Physics Integrative Exercise 2012-2013
The Physics Integrative Exercise, a.k.a. Comps, is the culmination of all the hard work you have done during your time at Carleton. The first part of your assignment for comps is to choose a topic within (or related to) physics and independently research that topic using existing literature. (In addition to the results of your library research, you may also include original experimental or theoretical work.) You are required to present a 70 minute talk and write a 7500 word paper on your topic. You are also required to write an introductory paper on your topic which will be distributed to members of the department before your talk and an abstract written for a general audience (think intro physics students). Each student participating in comps will peer review another student's written paper twice during the process. Each student will also write two reaction papers to the talks of other students. It is crucial that you meet the deadlines for each of these things as you move through the comps process. You will be evaluated on your performance in each of these areas, including meeting deadlines, and your grade will be assigned accordingly.
Fall Assignments: Choosing a Topic and Meeting With Your Advisor
The first step in a successful comps project is selection of a good topic. First and foremost the topic should be of interest to you. Comps will require a significant amount of work on your part, and you will have more motivation to complete that work if you are interested in learning about the topic. Your topic needs to be narrow enough that you can address it with adequate depth, but at the same time broad enough that includes a range of themes from the standard physics curriculum (E&M, quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, classical mechanics, optics, etc.). Think about this balance when considering potential topics. If your topic is too narrow, it will likely not be integrative. If your topic is too broad, you will likely not be able present your topic at the level expected of a senior physics major within the length constraints of the paper. To get a feel for this balance and to see what people have done in the past, consult the final written papers of previous students. These are available outside the main Department Office (Olin 331) and in the Library.
Current areas of physics research, physics applied to outside or everyday things, historical aspects of physics, and physics applied to societal issues are all areas where people have drawn ideas for topics. If you are having trouble finding a focus for an idea, think of asking a question that your comps will answer. For example, What role do phonons play in superconductivity? As you consider topics, discuss your ideas with at least two faculty members.
There are two assignments during fall term. The first, due Friday, October 12, is a list of a minimum of three topics which you are considering. Even if you have a topic you have decided upon, you must submit a minimum of three topics. For each topic, state why you would like to investigate this topic and any questions you would like to answer. The second, due Thursday, October 25, is a one page proposal for your specific topic. The proposal should explain why you think this topic is interesting, how it is integrative, and list resources that you have identified. If you have any questions that you would like to answer, you should list those as well.
You must then meet with your advisor by November 14 to discuss your project and plans. Before this meeting, please consult go.carleton.edu/integrity to review Carleton’s Academic Integrity policy. Be sure you understand what plagiarism is and how to correctly cite other’s work. This meeting with your advisor would be a good time to address any questions you may have about academic integrity.
The main text of the paper is to be no more than 7500 words. You must include a word count when you submit each version of your paper. The word count does not include footnotes, appendices, the bibliography and similar items. All appendices together must be five pages or less. The form of the paper should follow the guidelines of the appropriate portions of the Style Manual from the American Institute of Physics.
The paper that you submit at each stage should be in "publication" form. The first version should be electronically submitted in PDF format to Mary Drew three weeks before your talk. This first version is NOT a first draft. It should be a polished paper free of typos and grammar mistakes. Read and reread the first version and tweak appropriately. You are required to include the first version checklist when you submit your paper. Your paper will not be accepted unless you have completed all items on the checklist. Your advisor and peer advisor will read the first version of your paper. Within a week of submitting your paper you will meet with your advisor and peer advisor (at the same time) to receive feedback on your paper. Following this meeting you should discuss your plan for your talk with your advisor. Two weeks after your talk, your second version of the paper is due in PDF form to Mary Drew (include the second version checklist). The second version of the paper should incorporate suggestions and comments from your advisor and peer advisor and be a very refined piece of work. A week after submitting your second version you will meet with your advisor and peer advisor together to receive feedback. You will also meet with your second faculty advisor for additional feedback. The third and final version of your paper is due five weeks after your talk. Email this version in PDF form to Mary Drew. This version should be of "archival" quality. It will be evaluated by your faculty advisors and then bound into a volume for the department and library archives.
It is crucial that you honor the deadlines for your paper. This is necessary to give your readers adequate time to provide thoughtful feedback as well as keeping you track to finish on schedule. If you submit your paper late, serious consequences may result.
Each person participating in comps will be assigned to peer review the first and second paper versions of another student. You should read these papers carefully and be prepared to provide constructive feedback to the author of the paper. You will meet with the author at the same time as they meet with their primary faculty advisor. Being a peer reviewer is part of the comps process and your performance will be evaluated and considered when assigning your final grade for comps.
The purpose of the introductory paper is to prepare your audience for your talk. It should include a brief synopsis of what will be included in your talk. You may wish to include background or historical information that is important but you do not have time to cover in your talk. Another possibility is to present mathematics or derivations that are not appropriate for oral presentation.
In most cases, the introductory paper will be derived from the introduction of your main paper. Just because something is included in your introductory paper does not mean that it should be completely omitted from your talk. Your talk should have a complete continuous narrative. The introductory paper allows you to shorten the time you spend on some topics during your talk. Be sure to read the introductory papers of other people before you attend their talks. The introductory paper is due in PDF form to Mary Drew one week before your talk.
General Audience Abstract
At the same time you submit your Introductory Paper you should also submit an abstract of your talk written at a level for a general audience. In this context, general audience refers to a student in an introductory physics class. The abstract will be published in Radiations and posted on the Comps bulletin board outside the main department office.
The centerpiece of comps is a 60 minute oral presentation. You should plan to talk for 50 minutes and leave 10 minutes for questions. Your talk should have a logical narrative that your audience can follow. It is your job as a speaker to keep them engaged in this narrative while clearly communicating content. The level of your talk should be aimed at your follow senior physics majors who have a solid foundation in physics but are not experts in your exact topic. General audience members should be able to follow most of your talk, however they may not have the adequate background to absorb all of the physics. This is OK. You need to strike a balance between all members of the audience.
The point of the talk is to clearly and effectively communicate your topic to the audience. This requires carefully planning and practice. A common mistake is to cover too much material. Your talk will likely cover less than your paper. Carefully plan your use of the white board and visual aids. You should also practice giving your talk to an audience of sympathetic listeners, such as your fellow comps students. This will give you a sense of the length of your talk and how to improve clarity. Plan some flexibility in your talk in case you go over or under time.
A tradition has evolved wherein the speaker provides modest snacks at the talk. Your faculty advisor will provide coffee and tea.
Each person participating in comps will be assigned to write a short two-page double-spaced reaction paper in response to the talks of two peers. The paper should provide careful, thoughtful, sensitive, constructive commentary on your experience as an audience member at the talk. Discuss the strength and weaknesses of the talk, what you liked, what you didn't like, what could be improved and how, etc. The reaction papers are used by faculty members to judge the efficacy of the talk to the speaker's peers. A paper which unconvincingly praises the presentation without showing thought is not helpful.
Following the talk the speaker will meet with their advisor to receive feedback on the talk. Reaction papers contribute to the feedback that a speaker receives from their advisor. This is done completely anonymously and comments are not attributed to individuals. Since this meeting occurs within a few days of the talk, it is crucial that reaction papers be submitted in a timely manner. Reaction papers are due in Joel Weisberg's mailbox within 24 hours of the talk.
You are required to attend at least ten talks besides your own. You may attend talks in any section. Attendance sheets will be passed around during each talk and the onus is on you to sign the attendance sheets so we can record that you attended the required number of talks. If you do not sign the attendance sheet you will likely not receive credit for attending the talk.
You will be assigned one primary faculty advisor and one secondary faculty advisor. The primary advisor will be your main point of contact throughout the process. Your advisor will read your first and second versions of your paper and provide feedback. You will meet with your secondary advisor to receive feedback on the second version of you paper. Immediately after your talk you should arrange a time to meet with your primary advisor to discuss reactions to your talk and future versions of you paper. This meeting should take place within three days of your talk.
In general, your advisor will be available for advice throughout the process. Consult them for advice on things such as an preparing outline and planning your talk among other things.
The talks will take place on Mondays at 1A (8:30 -- 9:40) and on Wednesdays and Fridays at 6A (W 3:10 -- 4:20, F 3:30 -- 4:40) during weeks four through ten of winter term. The final talks will occur on Wednesday and Friday at 6A for the first week of spring term.
Indicating Your Preferences
You have the opportunity to indicate preferences for an advisor, a talk date, and 6A versus 1A. If you have preferences you must indicate them in one of the assignments submitted during fall term, preferably the first assignment due October 14. If you are unable to participate in the 1A or 6A sections you must explicitly explain why (e.g, athletics during 6A or you are taking a 1A course during winter term). When considering your preferences note that five people will give their talks on a Monday at 1A, about six people will be completely finished with comps during winter term, and about 17 people will give their talk during winter term. Only two people will be present during spring term. The first papers will be due January 4 and the first talk will be January 25.
On November 1 you will be assigned a date for your talk and your primary and secondary faculty advisors. We will do our best to accommodate all requests, but in the end it is likely that not everyone will receive their top choices.
Registration and Credits
Comps is a six credit class. You may either take all six credits during winter term, three credits during winter and three credits during spring, or all six credits during spring. The distribution of credits over spring and winter term should approximately reflect when most of the work is done. For example, if the final version of your paper is due during winter term you should take all six credits during winter term. Register for your credits after the schedule has been announced.
You will be assigned one of three final grades: pass with distinction, pass, or fail. You will be evaluated on the following:
- Your ability to construct a cohesive narrative in your talk and final paper which is integrative and presented at an appropriate level.
- Your command and understanding of your topic.
- Your general written and oral communication skills.
- Your participation in the comps process as a whole. This includes peer review, reaction papers, talk attendance, asking thoughtful questions at talks, and meeting deadlines.
Approximately equal weight will be given to the oral and written parts of your work. To receive a passing grade both the talk and final paper must meet the minimum standards for passing. To receive distinction, either your talk or paper must be graded as outstanding and the other component graded significantly above the minimum passing level.
Writing a 7500 word paper is not a trivial task and will require significant time and effort to complete. Be sure to allow plenty of time to complete and polish your paper at each step. If writing does not come easily to you, do not hesitate to seek help early in the process. The Writing Center is a great resource and they are eager to help you with all aspects of your paper.
It is very important that you meet all deadlines in this process. The deadlines are designed to provide sufficient time to complete tasks and receive evaluation on that work. If you do not meet the deadlines you may not receive adequate feedback or have time to incorporate that feedback. If this happens, the quality of your final product will suffer.
In almost all cases, students find comps to be a worthwhile, interesting, and satisfying undertaking. The faculty agree with this and enjoy seeing the successful result of your work, which often goes beyond the specified requirements of the project. You are encouraged to give comps your best effort and discover that you are capable of independently becoming a local expert on your topic.
Fall Term Deadlines
- Friday, October 12
- First Fall assignment is due. This should be submitted to Joel Weisberg via email. Indicate any preferences for advisor and time and date of your talk.
- Thursday, October 25
- Second Fall assignment is due. This should be submitted to Joel as an email attachment. This is your last chance to indicate preferences.
- Thursday, November 1
- You will be notified by this time of your advisor, enrollment section, and presentation date.
- By Wednesday, Nov. 14
- Meet with your advisor to discuss your progress, plan for the project, and discuss and questions you have regarding academic integrity.
Winter and Spring Term Deadlines
- Presentation - 3 weeks
- First version of your paper to be emailed to Mary Drew in PDF form. Include the first version checklist.
- Presentation - 2 weeks
- Meet with primary and peer advisors to receive feedback on your first version.
- Presentation - 1 week
- Email introductory paper and general audience abstract to Mary Drew in PDF form.
- Presentation January 25 - April 5
- Presentation + 1 day
- Reaction papers due in Joel's mailbox.
- Presentation + 3 day
- Conference with primary advisor to discuss oral presentation and your plan going forward.
- Presentation + 2 weeks
- Second version of your paper to be emailed to Mary Drew in PDF form. Include the second version checklist.
- Presentation + 3 weeks
- Meet with primary and peer advisors to receive feedback on your second version. Meet separately with your secondary advisor.
- Presentation +5 weeks
- Final version of your paper to be submitted to Mary Drew as a single PDF file. Name your file: username_YYYY.pdf where YYYY is your graduate year (e.g., dluhman_2012.pdf). Mary will print your paper for binding.
- Before the end of spring term
- You will receive your final grade for comps.
- After receiving a passing grade
- Digitally archive your comps at the library website. More information on this to come.
NOTE: Spring Break is not counted in the official comps schedule. If spring break falls in your comps schedule as shown above, check with your adviser for details and clarifications.