Physics 119 Waves & Optics Lab

Course Structure

There are two parts to the lab course: (1) the In-Class Experiment (or lab session), and (2) the online homework. Passage of both parts is required to pass the lab course, and both contribute to your final lab grade.

In-Class Experiment

Each In-Class experiment is worth 10 points, adding up to 80 points for 8 labs.

The lab period lasts for 1 hour and 50 minutes (longer in Summer). You will work with one lab partner (or occasionally, two) and collect data, perform calculations and answer questions that you will record in the in your lab manual.

You should bring the following to the lab session:

As you do the experiment, you will need to get the TA to initial various boxes that verify you have learned the most important parts of the exercises. Finally, at the end of the lab session, the TA will initial the front page of the instructions and record your satisfactory completion of the In-Class experiment. You must have the TA's final initials in order to get credit for the lab. The in-class part will be graded "credit/no-credit."

Take the completed lab manual and data with you; you will need them in order to complete the online post-lab.

Online Homework

The online homework is split into two types of assignments: Pre-Labs, which are worth 5 points, and Post-Labs which are worth 7 points. There is also a quiz due at the end of the first week that covers various lab policies worth 4 points. The total points for the online homework is 100 (8 Pre-Labs, 8 Post-Labs and 1 quiz). The online homework should take you about 1 hour/week to complete.


The Pre-Lab homework is designed to give you some experience thinking about the physics theory that the experiment will study and in some cases an introduction to the apparatus. To complete it, log on to your WebAssign and read or view the Pre-Lab material, which may be a PDF document that you download, pages in your lab manual, or video lessons. Then, work the WebAssign problem sets that come with the Pre-Lab. These problem sets will give you some practice with lab calculations and related theoretical topics.


After you have finished the in-class experiment and had the TA initial your papers, you may do the online post-lab assignment on WebAssign.

The post-lab questions are of the following types:

  1. Reporting of data and analysis. You will be asked to enter some data values that you took during the in-class session. This will require merely copying your results into the spaces in the question. For analysis done on the data, you may want to double-check your calculation to make sure you haven't made a mistake. In these cases, WebAssign will run the calculation that you should have done with your data.

    The purpose of these questions is to assess whether you did the correct procedures in the lab. Some parts of the questions may grade the quality of the data set itself, and other parts may grade the calculations and analysis you did with your data, regardless of its quality. Thus, it is possible to get data marked "incorrect" but the analysis marked "correct," or vice-versa.
  2. Analysis tasks based on typical data. For example, a question might show a graph that would be found in a similar experiment, and you would be asked to read the graph and calculate a quantity in a way that you did in the lab.
  3. Conceptual questions concerning the experiment or related theory. Many of these will be multiple-choice or multiple-select (that is, possibly more than one correct answer.)