PHYS 351 Senior Physics Project , PHYS 353 Senior Engineering Physics Project & PHYS 352 Senior Physics Project Seminar

(updated June 1, 2016

Senior Physics Project, PHYS 351, are the usual capstone for the BS and BA degrees in Physics. PHYS 353 is required for the BSE in Engineering Physics. Both are four-credit courses which normally extend over the two semesters of the senior year, i.e. two credits per semester. Both courses will satisfy the three credit SAGES Capstone requirement.

PHYS 352, Senior Physics Project Seminar, is a two-credit course. Students take 1 credit each semester they are enrolled in PHYS 351 or PHYS 352; PHYS 352 is officially a co-requisite for both of these courses. PHYS 352 provides two of the required three SAGES Departmental Seminar credits. (PHYS 303, Advanced Laboratory Physics Seminar provides the remaining credit.)

The physics senior project program is supervised by the Physics Senior Project Committee.

Senior Projects can normally be described as experimental, theoretical or calculational in nature, although projects beyond these bounds may be proposed to the Senior Project Committee. PHYS 351 projects may be performed outside the physics department, for example in the astronomy department, an engineering department or an external industrial lab, but the Senior Project Committee may require joint supervision by a faculty member in the CWRU Physics department. PHYS 353 projects will commonly be supervised by a faculty member in the area of engineering specialization but joint supervision by the adviser for the Engineering Physics program or another physics faculty member may be required.

Students are responsible for approaching faculty members to discuss the possibility of working together. Although students are free to propose their own ideas for a project and to then find a faculty member willing and able to serve as an advisor, it is more common for students to work on projects conceived by faculty. It is recommended that a project be identified prior to the beginning of the first semester of the project.  Continuing work started prior to the senior project is allowed and encouraged, but the work reported on in the senior project must be largely done during the senior project.  It is important that the project be identified prior to the end of the second week of the first semester of the project.

To find a project, this list of ideas for possible projects. may be help, as may this list of current and prior projects, which can be organized in various ways.  For recent projects, final posters and papers may be available in addition to the title, abstracts and authors.  If you cannot find an advisor and a project, the Physics 352 instructor, your academic advisor,  the Director of Undergraduate Studies (G. Chottiner), or for Engineering Physics Majors, the engineering physics adviser, for assistance.

It is strongly recommended that you make arrangements for your senior project before the end of the spring semester of your junior year. You should try to get to know the faculty in the physics department and, for PHYS 353 students, in the department of your engineering specialty. A good starting place is the section of the General Bulletin describing graduate programs and research areas. A discussion with your academic advisor may also prove helpful.

PHYS 352 meets on average once a week but is scheduled twice a week so that presentations can be administered more fairly. Once the semester starts, students will have access to specific deadlines and other information about PHYS 352 via its Learning Management Website.

PHYS 351. Senior Physics Project (6)

A two semester course required for senior BS and BA physics majors.  Students pursue a project based on experimental, theoretical or teaching research under the supervision of a physics faculty member, a faculty member from another CWRU department or a research scientist or engineer from another institution. A departmental Senior Project Committee must approve all project proposals and this same committee will receive regular oral and written progress reports. Final results are presented at the end of the second semester as a paper in a style suitable for publication in a professional journal as well as an oral report in a public symposium. ( approved SAGES capstone ) Prerequisite: PHYS302 or PHYS301B.

PHYS 353. Senior Engineering Physics Project (6)

A two semester course required for BSE Engineering Physics majors. Students are expected to complete a research project in their concentration area under the supervision of a faculty member in science, engineering, or, with approval, a researcher at another institution or company. The project may be calculational, experimental or theoretical, and will address both the underlying physics and appropriate engineering and design principles. A program Senior Project Committee must approve all project proposals and will receive regular oral and written progress reports. Final results are presented at the end of the second semester as a paper in a style suitable for publication in a professional journal as well as an oral report in a public symposium. (approved SAGES capstone) prerequisite: PHYS318.

PHYS 352. Senior Physics Project Seminar (2 credits total, 1 credit each semester)

This two semester seminar is taken concurrently with the student’s two semester senior project.  Students meet weekly to discuss their projects and the research experience.  The class will include dialogues about professional issues such as ethics, graduate school, jobs, funding, professional organizations, public obligations, writing and speaking. Assignments include proposals, progress reports, and posters. PHYS 352 plus PHYS 303 is an approved SAGES Departmental Seminar.



Approval / Agreement / Contract

All projects must be approved, and the advisor and student must agree to a reasonable schedule. To request approval, the student and advisor should discuss the likely project, and the time that will be required for the project. They should jointly draft an abstract, agree to the time that each will devote to the project and a rough schedule for meetings and similar. The advisor should then submit an abstract, list of objectives and agreement to devote appropriate amounts of time to the project by electronic mail to the faculty members in charge of Physics 352. The forms for these agreements may be found on this web site.  They are due by the end of the DROP/ADD period for the semester.  You must also supply to the Senior Project Committee an electronic version of the project description, as described on the contract form.

The agreement asks you to specify a weekly schedule for your work.  This does not mean what you plan do each week for the next 8 months but rather what hours you plan to set aside to work on your project.  You and your supervisor should agree in advance on the number of hours per week you will devote (on average) to your project, when you will be able to devote large blocks of time to your work, and when you might meet to discuss your progress. The total number of hours should be appropriate for a two credit per semester course, i.e. about 6 hours per week, plus the 3 hours per week allocated to PHYS 352 (1 hour in class plus time outside class to prepare proposals, talks, posters, reports, etc.).   You may, of course, deviate from this schedule during the course of your work; no one but your advisor will be scrutinizing your normal activities.  This item is included in the contract primarily to insure you understand the time commitment you must make.

Changes to the agreement

If during the course of the project, the student and supervisor should decide to significantly change the goals of your project, they should present a supplementary description to the Committee. If the project is not working out and a change of supervisor should be considered, the student and supervisor should advise the Committee so that alternative arrangements can be made.

Oral and Written Proposals

Students will present an oral proposal in the middle of their first term in PHYS 352, and a written proposal approximately three weeks before the end of this term. Supervisors are encouraged but not required to attend these presentations. The objectives present in the agreement should form the basis of the oral proposal and it is advised that the written proposal be drafted partly during the writing of the oral presentation and modified on the basis of comments made after the oral presentation.


PHYS 351, PHYS 352 and PHYS 353 will each last for two semesters, with an R grade posted at the end of the first semester, unless there are serious problems with the project, in which case “F” or “I” grades may be assigned. A final grade will be assigned at the end of the second semester and a Change of Grade Form will be filed to convert the R from the fall semester to a letter grade. Since this is considered a two semester course, the same grade must be given for both semesters.  Midterm grades will normally be an ‘S’, unless an advisor wants to send a message by using some other letter grade.

There is a grading rubric for all three classes; this is provided on the syllabus at the beginning of the semester. Research advisers are given a set of questions to guide their evaluation of your work throughout the year. These questions are focused on issues such as: grasp of science, continuity of effort/ timeliness, completion of objectives, mastery of methods, creativity/resourcefulness /independence, final written report, final oral report, and effectiveness in working with others.

Your final grades will not generally be based on whether you completed the work outlined in your original proposal. Faculty are more concerned about your continuing effort and how you perform in terms of the process and your skills in conducting research. There is never any guarantee that a research project will work out as envisioned and you will not be penalized if yours does not, as long as you handled it properly over the course of the year.


You are required to submit five oral progress reports during the year. One of these presentations is given to the students and faculty members in PHYS 352, during the first term. Advisers are encouraged but not required to attend this meeting. The other two oral progress reports are given to a faculty member in charge of PHYS 352, an(other) senior project committee member and the supervisor, at the end of the first term and in the middle of the second term. Firm due dates for each report will be announced in PHYS 352 and on its blackboard site a few weeks in advance. More details about the in-class oral reports will be provided in-class in PHYS 352. More details about the Oral reports to the committee are provided here. These later reports are also used to ensure that appropriate progress is being made on the Projects. Students and advisors should come prepared to discuss if the project is proceeding satisfactorially, if work commensurate with the agreement is being performed etc.


A full report on your project must be submitted to the Senior Project Committee at the end of the second semester. A firm due date will be announced in advance. It is advised that you make a first draft of this report in the middle of your second semester. You may base background and similar on (or copy from) your proposal. However, writing such a final report is a substantial effort, students and supervisors are strongly urged to start this process early. More details about the form of this final report are provided here.

You will give a 20-minute oral presentation of your project to faculty and students at a Physics Senior Projects Symposium. This symposium is normally held during reading days.

A final grade for PHYS 351/353 will be assigned by the project advisor in consultation with the Senior Project Committee after the final report has been evaluated and the student has made an oral presentation. Most PHYS 351/353 students expect to graduate a few weeks after the end of the semester. The Office of Undergraduate Studies and the Registrar are very strict about deadlines for turning in grades for graduating students. It may not be possible to meet their deadlines for students who are late in submitting their final reports – so DON’T BE LATE (being late can literally delay your degree.)

The final grades for PHYS 352 are based on work you do for this course. A grading rubric will be provided at the beginning of the year.