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Physics and Astronomy Introductory Physics Labs

WSU Physics Department Lab Syllabus

Lab Director




Jacob Turner

Webster Hall Room 1248/341


In your physics lab, you will be expected to:

  • Apply physics in a variety of physical settings.
  • Build simple mathematical models.
  • Design experiments.
  • Document your experimental work, results, and data analysis in lab notes and notebooks.
  • Evaluate and compare results using uncertainties.
  • Employ representative software packages for data collection and analysis.
  • Communicate your work in writing (short and long formal assignments).

Relevant University Learning Objectives:

1Critical and creative thinking

2Quantitative reasoning

3Scientific literacy



Student responsibilities

  • Read the syllabus. The regulations/guidelines in this syllabus take precedence over any oral
    commitments that may be made. The lab director is responsible for the final interpretation
    of these policies.
  • Arrive at your lab on time. Note that the lab rooms change from week to week. The room
    schedules are posted on the bulletin boards across from the elevators on the second, third
    and fourth floors of Webster Hall.
  • Perform all labs and the lab exam. If you miss or expect to miss a lab due to sickness or
    another valid reason, refer to the Requests for Make-Up Laboratories section of this syllabus
    about arranging a make-up laboratory.
  • Make sure that all submitted work is your own. Academic dishonesty is not tolerated and is
    grounds for failing the course. We are aware of work posted to various internet repositories
    and held at some Greek life locations, and actively screen for material derivative of these
  • Before each lab, read the lab manual and related course material, particularly if the material
    has not already been covered in lecture. Chapters in the freely available OpenStax textbook
    are referenced for further investigation, YouTube MOOC offerings can also help get you up
    to speed.
  • Bring your lab manual, calculator, pen and pencil, lab notebook, and scratch paper to lab
    each week.
  • Come prepared to perform mathematical calculations based on the level of math appropriate
    for the course. This includes algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. For Physics 201 and 202,
    calculus is also required. All labs also conduct statistical work, which is not covered in any
    prerequisite courses for these labs. Students may wish to utilize Khan Academy or other
    resources for help with statistics.
  • Do not bring food, tobacco, or beverages into a lab room.

Final lab grades

Lab and Lecture components of this four credit course are only loosely linked. Due to the open
ended nature of scientific investigation, the Lab component is evaluated on a Pass/Fail basis. Final
grade for the course will be determined completely by performance in Lecture activities. However,
a failure of either the Lab or the Lecture will count as a failure of both, and each component will
need to be re-taken if the student desires a passing grade.

A passing score in the Lab is obtained by adequate performance on the Lab Exam at the end of the
semester. This exam is comprised of various smaller measurements and analysis activities which
closely align to those performed each week. A student who has been actively participating in each
experiment, taken adequate notes in their Lab Notebook, and paid close attention to TA feedback
on regularly submitted work should easily clear the passing benchmark. Submission of a formal
lab report which meets all criteria for excellence in student work can offset performance on the lab
exam for those students who prefer a less time intensive evaluation of capability.

Lab assignments include (1) lab notes recording during lab, (2) complete or partial formal reports
of laboratory work; and (3) tutorials and quizzes performed during lab. Although each lab partner
in a group will report the same data, your data analysis, discussion of results, and conclusions must
be your own. For more information regarding lab notes and reports, refer to the “Lab Notes and
Reports” section immediately following the syllabus. All work must be submitted within one week
to obtain feedback from the TA.

All laboratory exercises are important. Each student must complete all of the labs in a given

The lab exams are administered during Closed Week, in your regularly scheduled laboratory. The
exam may include any experimental techniques, methods of data analysis, and/or concepts covered
during the semester. You may refer to your evaluated lab work for the current semester and the
lab manual during the exam. You may not refer to the textbooks or other references. Work on the
exam is individual (no lab partners). Bring your calculator.

 Questions regarding feedback on lab assignments need to be discussed with your teaching assistant
within two weeks of receiving the evaluated material (earlier at the end of the semester). Final lab
assessments (pass/fail) will be posted on Blackboard during Finals Week. The lab evaluation is
submitted to your instructor Friday morning of Final Exam week. Errors that affect your physics
course grade will be corrected after final grades are submitted to the Registrar, if necessary.

Assignment submission policies

Regular assignments are normally due at the beginning of the next lab session. All work must be
submitted to your laboratory teaching assistant by Tuesday, the day of the lab exam.

If you have reason to believe that an assignment that you submitted has been lost, report it immediately
to your teaching assistant.

Some assignments and tutorials will be completed during the lab period and are due before you
leave the room. Your teaching assistant in your lab will let you know when this is the case.

Requests for make up laboratories

Do not attend lab if you are ill with something contagious. When you are well enough to attend,
contact your teaching assistant and arrange for a make up laboratory. Laboratories must be made
up within one week of return to academic status.

If you expect to miss your regularly scheduled lab to attend a university-approved activity, you are
also expected to make up the missed laboratory. University-approved activities include music and
athletic events in which you perform and Common Morning/Evening Exams. The official list of
Common Morning/Evening Exams is posted at
Make up laboratories for scheduled absences must be requested the week before the scheduled
absence. Make up space is limited, and may not be available if you request a make up lab later.
If you fail to request a make up lab the week before a block exam, please request a make up

To schedule a make up laboratory, contact the lab director at Your request
should include your name, your course catalog number (Physics 101, 102, 201, 202, etc.), your
regular lab section number, your teaching assistant’s name, the name of the missing lab (e.g.,
Buoyancy), the reason why the lab is being missed, and your e-mail address. You must also indicate
when you might be available to make up the lab. Make up labs are usually offered during other
sections of the same lab, but sometimes in another course. Make up labs are available on Tuesdays,
Wednesdays, and Thursdays only. All make up labs must be approved by the lab director.

Except for the last lab of the semester, make-up work must be submitted to the laboratory teaching
assistants before Monday of Closed Week to be considered for credit. The physics labs close
Friday before Closed Week to prepare for lab exams. Make-up labs are not scheduled during
Closed Week. Make up labs for the last lab of the semester can sometimes be scheduled during
Finals Week. The lab exam, administered during Closed Week, cannot normally be made up after
Closed Week.

Student conduct

“Washington State University, a community dedicated to the advancement of knowledge, expects
all students to behave in a manner consistent with its high standards of scholarship and conduct.
Students are expected to uphold these standards both on and off campus and acknowledge the
University’s authority to take disciplinary action. The purpose of these standards and processes is
to educate students and protect the welfare of the community.”—Quoted from the Preamble to the
Washington State University Standards of Conduct for Students (
15 Student Handbook.pdf).

A partial list of prohibited conduct appears in Washington Administrative Code (WAC) Section
504-26 ( Of special importance to the laboratories
is the false reporting of data, experiment results, information, or procedures. Reporting
data acquired by others (including your lab partner if you did not contribute) or in previous
semesters is academically dishonest. Fabrication of results, information, or procedures, and sabotaging
other students’ work is also prohibited. Likewise, sharing information about the end-of-semester
lab exam with students yet to take the exam is prohibited. Violations of this policy will
affect your lab grade and may be reported to the Student Conduct Committee as instances of academic

Students are expected to avoid behavior that unnecessarily interferes with the learning of other
students. We expect students to be on time to labs and lab exams and to mute their cell phones
for the duration. The concepts of physics are subtle, and even the most intelligent students make
mistakes. In this environment, it is important that students be willing to ask questions if they don’t
understand what their lab partners say or do. To this end, we require that students and teaching
assistants alike avoid behavior that discourages communication. This includes threats and insults.
Students who repeatedly disrupt lab may be directed to leave the room and may receive a zero
grade for that week’s lab.

Disability accommodations

Reasonable accommodations are available for students with documented disabilities. If you have a
disability and need accommodations to fully participate in the lecture or lab, call or visit the Access
Center in theWashington Building, Room 217 (Phone: 335-3417, e-mail:,
URL: ). All accommodations must be approved through the Access
Center. Notify both your lecture instructor and the lab director during the first week of lecture
concerning any approved accommodations. Late notification may cause the requested accommodations
to be unavailable.

Safety resources

General information on campus safety is posted at—the Campus Safety
Plan. Information on how to prepare for potential emergencies is posted on the Office of Emergency
Management web site ( Safety alerts and weather warnings are posted promptly
at the WSU Alerts site ( Urgent warnings that apply to the entire
University community will also be broadcast using the Campus Outdoor Warning System
(speakers mounted on Holland Library and other buildings) and the Crisis Communication System
(e-mail, phone, cell phone). For this purpose, it is important to keep your emergency contact
information up to date on the zzusis system. To enter or update this information, click the
“Update Now!” link in the “Pullman Emergency Information” box on your zzusis home page

Safety information that applies to the laboratories appears in the Lab Manual. Your teaching assistant
will also present any safety information that applies to the current laboratory at the beginning
of the laboratory. Students are expected to conduct themselves responsibly and take no unnecessary
risks in the course of their work. Students who disobey the safety instructions of the teaching
assistant will be directed to leave the room. All accidents and injuries must be reported promptly
to your teaching assistant.

In case the fire alarm sounds, leave the building promptly in an orderly fashion. If you are not
on a ground floor, use the stairs. Do not use the elevator. After exiting the building, gather at the
basketball court behind Waller Hall (down the hill, south of Webster Hall) with the other members
of your lab. A representative of the Department of Physics and Astronomy will tell you when it is
safe to re-enter the building. If this does not happen before the end of the lab period, you are free
to leave for your next class.

Possible Changes

The lab director reserves the right correct errors in the syllabus and to modify lab schedules and
room assignments.

The lab director has delegated some authority to modify assignments and due dates to your teaching
assistant. This helps ensure that your are graded according the criteria stated during your lab