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

Dr. Greg Severn

2:30 pm - 3:25 pm T
Fall 2015 Draft Version 1.0

Dr. Greg Severn, ST285 x6845,
Office Hours
Let's try MW1:30-3:30pm, T 10-11, and, by appointment. These may change during the semester so stay tuned.
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, 2013 (2nd ed.) ISBN-13: 978-1441982780, 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 1 short talk (t = 15 min), and and one long talk (t = 25 min) corresponding roughly to American Physical Society guidelines for contributed and invited talks. Students will also score the talks of their peers and those of nobel prize winners (or, other speakers) as part of their class participation. There is also a 'slide tech talk', very short, 8 minutes in which a mapping slide and a substance slide is presented (5 min. plus 3 for questions). This will get folded into the class participation grade. Short readings are assigned for class meetings. Familiarity with the ideas found in them will be assessed through class discussions and pre-classes quizzes which will also be part of class participation. 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: class participation: (reading quizzes, submitted scoring rubrics, slide tech stuff) 30 %, short talk: 30%, 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 22 Dec. 2015, 2:00 - 4:00 PM ( for all classes which meet T only at 2:30). 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 (not all links are live yet)
Week/DateTopicReadings/ # talks
I1 Sep. No classes first week!:)Ch. 1
II8 Sep. Intro class, why give talks?Ch. 1
III15 Sep. Giving the wrong talk (CE #1)Ch. 2
IV22 Sep. How to make your talk more boring (CE #2)Ch. 2
V29 Sep. Structure of scientific presentations; death by breadth and depth (CE#3) Ch. 3
VI6 Oct. leaving audience at the dock; (CE#4)Ch. 3
VII13 Oct. Losing the audience at sea; (CE#5) APS class meeting Ch. 3
VIII20 Oct. Not accounting for audience bias; (CE#6); Slide TECH talks (5min+3min4Qs)Ch. 4/4stt
IX27 Oct. Slide TECH talks Ch.4/5stt
X31 Oct. Power point isn't really your friend (CE#7&8) Ch.4
XI3 Nov. Preparing enough (CE#10) – First Short talks (12m+3min4Qs)Ch.5/1st
XII10 Nov. Drawing words from the wrong well (CE#11) – Short talks Ch.5/4st
XIII17 Nov. Short talksCh.6/4st
XIV24 Nov. First Long talk (20m+5min4Qs)Ch.7/1lt
XV1 Dec. Long talks 2lt
XVI8 Dec. Long talks 2lt
XVIII22 Dec. Long talks4lt

some resources

File translated from TEX by TTH, version 3.81.
Aug. 2015