Physics 4601 – Senior Seminar I (Fall 2015)

Fall 2015 F 3:05-3:55
Howey S204

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

Spiritual Advisor: Conner Herndon (first year grad student)


In the new-and-improved senior seminar 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
  • identify potential career paths
  • learn how to write a résumé (or CV) and apply to jobs
  • choose graduate schools to which to apply
  • prepare for the GRE Physics test

Attendance is mandatory. If you miss a week for any reason, please let me know why, in advance if possible.


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

  • attend the Career Fair (send me a picture of yourself there in proper attire)
  • write a résumé
  • make a GRE study plan (if taking the GRE)

One of the following:

  • write a cover letter for and apply to a job
  • write a personal statement for graduate school

One of the following proposals:

  • a research proposal suitable for the NSF graduate fellowship (two pages, including references)
  • a proposal on how a recent discovery/breakthrough in physics could be applied to create/market a new technology or product (also two pages)

Aug. 21: syllabus day; discussion of course content and direction; creating a résumé and linkedin profile PDF of lecture
Aug. 28: GRE review – what do you need to know?
Sept. 4: talk from Career Services: résumé, personal statements for grad school, and cover letters materials
Sept. 11: résumé cross reading, 1-minute pitch (career fair next week!)
Sept. 18: test taking skills, estimation, statistics, etc. (GRE next day)
Sept. 25: NSF Graduate proposal; other fellowships; letters of recommendation
Oct. 2: choosing grad schools and/or other careers
Oct. 9: GRE review
Oct. 16: GRE review
Oct. 23: GRE review (GRE next day)
Oct. 30: Prof. Zangwill on what admissions committees look for
Nov. 6: more discussion of grad schools (come prepared with list and questions)
Nov. 13: grad students talk about graduate school
Nov. 20: grad student(s) talk about industry
Nov. 27: Thanksgiving
Dec. 4: no class