Freshman Seminar 24k:
Building a Scanning Tunneling Microscope

Instructor: Jenny Hoffman, Assistant Professor of Physics
Catalog number: 0624
To be offered in spring 2005.
Time: 1-4pm, Tues & Thurs
(1st hour lecture/discussion, followed by 2 hrs lab)
Location: Science Center 305 (presentations in 304)

Course Description

     The aim of this seminar is to teach students who are considering careers in science or engineering the skills necessary to build a complicated piece of scientific equipment from start to finish. Small groups of 3-4 students will be given guidance to build a scanning tunneling microscope from simple materials. The scanning tunneling microscope (STM), which earned its 1982 inventors the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physics, was the first tool which allowed scientists to "see" individual atoms. Through the construction of an STM, students in this seminar will learn mechanical skills such as metal machining and vibration isolation; electronic skills such as soldering and wiring a current amplifier, filters, and a feedback circuit; and software skills such as communication with a data acquisition board, and programming image analysis. More broadly speaking, students will be introduced to engineering and design, laboratory teamwork and resource management, and the debugging and trouble-shooting skills necessary for success in the laboratory. The class will also read one weekly paper on current research related to scanning probe microscopy, and each student will present one paper to the rest of the class.

How-To Links

Parts Links

STM parts:




Reading List

Undergraduate STM construction:

Useful STM construction papers:

The original STM invention:

General Articles:

Misc. Practical Stuff:


Freshman seminar will be offered in Spring 2005.
If interested, please contact Prof. Hoffman at