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Thank you for supervising OSU physics undergraduate research projects! This page provides information about the thesis advisor's role in the senior thesis research project required of all Physics Majors.
Physics majors are required to conduct research on a physics-related topic by registering for 3 credits of PH401 (Research) under the guidance of a faculty mentor (you). Students will often spread the PH401 credits across multiple terms. Faculty mentors can reside in departments other than physics (engineering, mathematics, oceanography...). The physics major uses their research project to write a thesis by enrolling in PH403 (Thesis) for 1 credit in each of Fall, Winter and Spring terms. PH403 is the course Physics uses to implement OSU's Writing Intensive Curriculum (WIC) requirement in the major and it is led by a designated Physics Faculty member and a TA. Students should begin the research before enrolling in PH403. They may complete the research while enrolled in PH403. The three PH401 credits may be distributed by terms as the advisor and student see fit, but the strong recommendation is that the research be essentially complete at the end of the winter term in which the student is enrolled in PH403.
You and the student should agree on a project that:
The hardest part of the thesis writing class is to get the students to revise their writing more than once. Mostly, they are still waiting for results at the last minute, so this makes revision difficult. So please push them towards early completion of the project.
Students may wish to receive OSU's Research Fellow designation on their transcripts. They must post the thesis on the OSU Scholars' Archive to receive the designation and you must sign off on the statement on Form A (off-campus mentors may instruct the on-campus mentor or the PH403 instructor to sign off). The thesis work is presented in 10-minute talk mode at a conference at the end of Spring term.
* OSU Advisors NOT in the OSU Physics Department: Many faculty members do physics-related research in departments other than physics (engineering, mathematics, oceanography are recent examples of departments where physics students have completed a physics senior thesis project). Provided the project is physics-based, it should be suitable. Students should consult with you about the project and have it cleared by the PH403 instructor before research begins. Examples of thesis projects are here. We can provide a section of PH401 where you can be the instructor of record, or you can ask the PH403 instructor to be the instructor of record.
* Non-OSU Advisors: We allow some students to use REU or other external research experiences as a senior thesis project. In this case, we may waive the PH401 requirement. Students are expected to (a) discuss their intentions with you before the REU experience begins to ask you if you are willing to allow the work to be used, (b) agree to find an OSU on-campus mentor who can deal with general questions and administrative matters in the coming year, (c) ask you to read a proposal for the thesis (Fall), a draft (Winter) and the final version (Spring), (d) ask your permission to post the completed thesis on OSU's Scholar Archive, and explicitly discuss intellectual property and proper attribution with you. Any questions you have can be answered by the PH403 instructor.
PH403 meets once a week for 50 minutes. Students work with a faculty member, a TA and their peers to write the thesis. In the process, they also participate in writing and presentation exercises, peer review, and some professional development activities. The class provides a forum for students to review and edit the work of their peers, learn the basic structure and norms of writing, presenting information, and time management. Students are also expected to teach peers about their projects and to learn about the other projects.
Advisors are not expected to engage in line-by-line editing of the thesis, nor to correct grammar errors or structure, but they may certainly undertake these tasks if they wish! However, peers and the thesis instructor are not in a position to correct content errors, so this is the advisor's main role. Advisors should point out large-scale problems with structure, grammar, vocabulary etc., and the students should use the PH403 forum to address these problems.
Advisors read and approve a thesis proposal in the Fall term. If the actual project deviates from the proposed project, students and advisors should communicate about goals and expectations as the project proceeds.
Students present 10-minute talks at a mini-conference. Presentation is required, but is not graded. These oral presentations are in two 2-hour sessions, one during the last scheduled class (week 10) and one during finals week (dates TBA). Please try to attend your student's presentation. Honors College students arrange separate presentations in accordance with the Honors College procedures.
Honors College students are required to present their research as a poster at the Honors College thesis fair in May. Encourage all students to present posters at the CUE (Celebrating Undergraduate Excellence) event in May.
The following timeline ensures that the students who qualify for the OSU research transcript notation on their diplomas can submit the paperwork in a timely manner. It also gives students time to focus on their oral presentations and study for finals. It allows the PH403 instructor to read all theses to ensure grading consistency.
The PH403 instructor for 2018/19 is Prof. Ethan Minot. Please contact him if you need more information. Thanks again for guiding these students!