Department Honors

Department Honors

The department has special opportunities for good students at both the lower-division and upper-division levels.  Special honors laboratory courses (Physics 13AH, 13BH and 13CH) require unusual creativity and are available for a few students each year. Physics 142L, 143L, 144L, 145L and 199 are available to qualified seniors. All of the honors courses require the consent of the instructor and qualify for the College of Letters and Sciences Honors Program.

Bachelor's Honors Thesis

The opportunity to pursue a Bachelor's Honors Thesis is available for students who maintain a grade point average in Physics of 3.5 or better. Students must submit a signed Honors Thesis proposal form to the undergraduate faculty advisor for approval three quarters before the Thesis is submitted. It is recommended that students discuss plans to pursue an Honors Thesis with their faculty adviser even earlier (e.g. before the beginning of their junior year). Completion of an Honors Thesis involves developing a research project under the supervision of a faculty member, presenting a public seminar describing the work, and submitting a formal written report to the faculty member and the undergraduate advisory committee for grading and approval. Honors Thesis work is credited via one of the following courses: Physics 142L, 143L, 145L, 194, 198, and 199. While it is not required, it is recommended that the Advanced Lab be taken for experimental experience in a Physics lab setting.

College of Creative Studies

Another program is intended for especially well qualified and highly motivated students. This is a joint program of the College of Creative Studies (CCS) and the Department of Physics. The CCS Physics Program typically enrolls approximately ten freshmen each year. In their freshman and sophomore years the CCS physics majors take a demanding six-quarter introductory course. As part of this course they make frequent trips to the blackboard to explain homework problems to the instructor and to their fellow students. The small class size allows a seminar-like format and close student-faculty interaction. In the sophomore year CCS students start the upper division physics program, taking the same upper-division courses as the L&S students. They also take a laboratory course, taught by a member of the physics faculty, which moves them into various research groups within the Department by the middle of their sophomore year. Both CCS and L&S students who become involved in research as sophomores typically remain involved throughout their undergraduate careers. Many of them go on to write senior theses, and a number of students co-author refereed publications before graduation.


At the end of the year, the Department holds a ceremony and reception in honor or all graduating students (graduate and undergraduate) in Physics and the College of Creative Studies. During this ceremony, students who have been chosen by the faculty to receive awards are formally recognized and presented with a certificate from the Chair of the Department in the presence of guests. Below is a list of undergraduate awards that the Department honors:

  • Arnold Nordsieck Award Given in memory of Arnold Nordsieck, who was a theoretical physicist at General Research Corp. of Santa Barbara. It is presented to a graduating senior in Physics who shows research promise.
  • Outstanding Senior Award Awarded for excellent academic performance and evidence of future promise in Physics.
  • Research Honors Awarded for outstanding effort in laboratory research.
  • The Chancellor's Undergraduate Research Award A separate award from the Chancellor is given at a different time, however, the Department recognizes these accomplished students at the Ceremony. It is awarded to outstanding, graduating seniors with distinction as undergraduate researchers. Candidates for this award must be nominated by an academic department or program, or by an organized research unit.
  • Boston Area Undergraduate Physics Competition (BAUPC) Please note: this award is not always given. From the BAUPC website: "BAUPC is a physics and (somewhat) math competition that was designed to extend the idea and spirit of high school olympiads to embrace students currently enrolled in undergraduate program. Generously supported by Harvard Physics Department the competition is held once a year usually in April."
  • Physics Academic Honors Awarded to graduating physics students who have maintained between a 3.50 - 3.79 academic GPA in UD Physics courses, and who have completed 50 UD Physics units (Physics Department Award only).
  • Physics Highest Academic Honors Awarded to graduating physics students who have maintained between a 3.80 - 4.00 academic GPA in UD Physics courses, and who have completed 50 UD Physics units (Physics Department Award only).


Bachelor's Honors Thesis Archive

Lea Fredrickson '03 : Spin Dynamics Studies on the Green Fluorescent Protein

John Royer "04: Wave-number Selection by Target Patterns and Side Walls in Rayleigh-Benard Convection

Cheyne M. Scoby '06: Low-Data Investigation of Higgs Boson Discovery at the LHC

Hunter Y. McDaniel '06 : Vortex Dissipation in Type I Superconducting Films

Robert K. Lanza, Jr. '08: Experimental and Theoretical Studies of a Gadolinium-Water Neutron Detector for Cosmogenic Neutron Flux Measurements

Alan Wah Lun Mak '08: Methods of Searching for Higgs and Supersymmetric Particles at the LHC

Stephen Parham '08: A New Cavity Defect for Terahertz Photonic Crystal Slabs

Arnaud Berube '09: Testing Quantum Mechanics in a Mechanical System:

Characterizing Mechanical Resonators

Spencer Gessner '09: Using Transverse Mass Information to Reduce the Standard Model Background in Searches for New Physics in Events with Opposite Sign Dileptons

James Hynes '09: The Development of a Prototype High Energy Neutron Multiplicity Detector

Tobias S. Mansuripur '09: Asymmetric Flows Over Symmetric Surfaces

Elisabeth Newton "09: Finding and Modelling Gravitational Lenses

Griffin Rowell '09: Identification and Suppression of Instabilities in Cytop™ films for Encapsulation of Organic Photovoltaic Devices

Daniel Staudigel '09: Reducing the Size of the Filtering Hardware for Josephson Junction Qubit Experiments Using Iron Powder Inductor Cores.

Alexander Woolf  '09: Digital Etching in Coupled L3 Photonic Crystal Cavities

Omar Ahmady '10: The Effects of 70% Ethanol Storage on Bone Mechanical Properties

Steven Buchsbaum '10: Integrated Microfluidic Platforms Toward Point of Care Pathogenic Nucleic Acid Detection

Rory Hartong-Redden '10: Experimental and theoretical study of pattern identificationin physical systems with O(2) symmetry

Bryan Kaye '10: Effects of Cryopreservation on the Mechanical Properties of Bone

Julian Kelly '10: Single Qubit Bootstrapping and Gate Calibration

Joshua Murillo '10: Isolating Fluorescent Ag:DNA Molecules Through Hybridization with Complementary Strands

Bang Nhan '10: High Redshift 21cm Line Simulation Data Visualization with Canny Edge Detection

Christine Nielsen '10: Calibration Through Simulation of a Low-Energy Cherenkov Detector

Manuel Olmedo '10: First Calibration and Background Rate Predictions for a High Energy Neutron Detector

Carsten Quinlan '10: Performance, Calibration and Data Analysis of a Cherenkov Radiation Based Neutron Detector

Elinore Roebber '10: Parameterization of a Single-Exterior Black Hole in 2+1 Demensions

Matthew Rowley '10: Thermodynamic Analysis of DNA Nanotubes

Alexander Woolf '10: Digital Etching in Coupled L3 Photonic Crystal Cavities

Kayla Nguyen '11: Electrostatic Force Microscopy on Organic Photovoltaics