Recent Physics and Astronomy honors theses are available from Macalester's Digital Commons

Departmental Honors Policy

The Honors program offers our strongest students the opportunity to undertake a substantial research project in Physics or Astronomy and be recognized by the College for doing so. Typically, Honors projects will take one of the following forms:

  • Collaborative research with a Macalester Faculty member.
  • Collaborative research with a Scientist at another institution (e.g., through an REU).
  • Independent research project (which still must be supervised by a faculty member).
  • Research published literature in a particular area of physics. 

All Honors projects require a sponsor from the Macalester Faculty. The sponsor will follow the student’s progress on the project, guide the student, and monitor whether he or she is making satisfactory and appropriate progress towards completion. 

In collaborative research projects, we expect that the student will be a full participant.  To the extent possible the student should be actively involved in the planning and execution of the work, should participate in the analysis of the results, and should be able to give talks and contribute to papers describing the results.

Literature review projects should cover areas of current scientific research. The student should review and critique current papers in the area of study. For this reason, simply working though a standard textbook on a particular subject is not an appropriate Honors project.

Students are strongly advised to begin Honors projects the summer before their Senior Year. This is particularly true for those who wish to undertake experimental projects.

Prerequisites for entrance into the Honors program

Candidates must maintain a GPA of 3.30 or higher.

Students must have Senior standing or be in the second semester of their Junior Year. Students must have completed Modern Physics or the equivalent.

The student must submit a written proposal to the Chair of the Physics Department by October 1* (May 1 for Fall graduates) of their Senior Year. The proposal should describe the proposed project, discuss the student’s anticipated role in the project, and give a time-line for completion. The Faculty sponsor must submit an accompanying letter of support. Honors proposals will be reviewed by the department for approval.

Description of the Honors Program

Candidates for Honors in Physics are expected to follow the appropriate calendar for completion of their Honors projects
Calendar for Students Graduating in December
Calendar for Students Graduating in May

Students may receive no more than six credits for independent studies related to their Honors project.

All Honors projects will include a written Thesis (following college guidelines), and an oral presentation. The oral presentation will normally be given during the Physics Capstone Seminar and be open to the public.

Honors candidates will submit a progress report to the Physics Department Chair by February 15 (September 15). The report should include a title, a brief description of the project, the current status of the investigations, an outline of the work remaining, and a timeline for submission of a draft of the Honors Thesis to the Faculty Sponsor. The department will review the progress reports and recommend whether each project should be continued.

Final evaluation of the Honors projects will be made by a three-person Honors committee, on the basis of an oral presentation and the written Thesis. The committee should contain at least one person from outside the Department of Physics and Astronomy.