FIU Department of Physics

First-Year Physics Seminar
PHY 1033

Wednesdays, 11am - noon
AHC3 - 214


Dr. Laird Kramer
Laird.Kramer at
CP 211

Dr. Caroline Simpson
simpsonc at
CP 217A

Course Information

This weekly seminar course will introduce you to a variety of research fields in physics, especially those pursued here in our Physics Department. You will meet and talk with several physics faculty, as well as your fellow physics students and graduate students. There will be informal presentations by faculty and graduate students, and several senior undergraduate physics majors. You will learn how to make the most of your physics education at FIU, about physics career options, and how physics research is done.

One goal of this experience is to help you make the most of your physics degree. A second goal is to encourage scientific discourse throughout your life. We will ask for feedback throughout the course, but feel free to let us know anytime how to improve the course.

Attendance: This is a seminar course and need your input to be successful. Attendance is therefore required and counts towards your grade. You may have one excused absence during the term.

Contributing to the Discussions: This is an informal discussion-based course, so you must not only come to the class, but you must also contribute to the discussions. Contributing includes posing questions, answering questions, and offering opinions, as well as several assignments that will be given out in class.

Seminar Surveys: We will encourage scientific discourse throughout the course by asking you to fill out one-page surveys when we have guest speakers. The goal of the survey is to get you to think about the topic, they should take only a short time to complete. Each survey will be graded on the following scale:

Assignments: During the semester, you will be responsible for the following assignments:

Other assignments may also be made in class.

Student Presentation: The class will be broken into groups of 3-4 students. Each group will be responsible for one 10-minute presentation on a physics-related topic of your choice. The topic must be approved by one of the instructors. Ideas for topics can come from magazines, newspapers, the web, or your imagination. The goal is to pick a topic that you find interesting and think your fellow classmates will enjoy.

Interviews: One of the goals of the course is to meet people in the physics department. To encourage that, everyone will interview at least one person in the physics department and relay his/her story to the rest of the class. You may interview faculty, researchers, and graduate students. We'll provide a list of candidates; each person may only be interviewed by one person. To get credit, you must send a short (few paragraphs) write-up of your interview to the class listserv (see next item).

Email List: An email list ( will be created to distribute information on the course and encourage group discussion. Your FIU email will be added to the list. You may also request that your favorite addresses be added.

Grading: The grade breakdown is:



Discussion / Assignments


Seminar Surveys


How to fail this course: In our experience, the best way to do poorly in this class is to miss assignments. If you don't do the assignments (most of which are pretty simple and quick to do, we think) and/or the surveys, you're guaranteed a grade less than 75%, which is a C at best. Ditto for the presentation and interview. And come to class! It's just one hour a week, for heaven's sake!

Interesting Links: Here are links with useful information about careers, topics, meetings, recent discoveries...

American Physical Society:
American Institute of Phyics:
American Astronomical Society:
American Association of Physics Teachers:
Physics Central:
National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) sites:
Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships:
Society of Physics Students information on careers in physics:


Week Topic

Jan. 12

Assignment: send three interesting things about the syllabus to both Simpson (simpsonc @ and Kramer (kramerl @; due Jan. 19

Jan. 19

REUs: Summer Fun (with pay!)
Assignment: Send information about three REU programs you find interesting to the class listserv (phy1033 @; due Jan. 23

Jan. 26

4 Color Universe
Bring a laptop to class

Feb. 2

4 Color Universe
Bring a laptop to class

Feb. 9

Faculty Talk
Assignment: email Simpson/Kramer with the topic(s) on which you would like to do your presentation. Due Feb. 16

Feb. 16

Careers with Physics: I can make money HOW?
Leanne Wells

Assignment: Send information about 3 non-academic jobs (that require a physics bachelor's degree) that you find interesting to the class listserv (phy1033 @; due Feb. 23

Feb. 23

Graduate School? How does that work?

Assignment: Send information about three graduate programs you find interesting to the class listserv
(phy1033 @
Due Mar. 2

Mar. 2

Jobs/Grad School Debrief

Assignment: Interview a "Physicist." Pick someone from the list sent to the class listserv; notify Simpson/Kramer who it is; submit a short write-up of your interview to the class listserv no later than Apr. 13

Mar. 9

Faculty Talk

Mar. 16

Spring Break; No Class

Mar. 23

Undergraduate Talk
Jonathan Mahadeo

Mar. 30

Faculty talk

Apr. 6

Student Presentations

Apr. 13

Student Presentations

Apr. 20

Student Presentations

*Schedule subject to change