Physics 391/491: Jr/Sr Seminar
Spring 2018

Professor: Tyler Nordgren
Office: Appleton Hall of Numbers 126
ext. 8660

Office Hours: M W 10:30 - 11:30 am.

Senior Seminar: M W 1:00 - 2:20 pm (Sec 01) and 2:30 - 3:50 pm (Sec 02)
Junior Seminar: M F 1:00 - 2:20 pm (Sec 01) and 2:30 - 3:50 pm (Sec 02)
all meeting in AHON 101

Syllabus for Jr Sem | Syllabus for Sr Sem


Francisco Razo

Jose Torres

Deric Vierra

Noah Jones

Charles West

Konner Moses

Sarai Tirado

Paul Harding

Chris Bonney

Nick Criscione

Minh Nguyen

Grant Gardner


Monday - everyone Wednesday - Seniors Friday - Juniors
Week 1


By 1 pm on January 8th, complete the following. Send answers to me, by e-mail.
  1. Go over this presentation and go over the list of important skills on the last page. Order them in terms of which you feel most comfortable with and which are least comfortable. What are the top 3 you think you need to work on?
  2. Complete the Work related values test
  3. Read chapter 1 in the textbook and this short paper. Answer the following questions and bring your answers to class.:
    1. Who is the audience for this paper? How do you know? Give a direct quote from the paper and how this demonstrates the audience.
    2. What is the structure of this paper? Make an outline.
    3. Pick a different audience. Rewrite the above sentence for that audience.
  1. Read the course syllabus.
  2. Write a <1 page summary of your senior project (this could be from your proposal last year) and include at least 3 references on this topic. Due by e-mail to the instructor by 9:30 am today (1/10).
  3. Get your project advisor to e-mail me directly that they agree to advise you this semester.
  4. Read the multiple versions of the first chapter to my most recent book on the 2017 solar eclipse. Come to class with 3 examples of changes, at least one that is "big-picture" and one that is at the sentence level.
  1. Read the course syllabus.
  2. E-mail the instructor by 9:30 am today (1/12) with at least one of the following:
    • If you plan to do summer research this summer, pick at least three programs and send a link to the program and the due date for the application for each.
    • If you plan to do an internship, pick at least 3 programs and send a link to the program and the due date for the application for each.
    • If you are not planning to do either, what can you do this summer to help you after you leave Redlands? Give at least 2-3 ideas.
  3. Presentation from class.
Week 2


Read chapter 2 & 3 in the textbook, and Paper1 and Paper2. Answer the following questions for each paper and bring answers to class:
  1. What does the title tell you? Enough information? Can you come up with a better title?
  2. Does the abstract satisfactorily summarize the article? Can you find anything missing?
  3. For the paper, what exactly is the work and why is it important?
  4. What do the section titles tell you? Are they parallel?
  5. Compare these papers to each other and last week's in term of depth and emphasis of details

Presentation from class.

  1. Read Chapter 13 in the textbook, this grant proposal, and the panel review. Answer these questions:
    1. This proposal is not exactly like the one described in the book. What are some differences?
    2. What is the problem this proposal is trying to address?
    3. What is the proposed solution?
    4. Suggest some changes to the proposal that make could address the reviewers problems
Draft an application for at least 2 of the summer programs from last week. E-mail to instructor by 9:30 am and bring copy to class. In class, we will comment on each others applications.
Week 3


Read chapter 4 & 5 in the textbook, and 2 papers TBA. Answer the following questions for each paper and bring answers to class:
  1. Which word pairs do you have the most trouble with?
  2. How do the audiences for these 2 papers compare with the previous papers we've read?
  3. In each of these articles and one of the earlier ones, find an example of imprecise language, needless complexity, or ambiguity.
Presentation from class.
Within the past week, you were required to meet with your assigned group. The juniors are required to write a summary of your research project based on your conversation and send it to you. You will comment on their summaries, looking at both the writing style and content of each summary. You must turn in the summaries (with your comments) electronically by 9:30 am on Tuesday, January 30th.

  • By 9:30 am, e-mail me an annotated bibliography for your senior project. For each source, state where you got it (from someone or a specific search- tell where and when), what it is useful for (background, some particular aspect, a number or quote, etc.).
  • Before 9:30 am, go to the Focus 2 site and fill out the self assessment and explore career possibilities. Come to class with your log-in information.

    Heather Luth's talk, see only the first 7 slides.

    Week 4

    1/29-2/2 (Julie this week)

    Read chapter 6 & 7 in the textbook, and 2 papers. Section 1 papers are TBD. Section 2 papers are TBD. Using all of the papers we've read so far, find examples of each of the following (at least one must be from today's paper).
    1. use of "pretentious words" or "arrogant phrases"
    2. strong or weak nouns
    3. strong or weak verbs
    4. definition of an unfamiliar term
    5. using an example or an analogy
    6. imprecise language OR needless complexity OR ambiguity
    Read chapter 17 in the textbook and, email a working version of your outline for your final project. Edit: Send a list of goals of what you what to demonstrate in your senior project, an updated annotated bibliography, and an outline that includes which sources will be used in which section. By 9:30 am, e-mail me a link to at least 2-3 jobs you'd like (ideally, one you'd qualify for in <5 years and one in 10-15 years). Include a short list of things you like about that job (try to tie it to the values test from last week), and a short list of skills necessary for the job (from the skills list first week).
    Week 5


    Read chapter 8 & 9 in the textbook, and 2 papers. Section 1 papers are from TBD. Section 2 should read one of the above papers from section 1 and TBD. Using all of the papers we've read so far, find examples of each of the following (at least one must be from today's paper).
    1. 2 of: Redundancy, Zeros, and/or "Fat" Phrases. Discuss how to fix.
    2. an equation, discuss whether it is incorporated correctly
    Presentation from class.
    1. Bring to class at least 4 of the illustrations you intend to use for your final project. This includes graphs, charts, photographs, drawings, etc.
    2. Read the following webpages:
    Before class, must read research page for all physics faculty and any other faculty you might want to work with. Must also meet with 1-2 faculty members to discuss possible senior project (& summer research, if interested) possibilities. If you're basing it on a project done elsewhere, you still need a local advisor.
    Week 6


    Read chapters 10 & 11 in the textbook and articles TBA. textbook, and 2 papers. Section 1 papers are TBD. Section 2 should read this paper TBD. Using all of the papers we've read so far, choose 2 illustrations. Each must be from a different paper and of a different type. It would also be beneficial to choose a good example and a bad example, or one precise and one imprecise, or at least with different levels of complexity. For each illustration
    1. What type of illustration is it? If a figure, what type?
    2. Is the illustration precise? If not, what details are unnecessary?
    3. find the article text that references the figure. Where is it located? Does the level of detail match the illustration?
    4. Explain how the illustration makes the reading more efficient
    Bonus: Can you find a place in one of the papers where a figure is unnecessary? How about where an additional figure would help?

    TBA Pick a non-trivial problem you solved for another physics class. Imagine you are presenting this result to a group of students who've not had that class and haven't read the book. Write up your solution, including equations, illustrations, and explanatory text. Due by email 9:30. You must e-mail it to the other students we picked Monday.
    Week 7


    Read chapters 16 & 17 in the textbook and this paper about equations. Each student will also be assigned to read 3 of the Jrs problem solutions that were due Friday. Answer the following questions about each paper:

    1. Are the equations properly introduced? Are they necessary?
    2. Are all the terms in the equation defined in the right place?
    3. Are the equations integrated into the prose? Is the punctuation, capitalization, and italicization correct?
    4. Are the equations formatted for easy readability? Are they numbered?
    5. Are the equations referenced properly?
    6. Is the derivation easy to understand?
    7. Are the sources correctly cited?
    8. What font was used? It is appropriate?
    9. When are italics and boldface used? Does it make sense?
    10. Does the layout make it easy to read? Is there sufficient white space? Are there headings?
    Presentation from class.
    First complete draft is due (everything except Abstract and Conclusions). Send to minions and to instructor, along with any specific questions for them or things to look at (inlcuding asking the minions to each write an abstract and conclusions for you). Paper is due by 9:30 am on 2/23 for section 1 and 2/21 for section 2.

    In class we will determine a rubric for going over the talks, determine presentation order, and watch an example presentation. Read this rubric and be ready to comment.

    Write up your interview of the recent grad and send it as an e-mail to the entire class. Bring to class ready to share.
    Week 8


    Spring Break
    Week 9

    3/5-3/9 (Julie this week)

    Everyone needs to read Chapter 15 and this paper and this paper and the rubric before class.

    Electronic rubric

    Rewatch the following presentation: on the formation of the Himalayas. Answer the following questions:

    • How many slides are in the presentation?
    • How much time is spent on each slide? Is it consistent? Are there any slides that take substantially longer or shorter amount of time? What is on that slide?
    • What is the main point of the talk?
    • What is the structure of the talk? How many slides are spent on introduction? Experiment? Data? Results? What else?
    • What did you learn from the talk? What questions did you still have after viewing it?
    • Choose 2 slides (take a screen shot of each), one that has a particularly useful visual and one that has a particularly confusing visual. What is useful/confusing about them?

    The seniors must finish first draft of slides by this Friday at noon. Email them to Junior's come up with a thesis topic by Friday. Email Seniors with comments on their first draft by Monday 3/12 at 9:30am.

    Bring your minion's Abstracts and Conclusions to class. How accurate were they? Discuss. Given the presentation order already sent out, create an ad for the symposium. Section 1 creates the top half, section 2 creates the bottom half. Get it approved and posted before next Monday. Work in-class on finding sources for your senior project. Before class, find a minimum of 20-30 papers using a minimum of 6 searches. For each search, document the database, search terms, and the interesting papers that result.
    Week 10


    In class we will go over the Seniors first-draft slides. Seniors must edit slides and practice talks in front of minions before next Monday. All seniors will practice in class next Monday.

    Work on own on second draft. Meet in Library CILLab. Due via e-mail to me and Paige Mann on WEDNESDAY, MARCH 14TH: what do you most need help with for finding sources and figuring out your senior project? How far along are you?

    Read: This website.

    Week 11


    Seniors must edit slides and practice talks in front of minions before Friday. All seniors will practice in class next Monday.

    Second draft of senior theses due, changes should be based on minions comments. This version must include abstract and conclusions AND IN-TEXT REFERENCES.

    Go over changes in class.

    Week 12

    3/26-3/30 (Symposium 3/29)

    Week 13


    Senior project draft #3 due 9:30 am.

    Be prepared to discuss grad school visits, questions to ask, and summer research plans (juniors). Before class, read about the lack of correlation between GRE scores and prizes in Astronomy.

    Each student will be assigned 2 other senior projects to read and comment on, one as first reviewer and another as second. Pick an article from your searches and come to class with a 5 minute presentation describing the main points of the paper, including slides and images
    Week 14


    Juniors present senior project proposals.

    Juniors: draft of final project due.

    Any senior who wants Tyler to look over their final paper one last time, must e-mail it to him by 9:00 am (earlier is better).

    Last discussion of senior paper. Final version is due by e-mail Tuesday, April 17th, as well as self-evaluation and peer-evaluation. The portfolio must also be complete by this time. Last discussion of final projects. Final version is due by e-mail Tuesday, April 17th, as well as self-evaluation and peer-evaluation. The portfolio must also be complete by this time.

    Some of the material on this page is in PDF format. If your computer does not already have it, you will need to download Adobe Acrobat Reader (free software) to view that content.

    Updated 1/2/18