Dr. Wragg's phys419-01 - Research Seminar - Spring 2019

(minor adjustments ongoing)

Wednesday, 8:00-8:50, room 363 RITA

Dr. Jeff Wragg
Office: 335 RITA
Office Hours: W & R 10:00 - 10:50    → But come by any time
phone: 843-953-5781
email link or send me an anonymous web-based email



Textbook: none

There is a comprehensive overview of the senior research project and propoosal process in section 3.5 of the Department Handbook for Students, which is frequently updated and available from the department home page.

Pre- or co-requisite: phys370 or astr377

Final Exam Period: Wednesday, 1 May 2019, 8-11am. Final oral presentations to be given at that time.

This course serves several purposes. An important one is the production of your phys420 research proposal (or some of you will do a 499 proposal). Other things to do include developing a sense of professional identity, discussing scientific and professional ethics, learning about grant funding, and the peer review process for grants and publications, gaining information about job hunting and graduate school application, resume preparation, and research seminar attendance. You are expected to diligently apply yourself, since it is your future you are working for.

We will frequently work on individual products, such as resumes and proposals. As part of this there will usually be some peer editing and evaluation. You will also have the opportunity to give oral presentations to the class.

If you have a question, please ask it. If you have a comment, please make it. Even an anonymous note under my door or in my mailbox is fine. Communication is the essence of the classroom experience. I am pleased to see you any time you can find me. I encourage you to email me. I usually read my email at home and at the office.

Assumed Knowledge

This course is for students who are very well along the road to finishing their degree. You are expected to be professional in both actions and knowledge.

Attendance and Timeliness

Attendance, timeliness, and participation are important factors for this class. They are part of your grade. Regardless of the reason for being late or tardy you are responsible for material covered that day. Contact one of your classmates for the notes. Failure to attend class on the day an assignment is assigned or due does not mean that you may turn in a late assignment without penalty.

To document an absence for any class

Colloquia and Seminars

Among your responsibilities this semester is attendance at some colloquia or seminars. These informational presentations fall into several categories, but are largely technical or educational presentations by outside speakers. Additionally, candidates for faculty positions in our department give talks about their research, and we actively solicit your views on potential candidates prior to filling a position. You must submit a one page, informal summary of three such presentation you attend no later than one week following the presentation. Your commentary should include something about the scientific aspects of the presentation, as well as your observations on the presentation style itself. What was good or bad about the talk, strictly from a presentation viewpoint? Did you learn anything about giving a talk? Did the speaker do anything particularly well? What mistakes do you think the speaker made?

We primarily encourage you to attend presentations in our department, but other departments often have seminars that are worthwhile, interesting, and even relevant to you. Colloquia are usually held on the following schedule, although they aren't held every week, and sometimes there are special days and times.

Resources for Speakers

One lesson you can get from attending a talk is that of being in the audience of a poorly done talk. Pay attention and don't do the bad stuff you just witnessed.

Resume Resources

Graduate School

Resource for finding graduate schools in physics and related fields: The Grad School Shopper

Letter of Recommendation Resources—

Job and Grad school Interviews

Resource for finding graduate schools in physics and related fields: The Grad School Shopper


We will spend some time discussing ethical issues that may be relevant to your education and career.

Due Dates and Grades

Assignments are due at the beginning of class on the assigned day. Late assignments may be accepted, at my whim, but will ordinarily be penalized. Two especially important due dates are for a formal draft and the final version of your formal (420/499) proposal. Other assignments may include: professional association summaries, graduate school summaries, research interview summaries and anything else I decide to include that isn't already listed elsewhere.

  1. First Draft Resume: Tuesday, 15 Jan, 3:00 pm (email attachment)
  2. Final Resume: Tuesday 29 Jan, 3:00 pm (email attachment)
  3. Self Recommendation Letter: Tuesday, 5 February, 3:00 pm (email attachment)
  4. Mentor/Advisor Selection Form: Wednesday, 13 Feb, 8:00 am
  5. First oral presentation of Project: 6 & 13 March
  6. First draft due: Tuesday, 2 April, 1:00 pm (email attachment)
  7. Formal draft due: Friday, 12 April, 1:00 pm (email attachment)
  8. Final Oral Presentations: Wednesday, 1 May 2019, 8:00 – 11:00
  9. Final proposal version, signed by your advisor, along with the enrollment form and syllabus, due: Thursday, 2 May, 12:00 noon

A representative template for your proposal illustrates a reasonable layout and describes some necessary components of a successful proposal. Discipline-specific LaTeX templates for your proposal: RevTeX Template and aasTeX Template and Am. Meteorological. Soc. Template . These templates should typeset fine on a modern LaTeX installation, so make sure it works before you alter it. If your research advisor requires you to use MS Word, I will accept it in that format, but I will complain and whine.

The Primary Outcome — Enrolling in phys420 requires you to submit to the department chair, through me

  1. Proposal, approved (signed) by your research mentor and me
     2a. Completed "Application for Individual Enrollment" form (available from Ms. Meredith), for phys420,
     2b. Completed "Application for Enrollment Bachelor's Essay" form (available from Ms. Meredith), for phys499, both of which also require..
  3. Syllabus, from your mentor

Upon the approval of the Chair, or the Dean of the Honors College for phys499 enrollment, you will be enrolled.

Your grade will be based on attandance and oral and written assignments (including drafts). I assign letter grades to papers and talks. The letter grade is assigned a number as in the College's grading scheme (A=4.0, A- = 3.7...). The weighted average is calculated to determine the final grade. Below are the relative weights of the pieces of your semester grade.

Self recommendation letter10%
Formal draft10%
Oral presentations15%
Colloquium/Seminar summaries  5%
Enrollment forms completed  5%
Final approved proposal25%
          Total 100%

The final grade score, which will be in the 0-4.0 range, is assigned a letter grade for the course according to the table below.
A =
A- =
B+ =
B =
B- =
C+ =
C =
C- =
D+ =
D =
D- =
F =

Other Information

Learning Objectives —
This course endeavors to aid the motivated student in the following tasks:
Learning Outcomes —
At the end of this course, successful students will be able to:

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities —
Any student eligible for and needing accommodations because of a disability is requested to contact me as soon as practical or as soon as you have been approved for services so that reasonable accommodations can be arranged. I'm easy to get along with. The Center for Disability Services is the resource place.

Academic Integrity —
It is expected that you will adhere to the university's honor code and student code of conduct, as can be found in the Student Handbook

updated 17 April 2019 - jw