Physics Instructional Resources Lab
@ MIT Physics

The Physics Instructional Resources Lab (PIRL) provides support for undergraduate physics education at MIT.
This role is also shared by other entities in the Physics Education Group (PEG) including the Helena Foundation Junior Physics Laboratory and Physics Residential and Online Learning Lab (PROLL) which is also a subset of the MITx Online Digital Learning Lab.
PIRL was formerly known as the Technical Services Group (TSG), Lecture Demo Group (LDG), or Physics Demo Group (PDG).


All MIT students must receive credit for 8.01 (Classical Mechanics) and 8.02 (Electricity and Magnetism) in order to satisfy the General Institute Requirements (GIRs).
A portion of students receive prior credit for 8.01 due to scores on exams (AP, IB, international equivalents). Another portion receive credit for 8.01 and/or 8.02 through Advanced Standing Exams (ASEs) or transfer credit.
The remaining majority attend our introductory physics classes.

We support these versions of 8.01:

We support these versions of 8.02: We also provide support for 8.03: Some typical enrollments for Fall/Spring:
8.01: 600/0
8.012: 50/0
8.01L: 100/0
8.02: 150/700
8.022: 40/40
8.03: 70/50

We have supported historical and experimental courses with numbers like 8.01C, 8.01X, 8.011, 8.013, 8.02C, 8.02X, 8.021, 8.023, 8.033, and 8.04. The historic course progression through the 1970s included a number of thermodynamics, optics, and atomic physics demos in these intro classes.
We also support the Physics Pre-Orientation Program, the Cambridge Science Festival, MIT Museum visits, open houses, and one-off lectures.

History and Footprint

Prior to the opening of building 6C, TSG was housed in 4-309.

Our storage footprint spans about 8800 square feet of MIT.
Our primary workspace spans 6C-207 and its child rooms 6C-207A/B/CA/CAA/CB/6C-207CC/CD/F/G.
Historically, 8.01 and 8.02 lectures were held in 26-100, so we have storage below in 26-001/26-001M, 26-003/26-003B, and 26-002.
Now, with lecture classes in 6-120, we store demos in 6-114 (known as 6-116 before a wall was knocked down a few decades ago and soon to once again be known as 6-116 once a new wall is installed).
For TEAL classes in 26-152, we have storage in 26-160.
For TEAL classes in 32-082, we have storage in 32-082C/32-082CA along with the closets 32-085A/B/C.
We also have shops for academic use by faculty/staff in 6-210 and 6-212 - as well as the Physics Student Machine Shop in 6-214 which is staffed intermittently.

Notable Collections

Our Faraday Cage demo uses a large Van de Graaff generator built by Professor Van de Graaff himself.

We have a Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company spark gap transmitter from circa 1901. Allegedly, it is the same model as was on the Titanic.

At least one of our large electromagnets predates MIT's move from Boston to Cambridge in 1916.

A number of our devices were manufactured locally by General Radio on Massachusetts Avenue. GenRad invented the "5-way" binding post, the variac, the oven-controlled crystal oscillator, the first tube-based RC oscillator, the decade capacitor boxes used in the first superheterodyne radio broadcast system, and, with MIT Professor Doc Edgerton, the Strobotac. Other disputed inventions include the banana plug.

We also have a number of films, transcripts, and guides relating to the work of the Physical Science Study Committee (PSSC). The project, which began at MIT in 1956, attempted to reform physics education by emphasizing principles and hands-on activities like demos and labs. The project, the first cirricular program funded by the National Sciece Foundation, eventually grew into the video production company Educational Services Inc. (ESI) which then became the non-profit Education Development Center (EDC). At its peak, the PSSC curriculum was used in over half of US physics classrooms.


Group Manager
Joshua Wolfe
Group Members
Caleb Bonyun
Christopher Miller
Rosie Anderson
Quinn Brodsky
Former Members
Gladys VĂ©lez Caicedo
Andy Neely
Rishi Lohar
Amelia Nishimura
Kay Lowden
Matt Strafuss
Alex Shvonski
Eli Sidman
Bil Sanford
Dan Kelleher
Charles Bosse
Colin Marcus
Beth Roberts
Markos Hankin
Patrick Ragsdale
Adam Reynolds
Megan McHugh
Zachary Rouse
Matthew Meehan
Guy Pollard
Ryan Sar
Robert MacLeod
Charles A. Forte
Robert Mark Bessette
Charles McMillan
Robert Crowley
Thomas White