SYLLABUS Physics 494 Autumn 2009
Physics 494, Autumn 2009
Seminar: Current Problems in Physics

Prof. Leslie J Rosenberg
Department of Physics
University of Washington
Physics and Astronomy Building, room C503
phone 206 221-5856

Office Hours: Wednesdays 10-11am and by appointment

Feel free to drop by my office any time, you are always welcome. During office hours, you are guaranteed to have my undiluted attention. You may also contact me by phone or email. Please note I typically respond to emails when I come in to my office in the morning and before I leave in the early evening.

Web site
The web site for this course is

Course meeting times and location
The course meets Tuesdays 12:30am-2:20pm in PAB C521.

The course will rarely use the second course hour. Hence, you'll be able to attend other second-hour courses without conflict. To do this, you'll have to file Registraction Transaction Form/Time Conflict in order to register in both courses.

Course Description
This is a supervised, independent study of topics of current interest in Physics. An individual student's particular study topic will be chosen in tandem with the instructor. Each student will be expected to give an oral presentation to the class and submit a written description of their study topic. The study topic will be substantially experimental in nature, although exceptions may be made with the consent of the instructor.

Goals of the Course
This course will allow you to explore a topic in experimental or observational physics in considerable depth.

You'll assemble and understand relations between seminal papers on your topic.

You'll learn to give a cogent seminar-type presentation.

You'll attend Physics Department colloquia and learn how to understand and appreciate scientific talks. You'll also learn to identify good and bad presentation techniques.

You'll learn how to write a scientific paper.

You'll learn how to interact with your colleagues on a scientific topic during class discussion.

You'll may also find it refreshing to be able to concentrate for a quarter on an interesting topic of your own choosing.

Method of Instruction
You will do literature research on a topic in experimental or observational physics.

You will give a presentation of that topic to the class. You will meet with the instructor at least one day before your presentation for a dry run of the talk. You are also encouraged to meet more often with the instructor to go over your research.

You will prepare a research paper. You will meet with the instructor to go over your paper draft before you submit it.

General Advice
Select a research topic early. There are many ways to find a suitable topic. Perhaps you already have a topic in mind. Try browsing the list of suggested topics on the course web page. Look through Sky and Telescope or Scientific American, or ask friends.

Start your literature research early. This always takes longer than expected. The important threads of a particular topic go far and wide and can take a while to track down.

Schedule your talk early in the quarter. You will likely find that your are very busy near the end of the quarter on other courses.

For the same reason, don't wait until the last week to write your paper.

You are exected to participate in class discussions, and hence you'll have to attend the class.

Attend the Physics Department Colloquia, typically Mondays at 4pm, or the Astronomy Department's Colloquia, typically Thursdays at 4pm. Each week I'll call on someone to give a brief summary of that week's presentation. You'll also be expected to offer your critique of the speaker's performance.

Select a research topic and submit a short (<0.5 page) proposal in paper form by the end of the second week.

Give a 30 minute talk to the class on your topic. The talk should be in electronic form.

Submit a paper in a cogent scientific form on your topic. The paper will likely be 6 or more pages in length. You may choose to use the format of the relevant journal (Astrophysical Journal, Physical Review D, Nature, etc.). This paper is due by 5pm on the last day of instruction, in paper form at my office C503.

Grading policy
Class Attendence 10%
Participation in class discussions 10%
Colloquium attendance 10%
Research proposal 5%
Paper 40%
Talk 25%

75% corresponds to a grade of 3.5

There is no final exam.