Student Research Projects
Physics of Astronomy, Winter-spring 2006 - updated 2.June.2006

Click here for photos of students presenting at the American Physical Society NW section meeting

3 April 2006, Aldersundet, NorwayPhoto: Eskil Olsen

Jada Maxwell - Magnetic to acoustic waves in aurorae - webpage- ppt
Sonoluminescence - Chris Casanovas and Sara Neal - ppt
  Michael Koohafkan - Tidal Locking of the Earth - doc - ppt

Presenting at the American Physical Society NW section meeting, 19-20 May 2006, UPS, Tacoma WA

PHOTOS COMING - check back...

Each student will plan a research project in Winter quarter, and carry it out in Spring quarter.
This project is designed to be a significant part of your learning this year. Use it to investigate more deeply a question that is particularly interesting to you.

Post your assignments in the online Research folder

Winter Research Goals and activities:
wks 1-3
wk 4
wk 5
wks 7-8
wk 9
wk 10
Spring Research Goals and activities:

Winter Research Goals:

  • Identify possible research topics of interest 
  • Learn to search for scientific articles in the library and online
  • Find review articles to identify outstanding questions and good resources
  • Skim plenty of articles in your area of interest, and read the best ones carefully
  • Share your ideas about research in several short presentations
  • Articulate a research question and hypotheses to motivate and guide your investigation
  • Work with a team
  • Produce an annotated bibliography of research articles
  • Propose research to carry out in spring to investigate your question

weeks 1-3: We discuss topics of active research in physics and astronomy, in the context of lectures, seminars, and your short presentations. You begin reading journal articles and browsing for interesting research topics. Sign up as a member of the American Physical Society (APS) NW section when you subscribe to Physics Today, and plan to present the results of your work at the APS meeting in May in Tacoma.

week 4:

week 5: Your interim research planning report is due this week (online, and hardcopy to your prof), before your Research Planning presentation.

  • Read the five best articles you found from last week's library search (you have a break from classes, so you have extra time to do this).
  • Write an Annotated Bibliography:
    • Summarize each article in one paragraph, in your own words.
    • Reference: Include the complete reference at the top of each summary, including author, journal, date, page, and title.
    • For books, summarize the best few chapters, and reference the publisher and ISBN.
    • Web pages are generally not acceptable as scholarly sources, but you may find some that are compelling. Include all the web sites you might want to use, in your Annotated Bibliography as well.
    • Evaluate: In a second paragraph, evaluate the reliability and scope of each article. (How) might this source be useful to your investigation?
  • Write a 2-3-page interim report articulating at least two interesting, open question(s), and at least two different hypotheses for each
  • How could you test these hypotheses? What calculations or experiments might you do to investigate them? Be as specific as possible.
  • Present a 10-minute informal report to classmates about your research questions and hypotheses.
  • Make this interesting to your classmates. One of your goals is to convince someone to join you in this research. Everyone must have a teammate.
  • Colleagues will give you feedback. By the end of the quarter, you should have a fully developed research proposal on an interesting question.

week 6: Choose a teammate to do your research with. (Teams of 3 are fine, but 4 is too many for this project.)

  • Agree on a focus for your joint investigation.
  • Discuss how each teammate will contribute, and how you will work together.
  • Together, create an online Discussion (not a Folder) with an appropriate title and a SHORT description, including both of your names.
  • Post the rest of your research work there, starting with a suitably revised TEAM interim research planning report.

weeks 7-8: Finish your research planning:

  • Read more articles
  • Post information and ideas on your team's online discussion.
  • Read your teammate's posts and respond to them promptly.
  • Focus, and choose your best research Question(s)
  • Fine-tune your Hypotheses
  • What experiment(s) could you do to investigate your question? Data analysis?
  • Can you get access to the equipment you need?
  • Do you need to build or buy anything? If so, propose a budget. (We have allotted $50 per student for these projects. If you need more, what other sources of funding are available to you?)
  • What theoretical calculations can support your investigation? Do you have the math skills you need? What new analytic skills can you develop in your investigation?
  • What will you do week 10 to prepare for your research? Get a driver's license on the MRI? Other prep activities?
  • Make a schedule of activities for spring quarter. Articulate your goals, week by week, and the steps you will take to accomplish them.

week 9: Present your final Research Proposal in class, preferably as a PowerPoint presentation. BEFORE your presentation: Post your Proposal (in any reasonable format) online and give Zita a hardcopy in class. You will probably need about 5 pages for your Research Proposal, and 3-5 pages for your annotated bibliography. Come on time and listen to presentations - do not miss any classmates' presentations (yes, these will be on the final).

  • What motivates your interest in this topic? Why is it important? (1-2 paragraphs) 
  • Your research question(s)
  • 3 hypotheses for each question:  primary, alternative, and null
  • Literature review on your question:  who else is working on this, and what do they think about it?
  • Appropriate REFERENCES (author, year, page) for ALL information that is not common knowledge, in every sentence
  • If you use graphics from other sources (e.g. web pages), always reference them with both the Reference and the URL.
  • Strategies for investigating your question, including tests (experimental, data analysis, computational, and/or theoretical)
  • Prep Activities for week 10
  • Schedule of activities and budget for spring quarter
  • Annotated bibliography
  • 3 candidate questions (and answers) for the final exam (email these to Zita no later than the day of your presentation)

Colleagues will evaluate each proposal using criteria similar to those used by the National Science Foundation. Rating sheets.
$$ Proposals with high enough ratings will be funded, within limits. Review sheets.

  • What is the intellectual merit of the proposed research?
  • How important is the proposed research in advancing knowledge and understanding within its own field or across different fields?
  • How well qualified is the proposer (individual or team) to conduct the research?
  • To what extent does the proposed activity suggest and explore creative and original concepts?
  • How well conceived, organized, and clear is the proposal?
  • Is there sufficient access to resources?
  • What are the broader impacts of the research?

week 10: Carry out the Prep Activities in your Research Proposal. Apply now for a travel grant to the APS-NW meeting in May.


Spring Research Goals:

  • Carry out your research proposal
  • Test your hypotheses
  • Apply experiment and theory appropriately
  • Answer your research question
  • Register for the American Physical Society-NW meeting by April.
  • Clearly communicate what you learn, in a presentation at the APS-NW meeting in May. Evergreen students have made impressive showings at this professional meeting in the last couple of years, and meeting organizers are looking forward to your excellent work.
  • Publish your results, as a webpage, and perhaps even in a print journal.

$$ Apply to the Evergreen Foundation to for additional travel support to present your work. The sooner you apply, the better your chances, as funds are limited.




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