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Physics 493, Seminar I (On the Craft of Scientific Presentations)

Dr. Greg Severn

R 4:00-4:50 ST261
Fall 2013 Draft Version 1.5

Dr. Greg Severn, ST285 x6845,
Office Hours
Not chosen yet: and, in addition to whatever these turn out to be, by appointment. These may change during the semester so stay tuned. are always possible. These are tentative, and I will try to find a set that works for everyone. This is typically impossible, but I will try.
A weekly (1hr) seminar devoted to instruction on scientific presentations in physics. Students will give short presentations on topics of interest, and will prepare to give a lengthy presentation on the subject of their research work. The course is repeatable up to a maximum of 4 units. Participating in the research process can be a stimulating part of the undergraduate experience, and it is a valuable one whether the student plans to go on to graduate school or to go into industry. But the student also needs to become effective at scientific communication, and the seminar is dedicated to inculcating necessary skills. And so, students will prepare, critique, and present short talks on topics of interest and will give a seminar on or related to the studentís own research work. Juniors will be advised to enroll, both to introduce them to the department's culture of research, but also to enhance their sense of community within the department.
Text---This is required----Buy this book hasty-posty!
The Craft of Scientific Presentations, Michael Alley, Springer-Verlag, 2003. ISBN 0-387-95555-0, Paperback. This book is required! If the bookstore doesn't have it, Amazon does! Get a cheap one!
Learning Outcomes
The Physics Major Program currently recognizes 4 learning outcomes. Throughout the program and especially at the time of graduation,
  1. Physics majors demonstrate a thorough knowledge and comprehension of the core concepts of classical and modern physics.
  2. Physics majors give evidence of possessing a set of fundamental skills that can be applied to a variety of situations, including a) writing skills; b) presentation skills; c) laboratory skills; d) computer skills; and e) problem-solving skills.
  3. Physics majors give evidence of being adequately trained to apply their physics experience and knowledge to analyze new situations.
  4. Physics majors understand and articulate the nature of science, and its development through scientific methods.
The Seminar course allows the student to demonstrate and give evidence for achievement of all four outcomes, particularly 2b) and 3. The reference to 2b) is obvious, while 3 comes in with the requirement that the student is required to compose a long talk on their research. The student will have submitted for credit a PHYS 496 Student-Faculty Research Contract (or will) that outlines a research project which the student has or will pursue. It is in the Seminar course that the student will present a formal, long, scientific presentation of their work.
Student Talks
Each student is required to compose and give 2 short talks (t < 15 min), and one long talk (t > 20 min). Students will also score the talks of their peers and those of nobel prize winners (or, other speakers) as part of their class participation. Short readings are assigned for class meetings. Familiarity with the ideas found in them will be assessed through class discussions which will also be part of class participation. This part is admittedly squishy. The other part of class participation is the submission of scores for talks. More on this later!
Your final grade will be determined as follows: short talks (each): 20%, class participation: 20 %, long talk 40 %. Roughly speaking, I assign letter grades to one's cumulative score according to the scale 85/75/65/50, for the lowest A, B, C, D. Student performing at a lower level will be transferred to USC. According the our academic calendars for this semester, the final exam for our course is scheduled for 19 Dec. 2013, 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM ( for all classes which meet TH only at 4:00 or 5:30pm). About this there are two things to point out: 1) we shall need the two hour block to get in the remainder of the long talks, and 2) there is no final exam.

Table 1: Tentative plan for sequence of topics
Week/DateTopicReadings/ # talks
I5 Sep. Intro class, why give talks?Ch. 1
II12 Sep. Giving the wrong talkCh. 2
III19 Sep.Drawing words from the wrong wellCh. 2
IV26 Sep.Structure of scientific presentationsCh. 3
V3 Oct.APS leaving audience at the dockCh. 3
VI10 Oct.Losing the audience at seaCh. 3
VII17 Oct.Slides no one reads– Short talks: Aileen, Kerry, EmilyCh. 4
VIII24 Oct. Slides no one remembers – Short talks: Theresa, Orlando, Justine 3s (Ch.4)
IX31 Oct.Murphy's Law & Deliverance – Short talks: Patrick, Chris, Janet 3s (Ch.4)
X7 Nov.Preparing enough – John, Jorge, Nick, JuliAnn3s (Ch.5)
XI14 Nov.Loosing your nerve – Long talks: Aileen, Emily+ short talk: Manny2L (Ch.5)
XII21 Nov.– Long talks: Orlando, Manny2L
XIII28 Nov.Thanksgiving vacation (Huzzah!)
XIV5 Dec.– Long talks: Theresa, JuliAnn2L
XV12 Dec.– Long talks: Patrick, Kerry, Jorge2L
XV19 Dec.– Long talks: Janet, Nick, Justine, John4L

1 long talk/student = 12 (@25 min) 2 per class x 6 classes Including final (counts as 2 classes)

1 short talks/student = 12 (@12 min) 3 class x 4 classes

some resources

File translated from TEX by TTH, version 3.81.
Sep. 2013