Independent Minds, Working Together


The Physics Department encourages you to choose your I.S. topic in the Spring Semester of your Junior year (or no later than the summer before your Senior year). Topics may be extensions of course work or summer research, they may extend existing research in the department, or they may be self-designed. Some limitations do exist with regard to equipment and faculty expertise. However, the physics faculty can provide guidance in the following broad areas of physics: Mechanics, Optics, Electricity and Magnetism, Nonlinear Dynamics, Thermodynamics, Particle Physics, Condensed Matter, Biophysics, Astrophysics and Chemical Physics. Specific topics in these or other areas of physics are determined by the department chair after consulting with physics seniors and faculty members and after considering the available resources.

  • Projects must extend our knowledge of physics using at least one of the following techniques: experiment, simulation, theory. Explicitly prohibited are projects whose sole intent is the construction of an object (for example, a radio) or projects which are tutorial courses (for example, solving a set of problems from a particular textbook). Interdepartmental projects are possible and will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • The deciding factor in approving projects will be the science components. Each I.S. project must address some interesting scientific questions.
  • The resources for the project must be either available or readily acquired.
  • A faculty member must agree to supervise the project. Although we do not expect you to embark on a project unaided by an advisor, you should not expect your advisor to do the work for you (conduct the library search, construct the apparatus, develop the simulation, take the data, and (re)write the thesis). Advisors advise and guide while you do the work.