Senior Research Projects

Before graduation, every physics major must complete a senior research project under the supervision of a faculty member. These projects can include just about any field of physics, provided there is a faculty member who can assist the student in their research. Below is a list of current recent projects.

The Physics Research (PHYS 395) and Physics Thesis (PHYS398) courses are capstone experiences designed to give students an opportunity of undertaking an independent and creative exploration of a topic in physics that is of interest to them, provided there is a faculty member who can assist the student in their research. This exploration can be a new endeavor, or the continuation of an ongoing project in which the student has been involved. The two-course sequence is structured to allow students to complete the majority of their research during the fall semester, thereby allowing them to focus on the presentation of their result during the spring semester.


In order to ensure a successful and rewarding experience, students who enroll in PHYS395 are required to submit a project summary by the end of the first week of the Fall semester to the course coordinator (Dr. Marco Fatuzzo). This summary, written with guidance from the faculty advisor, should clearly state the purpose of the research project, provide a concise outline of the various steps required to complete the project by the end of the semester, and set a reasonable timeline for the completion of these steps. The summary is intended to provide focus for the ensuing semester, and is not binding in that a project may be deemed successful even if all steps outlined in the summary are not completed. All students enrolled in PHYS395 will meet as a group several times over the course of the fall semester to discuss their research progress. The course grade for PHYS395 is based primarily on a student's effort in their project and participation in group meetings rather than on their results.

The main components for the Spring semester course (PHYS398) focus on the effective presentation of a student's results to the scientific community. Specifically, students are required to present a 10-15 minute talk early in the Spring semester to the Physics department, present a poster at Xavier's Celebration of Student Research (usually held in April), and write a thesis by the end of the semester.

Course Syllabi

The Outstanding Senior Research in Physics Award

Each academic year, the faculty of the Physics Department assesses the originality, quality, and presentation of each senior research project. If warranted, the physics faculty presents the student deemed to have performed the highest quality independent research with an Outstanding Senior Research in Physics Award. This award carries a cash prize, and is formally presented during the Spring Semester Sigma Pi Sigma banquet.

2013-2014 Senior Research Projects

  • Teckla Akinyi
  • Justin Beck
  • Emma Bradford
  • Dana Davis
  • Brendan Gausvik
  • Jenna Graham
  • Laura Kaiser
  • Lauren Lopez
  • Dillon Morris
  • Malia Smolenski
  • William Thacther