pm on the indicated due date.  For each late report, ten (10) points will be deduced for each started week past the due date.  This late penalty adds up quickly!  Do yourself a favor and DO NOT FALL BEHIND!  Please get help from the course instructional staff if you find yourself struggling to keep up.

No report will be accepted past the due date of the last lab report.  If you have not turned in all your assignments by the last due date, you will receive an "F" in the course.


Both the University and the 111 Lab staff take the subject of plagiarism very seriously. Please make sure you understand completely the following and ask questions if ever in doubt: "All data that you present in your reports must be your own. All written work that you submit, except for acknowledged quotations, is to be in your own words. Work copied from a book, webpages (including the experimental instructions), from another student's report, or from any other source without proper citation will, under University rules, earn the student a grade of 'F' for the semester, and possible disciplinary action by the Student Conduct Committee." Note that a proper citation requires that you mark clearly which text/illustration has been copied from as well as the source of it. This is most easily done by adding a note of the form "Illustration taken from Ref. [<number>] below the illustration indicating which reference this excerpt belongs to. In case you quote a text, put the quoted text in quotation marks and add the reference number after the text.

End of the semester

All materials and reports are due by the last due day, no exceptions. Any graded Lab Reports not picked up by the first week of the subsequent semester will be thrown away. Please make sure you return your radiation ring if you use one. Please let us know how we can make improvements by completing the course evaluation at the link

Course Material Fee

To offset the cost of expendable items of the Physics 111B-Lab course, students of the Physics 111B-Lab must pay a Course Materials Fee (CMF) of $175.00. The CMF is a fee approved under the policies of the Office of the President (October 2014) and the Berkeley Campus (October 2009). The fees are assessed after the fifth week of classes in Fall and Spring and will be included in the students' CARS (Campus Accounts Receivables System) statements.


Other miscellaneous information