Journal club assignment, 2013

  1. Choose a partner who is interested in the same research topic.
  2. With your partner, submit a copy of the first page of your chosen research article (title, authors and abstract). Also submit a short statement/agreement about how your will share the workload of preparing and giving the presentation. The first page and work agreement are due in class on the Day 9 of the class (a Thursday).
  3. Present your talk on Day 13 or 14 of the class (Wednesday or Thursday). See the talk schedule 2013.

Finding a journal club article

Finding a research article to present

Your goal is to a find a peer-reviewed article, or an invited article, that you can relate to our class material. Luckily, our class material covers all of solid state physics, which is the largest branch of physics research. Every issue of the journals listed below will have at least one article in the field of solid state physics. Class material includes:

  • Coupled resonators
  • Phonon dispersion relations
  • Electronic structure of crystalline materials
  • Photonic crystals
  • Band structure
  • Density of states measured by light absorption or scanning tunneling microscopes
  • Cold atoms trapped optical lattices
  • Magnons, also called spin wave. Like a phonon, except the direction of electron spins are oscillating instead of the atomic nuclei center of mass.
  • Modeling double-stranded dna as a 1d chain (see papers by Prof. Zwolak)

What journal?

The journals listed below have strict quality control; you will get good information. If you pick a journal that isn't listed below, check with the instructor first.

Note that authors write about physics for a wide range of audiences, from a lay audience to PhD physicists. Below, I've listed some of the top publications that span this range. You are free to choose publications from across this spectrum:

Scientific American (invited articles)

  • Feature articles in Scientific American are invited pieces that are written by scientists who have a made breakthrough in a new area. The articles try to be accessible to lay people (but it doesn't hurt to have done 8 Paradigms in Physics Classes before reading a SciAm physics article).
  • Before choosing a SciAm article, double check the credentials of the author.

Physics Today (invited articles)

  • You need to use a university computer to gain full access to these articles.
  • Feature articles in Physics Today are invited pieces by physics profs who are leaders in their field. The articles are written with undergraduate physics majors in mind. The authors would like to attract talented undergrad to their field. This is a great way to learn about exciting fields of physics.
  • Click on the “print edition” and browse through the 3 or 4 articles that are published each month.

Amercian Journal of Physics (peer reviewed articles)

  • (You need to use a university computer to gain full access to these articles)
  • Think of AJP as the “undergrad journal of physics”. Many of the experiments published in this journal were carried out by undergrads under the guidance of their physics prof. Physics professors will also use this journal to publish new ways of teaching physics topics.

Nature and Science (peer reviewed articles)

  • You need to use a university computer to gain full access to these articles.
  • Nature and Science are the most highly cited journals in science (definition of a citation). Publication in these journal is extremely prestigious. Authors assume that the reader has a strong undergraduate education in every discipline of science.
  • When browsing Nature, click on the current issue and then browse through the “news and views” section. If you see research that interests you, download the primary article.
  • When browsing Science, click on the current issue and then browse through the “perspectives” section. If you see research that interests you, download the primary article.

Physical Review Letters and Nature Physics (peer reviewed articles)

  • You need to use a university computer to gain access to PRL articles and you will need to request an interlibrary loan to access Nature Physics articles, there is a 2 day wait for the ILL process.
  • PRL and Nature Physics are the leading journals for telling the physics community about breakthroughs in physics.
  • PRL and Nature Physics authors assume that the reader has a PhD in physics, but that's no reason not to try a PRL article. It's fun to try understanding. And you can often piece together the story with help from other resources.
  • You can browse through Physical Review Focus where recent PRL articles are summarized by professional writers. If you like a topic, download the primary article.

Examples of papers used in previous years

  • “Direct Visualization of Evanescent Optical Waves,” D. A. Papathanassoglou and B. Vohnsen, Am. J. Phys 71, 670-677 (2003).
  • “Bound States of a Finite Periodic Potential Well,” D. W. L. Sprung, J. D. Sigetech, H. Wu, and J. Martorell, Am. J. Phys. 68, 715-722 (2000).

The Presentation

You and your partner should present a 5-minute/5-slide powerpoint talk summarizing the paper and expect 1 minute of questions. The talks are scheduled for the Wednesday and Thursday of Week 10. The material in the talk should be a small extension or application of what we have covered in class. Your talk must be aimed at your audience (your classmates). The grading rubric is listed below. There is no need to get dressed up, everyday clothes are fine.

Important rules for scientific presentations:

  • Number of slides = number of minutes.
  • Slides need to have some text for labels, equations and bullet points - but keep this text at a minimum. The font should be big (18 point Arial is easy to read).
  • The audience will never read a full sentence of text on a powerpoint slide. Instead, the audience listens to the speaker to get the narrative.

I strongly recommend the following format for the talk (do not to use more than 5 slides, do not overcrowd your slides):

  • One title slide.
  • One motivation slide.
  • One or two slides to help the audience connect their existing knowledge to a physical concept in the paper.
  • One slide showing results from the research article.

This powerpoint file is an example presentation and can be used as a template.

Other tips for giving a good presentation

Grading rubric


1. Thoughtful preparation (40%)

  • Slide layout and content (clarity, not too much, not too little)
  • Spoken word has been rehearsed and is supported by the slides
  • 5 minute length
  • The presenters have prepared for audience questions. This means thinking about the questions that the audience might ask and then making an effort to find answers (by doing background reading and/or asking experts).

2. Educational value (40%)

  • The content connects to the audience
  • The speakers motivate and teach an interesting idea that adds to what we've previously covered in class
  • The talk prompts thoughtful questions from the audience

3. Giving the presentation (20%)

  • The speakers picked a paper that they could get excited about and the excitement showed in the talk.
  • Voices project into the room, showing confidence and making eye contact (don't talk at the screen).