Paper formatting guidelines
Potentially useful links
Ideas for honors options
Previous honors options
Some general notes on Honors Options
Projects that endanger you, other people, or animals will not be accepted.
Projects need to follow proper scientific and safety protocols, and must not violate
any laws or international treaties. Please respect copyright, but realize that since
this is an educational project the concept of "fair use" does come into play. Videos
should be of good technical quality suitable for large-screen projection. Finally,
please note that, according to the College of Natural Sciences policy on H-Options, students must
achieve a grade of 3.0 or higher in the course in question to receive an honors option.
Available hardware for Honors Options
We have a wide range of electronics and hardware that can be used
for your honors project. This includes two Flip video
cameras, two high-speed (1200 FPS) Nikon video cameras (which
can also take still pictures), an
optical/infrared still camera, a tripod that fits all of the
cameras listed above, two iPads that can be used
along with a suite of Pasco sensors (accelerometer,
temperature, pressure, distance/velocity, and so on), as well
as a Pasco data-taking device that can be used with the same
set of sensors. You may also have access to the physics lab,
the lecture demo room (C-105), and everything contained within
both of those rooms!
Useful honors options links
MSU Honors College
The honors option
Some honors option examples
Another MSU page on honors options (including some example H-options)
page on enriching academic opportunities
Honors college page
on offering honors work
Academic Scholars Program advising tips (by college)
Acceptable references in Honors Option papers and case studies
If your Honors Option is a research paper, you must use only
primary sources. This does
not include Wikipedia and similar sites where users generate content
without any significant peer or editorial review. We prefer that you use articles from research journals
or researched books (a good rule of thumb is that if a book has a bibliography, it's acceptable), and in
certain circumstances will allow articles from reliable news sites such as space.com, physics.org, the New York Times Science section, New Scientist, Science Daily, Science News, the journal Nature's News Site, and the journal Science's News Site. If you're doing a project discussing science and the media, public impressions of scientific facilities, and similar topics, you can use other sources as appropriate (and after clearing it with me).
Paper formatting guidelines
I don't believe in having specific length guidelines for papers - the page lengths listed
above should be taken as rough estimates only. In general, I want a paper (or other honors
option) to be long enough to demonstrate to me that you have done a significant amount
of work (enough to qualify as an "Honors" project) and that you understand the material
you are studying. Padding of a paper to reach some completely arbitrary minimum (or trimming
to get below an arbitrary maximum) is a waste of everybody's time and misses the
point of an Honors project.
That said, I would like papers to be readable and have space for me to make notes. To that
extent, I would like papers to have 1"-1.25" margins with 12 point text and any standard font (Helvetica, Times, Times New Roman, etc.) would be appreciated.
Potentially useful links
More poster advice
Ideas for Honors Option projects
Listed below are some ideas for honors option projects. This is not meant to constrain you, only
to assist you in devising your own project. If you have a good idea that is different than what is
listed here, or combines more than one idea listed here, please feel free to suggest it to me!
- Read a book and/or a set of articles relating to physics or astronomy in some way that have a central theme, and write a paper describing the theme and books. Examples of themes include global climate change; biographies of famous physicists such as Newton, Einstein, or Oppenheimer; the development of quantum mechanics; the development of the atomic bomb; and the history and current developments in manned space flight. This would be an individual project, and would culminate in a 10-15 page paper and a 10-15 minute presentation.
- Do library research on a physics or astronomy topic of interest and write a research paper summarizing your findings. This would be an individual project, and would culminate in a 10-15 page paper and a 10-15 minute presentation.
- "MythBusters" - produce a 6-10 minute movie (DVD preferred) "busting" or confirming a physics-related urban myth, similar to the TV show. This would be a group project, and would culminate in the video plus a short writeup.
- Bio/medical physics - produce a 6-10 minute movie (DVD preferred) on applications of physics in biology and/or medicine. For example: explain how MRI/NMR/X-ray/CAT scans work; sports medicine; laser surgery. This would be a group project, and would culminate in the video plus a short writeup.
- "Science NOW" - produce a 6-10 minute video (DVD preferred) on some subject of current social relevance that also relates to physics in some way, similar to what is done on the PBS show
scienceNOW. Examples include, but are not limited to: Dark matter, the Large Hadron Collider and the possibility of creating black holes, effects of global warming on Michigan and its economy, space elevators, and the Hubble Space Telescope. This would be a group project, and would culminate in the video plus a short writeup.
- Develop a simulation using VPython or a similar programming tool that illustrates a particular physical concept. This would be an individual project, and would culminate in a demonstration of the simualtion and a short writeup.
- Create a poster presentation for the
Lyman Briggs Research Symposium. This poster would be combined with relatively short (~6-8 page) research paper that discusses the material in somewhat greater depth than the poster.
- Write a case study focusing on a particular physics experiment or facility, such as Fermilab or the Large Hadron Collider. What are the arguments for and against such a facility? What economic and social benefits does it provide?
- Write a paper comparing a journal article on a particular science topic to the popular press explanation(s) of the research done. Critique how the science was portrayed by the press to the public.
- Pick two or more of the labs that are done in LB273 or LB 274 over
the course of the semester, and improve them in a substantial way. This
may involve updating the lab writeup so that it is more informative/useful,
changing the way that the lab itself is performed, creating new or extended
pre-lab quizzes, coming up with ways to tie the labs to other disciplines
in Lyman Briggs, and so on. This would best be done by a group of 2-3
students,and would culminate in a short (3-5 page) lab writeup and a
10-15 minute presentation.
- Create at least one entirely new lab for LB273 or LB 274. You can use
any of the hardware available in the lab, and can also get equipment from the
Briggs chemistry or biology labs. We may also be able to purchase some new
equipment, as long as it's not too expensive. This lab may be used in place
of one of the current labs. You would choose a physical principle for people
to study, come up with a way to explore it in a three-hour lab, create the lab
writeup, and assemble the equipment needed. This would best be done by a group
of 2-3 students, and would culminate in a short (3-5 page) lab writeup and a
10-15 minute presentation.
Previous honors options
To assist in the brainstorming of honors option ideas, here is a list
of honors options done by my students in previous semesters. They are
in no particular order.
- "Space elevators" - an extensive video on the idea of space
elevators, the physics of them, their technical feasibility, and current research
relating to them. (Group project)
- Collisions program - a python program visualizing (and allowing
the user to control) 2D and 3D elastic and inelastic collisions, as
well as a short writeup explaining the process.
- Quack medicine - a series of short (2 minute) videos spoofing
quack medical and scientific products, as well as a paper explaining
why these products can't work (using the laws of physics). (Group project)
- Functional MRI - a paper and poster on how functional magnetic
resonance imaging worked. Poster presented at LBC research symposium.
- Crystal radio - student built a crystal radio from scratch and
wrote a paper on the subject, explaining how the radio worked, using
principles learning in the intro physics classes.
- Figure skating - a video on the physics of figure skating, also
using stop-motion analysis of demonstrations of standard skating movies.
- "The history of atomic energy." - research paper on the history of atomic energy, from pre-WWII to the present.
- "LASIK eye surgery." - 15 minute video and a short paper on Lasik eye surgery.
- "The Nuclear Bomb and the Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki" - a research paper.
- "Coral Bleaching" - movie plus short paper on the phemenon of coral bleaching.
- "Measuring the height of Hubbard Hall" - 15 minute video demonstrating several techniques of measuring the height of a building.
- "The Large Hadron Collider" - a case study examining the technical and social issues surrounding the construction and operation of the LHC.
- "The Facility for Rare Isotope Beams" - a case study examining the technical and social issues surrounding MSU's new FRIB accelerator.
- "The Bouncing Ball Lab" - a computer simulation of the 'bouncing ball' lab done in LB 271 (now LB 273) using Python and the Visual library.
- "LHC in the media" - a case study focusing on the publicity that the large hadron collider has received in the public vs. scientific press.
- "The physics of ultrasound" - a video discussing the physics of ultrasound machines, demonstrated on cows at the MSU dairy farm.
- "Origins of special relativity" - research paper examining the origins of special relativity, and the effects that relativity had on internationalism in the early 20th century.
- "The Higgs Boson" - research paper on the implications of the Higgs Boson.
- "The Einstein-Bohr debates" - research paper on the debates about quantum mechanics between Albert Einstein and Neils Bohr
- "Nikola Tesla" - research paper on Tesla and his inventions.
- "Dark Energy" - research paper on our current understanding of dark energy and planned missions to attempt to gain a better understanding
- DVD project explaining the physics behind the scanning electron microscope
- "Magnetic Resonance Imaging: When medical diagnostics and physics combine" - Paper plus poster presentation at the Lyman Briggs Research Symposium
- "Computed Tomography (and other medical imaging methods)" - paper plus poster presentation at the Lyman Briggs Research Symposium
- "The Physics of Submarines" - paper plus poster and model presentation at the Lyman Briggs Researh Symposium
- "Physics Rebel: A short biography of Einstein" - paper
- "The Physics of Racehorses" - paper
- "Sir Isaac Newton" - paper
- "Geometrical optics and applications" - paper
- Inquiry-based lab module on air resistance (including short paper)
- Inquiry-based module on relative motion and collisions (including short paper)