PHYSICS 390 : Experimental Physics


2022 Semester One (1223) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Covers advanced experimental techniques, giving students choices between a wide range of classic physics experiments and open-ended investigations of physical phenomena.

Course Overview

The basis of all knowledge of the physical sciences lies in experiments. This course requires at least 15 points from Physics 201, 202, 203, 231, 240, 244, 251, 261. Hereby we note that the three courses 201,202,203 are required for the BSc physics major.

The student will have access to a broad spectrum of prepared experiments, ranging from Compton scattering to Earthquake propagation. They will be required to submit a written report about their findings, as well as present their findings in an oral examination. Each experiment has a load factor, which represents the number of 3 hr afternoons the student is expected to spend on the experiment. The student will perform a number of experiments, adding up to 19 load factors.

You would take this course if, in addition to deepening your understanding of physics in general, you would like to learn a range of specific experimental skills that will easily translate to your further career, be it in research and development, more theoretical or numerical tasks, or more practical projects. 

Note that this course has some overlap with the Physics Capstone course, phys.399. 

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: 15 points from PHYSICS 201, 202, 203, 231, 240, 244, 251, 261

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Develop and demonstrate the use of experimental equipment to obtain a scientific result (Capability 1)
  2. Communicate the results of the experiment in a written report (Capability 1, 4 and 5)
  3. Explain the workings of the experiment verbally (Capability 4)
  4. Interpret instructions in combination with existing literature in order to plan and carry out an experiment (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  5. Recognise limitations of experimental equipment and find ways to overcome these (Capability 1, 2 and 3)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Reports 50% Individual Coursework
Discussions 50% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5

Key Topics

The student will carry out a range of experiments stemming from Classical Physics, Quantum Physics and Electronics.

Special Requirements

This courses require you to complete practical work in the Advanced Physics Laboratory. Attendance to the streamed lab sessions is mandatory.

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

There are no lectures for this course, but you will spend 19 afternoons in the laboratory during the semester. As this paper is entirely practical, it cannot be taken remotely. Each week, you will spend 6 hours in the laboratory (2 sessions of 3 hours each per week) and can expect to spend a total 4  hours on reading, thinking about the content, and preparing written and reports.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is required during the scheduled lab sessions to complete this course. The lab sessions for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable, typically 2-5pm two times  a week on Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri (and/or). As this paper is entirely practical, it cannot be taken remotely. 

Learning Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

The experiments proposed in this course overlap with content of other Stage 3 physics courses. You are therefore expected to refer to the learning resources of the physics courses relevant to your choice of experiments. Also the student is required to have a hard cover notebook to record their results.

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption, we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course students may be asked to submit coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.

Published on 23/11/2021 11:24 a.m.