Honors Project

Honors work in physics provides the opportunity for especially well qualified students to complete their undergraduate education by engaging in research, individually or as part of a major research project. Admission to the program is restricted to those who, in the opinion of the Physics Department, have sufficient preparation, ability, and motivation to complete the program successfully, and who receive approval from the Charles Center.

Procedure for Securing Admission to Candidacy
  1. Initial Application: By four weeks before the last day of class of their junior year, students should submit an on line application for permission to pursue Honors in Physics. Students are urged to consult informally with interested faculty members as they prepare their initial proposals. The application should include: 1) a description of the proposed project ; 2) the name of the proposed research advisor; 3) a list of physics courses taken and currently being taken, including names of instructors and grades received; 4) cumulative quality point average and quality point average for the previous semester;  and 5) any other relevant information which would assist the Department in determining the candidate's adequacy of background for the proposed project. Applications should be submitted online.
  2. Tentative Approval: If the initial application is accepted by the research advisor and is approved by the Physics Department, the research advisor will become the student's academic advisor.
  3. Final Application: Working with the research advisor, the student will select an honors project and submit a new description of it to the Chair of the Undergraduate Committe, Joshua Erlich,  [[physics|erlich]],   two weeks before the last day of scheduled classes. This statement should be from one to three double-spaced typewritten pages and include a list of references relevant to the proposed research topic. (Under unusual circumstances, such as when students are spending their junior year abroad, this final statement of the proposed project may be submitted as late as the first Monday of the semester at the beginning of the senior year. It should be pointed out, however, that a proposal submitted at this late date may be less likely to be accepted.)
  4.  Final Departmental Approval: Students who have submitted final applications by two weeks before the end of scheduled classes will be notified of the department's decision no later than the last day of scheduled classes in the spring semester.
  5. Eligibility Certification: Students who receive the Physics Department's final approval of their project should immediately file an application for admission to Honors study.  Eligibility must be certified by the Director of the Charles Center by the end of the student's junior year. The student must complete the Application for Admission to Honors Study form (pdf) available in the Charles Center (Tucker Hall basement). The form must be signed by both the faculty member directing the thesis and by the Department Chair and then submitted to the Charles Center. The form must be returned no later than the last day of the Add period in September for Honors projects to be conducted in the following academic year. Once approved, the Charles Center, not the student or the department, will register students into Honors 495 and 496.  
Requirements for Honors in Physics
  1. Course Requirements for Honors: For students graduating before Spring 2015: In addition to the major course requirements, the department requirements for Honors specify PHYS 303 and PHYS 351 , as well as either PHYS 314 or PHYS 402 . For students graduating Spring 2015 or later: In addition to the major course requirements, the department requirements for Honors specify PHYS 314 and PHYS 403 , as well as either PHYS 303 or PHYS 402 , and either PHYS 351 or PHYS 352 . Students graduating in Spring 2015 may choose to use the earlier set of course requirements instead. 
  2. Mid-Year Reports: All candidates for Honors are required to present a mid-year report, consisting of a paper and a short talk.  The paper is to consist of approximately 5-10 double-spaced printed pages including appropriate figures, formulae, and references.  It should describe both the work to date and the final goals of the project. The first draft of the paper will be submitted to the research advisor by the Monday before the Thanksgiving holiday.  The corrected paper will be returned on the next Monday so that a corrected mid-year paper can be submitted when the oral report is given.  Mid-year oral reports will be given during the last week of classes.  They will be of 15-20 minutes duration with 10 minutes allowed for questions and comments. A candidate who successfully completes Honors 495 will receive a grade of "G" at the end of the first term of the project.
  3. Other Requirements: See Concentration Honors: A Guide for Students and Thesis Directors, a general guide provided by the Charles Center, which oversees all departmental honors programs.
 The Honors Thesis
  1. Complete Draft: A complete draft of each student's thesis (not necessarily including all final results and discussion) must be submitted to the student's advisor not later than four weeks before the last day of classes of the student's graduating semester.
  2.  Thesis Submission: Two weeks before the last day of classes of the student's graduating semester a copy of the corrected and completed thesis conforming to the specifications listed in Section III of Concentration Honors: A Guide for Students and Thesis Directors (pdf) must be submitted to the advisor and distributed to members of the examining committee. This copy need not be on acid-free paper unless it will be the copy retained by Swem Library and/or the department.
The Oral Examination
  1. Scheduling of Examination: All oral examinations will be completed by noon of the Thursday of the last week of classes.
  2. The Examining Committee: The oral examination will be conducted by an Honors examining committee of at least three members. The Committee shall include at least two examiners from the Physics Department, one of whom will be the candidate's Honors advisor, and one external examiner.
  3. Attendance at Examination: All members of the college community are invited to an Honors oral examination.  All students concentrating in physics are strongly urged to attend.
  4. Subject Matter of Examination: The oral examination is designed to test both the candidate's ability to defend the conclusions and procedures of his/her thesis and his/her knowledge of the current state of research on relevant topics of a similar nature.
  5. Format of Examination: At the beginning of the examination, the candidate will give an oral presentation of his/her thesis (typically 45 minutes). After the presentation questioning will proceed in whatever fashion is agreed upon by the examining committee. When the committee determines that the examination should be concluded, all persons not on the committee will be asked to leave the room.
  6. Awarding of Honors: After deliberation, the examining committee will determine whether the candidate's work is of sufficiently high quality to merit the award of Honors. If this decision is favorable, the designation of "Honors" will be given (the Physics Department awards one level of honors only). In making this decision the procedures specified below will be followed.
    • The decision whether or not to award Honors is to be based solely on the thesis and the oral examination. If Honors is not awarded, the student will instead receive a letter grade for Physics 451-452, Senior Project.
    • In cases of disagreement among the members of the committee, the opinion of a simple majority prevails.
    • If Honors is awarded, all members of the examining committee are to sign the committee's report to the Dean and the title page of the candidate's thesis.
The Deposition of the Honors Thesis        New update March 2011

The final responsibility of the successful Honors candidate is to see that Swem Library has an acid-free, original signed copy of his/her thesis and that the Physics Department has two acid-free signed copies for binding. Since these copies belong to the permanent collections of the Library and the Physics Department respectively, the candidate should endeavor to make them as attractive and as free of typographical errors as possible. Further guidelines concerning requirements for the thesis are found in Concentration Honors: A Guide for Students and Thesis Directors.

Electronic Submission

The Physics Department also requires that the candidate submit an electronic version of the final thesis to [[w|evwilk,Elle Wilkinson]]. This must be a single file in Postscript or PDF format, submitted by Monday during the first week of examinations.