Journal Club

Physics 806 KSU, W 10:30-11:45 a.m., Fall 2009

1 credit hour pass/fail, Cardwell 119 


Itzik Ben-Itzhak, CW106A, 532-1636,, office hours: W 2:30-3:30 and by appointment

Brian Washburn, CW36B, 532-2263, office hours: M 2:30-3:30 or by appointment

 Goals Graduate school in physics can be a demanding experience, so we have design a course to help you out.  In addition to helping you get familiar with our department, we wish to help you improve your communication of scientific knowledge through presenting talks, writing scientific abstracts and reviews, and from learning from the constructive criticism by your peers.  Our hope is that the subjects covered will help you be successful in graduate school and in your career.  To help improve your skills, we have designed projects that will involve oral presentations, scientific writing, and lectures on ethics and research within the department.

 Oral Presentations Each student will give three presentations, one presentation on a departmental exam problem and two on a research topic.  An abstract will be written for the two research presentation, as you would do for a journal or for a conference submission.  All presentations are to be 10 minutes, followed by 5 minutes for discussion and constructive criticisms.  Some criteria for the audience to evaluate your presentations are:

* Did the speaker adequately inform the audience about the subject?

* Did the speaker hold your interest (weakly, moderately, strongly)?

* What was particularly good about the presentation?

* What can be improved in the presentation?

With an exceptionally good performance on the first research presentation, you will be excused from the second research presentation.  In more detail, the three presentations are:

1. Departmental Exam Problem. This will be the presentation of a Departmental Exam problem. You are expected to introduce the problem, discuss ideas and strategies for a solution, develop the solution, and finally, make comments or interpretation of the results. The presentation should be displayed on a blackboard, not with transparencies or computer.

2. & 3. Research Presentations. The first presentation is on physics research topics, as you might give within the department for research discussion, or, in physics conferences. You can choose subjects of interest to you, for example, from research journal articles or by talking with the faculty. The presentations should be professional in appearance, using a computer or transparencies. In them, you should introduce and give background motivation for your topic, and what is the significance of the topic.

Consider these details when preparing:

* Interest. Why choose this topic? What makes it interesting?

* Level. Can you master it in the short time you have?  Will the class be able to understand your discussions?

* Broadness. Will you be able to cover it adequately in the 10-minute talk?

* Resources. What plots, graphs, images, etc. are available on the topic?

* Questions! Think about potential questions that may be asked and prepare slides to answer them.

 Written Literature Review The purpose of this written review is to expose you to a seminal or groundbreaking paper in a specific field, and to see how this significant paper lead to new research and discoveries.  Furthermore, we wish to improve your scientific writing and revision skills, so you learn how to give (and take) constructive criticism.  There will be two parts to this review: writing the summary and reviewing the summary.  The first part will be a two page written summary on two related journal papers.  The second part will be a review of the summary performed by one of your class members. More information about the review will be handed out in class later. 

Scientific Ethics We intend to have lectures and discussions about ethical issues you may encounter in your career.

 Grading The course is graded pass/fail. You are expected to attend all the class meetings and participate in the discussions that follow each presentation.  The object of this class is not the grade but the experience you acquire by taking part in the class activities!

 Disabilities If you have any condition such as a physical or learning disability, which will make it difficult for you to carry out the work as I have outlined it or which will require academic accommodations, please notify me and contact the Disabled Students Office (Holton 202), in the first two weeks of the course.

Plagiarism Plagiarism and cheating are serious offenses and may be punished by failure on the exam, paper or project; failure in the course; and/or expulsion from the University. For more information refer to the “Academic Dishonesty” policy in K-State Undergraduate Catalog and the Undergraduate Honor System Policy on the Provost’s web page:

Copyright:  This syllabus and all lectures copyright August 2009 by Itzik Ben-Itzhak and Brian R. Washburn. 


Journal Club Tentative Schedule Fall 2009






Sample DE problem







DE problem presentations (4)



DE problem presentations (4)

Assignment: meet and greet faculty






Discussion on scientific ethics



Discussion on scientific ethics

Discussion: meet and greet faculty






Discussion on how to give good research presentations

Deadline for choosing research topics for oral presentation



Research presentations 1 (3)

Assignment: written literature review






Research presentations 2 (3)

Deadline for choosing research topics for written literature review



Research presentations 1 (2)

Discussion on scientific writing






Research presentations 1(4)



Research presentations 1 (2)

Discussion on review process

Written literature review part 1 due






Research presentations 2



Research presentations 2

Written literature review part 2 due






Thanksgiving Break


Discussion of written literature reviews