Course Syllabus

Physics 489: Senior Seminar

Spring Semester, 2006


Instructors:               Dr. Steven Sahyun           Dr. Bob Benjamin

Office:                      321 Goodhue Hall            322 Goodhue Hall

Phone:                      Ext. 5113                       Ext. 5114




Desire2Learn:             The D2L site is linked from the UWW web site (

Office Hours:              M W: 1:00 - 1:25; 4:00 - 4:40 UH 141

T: 12:30 - 2:30 GO 321

R: 12:30 - 1:20 GO 321

Class Meetings:          Thursdays 12:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.

Exams:                     Final: Thursday May 11 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Text:                        A Review of Undergraduate Physics, Bayman & Hammermesh

Pre-requisite:             Senior standing as a physics major.


Course Objectives: This course has the following objectives:

·      Be able to retrieve and read from physics professional journals.

·      Hone public presentation skills.

·      Review topics learned during entire course of study in physics.


These objectives will be reached by assigning library work, making and evaluating presentations, and from working selected homework problems as a review.


Exams: The final exam is a multiple choice, standardized exam from Educational Testing Service called the Major Field Test.  It is scheduled during the Final Exam period on Thursday, May 11 at 1:00 pm.


Homework: Approximately five problems will be assigned each week and are to be turned in the following week (except for the first week). These physics problems come from practice GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Physics exams. In principle, it should be possible to solve these problems without reference books or even a calculator, but in practice you will discover that some of these problems are pretty tricky. Start early! If you get stuck, I strongly encourage you to seek each other for help (some of you will have the same problems), ask physics faculty for help, or get help from on-line physics forums,, for example. If you are truly stuck, e-mail me between Tuesday and Thursday and I will supply the answer (but not the method).


Each problem should be written up with a thorough and clear solution. Each problem will be graded on a five-point scale. Your solution can be handwritten and must be correct and extremely clear (using actual words of explanation) to receive the maximum score.  However, you can still receive three of the five points by writing a clear description of how you tried to solve the problem and what you might be doing wrong. The goal of this homework is to help you review all the physics you¹ve learned, identify your weak spots, and to prepare you for the final exam.


You will also present one problem to the group each week using Microsoft PowerPoint (PPT) or some other display program. This is to help you hone your scientific presentation skills. The presentation will be graded on a 10-point scale and will count as part of your homework grade.


Activities:  You will prepare four (oral and written) presentations during the course of the class. Please note that I will not accept any late assignments.  See the schedule for activity due dates.


1.     You will present 10 minute ³journal club² style presentation using PPT (or similar program).

2.     You will submit a grant proposal on a topic to be determined. Your grade will be based on peer review.

3.     You will have a professional/personal webpage completed for evaluation.

4.     You will identify a particular job or graduate program to which you want to apply and prepare a complete application.

5.     You will present a 12-minute presentation on a research topic as part of a special colloquium to the department. Each talk will be followed by a 3-minute question and answer session.


Grading: Course grades will be determined by the percentage of total points assigned for the course. 90% = A, 80% = B, 70% = C, 60% = D. The approximate distribution of points will be as follows. There will be occasional opportunities for extra credit.


Journal Club Presentation


Scientific Proposal/Review


Web Page Design


Job Search Preparation


Overall participation







Special needs statement: Students with special needs should contact the instructor to make appropriate arrangements.


The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater is dedicated to a safe, supportive and non-discriminatory learning environment. It is the responsibility of all undergraduate and graduate students to familiarize themselves with University policies regarding Special Accomodations, Misconduct, Religious Beliefs Accomodation, Discrimination and Absence for University Sponsored Events. (For details please refer to the Undergraduate and Graduate Timetables; the Rights and Responsibilities section of the Undergraduate Catalog; the Academic Requirements and Policies and the Facilities and Services sections of the Graduate Catalog; and the Student Academic Disciplinary Procedures [UWS Chapter 14]; and the Student Nonacademic Disciplinary Procedures [UWS Chapter 17].)

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Updated: January 17, 2006