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Department of Physics: Undergraduate ProgramIntroductory Labs

Undergraduate students in the physics program

Physics Undergraduate Introductory Lab Information

Undergraduate teaching labs are designed to reinforce information presented during course lectures by providing students "hands-on" opportunities to explore the concepts and principles of physics and astronomy.

Lab Facilities

A wide variety of professional-grade experimental equipment is provided for each lab, and data collection is accomplished through the use of modern, high speed computers and specialized lab software programs (Labview & DataStudio).

The layout of each lab is focused around a particular course or series of courses.

  • Lab 138: Physics 102/111/226/231N
  • Lab 140: Physics 101/112/227/232N
  • Lab 224: Physics 303/413W
  • Pretlow Planetarium: Physics 103/104/126/127N
  • Lab Instruction

    All instruction is provided by faculty members or graduate teaching & research assistants. Physics concepts and principles are explored via both structured and non-structured experimentation, and the number of students enrolled in each lab section is carefully controlled to provide an optimum learning environment.

    Student Information


    • Cell Phones & Pagers:
      In accordance with university policy, Cell phones and pagers must be turned off or set to the silent mode while class or lab sections are meeting.
    • Food & Drinks in the Lab:
      Absolutely no food is allowed in the labs.
      Drinks are allowed provided they are in a plastic, spill-proof, sealable container. No open cups, soft-drink cans, etc. are allowed.
    • Lab Equipment:
      The lab equipment is used by multiple lab sections. If a piece of lab equipment isn't working correctly or is missing at your lab station, notify your instructor.
      Do not take lab equipment off of another lab station. This only passes the problem onto the next lab section. Likewise, you are expected to take care when using the equipment. If you intentionally or through negligence damage a piece of equipment , you will be charged for the replacement or repair costs.
    • Honor Code:
      The University's honor code applies to lab sections. You may collect and share data together as lab partners, but the non-common data sections of your lab report must reflect your own work.

    Items Required At Each Lab Session

    • Current edition lab manual
    • Pencil and pen
    • Notebook paper
    • Graph paper
    • Scientific Calculator
      • (does not have to be a graphing calculator)

    Note For Students in the Physics 111/112/226/227/231/232N:

    Labs use computerized data collection software and equipment during many of their experiments. You will need an USB media storage device (commonly referred to as a "jump drive" , "thumb drive" or "USB drive" in order to save your data tables and graphs for inclusion in your lab reports.

    Attendance & Tardiness

    • Mandatory Attendance:
      Attendance at lab sessions is mandatory. If you miss two labs, you will automatically fail the entire course!
    • Tardiness:
      Be on time and plan on staying for the full lab period. You must be on time because:
      • Tardiness disrupts the learning process. If you are 10 minutes or more late, or habitually late, the lab instructor has the authority to refuse you permission to join the lab session in progress.
      • If the students have already started collecting data, you may not be allowed to join the lab in progress as this would potentially violate the University Honor Code. (Claiming someone else's work as your own.)
    • Attendance Verification:
      You must check in and check out of the lab with the Lab Instructor.
      Your attendance is verified by your sign-in and sign-out signatures. If you do not sign in and out, you will not get credit for the lab. You must have the lab instructor check your data and lab station and sign your data tables before he/she will give you permission to leave. If your data isn't sufficient or complete, you may have to repeat the experiment. You must also return the lab station to its original configuration before you can leave.

    Basic Safety Regulations

    • Compliance with Safety Requirements:
      You must follow the safety procedures outlined in the lab manual and as explained by the lab instructor. Failure to do so can lead to dismissal from the lab, resulting in the lab being recorded as a missed lab and a grade of zero for the experiment(s).
    • Working with Lab Weights:
      Be careful when using lab masses (weights), they can slip off of the mass hangers.
      Open toed shoes (i.e. sandals), are not advised.
    • Ballistics:
      The physics department will provide safety glasses for all students in the lab. You must wear these safety glasses during ballistic experiments even if you wear regular glasses.
      • NOTE: You must keep the safety glasses on during the entire time you are in the lab, even if you have completed your experiment.
    • Fire Safety:
      You must tie back long hair and not wear loose, flammable clothing during experiments involving an open flame.

    Lab attendance is mandatory.

    If you miss two lab sessions, you will fail the entire physics course. However, there are two possible ways to avoid having your absence recorded as a missed lab:

    • Request to attend another lab section's session during the same week as the lab section you missed,
    • Complete a special make-up lab.

    Attending Other Lab Section Sessions

    The primary recourse for missing a lab is to perform the experiment with another lab section during the same week. Attending a substitute lab section is not a right and must not be abused.

    There are multiple lab sections that meet during the week. Request permission from instructor of the alternate lab, and if permission is granted, have the altnerate lab instructor sign the cover page for the experiment in the lab manual. Finally, submit your lab report to your normal lab instructor.

    Note: Your lab instructor has the ability to disapprove the scheduling of a make-up lab. Only your course professor has the option to grant forgiveness for the missed lab with no make-up required (grade adjusted).

    Make-up Labs

    Make-up labs are scheduled only for the most unusual of circumstances. This is because when you request a make-up lab you are in effect, asking for a personal lab session outside of the normal schedule, which requires your lab instructor to conduct the make-up lab on his/her own time, and also disrupts the normal schedule for equipment set-up for the following week.

    Guidelines and Criterion for Requesting a Make-up Lab:

    • Missed labs must be made up on the Friday of the following week. An extension of this time limit (one-week) may be granted by your lab instructor based upon unique circumstances or if there are no lab sessions scheduled during the following week.
    • Make-up labs for most students are conducted only on Fridays after the completion of the last scheduled lab sessions for that week.
    • Make-up labs are not granted for reasons of tardiness or broken transportation.
    • Due to time constraints, make-up labs are NOT permitted during the summer semester.
    • The last experiments on the lab schedules are not eligible for make-up and no make-up labs are permitted during finals week.

    Acceptable Reasons For Requesting A Make-Up Lab

    1. Death or serious illness in the immediate family. The immediate family includes spouse, children, siblings, parents, grandparents and uncles/aunts. Verification may be required.
    2. Serious illness or injury of the student.Self medicating (non-prescribed medicines) illness or injuries would not be a valid reason fro missing a lab or requesting a make-up lab. Required verification: A letter from the student's physician or the student health care center is required, noting the length of time that the student was directed to rest at home.
    3. Court ordered appearances or a call to jury duty. Required verification: A copy of the official notification.
    4. Participation in a University sponsored athletic event where the student is a team member. Required verification: A note from student services, athletic department or the team coach.
    5. Military duty and deployments. Required Verification: A duty bill, note from the commanding officer or a copy of the deployment order.
    6. Religious prohibitions. Verification may be required.

    Mastering Physics is an internet-based homework system is designed to help you understand the concepts and principles of physics through a variety of tutorial and questioning techniques.
    The on-line questions are similar to those in the course textbook. However, certain values of the on-line problem parameters have been randomly changed. So, although students may (and in fact, are encourage to) work out the problem solving method together, you must do your own calculations, because each student has a random set of parameters.

    You must enroll in the Mastering Physics system to access your homework assignments.

    IMPORTANT: If you do not know, or have not activated your ODU e-mail address, go to http://season.odu.edu to request or activate your e-mail account BEFORE taking the following steps:

    1. Enrolling:
      1. Go to www.masteringphysics.com .
      2. Click on the book cover graphic associated with your course.
      3. Click on the Register Button.
      4. Enter the Access code: Enter the code from your mastering physics CD that came with your textbook, to start setting up your account.
      5. Enter School Location: Zip Code: 23529 Country: United States
      6. Click the NEXT Button.
    2. Setting Up Your Account:
      1. Enter the School Name: Old Dominion University
      2. Create a Login Name: Use your ODU student e-mail address.
      3. Create a Password: Choose a password that you can easily remember.
      4. Select a Security Question: Choose from the drop-down listing and enter your answer.
      5. Click the NEXT Button.
    3. Confirmation & Summary:
      1. Review the information.
      2. Click on the SECOND login button to go to the login screen.
    4. Logging In for the First Time:
      1. Click on the book cover graphic associated with your course.
      2. Enter your Login Name and Password, and then click the Login button.
      3. A user properties screen will appear.
      4. Enter your Student ID and Course ID.
        1. For Student ID: Use your ODU University Identification Number (UIN).
        2. For Course ID: Use the code your professor gives you in lecture.
      5. Click the Save Button.

    If you encounter problems using the system that you cannot solve by reading the online guide, contact: support@masteringphysics.com.