Nature of Physics Department SIP’s:
Senior Integrated Projects supervised by the Department of Physics can be done by any student, however, only those majoring or occasionally minoring in Physics will be able to meet departmental requirements. In most cases the SIP involves doing research in physics or a very closely related field either under the direction of a Kalamazoo College faculty member or a research group off campus with supervision by both the research mentor and a member of the Kalamazoo College physics department (SIP advisor). Appropriate off campus opportunities include research at national labs, REU programs at colleges and universities, research with individual faculty or research groups at other colleges and universities, and research labs in industry.
- Summer 1-unit SIP: A reasonably complete draft is due on the first day of the Fall quarter. The final draft due by Friday of week 2 of the Fall quarter.
- Summer-Fall 2-unit SIP: If done off campus, the actual research is done over the summer and the write-up is completed in the Fall. A reasonably complete draft is due by Monday of tenth week of the Fall quarter. The final draft is due by Friday of finals week of the Fall quarter.
- Summer-Winter 2-unit SIP: A reasonably complete draft is due by Monday of tenth week of the Winter quarter. The final draft is due by Friday of finals week of the Winter quarter. [Note: A Summer-Winter SIP is an unusual quarter combination for physics SIPs, and will be approved only in special cases warranted by the nature of the research project.]
- Fall 1-unit SIP or Winter 1-unit SIP (uncommon for Physics SIPS): The project is performed on campus. A reasonably complete draft is due the first day of the following term, and the final draft is due by Friday of week 2 of the following term.
- Fall-Winter 2-unit SIP (rare for Physics SIPS): The project is performed on campus. A reasonably complete draft is due by Monday of Winter tenth week, and the final draft is due by Friday of Winter finals week.
NOTE: It is expected that you and your departmental SIP advisor will have gone through several iterations of your write-up prior to you producing a “reasonably complete” draft.
How do I find a SIP mentor?
There are many ways to find a SIP mentor and a suitable SIP. Some suggested avenues to pursue are listed below.
- REU programs: Check out the REU link on the Physics Department website. These are programs typically at large universities, which use them partly to recruit graduate students. They are very competitive and thus careful preparation and thought is needed when applying. You should make sure you indicate that you will be doing this research as part of a requirement at K because that might be a positive.
- Surf the web: Some research institutions and companies have paid summer internships in areas relevant to physics or engineering and most have web pages with information on their programs (including downloadable application materials, eligibility criteria, stipends, and deadlines for application).
- Ask a faculty member: Approach faculty members to inquire about research opportunities with them or to ask whether they know of any opportunities. Often they receive advertisements from other sources, or they may have colleagues at other institutions that are looking for summer help.
- Contact researchers and institutions directly: Perhaps you know of a lab or project that is doing the type of research that you are particularly interested in, or you are fixed on the idea of being in a particular geographic location and want to look for something in that area. Initiative on your part is likely to be viewed positively so don’t be shy about contacting the lab or project coordinator directly to express your interest in working with them.
NOTE: When applying for internships, there are usually a number of documents that you must assemble. These vary with the specific program to which you apply, but generally include:
- an application form with biographical information, educational background and interests.
- resume showing educational background and work experience
- a written personal statement of research interests, career plans and goals (including why the program you are applying to would help you meet these goals)
- an official copy of your undergraduate transcript
- letters of reference (professors, employers, others) – Keep in mind that the registrar’s office and faculty members need advance notice to prepare transcripts and letters of recommendations. Faculty members need to see a well-written personal statement before writing a letter of recommendation. Plan accordingly. Visit the Center for Career & Professional Development (Dewing Hall- first floor) for assistance with resume writing, cover letter writing, and interviewing for a job.
Planning for your SIP:
Studying abroad for two terms in the junior year: If you are considering doing work on your SIP during the summer between your junior and senior year, then you must collect materials before you leave on study abroad, and you must apply for off-campus opportunities while you are abroad.
All other situations: You must collect materials during the Fall of your junior year and usually application deadlines occur during the Winter term.
Course planning: If you will be doing an experimental SIP you should have taken Phys. 370-380 beforehand. If you will be doing a computational SIP then you should take CS 110 before starting your SIP.
For any SIP you pursue, you should read relevant articles on the topic of the SIP during the term before you start your SIP. Ask your SIP supervisor for suggestions on what to read. If you do an off-campus SIP, make sure your supervisor understands that your work is part of a Kalamazoo College requirement. It is essential that you learn about the physics behind what you are doing, and not just perform tasks assigned to you. Ideally, experimental projects should expose the student to all stages of research, including experimental conception and design, equipment construction and testing, data acquisition and analysis, and the effective communication of the method and results to peers. Computational projects should also expose the student to all stages of research including problem conception and relationship to real systems, program writing and testing, data acquisition and analysis, and the effective communication of the method and results to peers.
Soon after you hand in your final draft, your SIP will be read by the members of the Physics Department, and you will be given an oral exam by the Physics Department about your SIP. Usually, you will be asked to make changes for your final write-up, which will be due within two weeks of your oral exam. SIP’s are graded Honors, Pass, and Fail. Your SIP will be evaluated on three pieces of evidence:
- Your write-up;
- If you have an off campus SIP, an evaluation from your off campus mentor; and
- An evaluation from your (on campus) SIP advisor.
To earn a grade of “pass” for your SIP, you must demonstrate a clear understanding of your research and demonstrate your individual contribution to your project or team project. An important component of the evaluation will be your success at integrating your knowledge of physics from coursework into your research project. The quality of the writing in your SIP will also be important.
In addition to the criteria for passing, to earn a grade of “honors” for your SIP, you must demonstrate evidence of originality in your contribution to the physics or engineering associated with your project or team project, and must produce an exceptionally well-written SIP write-up.
In rare cases the department may conduct an oral exam by 1 or more faculty members to determine honors, pass, or fail.
All physics majors must give a 20–30 minute oral presentation on their SIPs. This is usually done in the Spring term of the senior year and should be directed toward sophomore and junior physics majors. If you do a SIP in another department, this requirement may be met by public presentations in the other department. All junior and senior physics majors are strongly encouraged to attend SIP presentations.
Honors in the Department:
Honors in Physics is based on three criteria: (1) SIP evaluation (2) performance in coursework beyond the introductory sequence, and (3) performance on the departmental comprehensive exam. To obtain honors, normally at least two of the above criteria must be honors level work (i.e. honors in the SIP, grades of A in the coursework, and Pass with Distinction on the comprehensive exam). If you do a SIP outside the Physics Department, you must show exceptional work in the other two criteria.
The main text (exclusive of figures) of a Physics SIP should total about 15 to 25 pages. In addition there will be a bibliography and reference list and there may be computer programs, a glossary, complex derivations, etc. which appear in the appendices. Each figure should be placed immediately after its first reference in the text, and each figure must have a figure caption.
Every SIP should explain the nature of the system investigated, the relevant physics, the methods used to study the system, the results obtained, and an evaluation of the results. In most cases you will be working with other people on your research and your contribution will be a part of a larger effort. The SIP can discuss other work if it’s needed to understand your contribution, but you must make clear what part of the project was yours. This can be done in an introduction or preface. Write your SIP so that it will be understandable to another senior physics major.