Physics 4601 – Senior Seminar I

Spring 2021 F 3:30-4:20 PM
Howey L5 + the cloud

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


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. Attendance will make up HALF of your grade. For those coming in person, a sign-in sheet will be present at the front of the room before each class; online attendance will be tracked with Bluejeans.


Grading will be based primarily on attendance (50%) as well as a few assignments. These will include

  • write a résumé (10%)
  • write a cover letter for a job OR write a personal statement for graduate school (10%)
  • read and deconstruct a scientific paper (5%)
  • write a research proposal suitable for the NSF graduate fellowship (two pages, including references, in Latex; worth 25%)

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. 15: Intro; summer internships (lecture slides)
Jan. 22: guest lecture on résumés and cover letters examples
Jan. 29: résumé cross-reading and 1-minute pitch
Feb. 5: “alternative” careers (outside of academia)
Feb. 12: applying to grad schools
Feb. 19: personal statements (statement tips)
Feb. 26: personal statement/cover letter cross-reading
Mar. 5: NSF GRFP – (see “Fellowship Info” on the right for more) lecture slides
Mar. 12: scientific papers and publishing lecture slides
Mar. 19: GT Physics BS alumni Q&A 
Mar. 26: reading an example paper
Apr. 2: GRE prep lecture slides
Apr. 9: GRE prep
Apr. 16: IP Law 
Apr. 23: Proposal cross reading