All Physics majors are required to complete a year-long research project with a faculty member, to write the results in article form and to give a presentation on their work. Its successful completion satisfies the Concentration Writing Requirement. In some cases physics concentrators may be able to use their senior research project to satisfy the department computer proficiency requirements. Three or more credits can be used to satisfy COLL400 requirement.
Any full-time Physics faculty member can serve as a research adviser for senior students. If a student wishes to conduct a research project with a faculty member from a different department or institution, a physics faculty member must serve as a co-adviser, unless the outside adviser has a courtesy appointment with the Physics department.
Students have three options:
- To complete a Senior Project (1-3 credits of PHYS 451 and 1-3 credits of PHYS 452)
- To complete an EPAD Capstone Project (3 credits of PHYS 471 or APSC 471 and 3 credits of PHYS 472 or APSC 472)
- To be accepted in Honors program and complete an Honors Thesis (3 credits of PHYS 495 and 3 credits of PHYS 496)
The student is expected to spend at least 3 hour per week on research for each registered credit hour. Research topics are generally chosen within the research programs in the Department. The list of previous research thesis topics is also available. All students are also required to attend weekly meetings, led by Physics Research Coordinator (for PHYS 451/452 or PHYS 495/496 courses) or by EPAD Capstone Coordinator(s) (for PHYS471/472 and APSC 471/472). These faculty members will also provide help with any questions concerning finding an advisor, general requirements or procedures for senior research.
Undergraduate research performed before the start of the senior year may be included as an integral part of the senior or honors thesis. Prior work may include summer research for which the student received a stipend. However, the grade for PHYS 451/452, PHYS471/472 or PHYS 495/496 and the award of honors will be based on work performed during the senior year.
Dates to Remember
Spring semester before graduation year
- Registration window for the Fall semester: Interested students must initiate Honors application process
- 4 weeks before last day of classes: Interested students must initiate Honors application process
- 2 weeks before last day of classes: Final Honors proposals and "Application of Admission to Departmental Honors" forms are submitted to the Chair of the Undergraduate Committee.
Fall semester of the senior year
- End of Drop/Add in first semester of senior year: The title of your research topic and the name of your advisor must be given to the Research Coordinator. All non-Honors students must be registered for Physics 451 research section. Honors students will be registered for Physics 495 by the Charles Center.
- One week before mid-term presentation for all research students: Written report turned in to advisor and Research Coordinator
- First Thursday noon of exam period: Mid-term presentations must be complete
Spring semester of the senior year
- 4 weeks before last day of classes: Complete draft of thesis turned in to advisor
- 2 weeks before last day of classes: Honors projects: Corrected complete draft of thesis passed out to members of the honors examination committee
- 1 week before last day of classes: Senior projects: Corrected complete drafts of the thesis given to your advisor and Research Coordinator
- First Thursday noon of exam period: Final presentations must be complete
- First Friday 11:00 am of the exam period: Honors projects: The original of the signed Honors thesis cover page is submitted to Elle Wilkinson, and the copy turned in to the Charles Center.
- Wednesday before commencement: Electronic copies of the final versions of their written reports (a single PDF file) must be emailed to Ellie Wilkinson (firstname.lastname@example.org). In addition, all students must submit printed hard copies (on acid-free paper) of their reports: two (2) copies (single sided) for an Honor Thesis or one (1) copy (double sided) of a Senior Final Report. Note – Honor Theses will receive one copy of their theses bounded. All seniors can request a hard copy for $30.00. The hardbound thesis copy will be mailed to you in July/August timeframe.
- Friday 5:00 pm before commencement: Electronic copies of the Honors theses are submitted via W&M Libraries' online scholarship platform, W&M Publish.