Physics 4601 – Senior Seminar I – fall 2016

Fall 2016 F 3:05-3:55
Howey L5

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

2015 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 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 7%.


Grading will be based 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 physics colloquia and write a half-page review of each (other seminars can be substituted with PRIOR approval)
  • write a research proposal suitable for the NSF graduate fellowship (two pages, including references, in Latex)

Aug. 26: Intro, proposals
Sept. 2: guest lecture on résumés and cover letters examples
Sept. 9: résumé cross-reading and 1-minute pitch; more on NSF GRFP
Sept. 16: Physics GRE
Sept. 23: Lagrangian/Hamiltonian notes
Sept. 30: Stat Mech notes
Oct. 7: Thermodynamics notes
Oct. 14: guest – Nathaniel Wilson on NASA internship; summer programs
Oct. 21: Optics notes
Oct. 28: applying to grad schools (Prof. Zangwill)
Nov. 4: guest – Bill Needle on IP law (slides Patent 1 Patent 2)
Nov. 11: cover letters/personal statements; more on grad schools
Personal statement tips Cover letter tips
Nov. 18: check-in
Nov. 25: Thanksgiving Break
Dec. 2: no class; proposals due