|The thrust of the ChemPhys lab program is to encourage students to
use data collection and analysis skills to investigate
questions that are answerable within the laboratory environment.
Throughout the course, the teacher has proposed the question;
has served as the focus of the lab. Now it's your turn.
It's your turn to ask a question and design an experimental
study that is capable of answering the question. The
273 Research project is centered around this goal - having students
design their own experimental study that is capable of answering their
is an experimental science in which ideas are formulated and tested by
experimental investigation in the laboratory. The process begins as the
researcher ponders an interesting (and often relevant) question that
can be experimentally answered. Such a question is often the result of
the experimenter's curiosity. The researcher then devises an experiment
to answer the question. The procedure is drawn up, revised, and refined
until the researcher is certain that the procedure will provide an
the question. The procedure is performed, observations are made and
recorded, data is collected and organized, experimental findings are
carefully analyzed, and conclusions are drawn. Finally, the entirety of
the process is presented in the form of a report, paper, or talk.
On occassion, the researcher searches the literature (internet, textbooks, journals, etc.) to find information pertaining to the experiment. At times, the literature search assists in the development of the question or the development of the procedure. At times, the literature search assists in developing a hypothesis or even trouble-shootinig problems with the experiment.
ChemPhys 273 research project will involve participation in
same experimental process. The steps of the process include
The project will be broken down into many
parts (see timeline)
and will ultimately take most of the quarter.
selection of a topic of study
- the search of technical literature
resources regarding the topic
- the creation of a testable question or a
development and implementation of a procedure
- the collection and
analysis of data, and
- the reporting of
In this project, you will work in a group of two or three students (from your own section) in
order to conduct a full-scale science research project. You
will begin the project in April by brainstorming potential project
ideas and finish the project in June as you hand in your final lab
report. Classtime will be provided sometime during May in
conduct the laboratory portion of the assignment. At all
times, you should make an effort to be familiar with the description of
the project as found here on this page and accompanying web pages.
Selection of a Topic and a
Perhaps one of the most critical parts of the project will be the
initial selection of a topic and the selection of a collection of lab
partners who share
a mutual enthusiasm for the same topic. Any physics or physics-related
topic would make a suitable topic of study. Nonetheless, groups
would be wise to pick topics that are closely related to units
the course. During the brainstorming stage of the project
first week), you will personally brainstorm two ideas for a project.
Eventually you will submit your ideas via a WebAssign page; the ideas
will be shared with other students in both classes. A topic idea must
be relatively specific.
you will "conduct a study of the physics of sound" is not specific
enough. You will need to propose precisely what aspect or
application of sound you will study. For instance, you might
propose that you will "analyze the effect of the seat location in the
auditorium upon the decibel level for sound which propagates from
two speakers to that particular seat location." Such a
provides sufficient enough detail to clue an individual
into precisely what application of sound that you will be focusing on.
To get you started thinking about topic ideas for your project, a page
listing several example ideas has been made available.
Keep in mind that ultimately the narrow topic you select to study will
need to take the
form of a testable question or set of questions. So as you
thinking about a topic of study, it will be important to also think
about the laboratory methods that can be used to study the particular
topic. After all, a topic may be cool
and interesting but if you cannot think of a method capable of experimentally exploring
then your testable question will not be very testable.
of the methods and/or tools that have been used in the laboratory
throughout the course have included:
lasers, optics bench, mechanical vibrators, computer-interfaced
microphones, light probes, motion detectors, force probes, low friction
track and accompanying cars, Hot Wheels equipment,
frame-by-frame video analysis, Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, Graphical
Analysis data analysis software, portable
LabQuest data collection tool and accompanying probes, Interactive
Physics modeling software, and perhaps many
When your lab group selects a narrow topic of interest,
thinks of a testable question (or set of questions) pertaining to the
topic, and identifies a set of tools and methods that allow you to
answer the question(s), then you are very close to the development of a
suitable project proposal.
Proposal (Designing a Study):
Before being permitted to begin laboratory research,
must first submit a project proposal and the proposal must be
approved. The project proposal consists of a Purpose (maybe a
and a Procedure section. The Procedure identifies the
will be used, includes a diagram of the arrangement of equipment and
other objects and describes the manner in which the equipment will be
used in order to collect data and accomplish the Purpose(s) of the
project. Finally, a short paragraph should be included in
your group describes your plan for organizing, analyzing, and
The proposal will be submitted after the
brainstorming period. The proposal should identify the names of the members
of the group, the broad topic area (e.g., waves and sound), the
narrower area of focus within that topic (e.g., acoustics of large
rooms), the Purpose(s) of the study, and a short description of
methods that will be used to collect and analyze data. The
proposal must be
submitted to your teacher by the
indicated deadline. (See Timeline.)
The teacher will read the proposal, provide feedback, suggest
equipment alternatives (where needed), and alternative ideas for data collection (if needed), If the
proposal meets the criteria for an ambitious and do-able project, then
your group will be given the green light to begin. If the
proposal is disorganized or fails to meet the criteria for an ambitious
and do-able project, then it will have to be revised and promptly
re-submitted. In some instances, it will be requested that a group
arrange a short meeting in order to clarify or discuss the proposal.
In order to be approved, the project proposal must meet the following
- It must represent an ambitious endeavor.
class days will be
devoted to the laboratory aspect of this project. Your
proposal should reflect this fact. You should plan on either
designing an extensive, multi-faceted study involving the control and
manipulation of several variables or several related smaller-scale
- In one form or another, it must be representative of
the type of work that a scientist performs.
One goal of
the laboratory aspect of
this course is to engage students in the types of activities that
scientists engage in. As such, it is intended that your
design reflect the work of scientists. Such work includes
following types of activities:
- conducting a systematic and controlled study of the
cause-effect relationship between variables.
- collecting data in an effort to determine a
mathematical relationship between two measurable quantities.
- modeling a real-world system using physical devices that operate
in a similar manner. For instance, a scientist might study the
reflective behavior of sound waves off a wall by observing the
reflective behavior of water waves in a ripple tank.
- constructing a realistic physical or digital model of
a real-world system, testing the model to determine if it provides a
realistic model of the real world system, and using the model to make
predictions about the behavior of the real-world system.
- testing the behavior of a real world system to
behavior of the system or to evaluate the claims made of the system.
Whatever tasks that your lab group proposes to do for your project, it
must be scientific; it must be the type of task that a scientist might
be found doing.
- It must be centered around a testable question.
All lab activities
in ChemPhys are
centered around a testable question. The question is usually
worded as a Purpose statement which becomes the clearest directive of
what will be done in the lab. In most labs, it is the teacher
develops the question In this project, you will be developing the
question. It must be a question that is answerable within
- It must be do-able in the classroom in the time frame that is alloted (~3 class days)
with the equipment that is available.
Your group will need
to be realistic
about what you can and cannot do with the available equipment in the
allotted time frame. You will have three full days; but you
do not have a career. You will be allotted the use of
equipment, but you do not have a professionally equipped lab.
project must be one that is conducted to a significant degree from
within the classroom; video and or audio samples can be
from outside the classroom but the project must be do-able during the three days of allotted time. If
your proposal is too
you will simply be advised to scale it down. If your proposal
suggests the use of equipment that is not available, then you will be
offered alternative options. If your proposed activity
done within the classroom environment, then it will not be
approved. And if you wish to discuss options
in advance of the completion of your proposal, then you should arrange
for a short appointment.
- Physics must be a naturally intrinsic part of the
Your study does not
to be restricted to a purely physical system; it can include
the study of an astronomical, environmental, biological, forensic or chemical
Nonetheless, it is mandatory that physics be a naturally
intrinsic part of the project. If you find that you are
to study a specific topic but are having to think real hard
physics relates to it, then it probably is not a topic that would be
product of your project will be a formal lab report which
your purpose, procedure, findings,
conclusions. Your group's grade will be based upon your ability to
conduct and communicate the results of your experiment. The formal lab
report is thus the critical document which
reflects the success of your group. The formal lab report should
the customary sections included in any lab report. Such
- Title Page
- Data and Calculations
- Discussion of Results
sections should be clearly titled and organized in the exact manner as
shown in the graphic. The graphic at the right (above) depicts the
organizational scheme that you should have and the approximate
of pages that each section might typically have. The number of pages
merely an approximation and serves to give an idea of the magnitude of
the report. The likelihood is that those groups who are doing a
thorough, quality job will exceed the number of pages listed in the
More extensive information about the formal lab report are available on
a separate page.
teacher will provide:
- timely guidance and advice to get (and keep) your
- a lengthy list of possible ideas for researchable
- an medium (WebAssign) for sharing your initial
thoughts and ideas regarding potential topics with other students.
- examples of the type of study that you are expected
- class time to work on the project.
- feedback regarding your proposed experiment,
including suggestions regarding equipment that will and will not work
available equipment and software. (Don't expect a wind tunnel or a
particle accelerator; but meter sticks, stopwatches, force
scales, and other equipment that you have seen during the course are
certainly available for use.)
- space to work on the project and space to store
reasonably-sized laboratory items.
- a set of scoring rubrics to guide your performance
and to assess your completed project.
lab group is responsible for:
- developing a plan that involves dividing up each
phase of the
project into a variety of tasks and designating certain tasks as the
responsibility of certain individuals.
- devoting yourself to your designated task and
collaborating with others regarding the results of your efforts.
- contributing to the class-wide database of ideas during
the brainstorming stages of the project (using a WebAssign page; an individual assignment).
- arranging for appointments with your teacher in
order to ask questions, receive advice, discuss difficulties and
progress, and to discuss next
well-defined and ambitious project proposal based on background reading
that includes (1) a statement of the purpose (i.e., question), (2) a
step-by-step procedure for collecting pertinent data, and (3)
clearly-defined plan for interpreting experimental data.
- providing a written request for needed equipment
(24-48 hours in advance of the need).
- a detailed and organized notebook which documents
your experimental results.
- reviewing your notebook with your teacher during
production of a single word-processed lab report which includes a
Purpose, Experimental Procedure, Data
section (with tables, graphs/charts, calculations, etc.), and a
Conclusion/Discussion of Results.
table below provides a rough
sketch of the timeline of the project.
Detailed due dates will be provided as the project proceeds.
||Thursday, April 5
Entries via a WebAssign Page
|By Thursday, April 12
|Topic Selection/ Proposal
|By Thursday, April 26
|Approval of Proposal by Instructor
||To be announced (1st or 2nd week of May)
|First day in lab
|Thursday, May 10
|Second day in lab
||Monday, May 14
|Third day in lab
|Wednesday, May 16
|Work time (for the report, etc.)
|Tuesday, May 29
|Final report due
|Thursday, May 31
The year end project consists of a variety of parts - a project
proposal (in which you develop an ambitious and testable question and
express it as a purpose and step-by-step procedure), laboratory
research (in which you perform your laboratory study, gather data,
analyze data and present the Data), and a formal lab report.
The entire project is worth several points. These
will contribute to your Physics lab grade (equivalent to
Experimental Design and Abstract (20 points)
Laboratory Research (20 points)
Data Collection, Organization and Presentation (25 pts)
Discussion of Results (25 points)
Student Observation (10 points)
Each part of the project will be graded separately. Detailed
information is available on the Scoring