( This page was last updated on October 19, 2020.)
There are a variety of mechanisms for CWRU physics majors to get involved in research.
1. Students may work in a research lab or with a theorist, possibly as a paid assistant. There is no organized system for pairing students with positions; you need to contact each faculty member individually to inquire about opportunities. Before initiating these contacts, do some homework to see what the faculty member is doing and make sure it interests you. You can peruse faculty research interests using the links at https://physics.case.edu/directory/faculty/ and https://physics.case.edu/research/physics-research-groups/.
You can, if you wish, send a message to the Director of Undergraduate Studies (G. Chottiner, firstname.lastname@example.org) indicating your interest in a position; this message will be forwarded to anyone who asks Prof. Chottiner if there are any physics majors looking for jobs. However, most member of the faculty don’t contact Prof. Chottiner about filling openings in their research group. If do send a message, include a short paragraph describing your background and interests, and whether you have Work-Study support.
2. PHYS 390, Undergraduate Research in Physics, provides a mechanism for students to obtain course credit for participating in physics research. This credit can be useful in its own right or substitute for a paid position if the research project that interests you is unfunded. PHYS 390 is described in more detail on its dedicated web page.
3. You can volunteer to work in a research lab or with a theorist if you don’t want the commitment of a job or course. Volunteer positions usually won’t entail work that is critical to a research project but it can give you the flavor of working in a research environment.
4. Check SOURCE (Support of Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors) https://case.edu/source/ and their posting of research opportunities at https://case.edu/source/start-your-research/opportunities . Some, but not all, physics faculty members post to this list but there might be opportunities for physics majors posted by faculty members from other departments. Physics majors in general are welcome in many other disciplines.
In October of 2020, Prof. Chottiner prepared a talk for SOURCE about finding research positions in physics. You can review a pdf version of the PowerPoint file created for that talk here.
5. Senior Projects in Physics
All CWRU students are required to complete a SAGES Capstone Project. Until a few years ago, the Department of Physics required that all physics majors complete one of our capstone courses (PHYS 351 and PHYS 353) and the associated SAGES Departmental Seminar (PHYS 352). We no longer have that requirement, students can satisfy the university Capstone and Departmental Seminar requirements with courses from any department, but most physics BS and BA majors choose to take the year-long physics capstone and departmental seminar courses. Each student chooses a research mentor and works closely with that person over the course of two semesters. The mentor is usually, but not necessarily, a member of the physics department; students may work under the tutelage of a mentor from a department other than physics or an institution other than CWRU.
In the past, B.S.E. Engineering Physics students took PHYS 353 and PHYS 352, but they are now encouraged to choose a mentor in their area of engineering specialization and register for engineering courses that incorporate engineering design principles required by ABET.
While the research mentor has the primary responsible for guiding the student’s research, an official course instructor for PHYS 351 and PHYS 353 and a departmental Senior Project Committee oversee the entire program. Students must provide this committee with periodic written and oral progress reports. At the end of the academic year, students write a formal Senior Thesis and present their work in public in a SOURCE Intersections poster session and a department Senior Project Symposium.
Senior Projects are formally handled via registration for PHYS 351, Senior Physics Project. Senior Project students must also register for PHYS 352, Senior Physics Project Seminar. PHYS 352 is an approved SAGES Departmental Seminar, providing 2 of the required 3 credits (PHYS 303 provides the remaining credit). There are regular weekly meetings for PHYS 352. PHYS 351 satisfies the university’s SAGES Capstone requirement.
More detailed instructions concerning the Senior projects are given here. For the 2019 – 2020 academic year, the instructor for PHYS 351, 352 & 353 is Prof. Chottiner; he is also chair of the department’s Senior Project Committee. The other members of this committee, appointed by the department chair, are:
Prof. Gao, Prof. Martens, Prof. Mathur, Prof. Rosenblatt, Prof. Kash (spring semester only)
Current and Previous Senior Projects
Current Senior Projects: Class of 2021 senior projects.
Previous Senior Projects: Archive of physics senior projects between 2000 – 2020, with abstracts plus select posters and papers. Viewing this material might require login via CWRUnet or VPN.