Integration of Laboratories and Computation within the Lecture Physics Courses

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AAPT Summer Meeting


The interplay between theory and experiments is central to physics. However, theory and experiments are taught separately: the theory is covered in lecture courses, while experimental skills are taught in advanced lab courses. We report on our efforts to integrate labs into core courses [Modern Physics, Electricity and Magnetism, Thermal Physics, Solid State Physics], to better convey to students the connection between experiment, computation and theory. We incorporate several experiments per course as a minor component of a predominantly lecture based curriculum. The experiments teach students crucial laboratory skills (such as design, critical analysis of experiments, error analysis), which are rarely developed in "cookbook" style introductory labs. Computer lab projects helping students understand the physics concepts by using graphs and animations are also incorporated. This gives students modeling skills by showing them how to set and solve complex problems that cannot be solved at the blackboard or on paper.