PHYS 408

Physics Seminar

AY 2017-2018

Instructor: Professor Gordon Richards  Meeting: Th 3:30-4:30pm; Room: Disque 919
Office: 812 Disque Hall Schedule:
e-mail: Office Hours: WF 3:30-4:30pm
Phone: 215-895-2713 Syllabus:

Course Description:
The course description, credit hours, and enrollment restrictions can be found at this link.

Purpose and Learning Goals:
Students will be exposed to current research being undertaken by physicists from both the local region and on the national/world stage. In additional to learning about modern research efforts, students will be exposed to a variety of speaking styles and will develop a sense of what makes for an enagaging public talk (and what doesn't).

There are no formal course materials. However, some speakers will provide non-technical references for their work ahead of their talk. Students should review these materials in order to make the most of each talk.

For this class you are required to go to the weekly Physics Dept. colloquia (Thursdays at 3:30pm in Disque 919, see the schedule at ). There is no other formal meeting time.

For full credit, you must attend N-1 of the colloquium talks and submit brief reflection papers for 3 of them. See details below.

Note that the colloquium schedule is often beyond the control of the instructor. Changes to the schedule are posted to the Physics Department mailing list; non-physics students will need to put in a bit of effort to make sure that they are aware of changes (the instructor will not send out separate reminders). Talks that aren't at the nominal meeting time/day are not required, but can be used to make up for another missed talk.


Students attending all but one lecture during the quarter will pass with a D+ (check in with the instructor before the start of each lecture or send an e-mail if the instructor is not in attendance).

Those wishing to achieve a higher grade can do so by turning in written summaries of one or more of the lectures. These summaries must be turned in before the start of the next colloquium. Please submit a PDF document via e-mail to Do NOT use as Outlook will scrub your PDF attachment.

Summaries should be 1/2 to 1 page and can be brief, **but should be sufficiently detailed that they would be educational to someone that missed the talk** (300 words isn't enough, but 1000 words is way too long). The summaries should be in prose and not in the form of notes.

Each summary will be graded as 1, 2, or 3. The default grade is a 2. Summaries that are too brief or read too much like notes (e.g., "the speaker went on to say") will get a 1. A score of 3 will be given for summaries that would be suitable to pass on to faculty that were not able to attend the talk, but want to know what it was about. Each "point" will correspond to one +/- on the grading scale.

E.g. a grade of 2 on the first summary will increase the grade from D+ to C and a grade of 3 would yield a C+. Students may turn in as many summaries as they wish, but an A- will be the highest grade given if more than 3 summaries are submitted (i.e., if you turn in 3 summaries and get a 3 on each, you can get an A+).

If you plan to submit a summary for a given talk, please do so within one week of the talk (by the next Monday for the last lecture of the quarter since grades will be due). Late papers will have grades reduced by 0.5 per week.

This term I will post grades using LEARN. Note that a "0" means that you have attended the lecture, but have not submitted a summary of it. You will be responsible for monitoring your progress there; I will not generally send another acknowledgement of your summaries or provide detailed feedback. If you want feedback on them, you are encouraged to come talk to me in my office.

Drexel's policies on Academic Integrity and Course Dropping apply to this course.

The nature of this course means that changes to its parameters may need to be made during the quarter. In the case of such events, students will be notified by the instructor through their official Drexel e-mail. Some changes may be made at the department level, in which case notification goes out to the department_of_physics mailing list. Students not in the Physics Department should make sure that they get updates instead from the Physics Colloquium page, notices posted in the Department and/or from the instructor.

Please be considerate to the speaker and others around you by refraining from using your cell phone (for any purpose) during the talks. Computers are OK, but only for taking notes.

No special arrangements will be made for students that are not in the intended demographic for the class (Physics Seniors) or that are taking this course simply because they need one more credit to graduate.

Student with disabilities requesting accommodations and services at Drexel University need to present a current accommodation verification letter (AVL) to faculty before accommodations can be made. AVL's are issued by the Office of Disability Services (ODS). For additional information, contact ODS at, 3201 Arch St., Street, Suite 210, Philadelphia, PA 19104, 215.895.1401 (V), or 215.895.2299 (TTY).

Fall Quarter Only: If you have read this far, please send the instructor an e-mail (by Thursday of Week 1) to receive some extra credit. Please indicate whether you understand the structure of the course and the grading scheme (and come talk to me sometime before the first talk if you do not).

Last Modified: 18 September 2017