Departmental Honors in Physics The Departmental Honors Program in Physics was established to recognize and encourage independent and creative scholarship in physics by providing superior undergraduate physics majors the opportunity for advanced and intensive study. The central component of departmental honors in physics is participation in undergraduate research. To earn high honors in physics, students must produce and defend an honors thesis/document based on their own research. The committee's decision on whether to award high honors will be based on the quality of the thesis and defense. To earn honors in physics, the student must pass an oral exam probing the depth of their understanding of physics from their courses and research involvement or complete an approved graduate-level PHYS course with a grade of B or higher.
Requirements for Graduation with Departmental Honors in Physics
- Complete at least three credit hours of a Physics Honors version course.
- Have earned a 3.00 or higher overall GPA and a 3.30 or higher GPA for all physics major required courses at graduation time.
- Complete one of the following research courses PHYS 386 (Physics experimental Learning), PHYS 389 (Undergraduate Thesis Research), PHYS 399, or PHYS 499 (Independent Study).
- For High Honors, students must complete a research project with a Physics faculty member and defend a senior thesis or paper based on their original research. A student's defense committee should include the following people: the student's research mentor, the chair of the Physics Honors Program, and an additional Physics faculty member.
- For "regular" Honors, students must either pass an oral exam given by a committee of at least two Physics faculty members or complete an approved, graduate-level PHYS course with a grade of B or higher.
Note: Students who do not meet the criteria in items 1) and 2) above may submit an appeal to the Physics Honors Committee. The Physics Honors Committee may use other considerations (instructor evaluations, research activity, etc.) to award the Honors citation. Students who do not meet the criteria and are not awarded a departmental honors citation will not receive any negative record regarding the Physics Honors Program on any official document.
Departmental Honors Thesis Guidelines
Your paper/thesis should be written in your own hand and discuss your own work. It should be edited and approved by your Physics research mentor and other collaborators. It does not have to be published or submitted for publication, but it should follow the style guidelines for Physical Review Letters or Phys. Rev. A-E (or similar). Briefly, you should include the following:
- Title - descriptive
- Author list
- Abstract -- succinct summary of main results
- Introduction -- context, prior work, how does your work fit into the big picture?
- Experiment/Theory -- how did you do your work?
- Results -- present your new results
- Discussion -- what have you learned? How does it relate to other work?
- Conclusion -- summarize the new results
- Acknowledgments -- who helped you? who provided financial support?
- References -- standard citation list
- Figure Captions -- clear descriptions of what is shown in the figures
- Figures -- all the key results should be clearly illustrated in Figs.
- be ~30 minutes long;
- have an introduction that a general physics audience can understand;
- provide clear motivation for your work;
- explain the novelty of your work
- clearly articulate your unique contributions;
- show how the work related to broader issues in the field;
- be made using PowerPoint -- DO NOT include anything in your slides that you do not understand;
- include time for questions and answers -- be prepared!
- Your defense committee should include at least three people:
- your research mentor(s),
- the Honors Committee Chair,
- an additional faculty member from Physics.
- Give a copy of your paper/thesis to your committee members as well as your advisor one week before your defense.
Joint Honors With Other Departments
Undergraduate research is the hallmark of high honors in Physics, and the Physics Honors Committee appreciates the fact that research in other disciplines may involve significant physics. Students who would like to be considered for high honors in Physics based on their research with faculty from another department at the University of Maryland may submit an application for consideration. The following criteria apply:
- the student must be enrolled as a double major in Physics and the department in which the research under consideration will be completed;
- the student must have a 3.0 overall GPA and a 3.3 GPA in all physics major courses; the student’s research must be conducted with a faculty member from the University of Maryland;
- the student must prepare an honors thesis and present their research to a committee of faculty in their research mentor’s department;
- a Physics faculty member must be included on the student’s high honors defense committee, and this faculty member must agree that the student's research is worthy of high honors in Physics;
- the Physics faculty member who participates on the student’s defense committee must submit a brief report about the student and the research to the Physics Honors Committee.