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Peltier heat pump, Maxwell’s wheel and error analysis. These terms mean nothing to most new students at first. The physics beginner internship (AP) at the University of Basel provides a remedy and offers students of nanosciences and physics an initial insight into experimental activities and scientific work. You can read here how you can best prepare for a smooth internship:

You should know beforehand that the AP is divided into two parts: AP I and AP II. AP I is compulsory for students of nanosciences and physics, however AP II is only compulsory for physicists and optional for all others.

The aim of the beginner's internship is to get an initial “feel” for physical processes in addition to important core competencies such as writing scientific papers. We are talking about three essential points of view:

  • Accurate observations and the recording of these observations: A protocol is therefore created for every attempt that is completed.
  • Scientifically correct quantification of measurement results and observations: An important tool for this is error analysis.
  • Gathering experience: Experience can only be gained through hard work in order to be able to carry out experiments confidently and independently in the future.

Basic know-how
The first point of contact for everyone who has just started their studies or has some catching up to do is the website for the beginner's internship. There you will find everything you need: experiments, materials, regulations and also a contact page. It is advisable to familiarize yourself with the dates at the beginning of the semester. At the first sessions there are small introductions to statistical programs and the general process, which make a lot of things easier.

The sequence
From a pool of 36 attempts, 10 attempts are allocated to each part of the internship to be completed. The experiment instructions with additional literature lists are available here.

After independently working on the theory, a small meeting follows at the beginning of the internship day, during which it is checked whether the students have enough competence through self-acquisition to be able to carry out the experiment. As soon as minor problems have been resolved and the supervisor considers the students to be suitable, the experiment can begin.

In advance you have to consider where possible sources of error are located. This is elementary for error analysis later. Then the experiment is carried out. Measurement data must be recorded manually (and can also be recorded digitally).

After completion of the experiment and subsequent cleaning of the workplace, the day of the internship is over and the evaluation of the experiment follows. This is done by creating a protocol.

Scientific papers are written in LaTeX (pronounced LateCH). LaTeX is a programming language that makes it easier to enter formulas, etc. Even musical notes can be written using a plug-in in LaTeX! It is highly recommended that you familiarize yourself with this environment right from the start. A LaTeX template and a sample protocol can be found on the website.

I recommend the program to youTexmaker, because it is platform-independent and also very accessible.

Another important tool are Online tablemaker, because tables can cause problems, especially for beginners.

The statistics
A statistical analysis program is required for the actual evaluation. While there are quite a few programs out there, OriginPro is a good choice for beginners. Operation is very easy thanks to the clean and user-friendly interface. This program can be found on the website of the University Computer Center and as a student at the University of Basel you can purchase a license free of charge.

The finished protocols are uploaded directly to the beginner's internship website. After everything has been approved and (errors) corrected, the attempt is ended and the next attempt follows. If necessary, an additional internship can be completed, in which one can deepen what has been learned in further attempts. A further deepening of experimental basics takes place in the advanced internship, which offers even more up-to-date experiments.

The stress is worth it
The internship can be a bit time-consuming and sometimes stressful at the beginning, but it is a good basis for getting an early insight into scientific work. You learn to make precise and relevant statements. In addition, you deepen the knowledge of the lecture and get a certain gut feeling for physical processes.

Personally, I really liked the internship, precisely because it included a lot of historically relevant experiments that were carried out more or less with the same equipment in the past.


More about the physics course at the University of Basel

Danial Chughtai

The attempt to achieve absolute knowledge led Danial Chughtai to study physics. He notices that this project is doomed to failure, especially at seven in the evening - with the fourth cup of coffee. When he's not listening to a new album, getting lost in someone else's lectures, or thinking about switching to tea, he's busy getting his selection of clothes up to scratch. He likes to amuse himself with the simple things in life; if need be, on a road trip across Europe.