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PHYS 331 A: Optics Laboratory

Meeting Time: 
M 11:30am - 12:20pm
PAA A110
Jason Detwiler Portrait
Jason Detwiler

Syllabus Description:

Instructor: Jason Detwiler (
Office: PAB B444
Office hours: Mondays 12:30-1:20

Lab Manager: David Pengra (
Office: PAB B256
Phone: 543-4783

Jordan DeHaven ( grades Michelson and Reflections
Zachary Draper ( grades Faraday Rotation and pre-lectures.
Alexander Piers ( grades Fabry-Perot and homework.
Xinxin Tang ( grades Fraunhofer-Fresnel and Concave Diffraction Grating
Liudmila Zhukas ( grades Speed of Light and Holography


Lectures and Lab Sections

Lecture Time: Mondays 11:30-12:20 pm, PAA A110.

Labs: Room PAB B260

  • Section AA (Piers / Zhukas): Mondays 1:30-4:20 (signups)
  • Section AB (Draper / Piers): Tuesdays 1:30-4:20 (signups)
  • Section AC (Zhukas / DeHaven): Wednesdays 1:30-4:20 (signups)
  • Section AD (Tang / Draper): Thursdays 1:30-4:20 (signups)
  • Section AE (DeHaven / Tang): Fridays 1:30-4:20 (signups)

The first day of lecture is October 1. There will be no lecture on Monday November 12 (Veterans Day).

No labs will be held on September 26-28. Section AA will have no lab on Monday, November 12 (Veterans Day). No labs are scheduled for November 19-21 or December 4-7 (section AA will have lab on Monday December 3).


Course Materials

The text book for this course is Optics, 5th ed., by Eugene Hecht (Pearson, 2016).

You will also need some form of notebook for taking notes during your experiments.

Course Handouts:

Additional Handouts:


Introduction to Physics 331 Lab
Optics-Table Basics

Experiments: There are 8 experiments and you will perform a new lab each week. You will be graded only on your best 6 labs, so you can stop after you complete 6 if you like. In the first week of lab, everyone will perform the Speed of Light experiment.


Pre-Lab Assignments: Except for the Speed of Light experiment, you must submit pre-lab assigments (according to the format specified in lecture) due at 1:30 pm on the day you perform your experiments.  The pre-lab assignment is a one page write up, including your understanding of the purpose of the experiment, the outline of experimental procedures, the physical quantities you are going to measure directly, and the physical quantities you will derive from the measurements.  Late submissions will be awarded no credit.

Click here to view a sample pre-lab assignment.


Lab Reports: Students will submit lab reports according to the format specified in the Lab Report Grading Standards handout for all performed experiments. Submissions will be made online using canvas. Examples of good lab reports from previous years can be downloaded here and here (links coming soon).

Group members may work separately or together on lab reports if desired. Joint submissions must include a summary of the contribution from each author. One author will submit the report for the group; that author is responsible for forwarding any feedback on the report to the other authors. All authors will receive the same grade.

Lab reports are due by 1:30 PM one week after you complete each experiment. In the event of a holiday, due dates will be shifted to 1:30 PM on the next school day. Late submissions will be penalized at 5% per late day, including weekends, but not including holidays. The last day for lab report submission is Friday, December 14 at 5pm.


Lecture questions / homework: You will be required to complete a short reading and pre-lecture assignment plus a short homework assignment each week covering the lecture material. There will also be in-lecture questions using PollEverywhere.

Pre-lecture assignments must be completed in Canvas by 9pm the night before lecture for full credit; partial credit is given through the start of lecture. Homework will consist of 1-3 problems, of which one will be graded at random. Complete the homework on paper and turn it in within 5 min of the start of lecture on the due date. You may also turn it in to Prof. Detwiler's mailbox near the front office up to 15 min prior to the start of lecture. There is no credit for late work because we will discuss the answers during lecture.


Exam: There will be one exam to be given on the last day of lecture on December 3rd. It will cover material presented in lectures. You may prepare one 8.5"x11" page of your own handwritten notes (front and back). Bring a pocket calculator and something to write with. You will write your solutions on the provided exam paper.


Grading: Each lab report, graded out of 50 points, is worth 12.5% of the total grade. The exam is worth 10% of your grade. Pre-lab reports, graded out of 10 points, are worth 5% of your total grade. Pre-lecture and in-lecture questions account for 3% and 2% of your grade, respectively. Lecture homework accounts for the last 5% of your grade. Adjustments will be made for any differences in average scores on a given experiment or exam.

Students who submit all eight reports may receive writing credit (W) for the course.

Important: To be eligible for getting a final grade for Physics 331, you must submit the speed of light report by Monday Oct. 22, and at least two additional full reports by the start of your lab section on the week of Nov. 12th (Nov. 19th for section AA).

Catalog Description: 
Measurements of interference and diffraction, optical properties of matter, image processing, interferometry, holography. Prerequisite: PHYS 228. Offered: A.
GE Requirements: 
Natural Sciences (NSc)
Section Type: 
Last updated: 
October 17, 2018 - 9:41pm