Physikpraktikum für D-HEST

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  • Einführungs-VL: Dienstag, 19. September, 8:00 Uhr - 9:30 Uhr, HIL E 9
  • Praktikumstermine: Dienstags, 26.9.2023 - 19.12.2023, jeweils 07:45 - 11:30 Uhr


Die Einführungsverantaltung findet am ersten Dienstag des Semesters, am 19.9.2023 am Morgen statt. Die Folien der Einführungsveranstaltung finden Sie hier (Version 13. September 2023).


Das Praktikum findet im H-, J- und K-Stock des HPP-Gebäudes statt. Der Helpdesk befindet sich im HPP J 14.

Detaillierte Informationen zum Physikpraktikum (English)

General Structure

You will perform 6 experiments throughout the semester. One of these experiments should be a "remote experiment" where you perform the experiment not in a lab, but at home (or any other place which suits you). The focus of this remote experiment is on report writing. Since you build the setup yourself, you have to carefully describe it, such that the supervising assistant can understand what exactly you did, and how you did it. All experiments can be chosen freely.

During each half-day that you spend in the lab, you will perform one experiment in a group of two. You have to prepare for the experiment in advance, and you will document your steps and settings during the experiment. The measured data have to be analysed, including an estimation of their uncertainties. In the end, you have to write a report summarizing and discussing the most important data and results.

You have to sign up for an experiment at least 2 days (=48 hrs) in advance. You do this online via our Webtool. Use your nETHZ-credentials to log in.

Since you have to conduct the experiment and write the report as a group of two, register together with a colleague of yours and agree on which experiments you want to perform when. Formally, you are not required to always work with the same person, but there are several advantages to that.

Signing up for an Experiment

Signing up for an experiment happens online via our Webtool. Lab space reservation will be possible after the introductory sessions. You have to be enrolled via myStudies in order to be able to log in to our webtool. Keep in mind that there is a 48-hour deadline to register or de-register for experiments.

Before you can sign up for regular experiments, you have to register for the "Sicherheitstest" (lab safety test). You do this as if it were an experiment, and you have to pass the safety test on Moodle in order to pass the "Sicherheitstest". See below in the section "Safety".


After you successfully registered for an experiment, you have to thoroughly prepare yourself. Start by carefully reading the manual, and eventually further documents (available on the physics lab web page). The manual gives an overview of the underlying physical context. This is followed by a list of the tasks and a detailed description of how to carry out the experiment with the setup.

Please make sure you know what you want to measure, how you measure it, and what results you expect from the measurements! It is a well-known secret that you will probably not discover some new laws of physics in the lab course. Rather, you will measure effects and quantities that have been measured many times before and are well-known. Thus, it is all the more important that you know how the expected results should look like. That way you avoid performing long measurement chains without noticing that something is wrong (e.g. forgot to turn on a heater, read the wrong scale, ...).

Summary and formulary
Besides reading the manual, every single student is requested to bring his or her own summary of the experiment. This means you may not write the summary together with your colleague, nor are you allowed to copy passages from somewhere else.

Plagiarism is a serious offense and not tolerated at ETH. Familiarize yourself about plagiarism. This also applies for the written report! Please note that we are aware of the newly developped artificial tools such as ChatGPT. These tools can be useful, but we warn you from blindly using them or letting them do your work. for every submitted piece of work with your name on it, you are liable. We are advised to ensure that you understood what you have written, and we will ask you in discussions in case of doubts.

The focus of the summary should be put on the experimental procedure, i.e., try to answer questions like “What will be measured, and how?” or “Why do we need to measure that quantity?”. The theoretical background is of minor importance for the summary. Additionally, you also have to compile a formulary, where all the important and necessary formulas are listed. Do not forget the formulas which you need for the error propagation. Having a good and complete formulary will save you a lot of time. A sample summary can be found on the physics lab website.

Before you start with your experiment, there has to be a small discussion with the assistant where you might be asked some basic questions to your experiment. Of course, if you do have questions or are not sure whether you understood everything correctly, then please ask the assistant. To goal of a thorough preparation is not to increase the work load for you. On contrary, you will be more efficient during the experiment, thus you profit more and the risk for frustrating experiences is smaller.
If an assistant has reasons to think you are not prepared well, she/he is advised to send you home and you have to come back at another day!

Conducting an Experiment

Before you start with a measurement, make sure you know the apparatus and its parts. In case you doubt – the assistant is the first person to ask. Make sure you know about the safety issues of your experiment. What could potentially be dangerous? Which step is critical? Do you know how to safely operate the apparatus?

After you are confident how to perform the experiment, you carry out the steps as described in the manual. It is not allowed to misuse the apparatus for other purposes than the manual suggests, and no modifications must be made without the explicit consent of the assistant. All electrical circuits have to be checked by the assistant before you turn them on. This is to protect you, as well as the equipment.

Again – think before you do! Some experiments take a while until they reach equilibrium, or you have to perform several consecutive measurements. Do not waste your time in the lab waiting for something to cool down because you turned on the heating too early!


Learning how to write scientific reports is a tedious and time-consuming task. It will require many attempts, and the physics lab is a good place to start your training. It is normal that you struggle in the beginning - everybody has to learn it. Do not give up but try to improve your reports gradually according to the corrections and suggestions of the assistants. The reports will be graded by the assistants within one week after you had to hand them in. The report should be written in English. If the supervising assistant is fluent in German, you might write the summary and the report in German.

On the course website about reports, you find useful information about statistics and error propagation, about the minimal requirements for a report, or we give you a template in LaTeX, a popular typesetting program.

Your report should resemble already a “real” scientific publication. This means that the style and the content of the report is as described in the report template which you find on the course website. Try to write a concise yet complete report. As a goal, try to aim for 3-5 pages (the typical length of short peer-reviewed publications in physics). Include in the report also your measurement results and all the necessary formulas to obtain your final results. Usually, it is advisable to put tables, lengthy calculations and derivations in an appendix.

Emphasis is put on data analysis and error calculation. We provide a short scriptum with the most important concepts summarized, as well as exercise sheets, Jupyter notebooks and podcasts on the page about reports. It is expected that you go through this material yourself, and in case of questions you can always ask your supervising assistant.

As a benchmark number for the time we expect you to spend on average per experiment, we take the number of ECTS. This results in about 10 hrs per experiment, including the report.

Handing in the report and corrections
We expect that you hand in the report within one week after you performed the experiment. In exceptional cases (sickness or similar), please send a mail to the supervising assistant and inform her/him about the delay, and when you intend to hand in the report.

The assistant will then correct your report within one week, and will hand it back with possibily corrections you are required to implement. Please correct the report in timely manner, as otherwise the number of unfinished reports to be written in parallel will become large.



In general "everything is safe" in the physics lab. Nevertheless, certain rules must be obeyed. Knowledge of "safety in the lab" is part of the training, and not a chicane. Keep in mind that safety is about YOU, in order that nothing happens to YOU. Thus, even if certain measures seem exaggerated to you - it is better to put on protective goggles too many times than splashing chemicals in your eyes.

Before you are allowed to perform the experiments you have to thoroughly read this page and the safety introduction. The linked PDF summarizes the most basic points of "Safety in the laboratory".

After the introductory events you must pass a safety test. In order to do so, you have to register via webtool for the test "Safety test in the physics lab", as if it were a regular experiment. The test takes place in Moodle , and can be repeated once. After you have passed the test, you can register for the regular experiments.

Each time you register for an experiment, you have to accept the general terms and conditions (GTC) in the webtool. With this you confirm that you:

  • Have read all the information on this page and on the slides of the safety introduction
  • Have understood all the information you have read
  • Will follow the rules and guidelines

Otherwise you are not allowed to perform any experiments! In case of doubts or if something is unclear, please contact the helpdesk (HPP J 14) or any assistant.

The document Risk Assessment summarizes for every experiment in the lab course the possible risks and dangers, and shows how to mitigate them. It is recommended to read this document before an experiment.