The principle of science is the following: the test of all knowledge is experiment. Experiment is the sole judge of scientific truth. - R.P.Feynman
The Physics Teaching Labs are where undergraduates come to carry out experimental work as part of their degree course. It is situated in the Denys Wilkinson Building (DWB). The Physics Practical Course is compulsory for all our students, and is designed to develop the skills necessary to perform experiments in physics, to acquire an experience of the methods used and analysis needed in experimental physics and to develop an appreciation of the importance of experiments in the development of physics.
Experimental physicists discovered the fundamental science behind the technology that allows you to read this web page.
Nobel-prize winning discoveries such as the electron (JJ Thomson, 1906), the development of the transistor (Shockley, Bardeen and Brattain, 1956), and giant magnetoresistance (Fert and Grundberg, 2007) are all examples of physics experiments which have led to the development of modern electronics and computer systems.
Additionally, many of the most iconic images and concepts of our age follow directly from the insight and ingenuity of experimental physicists. Measurements of the cosmic microwave background radiation, and the speed of light, have been used to support the most famous theoretical work, giving a deep understanding of how our universe works.
Our labs teach physics students to develop the basic experimental skills that are the building blocks of becoming a professional physicist. Physicists who ultimately end up working in theory or modelling will learn to appreciate the importance of experiments in testing and validating scientific theories.
All our students are trained in valuable transferable skills through practical work, such as team work, problem solving and verbal and written communication. These are vital for any career, whether in science or not.
The Oxford University Physics Teaching Labs provide about 150 separate experiments that cater for the needs of around 600 undergraduates doing on average a day in the lab every week, plus project work. Outside University terms we participate in the Department's active visitor and outreach programme. There are six members of staff dedicated to maintaining, developing and improve the labs and undergraduate training in practical physics.