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PHYS 331 A: Optics Laboratory

Meeting Time: 
F 11:30am - 12:20pm
PAA A110
Xiaodong Xu

Syllabus Description:

Instructor: Xiaodong Xu (
Office: PAB B437
Office hours: Fridays 3:30-4:20 pm

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

Zach Draper (
Yuangkang  Liu (
Abhishek Rajput (

Lectures and Lab Sections

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

Labs: Room PAB B260

(Links are to sign-up sheets)

The first day of lecture is Friday, Sept. 27. 

Lab starts Monday, Sept 30. Section AA will have no lab on Monday, November 11 (Veterans Day). Section AA will have lab on Monday Nov. 25. No labs are scheduled for Nov. 26-29. Dec. 2 is the day for make-up labs. No labs are scheduled afterwards.


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 in PDF file (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  in PDF file according to the format specified in the Lab Report Grading Standards handout for all performed experiments. Submissions will be made online using canvas. 

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. Late submissions will be penalized at 5% per late day, including weekends, but not including holidays. The last day for lab report submission is Monday, December 9 at 5:00 pm.


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 (up to 50%) is given through the start of lecture. Homework will be 1 problem. Complete the homework and submit it online before the start of lecture on the due date. 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 6th. 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 full reports (with each report over 30/50 points) 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 Friday 1:30 PM, Oct. 18, and at least two additional full reports by the start of your lab section on the week of Nov. 4th .

Catalog Description: 
Measurements of interference and diffraction, optical properties of matter, image processing, interferometry, holography. Prerequisite: a minimum grade of 2.0 in PHYS 227; and PHYS 321, which may be taken concurrently. Offered: A.
GE Requirements: 
Natural Sciences (NSc)
Section Type: 
Last updated: 
March 24, 2020 - 9:22pm