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EPAD Honors

EPAD Honors Program in physics provides the opportunity for especially well qualified students to complete their undergraduate education by engaging in more independent design project in addition to a group EPAD capstone.

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. Concentration Honors: A Guide for Students and Thesis Directors is a general guide provided by the Charles Center, which oversees all departmental honors programs.

Requirements for Honors in EPAD

  • A physics GPA greater than 3.0
  • Enrollment to EPAD Honors capstone project (3 credits of EPAD 495 and 3 credits of EPAD 496)
  • Registration to additional two credits of PHYS455 or APSC401/402 for the individual research contribution (can be taken over one or two semesters).

What can be an EPAD Honors Project?
Every EPAD Honor student must participate in one of EPAD group project as a full-time member. In addition, they will be engaged in an additional research project for the Honor student to work on individually. This individual project can be: (a) a sub-task of the group project, (b) a project proposed by an EPAD faculty member that may not be directly related to any of the on-going team projects, or (c) an independent project proposed by the student (with approval of the faculty mentor).

 It is likely that the details of the next year’s team projects will not be officially announced before the Honor proposals are due. Nevertheless, the student interested in EPAD Honors are encouraged to talk to the on-going EPAD mentors (Bill Cooke, Ran Yang, Jonathan Frey), or any other Physics and Applied Science faculty who is putting together an EPAD team for the next academic year, to inquire about possible future team projects and Honors options.

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 online application for permission to pursue EPAD Honors. Students are urged to consult informally with interested EPAD faculty members as they prepare their initial proposals. The initial application includes: 1) a brief 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 grade point average and grade 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.

2. Tentative Approval: Students will be promptly notified if their initial application is approved by the Physics Department.

3. Final Application: Working with the research advisor, the student should submit an Honors research proposal to the Chair of the Undergraduate Committee, Irina Novikova,, two weeks before the last day of scheduled classes. This proposal should state the overall goals of the proposed project and individual tasks for the Honor student, briefly describe proposed approach and methodology. The document should not exceed three double-spaced typewritten pages, and must include a list of relevant references. (Under unusual circumstances, such as when students are spending their junior year abroad, the submission of the final proposal may be delayed with the permission of the Undergraduate Committee Chair. It should be pointed out, however, that such proposals are 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 semester. At that time the official Honors Application form will be submitted to the Charles Center.

    Note that the registration for EPAD 495/496 – Honors is done by the Charles Center, and not by individual students.

The Honors Thesis
1. Mid-Year Reports: All EPAD project groups 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. If the Honors independent project is related to the group project, it has to be included in the group report as an independent authored chapter. If the subject of the independent project is not related to any of the team project, a separate brief report will be submitted in addition to the group report. In any case, the report 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 group oral reports will be given during the last week of classes. The oral report for the individual Honors project will be incorporated with the group presentations. They will be of 30-40 minutes duration with 10 minutes allowed for questions and comments. A candidate who successfully completes EPAD 495 will receive a grade of "G" at the end of the first term of the project.

2. Complete Draft: A complete draft of each group's report (not necessarily including all final results and discussion) must be submitted to the group research adviser and EPAD coordinators no later than four weeks before the last day of classes of the student's graduating semester. Similarly, the description of the individual Honor research should be either included with the group report, or submitted as an independent document.

3. Report Submission: One week before the last day of classes of the student's graduating semester a copy of the completed group report must be submitted to the advisor and the EPAD coordinator(s). This copy need not be on acid-free paper unless it will be the copy retained by the Department. It is expected, that on average each group member will have written roughly equal portion of the entire document, including the Honor student. In addition, the individually written chapter or document will be used by the Honor committee to evaluate if the quality of the Honor student’s work deserves the Honor.

4. Project Summary for Diverse Audience: Each individual student must submit a brief project description (not exceeding 500 words), written at a non-scientist level (for example, for high-school students). It must summarize the goals of the project, student’s contribution and results. The Project Summary must be e-mailed to the EPAD Coordinators together with the thesis draft one weeks before the last day of classes of the student's graduating semester.

The Oral Examination
In addition to a group EPAD Capstone presentation, each EPAD Honor student must schedule an individual talk. This talk may include brief overview of the group project, if it is relevant to the Honors project, but must focus on the independent work of the student.

  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 presents the results and procedures of his/her thesis, and to asses his/her overall knowledge of the current state of technology 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 20-30 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 individually authored chapters of the project reports or individually written thesis and the oral examination. If Honors is not awarded, the student will instead receive a letter grade for Physics 471-472, EPAD Capstone 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 original of this page must be immediately submitted to Ellie Wilkinson, and the copy must be turned in to the Charles Center by 11:00 am on the last day of classes.
    The Deposition of the Honors Thesis
    It is the responsibility of the successful Honors candidate to submit electronic copies (commonly called ETDs) to W&M Libraries' online scholarship platform, W&M Publish. The deadlines for Honors students to upload the final version of their thesis, including the signature cover sheet, to W&M Publish are 5:00 p.m. on the Friday before commencement for students defending in the spring, and 5:00 p.m. on the last day of exams for students defending in the fall. Further guidelines concerning requirements for the thesis are found in Concentration Honors: A Guide for Students and Thesis Directors.

Failure to meet these deadlines may result in the loss of honors.