PHYSICS 310: electronics and instrumentation, fall 2014

Tim Gfroerer, Davidson College



Text: Electronic Devices and Circuit Theory

Office: Dana 155, Lab: Dana 049

        Boysletad and Nashelsky, 11th edition

Phone: x2319


Class Discussion: TT 8:15 – 9:30, Dana 037

Lab: TT 12:15 – 4:00, Dana 037

Office Hours: MW 1:30 – 3:00pm and TT 9:30 – 11:00am. Questions naturally arise in the process of learning and doing physics. In fact, the really good questions are what keep physicists going. I expect you to have lots of questions and I hope that you will come by my office talk to me about them.


Course webpage:

I will post announcements, assignments, solutions, and other resources here.

Objectives: I have an MS in electrical engineering and I taught electronics last year, but this subject is broad and deep – I look forward to learning more (along with you) this semester. Fortunately, my research expertise is in the field of semiconductors, which form the basis of most modern electronic devices. Hence, we will introduce each device with a discussion of the underlying semiconductor physics. You should know that many electronics instructors adhere to a very different approach. For example, my teacher at Georgia Tech (Electrical Engineering Professor Kendall Su) thought that "the treatment of devices (should be) confined to qualitative descriptions and terminal characteristics." But this is a physics class, and I am a semiconductor physicist! So we will examine what is happening inside the devices, perhaps at the expense of covering the breadth of topics that might otherwise be possible. We will finish the course with an exploration of photovoltaic cells and digital circuits – two practical examples of how diodes and transistors are used today. In particular, we seek to cover the following topics:

Semiconductors, Diodes, and Applications

Chapters 1 and 2

Bipolar Junction Transistors, DC Biasing, and AC Analysis

Chapters 3 - 5

Field Effect Transistors, Biasing, and Amplifiers

Chapters 6 - 9

Operational Amplifiers and Applications

Chapters 10 and 11

Solar Cells and Photovoltaic Systems

Section 16.4

Digital Circuits (Hands-On Electronics eBook)

Chapters 10 and 11

Class Discussion: Attendance at and participation in class discussions are critical for learning new physics.  Reading the relevant sections before class will definitely facilitate this part of the learning process.  The College’s 25% rule on attendance will be in effect. 


Laboratory: The centerpiece of this course is the lab, where you will build and test a wide variety of circuits. We will use the laboratory manual that accompanies our text as a guide. Laboratory attendance is very important because I will be readily available to help you solve any problems that you may encounter. You can record your results and observations directly in the lab manual, noting any discrepancies in the margins. It is important for you to realize that the manual can be rather "cookbook" at times. Hence, to ensure your mastery of the material, it is incumbent upon you to think about what you are doing! Always begin your report with your name and the date and time of your work. Dates recorded in the lab manual must be the dates on which the entries are made. You are encouraged to discuss your findings when taking data and analyzing your results but you may not copy work from one another. The main goal of this laboratory is to test your understanding and gain practical experience with the devices that we study. You will also be introduced to the kinds of circuits in which the devices are employed. Tuesday lab work is due by 9am on Friday and Thursday lab work is due by 12:15pm on the following Tuesday.


Seminar Attendance: Seminars broaden your scientific perspective and show you how physics is being used in the world beyond Davidson.  Attendance at all physics seminars is required.


Reviews and Final Project: We will have 2 open-book, open-notes in-class reviews, tentatively scheduled for 10/9 and 11/20. Consulting reviews or solutions from any previous offering of Physics 310 is an honor code violation. The final project will involve building, testing, and explaining a digital circuit of our choosing.



Labwork and Seminar Attendance


2 Reviews


Digital Project