Our department is engaged in an exciting new vision for our laboratory course sequences.

Students in disciplines that require introductory physics as part of their degree requirement will take our new Introductory Experimental Physics Laboratory I & II courses (PHYS 2321 and PHYS 2341) along with either College Physics I & II or General Physics I & II. There are no longer separate laboratory courses for College Physics and General Physics (all non-physics majors take PHYS 2321 and PHYS 2341). If you have aleady taken PHYS 2030 / 2040 or are taking it now it will still count towards your degree requirements. If you have taken or are taking PHYS 2030, but have not yet taken PHYS 2040 you will take PHYS 2341, which will also count towards our degree requirements. 

The laboratory courses will help students learn how to work as part of multidisciplinary teams using experimental methods to test physical and mathematical models. By the end of the two semester course sequence students will be able to:

  • Construct a methodology for testing the question
  • Identify how these labs relate to career aspirations and what they are doing in their lives
  • Idenfity whether a hypothesis is testable
  • Make a prediction based on a model
  • Explain the meaning of quoted uncertainties on data points
  • Create and interpret a variety of graphs that include uncertainties
  • Explain what they did to take data that address a certain questions / explain their investigation / motivations

Physics majors will begin their undergraduate career in physics by taking our Applied Physics I & II laboratory courses (PHYS 2351 and PHYS 2361). These laboratory courses are an immersion into many ways that physics intersects with useful technologies and to help you build a valuable repertoire of technical competencies. These are defined asnfocused experiences that equip you with the knowledge and skills needed to design and/or to operate technical devices. The resulting repertoire is firmly rooted in physics concepts. It will give you an unusual range of capabilities for making an early and productive entry into research and independent projects. It will also give you deeper insight into the design of advanced scientific instruments that you will encounter in your upper division laboratory experiences and in work with faculty in their research. It will also give you deeper insight into tools and processes that we sometimes take for granted, such as hand tools or safety devices. The repertoire will also become a valuable and growing set of documented capabilities that you can present when seeking technical jobs during and after college.

After a few more semesters at broadening and deeping one's knowledge of physics you will take our Junior Physics Laboratory I & II courses. These courses are based on the idea of an “Experimental Physics Decathlon.” The goal of the Experimental Physics Decathlon is to engage you with laboratory investigations in ten major areas of physics. In each of the areas, you will learn key ideas that have shaped specific topics of physics and conduct experiments that build your knowledge around these ideas. You will become familiar with fundamental instrumentation and how specific technical innovations have advanced our fundamental knowledge of physics. Finally, you will devise methods for analyzing and presenting data, and exercise critical judgment about how well you believe measurement has advanced understanding. Your goal is to complete, over two semesters, experiments in 8 out of 10 major topic areas of physics. You can then do 2 more independently if you have caught the experimental physics “bug” and want to complete the whole decathlon: see instructors for details. You should deeply immerse yourself and find out how each major area of physics is connected to ongoing research and to applications of physics to technology. In this way, you will gain both breadth and depth in understanding the practical realization of fundamental physics in and beyond the laboratory. You will see physics as it is actually practiced in experimental research and you will build confidence that you can attend and learn from research sessions at professional physics meetings. Importantly, you will also prepare for job interviews and/or grad school applications through your personal summaries of the insights that you have learned.

Physics majors complete their undergraduate career by engaging in a senior capstone laboratory or research experience. Senior Laboratory I will help you be able to demonstrate that you can define, plan, execute, document and report a significant physics investigation or technical development project. You may work alone but you may also be part of a team, in which case an important additional learning objective is to know how to effectively work in teams – dividing effort and sharing accountability. This experience can be complimented by enrolling in Directed Research courses where you are a member of a physics professor's research team. Directed Research can lead to being part of a summer research team where you get to immerse yourself in being a scientist.

This laboratory course arc results in a Senior Thesis or Senior Project report and you presenting your work to your peers or at the CU Denver Research and Creative Activities Symposium, or at regional, national, or international professional scientific conferences. High quality senior research can lead to being a co-author on a scientific paper published in a leading scientific journal.