Course Operations and Guidelines



Each quarter, students will work on two long (3-week) experiment projects. In-lab work is done during scheduled 4-hour lab periods, but there will also be substantial out-of-lab work required (in the form of preparation, meetings with TAs and/or group members, analysis, and writing).

Students will work in pairs when possible. Lab partners will share data and are welcome to talk and share ideas, but are expected to do independent analysis and submit independent assignments.

Each project will have the following outline:

  • Pre-lab: Look over your assigned experiment wiki page, and read any suggested material (e.g. the “Theory” section).
    • Students may need to do research beyond what is provided on the wiki page.
  • In-lab Work (Days 1, 2, and 3): Groups will meet three times in the lab (once per week for three weeks) for a 4-hour session.
    • Students are expected to arrive on time and stay the full period (unless they have made prior arrangements with the instructors and with their partner).
    • Students must keep a lab notebook.
      • A bound, paper notebook is standard, but a digital lab notebook is allowed (so long as it allows a student to record notes, calculations, drawings, figures, etc… just as one can do on paper).
        • Excel and Google Docs are useful tools, but they are NOT digital notebooks and cannot be used in place of a paper notebook.
      • While the notebook will not be graded on its own, many of the in-lab assignments will require students to show work from the notebook in order to get credit.
    • Students should not wait until the end of the experiment to start doing the analysis!
      • Students should begin analyzing the data (and even formatting and working on the out-of-lab assignments) as soon as possible, and may want to reach out to their TA with an update between sessions if they have questions.
  • In-lab Exercises (25% of the total grade): There will be a number of in-lab exercises that students must complete and talk about with the instructors.
    • These assignments will be graded simply as “complete” or “incomplete”. Feedback will be given on the spot.
    • If a particular exercise is deemed incomplete, students may continue working on the exercise and ask to be evaluated again (with as many opportunities as time allows).
    • At the end of Day 3, all in-lab exercises which have not been deemed complete will be given zero points.
  • Out-of-lab Assignments (75% of the total grade): There will be a number of out-of-lab assignments (which instructors will sometimes refer to collectively as the “report”, even though that's not a great description) which will be due 1 week after the last day in lab.
    • Assignments must be submitted by 5:00 pm on the due date.
      • Late assignments will be given a penalty. (See below for details).
    • These assignments will be graded on the quality of the work and the argument.
      • If a student has questions about the expectation(s), they should reach out to the TA for clarification.
    • TAs will not regrade assignments. Students are expected to submit their best work the first time.
  • Each set of out-of-lab assignments will have a total possible pool of 60 points available, but the total will be scored out of only 50 points. For example:
    • If you receive only 30 of the 60 possible points on the out-of-lab assignments, your score will be 30/50 (or 60%).
    • If you receive only 50 of the 60 possible points, your score will be 50/50 (or 100%).
    • If you score a perfect 60 out of 60 points, your score will still only be 50/50 (or 100%). You will not receive extra credit, and points earned beyond 50 do not roll over to other experiments.

Lab sessions are held in KPTC 005/009. Groups meeting on Wednesday or Friday meet from 1:30 to 5:20 pm. Groups meeting on Tuesday or Thursday meet from 2:00 to 5:50 pm. (See course calendar for specific dates.)


Grade breakdown

Each experiment will be graded out of a total of 100 points, meaning that (for two experiments per quarter) there are 200 points total available for the course. The breakdown is as follows:

  • Experiment 1 (in-lab): 25 points
  • Experiment 1 (out-of-lab): 75 points
  • Experiment 2 (in-lab): 25 points
  • Experiment 2 (out-of-lab): 75 points

In-lab assignments are graded as “complete/incomplete” and can be attempted up until the end of the third day in lab. Out-of-lab assignments are graded on quality.

Grading rubrics

Rubrics are provided for most assignments. The rubrics are meant to serve as a guide to important points to be covered. The rubrics also serve to make TA grading more consistent.

Each item on a rubric will be graded on a 4.0 scale. A typical rubric will have several items, each of which is divided into 5 levels of completion: good (4), adequate (3), needs improvement (2), inadequate (1) and missing (0). These categories correspond to letter grades of A, B, C, D, and F respectively. The final letter grade for an assignment may be found by converting each item's evaluation to a 4.0 scale and averaging the results.

EXAMPLE:  If a rubric has 5 items and you receive 3 'good' and 2 'adequate' evaluations, your grade would be (3*4 + 2*3)/ 5 = 3.6, which is roughly an A- letter grade.

EXAMPLE:  If a rubric has 6 items and you receive 2 'good', 1 'adequate', 1 'needs improvement', and 2 'inadequate' evaluations, your grade would be (2*4 + 1*3 + 1*2 + 2*1)/6 = 2.5, which is roughly a B- letter grade.

Late work

In-lab exercises

Students should ask to have all in-lab exercises evaluated by lab instructors before the end of the third day in lab. Any exercise which is not deemed “complete” by that time will be graded as a zero.

In-lab exercises will not be accepted late.

Out-of-lab Assignments

Out-of-lab assignments are due one week after the end of the third day in lab. Work will be accepted late, but will receive a penalty of 5% per day (up to a maximum of 3 days). After 3 days, students must meet with lab instructors to discuss the situation before continuing with the course.

Grace days

If a student plans to be late with a report or analysis, they may use grace days to extend their deadline.

  • Students are given 2 grace days per quarter.
  • A grace day is one, indivisible 24-hour period, starting at the due time.
  • Unused grace days DO NOT roll over from one quarter to the next.

Missing work

All coursework must be submitted before the start of Finals Week in order to allow TAs to complete grading without interfering with their own class and final exam schedules. Work will not be accepted after this date without prior arrangement. If you believe you have extenuating circumstances and will require additional time, contact the lab staff and course instructor as soon as reasonably possible; do not wait until the end of the quarter.