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Capstone Options

The three credit capstone requirement for a B.S. degree may be satisfied in many different ways depending on the chosen degree option. It is possible to mix and match different activities for your total of three credits. The overriding principle for the capstone requirement is a demonstration that you have independently applied knowledge and skills from the physics curriculum to activities outside a typical classroom.

The biophysics option requires research on a bio-related project; the teaching physics option requires either Phys 401/402/403, Physics Pedagogy, or a pedagogy-related research project. For the comprehensive and applied tracks, the capstone requirement may be satisfied with any of:

Research for credit, Phys 499:
Finding possible research projects requires individually contacting professors to discuss potential projects, formulating a plan of activities, and having the professor agree to your enrollment in Phys 499 with their supervision. Research experience in another department or off-site can also fulfill the physics capstone requirement; this requires documentation and assignable credits as described below. Either Phys 499 or Astr 499 credits automatically count towards the degree.

During the Covid-19 pandemic there are fewer opportunities than normal for hands-on research, since it is not possible to train new personnel while maintaining safe social distancing in many labs. Nevertheless, remote research opportunities still exist. Examples of remote projects include data analysis, design of new equipment and experiments, development of analysis software, and pursuing and summarizing literature searches. Students can also work with faculty on pedagogical projects such as developing new online modules for courses. Additionally, faculty can supervise an independent project you propose (e.g., building something in your garage).

Team Project Participation:
Participation in various engineering teams such as robotics, human powered submarine, Formula, SpaceX, etc. can count for your capstone requirement. This requires documentation and assignable credits as described below.
Off-site Internship:
Participation as an intern or employee in a technical job can also be used for your capstone requirement. If the job does not involve physics explicitly, it must be combined with 1-2 credits of a different physics capstone option to complete the capstone requirement. It requires documentation and assignable credits as described below. If you need Curricular Practical Training (CPT) approval, contact the Undergraduate Faculty Advisor (UFA) ( well in advance of your start date.
Directed Reading in Physics (DRiP), Phys 498:
This 1 or 2 creadit course pairs undergraduates with graduate student research guides to engage with advanced academic literature and clearly communicate scientific material. For detail, see the DRiP site. Applications for DRiP open about one month before the start of the quarter.
Physics Pedagogy, Phys 401/402/403, and an Undergraduate Learning Assistantship:
The 3-credit Phys 401/402/403 classes connect with the Phys 121/122/123 introductory physics series and train undergraduates to be learning assistants in introductory laboratories and tutorials while also teaching general strategies for physics pedagogy and classroom management. Applications for Phys 401/402/403 open about one month before the start of the quarter. Completion of the appropriate Phys 401/402/403 course is a prerequisite to be hired as an undergraduate teaching assistant. The application can be found here.
Senior Seminar, Phys 494/495/496:
These 1-credit seminars engage students in current literature and topics of interest in physics by having them create and deliver a presentation, and learn from the presentations of others.

Use of out-of-department activities

For activities outside the department to count toward your Phyusics capstone requirement, you must submit a 3-5 page paper to the UFA ( demonstrating how you devoted at least 30 hours/credit independently applying skills and knowledge from the physics curriculum to these non-classroom activities. Your paper should detail what you accomplished & learned, and also spend a couple of paragraphs highlighting how your physics education was relevant. Your supervisor (someone with at least a bachelor's degree) must send the UFA (at a short note saying they have read the paper and agree that it reasonably summarizes your work. If your project contains sufficient physics, it may fulfill all three capstone credits. If it used skills and knowledge that will be useful in a future career, but not explicitly physics (e.g., developing code, fund raising, machining someone else's design), then it can count for at most two credits and must be combined one or two credits of Phys 494/495/496 to fulfill the requirement.

It is necessary to have actual credits to associate with the capstone requirement on DARS. This can be either a 299/499 course in another department or an extra course meeting the physics advanced elective requirements. The department will be applying this year to create a course number for off-site internships; until this is approved, contact the UFA about other options.