Physics 4601 – Senior Seminar I

Spring 2022 F 2:00-2:50 PM
Howey L2

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. In-person attendance is generally expected, and a sign-in sheet will be present at the front of the room before each class. However, online attendance (Bluejeans) will be allowed up to three times. If you are feeling ill, please stay home and join through Bluejeans (link will be on Canvas).


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

  • write a résumé (12.5%)
  • write a cover letter for a job OR write a personal statement for graduate school (12.5%)
  • 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. 14: Intro; summer internships pdf
Jan. 21: guest lecture on résumés and cover letters examples slides
Jan. 28: résumé cross-reading and 1-minute pitch
Feb. 4: “alternative” careers (outside of academia) APS careers talk
Feb. 11: Q&A with grad students
Feb. 18: applying to grad schools
Feb. 25: personal statements (statement tips)
Mar. 4: personal statement/cover letter cross-reading
Mar. 11: NSF GRFP – (see “Fellowship Info” on the right for more) (slides)
Mar. 18: scientific papers and publishing slides
Mar. 25: spring break
Apr. 1: GRE prep slides
Apr. 8: GRE prep
Apr. 15: Guest speaker
Apr. 22: Proposal cross reading