Physics 4601 – Senior Seminar I

Spring 2017 F 3:05-4:25
Howey S107 S106

Instructor: JC Gumbart
Office: Howey W202
Phone: 404-385-0797
Office Hours (by appointment)

2016 version


In this course, you will learn a number of skills in preparation for life post-degree, like how to wake up before noon and which laundry detergent to use. More importantly though, we will discuss how to select graduate schools, what careers are available (with just a BS degree or with a PhD), and how to apply to any and all of them. A good portion of the course will also be spent on preparing for the Physics GRE, which, for better or worse, is one of the two major determinants (along with grades) of graduate school acceptance.

Learning Goals for the Course
  • learn how to write a résumé (or CV) and apply to jobs
  • prepare for the GRE Physics test
  • choose graduate schools to which to apply
  • learn how to write a proposal

Attendance is mandatory. If you will miss a week for any reason, please let me know why, in advance. Only one absence will be excused without penalty, after which each unexcused absence will decrease your final grade by 10%.


Grading will be based primarily on attendance as well as a few assignments. These will include

  • write a résumé
  • write a cover letter for a job OR write a personal statement for graduate school
  • attend at least three science-related seminars and write a half-page review (not merely a regurgitation of facts) of each
  • write a research proposal suitable for the NSF graduate fellowship (two pages, including references, in Latex; worth 2x other assignments)

See the right-hand side for due dates for each of these.


Attending seminars and colloquia is an important part of being a scientist and a physicist in particular. There are a few ways to find out seminars on campus.

  • Read your department emails (haha!)
  • Check dept. webpages; Physics, Biosciences, IBB, etc.
  • sign up for GT Physics’ slack and join the events channel: slack

Jan. 13: Intro; proposals
Jan. 20: guest lecture on résumés and cover letters examples
Jan. 27: résumé cross-reading and 1-minute pitch; more on NSF GRFP (see “Fellowship Info” on the right for more)
Feb. 3: applying to grad schools; personal statements Personal statement tips
Cover letter tips
Feb. 10: careers and internships (Prof. Chandra Raman)
Feb. 17: Lagrangian/Hamiltonian notes
Feb. 24: Stat Mech notes
Mar. 3: Thermodynamics
Mar. 10: Thermodynamics (cont.) notes
Mar. 17: Optics notes
Mar. 24: Spring Break!
Mar. 31: Physics GRE sample test
Apr. 7: guest on IP law
Apr. 14: proposal cross reading
Apr. 21: go over GRE; turn in final proposals