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Organizing an Advanced Lab Course

California Institute of Technology

In years past we have invited immersion participants to come and study individual experiments offered at Caltech. Many of those participants have also asked how our advanced-lab course is structured and to get information on other experimental-physics courses, from Freshman Lab to Computational Physics Lab to guided design-and-build projects. This year’s immersion will be a focused workshop on how the Senior Physics Lab course is organized and how we applied the same principles of organization to transform Freshman Lab from one of the most unpopular courses on campus to one of the most popular. Topics will include the overarching learning goals of the course, how homework and prelab readings are integrated into the experimental curriculum, how students interpret and communicate their results, and how TAs are managed. This immersion will walk participants through the process of both taking the course as a student and leading it as an instructor, explaining the rationale behind why things are done the way they are and including literature resources on best practices. We will run a mini-course to show how these ideas are implemented in practice and visit Caltech’s Sophomore Lab to see further examples. 

The intended audiences for this immersion are new professors who will be teaching lab for the first time and anyone reorganizing an experimental course. 

Host and Mentor

Eric Black is a Lecturer of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. He received his Ph.D. in condensed-matter physics from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1997 before coming to Caltech, first as a postdoc and then as a staff scientist, as part of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) project. He currently teaches Caltech’s freshman and senior physics laboratories.

Dr. Eric D. Black, California Institute of Technology, Department of Physics, MC 264-33 Pasadena, CA 91125. Email: Telephone: 626-395-3858.

Please note that the Jonathan F. Reichert Foundation has established a grant program to help purchase apparatus used in Laboratory Immersions. Limitations and exclusions apply, but generally speaking the foundation may support up to 40% of the cost of the required equipment.

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