Senior Project Guidelines

Physics Senior Project

Guidelines for the student

As stated in the catalogue, the senior project “is not a mere report or semester paper, but a significant piece of independent study, research, or creative work.” The physics department views the senior project as a capstone that offers students the opportunity to advance their intellectual development to the next level and prepare them for the future, whether that be in graduate school or the broader workplace.  Working independently and consistently are necessary but not sufficient conditions for the completion of a successful senior project.  In addition, students should work to

  • understand the broader context and motivation of the project
  • evaluate and follow the literature, while developing the ability to focus on the relevant papers and sections of papers
  • integrate knowledge from prior coursework

For two semester senior projects, student efforts should be focused in the first semester on introductory material, preliminary results, and plans for future work, while the second semester should emphasize results and interpretation.  It should be noted that all responsibility for the senior project lies with the student.  The advisor is an important part of the process, but the student should not expect to wait upon the advisor to issue directives.  Instead, the advisor should be viewed as an expert resource from whom guidance about specific research issues may be obtained.

In addition, students are expected to attend Senior Seminar, typically scheduled for Friday afternoons. This includes students who are conducting their senior research under the guidance of a faculty member outside the Physics Department, as well students who are double majors and are fulfilling the senior project for both departments. Senior Seminar is a time for students to share their research with other students in the Physics Department. The Senior Seminar instructor guides the students through the preparation of materials for oral and written presentation and is responsible for 10% of each student’s grade.

Grades may be withheld until the student properly attends to his/her laboratory space, including properly storing all samples, disposing of waste, and cleaning equipment.

 Schedule and deadlines

 First semester:

  • Proposal due by the end of the sixth full week
    • informal presentation/discussion
    • skeleton/outline of project with bibliography (~2-3 pages)
  • Progress report due by the end of the 11th full week
    • oral presentation
    • first version of paper to first and second reader
    • final version of paper due by the end of the last full week

 Second semester:

  • Roundtable progress report to first and second reader by end of 5th full week
  • Senior project due by the end of the 10th full week
    • oral presentation
    • paper
  • Final bound version of paper due by end of 12th week

Written work and oral presentations

Written work in first semester:
Recommended format:

  • Introduction and Background: includes previous work in field
  • Theory
  • Methodology / Experimental Plan
  • Preliminary Results
  • Future Work
  • References: It is expected that the vast majority of references will be from peer reviewed sources.

 Oral presentation in first semester:

  • Follow format of written paper
  • ~10-15 slides for a ~15-20 minute presentation, plus questions
  • Numbering slides can be helpful

Written work in second semester:
Recommended format:

  • Abstract Introduction and Background
  • Theory
  • Methodology / Experimental Plan
  • Results and Analysis
  • Conclusion and Discussion
  • References: It is expected that the vast majority of references will be from peer reviewed sources.

Three copies of the written work should be bound after corrections from the oral have been incorporated.

Oral presentation in second semester:

  • Follow format of written paper
  • Numbering slides can be helpful
  • ~15-20 slides for a ~25-30 minute presentation
  • Up to ~25 minutes of questions.