W 3:30-5:20, PAA A110

Instructor Boris Spivak,  B440,

Office hours: after each lecture.


Course Structure

Welcome to PHYS 485. These are supervised, independent study of topics of current interest in physics. The aim of these courses is to provide you with an opportunity to learn about your chosen topic and at the same time gain experience in doing literature research, preparing a scientific presentation, and writing a scientific article. My role as instructor will be to help you choose an appropriate topic, help answer questions that come up as you research this topic, and provide feedback on the drafts of your paper and your presentation.

You are expected to select a research topic in experimental, observational or theoretical physics and submit a short (<0.5 page) abstract in paper form by the October 1.

 After your abstract has been approved by the instructor, you will do literature research on your topic.

You will give one in-class oral presentation. Oral presentations should be created on the computer (e.g. in powerpoint). They will be 30 minutes long, +5 minutes for discussion.

You will prepare a research paper by the end of the quarter on your chosen topic. The report can address a number of issues about the topic or be more specific about a particular question or experiment. You should provide a draft by Nov.26. I will give you comments on your initial draft and then reread the revised version. The paper should be submitted as a PDF file. It should be "scientific" in style, with an abstract, introduction, the body, and then a conclusion and references. The references should consist of journal articles, not websites. The final paper will be due on Dec. 3. Late submissions will not be accepted.

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

 Course Schedule

       09/24        Intro to class. Logistics.

10/01  Logistics.  Preliminary Talk Schedules.

No class on 10/08.


Talk schedule:

Date                 Speaker                           Talk Title






            10/29                         Alexander Zderic                   Gecko Adhesion 

                                                                RAMON S SHARMA               Sunyaev Zel'dovich effect


         11/5                 Dean Bretland                       Determining the source of the first water ice in our solar    


                                                   Julian Gifford                        Fine Structure constant                                       


            11/12                         Peter Senchyna                Extremely energetic cosmic rays 

                                                    Brendan Saxberg                 The probability density function



            11/19                          John Spencer                      Orbital mechanics and planetary motion

                                                     Kelly Olsen                         Gravitational waves                               


        11/26                          James Borchers                  Molten salt reactors

                                                      Muhammad Soberi              Extending Standard Model Higgs     































































Course Grade
       Your course grade will be based on 3 criteria:
       10% Participation in class discussions, 45% on your oral presentation, and  45% on your
       final paper. There is no final exam. 75% corresponds to a grade of 3.5. A grade of 0.0 will
       be given to anyone not completing both their paper and presentation.

    Sources for possible topics.

·         Physics, highlights exceptional papers from the Physical Review journals.

·         Physics Today web site, the magazine of the American Physical Society, which has monthly reports on new and interesting developments.

·         Science News, web site of Science, journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

·         Scientific American web site.

·         New Scientist web site.

   Topics which you may (or may not) be interested to talk about:

Superfluidity, Vortex lattice in rotating superfluid, Superconductivity, Two types of superconductors, High temperature   superconductors, Topological superconductors, Discovery of the Higgs boson, The quantum Hall effect, Cold atoms, Graphene and its uses, Spin control of nitrogen vacancy centers in diamond, Topological insulators, Quantum computing, Measuring the fine structure constant, Controlled nuclear Fusion, Entangled quantum systems, Statistical physics: Research in computational neuroscience, Biophysics of DNA sequencing, Survey of recent neutrino experiments, Survey of the standard models, Gravitational waves and LIGO, Measuring the anomalous magnetic moment of the electron, Progress in fusion power, Large scale structure of the universe, Gravity waves, Superheavy atoms, Mössbauer effect , Zeldovich-Sunyaev effect in spectrum of CMB radiation, discovery of B-mode in CMB radiation, Inflation theory.