Foundations and Frontiers of Physics
Fall 2023 and Spring 2024
An informal seminar for first year graduate students.
Wednesdays, 5:00pm PSC 2136 (note: this is a change from last semester when seminars were on Thursdays)
The Foundations and Frontiers of Physics Seminar is a required non-credit seminar for the first-year graduate students.
However, all graduate students are invited to attend. The main purpose of this seminar course is to attempt to convey
the sort of "feel" for physics that is ordinarily not communicated in course work, seminars or even colloquia. This
includes elementary arguments, analogies and "back-of-the-envelope calculations". The seminars will be presented by
various faculty members and other researchers associated with the department. We hope that the course will promote
collegiality among the students and faculty, enhance the human side of graduate training in physics, and help students
to become familiar with the research going on in the department.
The seminars will start at 5:00 pm every other Wednesday, more or less, according to the schedule below.
There may be additional time for further discussion after the seminars.
Schedule, Fall 2023, Spring 2024
|Sep 6, 2023||Professor Bill Phillips||Experimental AMO and QIS
|Sep 20, 2023||Professor Sasha Philippov||Plasmas and astrophysics
|Oct 4, 2023||Professor James Gates||Particle theory
|Oct 18, 2023||Professor Kiyong Kim||Laser/matter interactions
|Nov 1, 2023||Dr. Nicholas Butch, NIST||Quantum materials
|Nov 15, 2023||Professor Phoebe Hamilton||HEP
|Nov 29, 2023||Professor Bill Dorland||Plasma theory
|Jan 31, 2024||Professor Steve Rolston||Experimental AMO and QIS
|Feb 14, 2024||Professor Mohammed Hafezi||Theoretical QIS
|Feb 28, 2024||Professor Kara Hoffmann||Experimental particle astrophysics
|Mar 13, 2024||Professor Raman Sundrum||Particle theory
|Mar 27, 2024||Professor John Mather||Experimental astrophysics/cosmology
|Apr 10, 2024||Professor Maria Mukhina||Experimental biological physics
|Apr 24, 2024||Professor Aaron Sternbach||CME
Course requirement: attendance to 10 out of the 13 scheduled seminars over the Fall and the Spring seminars.
You will have to complete the course the following year if you do not fulfill this. (Attendance will be recorded.)
Guidelines for Speakers
- The total duration of the presentation should be about 60 minutes long
- We encourage you to combine your presentation with a senior graduate student in your field who can give a
sense of what it is like to be a student in the field.
- We suggest that the student (if available) present during the last 15 minutes of the 60 minute period and
potentially after you have taken off.
- The student could answer questions such as: what his/her work as a graduate student entails, how the student
learned the necessary skills, anecdotes about enjoyable and frustrating experiences in their research.
- Your talk should be much more informal than the departmental colloquia and group research seminars.
- The ideal that we are aiming for is something like the talk you would give to a first year grad student visiting
your office to find out about the physics of your research area. This means a heavy emphasis on the blackboard and
lots of interaction with the students, and little or no use of traditional presentation aids such as PowerPoint,
which tend to put a barrier between the students and the speaker. This kind of talk will require less preparation
in the conventional sense (no preparation of viewgraphs), but a lot of thought as to how to best convey the basic
concepts and a feel for doing research in your field.
- Begin by speaking for 10-15 minutes about the "human side" of your work. For instance, you might talk about
your experiences as a graduate student, how you came to be involved in the field of your research, and/or
experiences that were important to you in your development as a physicist. Please don't ignore this part.
It is an important aspect of the perspective we are trying to offer the students.
- Assume no background beyond an undergraduate education in physics. The audience consists almost entirely of the
first year graduate students.
- Concentrate on the fundamentals of your topic, at a truly introductory level. Attempt to give a "feel for the physics"
with the use of elementary arguments, analogies, and back-of-the envelope calculations. Discuss the kind of
order-of-magnitude estimates that are relevant to research in your field.
- Try to convey the flavor of current research in your topic. However, please do not consider your own research as
the primary focus of the seminar.
- Encourage questions.
- Please plan to stay if possible after your talk so that further, informal, discussion can take place.