FAQ on the teaching labs for demonstrators and tutors

Physics Teaching Laboratory Manager (PTLM)
Head of Lab (HoL)

How are tutors informed of student progress in the lab?

Tutors are emailed in the vacation and in week 5 of each term with a computer-generated progress report. You can log on to our database (see next question) at any time to check student records. Please keep the PTLM informed of any student problems with lab work.

How can I get a computer account to mark students or view the progress of students in my college?

Email Physics IT support explaining that you are a tutor/demonstrator in college/lab x and that you need an account on the lab database.

How are demonstrators recruited?

Most demonstrator recruitment takes place in the summer before each academic year starts. Postgraduate students and postdocs (junior demonstrators) are emailed and asked to sign up via an online spreadsheet by the PTLM. There is no interview process and it is rare for volunteers not to be accommodated. If you want to start demonstrating in the middle of the academic year, contact PTLM to see if there are any vacancies. Senior demonstrators are usually recruited by the Head of Teaching.

How do I get paid?

Before you undertake any work you MUST take your passport to Physics HR who will complete a right to work check, and give you new starter forms to complete. You will NOT be allowed to do ANY work or training until this is done.

Your presence in the lab will be recorded and you will be paid at the end of each month based on these records. You will be asked to confirm the hours worked and any adjustments will be made to the next payment.

I would like to become a demonstrator, but I am not based in the Physics Department. What should I do?

Contact the PTLM, Dr Jenny Barnes with a CV or a brief description of your background. We can usually accommodate external demonstrators with the right skills. You will need to provide proof of right to work in the UK and become registered as a visitor to the Physics Department.

What training is provided for new demonstrators?

Junior demonstrators must attend the teaching laboratory for familiarisation with the experiments for about two working days, normally in week -1 of MT. They must then attend the graduate course on Preparation for Learning and Teaching which includes a lecture on laboratory teaching and an opportunity to practise demonstrating in the lab. Payment can be claimed for time spent training. Senior demonstrators are expected to put in a similar amount of time training, and are welcome to attend the lab-specific part of this training session. Any demonstrators may come to the lab between 9am and 5pm on any weekday to work on the experiments, by arrangement with the lab technicians. The computer room should always be open in office hours but if you cannot access it please contact a technician.

I am a demonstrator and I’d like some extra cash/experience. What other work is available?

We often need people to work in the vacations on new/improving experiments and/or working on experiment scripts. Contact the PTLM to see if there are any opportunities.

I am a new head of lab – what do I need to do?

You are responsible for staffing the lab with demonstrators by contacting them before the start of each term to arrange a schedule. Usually at least one senior demonstrator is expected to be present for each shift (this is compulsory in nuclear physics and strongly recommended in all other labs except for computing). You can expect to be provided with a list of demonstrators but you are welcome to recruit more if you wish. You should usually include yourself in the rota as a senior demonstrator, but in some labs with enough other seniors the HoL does not do a regular shift. If there are problems with demonstrators during the lab classes you may be required to step in at short notice. Ideally you will work with the lab staff and junior demonstrators to improve the experiments throughout the year. You should submit any requests for equipment or substantial technical work to the PTLM. You are also a member of the Practical Course Committee which meets on Wednesday of 3rd week of each term from 09:30 - 10:30.

I am a new senior demonstrator – what do I need to do?

You will be scheduled by the HoL (refer to question above) to do an average of one three hour session per week in your lab. When demonstrating you are expected to take a particular lead on timekeeping and safety and guide the junior demonstrators as well as the students. If there is a fire alarm or emergency you will be in charge, so please make sure you know what to do.

Which labs run in which terms and on which days?

Unless stated below, all labs run during lab hours. Lab hours are 10:00-17:00.

Year Michaelmas (Oct-Dec) Hilary (Jan-Mar) Trinity (Apr-Jun)
First Thursdays and Fridays weeks 3-8 (weeks 1-2 introductory sessions (Data analysis + Electronics + Computing)) Thursdays and Fridays weeks 1-6 Thurs-Fri weeks 7-8 are catch up weeks Some marking can be done in week 1 but not after Thursday 17:00.
Second Mondays and Tuesdays weeks 1 - 8 (all labs except Computing and Electronics which only runs in weeks 3 - 8) Mondays and Tuesdays weeks 1-8 (Computing only) weeks 1-8 (Electronics only) Mondays and Tuesdays weeks 3-4 plus assessed practicals in week 6.
Third Mondays and Tuesdays weeks 1 - 8 N/A Mondays and Tuesdays weeks 1-4. Assessed practicals run concurrently.

Where can I find a script for an experiment?

You can find scripts here.

I would like to share information on practicals with other demonstrators.

We have a Demonstrator Canvas Course to share demonstrator notes – please contact the PTLM if you don’t have access to this course

I have found a mistake in a practical script. What should I do?

Tell someone such as a technician, the head of lab or PTLM. Mistakes can often be corrected instantly.

I have a great idea for a new practical.

Discuss your ideas with a technician, the head of lab or PTLM.

I think experiment X could be greatly improved with the purchase of widget Y.

Discuss your idea with the technical staff and/or the PTLM, who is responsible for the budget.

A piece of equipment has broken in the lab.

Tell a technician. Do not attempt to repair it yourself.

I made a mistake on the computer system when marking a student.

Contact the PTLM who can correct it. It’s best to deal with this promptly as it can cause serious problems if student records are incorrect.

The students are taking forever to finish their experiment.

The lab shuts at 17:00. Please try to organise the class during the day so that people leave promptly, for example by reminding them where they should have got to at certain times, or suggesting they have now spent long enough on one section. If this doesn't work, you can mark the students another time. Try to avoid sending students back to the lab to finish off, as it is not always possible to fit them in. Students can be marked if they do not finish the practical as long as they have made a reasonable attempt at it – demonstrator discretion can be used in the case of delays caused by technical faults, etc.

I suspect a student has plagiarised their lab report.

Try and find out more about the incident, carefully. If it is clear that there is an issue, please explain gently but clearly to the student that plagiarism is not acceptable and ask them to rewrite it in their own words. If you are not sure what to do, don't sign off the student’s work, and then consult a senior demonstrator or the PTLM.

I am meant to be demonstrating this morning but I am running late or feeling ill.

Tell someone. If it’s likely you can’t make it, please email other demonstrators to arrange a swap or the PTLM

How are lab reports marked for 1st years?

Students upload their work to the Prelim Practical Canvas course, then marking might be completely online or students might sign up for a marking slot on Canvas and come to the labs for feedback. The mark scheme (which can be found in within the Prelims practical course) is the same as for the practicals and 0.5 days credit is awarded per report for the practical code with the suffix r e.g. OP01r.

How do the assessed practicals work for 2nd/3rd years?

2nd years have a practical assigned to them and they discuss it with a demonstrator, with their logbook, during a short (e.g. 7min) appointment in week 6 of Trinity. 3rd years can choose a practical to write up and they discuss it with a demnonstrator during a 15 minute appointment that they sign up for during the Trinity sessions of their lab, bringing a short 1 page report with them and their logbook to inform marking. Appointments are first come first served. In both cases marks are given by a senior demonstrator for knowledge of the assessed practical and for the overall quality of the logbook. Mark schemes and sheets are provided to those involved.

How do third year mini projects work?

Students are booked in for two consecutive weeks as e.g. BP01mp. In the first week they do the “standard” practical and are marked for it as usual with the standard practical code e.g. BP01. In the second two weeks they carry out the more open-ended project extension. Demonstrators should provide help for the project part when needed, but no assessment. (Reports on the mini project are marked by college tutors). Student FAQs can be found within the Part B Practicals Canvas course. Further information can also be found on the Teaching Faculty Matters page.

Useful contacts

Role Current position holder
Physics Teaching Laboratory Manager (PTLM) Jenny Barnes
Senior Technician Jeff Lidgard
IT support support@teaching.physics.ox.ac.uk

Useful links
Student FAQ
Demonstrator payment form