The University of St. Thomas


NSF-ILI Grant #DUE-9651386

The Introduction of Time-of-Flight and Coincidence Techniques into the Undergraduate Physics Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Marty Johnston
Award Dates: 1996-1998
Award Amount: $19,401

This project strengthens the upper-division physics laboratory program by introducing fast-timing techniques and their applications using state-of-the-art equipment. Event timing is central to a wide range of experiments in atomic, optical, nuclear, and surface physics. Because of this, it is important to incorporate these techniques, and the instrumentation they require, into the undergraduate physics curriculum. To accomplish this goal, the department is introducing two new labs: High Resolution, Low Energy Electron Scattering Cross Section Measurements Using Time-of-Flight Techniques and g-g Coincidence Angular Correlation Studies of 22Na. Both of the experiments require complex timing instrumentation that illustrates the basics of fast-timing techniques with standard equipment used in research and industry. Students are exposed to a variety of technologies: high vacuum, NIM modules, multichannel analyzers, pulse height and time-delay discrimination, charged particle optics, and g-ray detection. A modular approach to the instrumentation allows for the performance of a variety of experiments. By simulating research and industrial environments, this approach gives students useful and practical experience to draw on when they begin their careers. Project dissemination efforts include the American Journal of Physics and American Association of Physics Teachers meetings. Details of experimental procedures will be placed on the Department's World Wide Web homepage. To assess long-term impact, graduates will be surveyed annually for 5 years, with an emphasis on usefulness of skills and techniques acquired in upper-division laboratory experiments.