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Schreyers Honors College students in physics

We list below a few of the most important topics that students in the Schreyer Honors College who are majoring in Physics (or who wish to do their Honors in Physics) should be aware of.

The primary source of information about all current rules and regulations for Schreyer scholars is the SHC web site at – students should consult that site for the most recent version of the SHC student handbook and calendars of upcoming deadlines for every semester.

SHC regulations:

For students who enter PSU as first year students in the SHC, 21 credits of Honors work in the first two years are required, along with taking ENGL/CAS 137/138T

These courses often include PHYS 211H and PHYS 212H in the 1st and 2nd semesters, but this is not required.

For students who enter the SHC as sophomores, 9 credits of Honors work are required in the second year.

This can include Honors versions of MATH or GenEd courses or Honors optioning PHYS 296H (underclass research) or 4xx level coursework taken in the second year.

For all SHC students (including those who join in the junior year), 14 credits of Honors work in the last four semesters is required.

This should include at least 3 credits of PHYS 496H (independent study or research, most often in the senior Fall) and PHYS 494H (thesis writing, most often in the senior spring). These courses are ‘controlled’ so students request enrollment by contacting their research mentor, and copying in their PHYS adviser, to obtain mentor approval, which is then forwarded to the Physics undergraduate staff assistant for processing.

Many of these H credits can be obtained by Honors-optioning 4xx level PHYS courses within the major – PHYS 400 and 410 are two popular choices (since they’re both four credit classes)

The thesis proposal is due near the end of the junior year (see the SHC calendar for exact dates) – this means students should be working in a research group no later than the start of the spring of junior year

The thesis deadline is in late May (for students graduating in Spring, again, see the SHC calendar for exact dates) so students should provide their research mentor (primary reader) and honors advisor in Physics (secondary reader) with a copy TWO WEEKS in advance of that deadline to provide enough time to review the manuscript and allow for correction to be made.

Students may receive a waiver of H credits for Study Abroad experiences – one semester abroad results in a waiver of 3 H credits, while shorter summer experiences may provide fewer H credits – consult the SHC for more details about H credits from study abroad experiences.

Physics specific regulations:

There are no coursework requirements to graduate with Honors in Physics. Students need only complete the required 14 credits of Honors work, including at least three credits of (graded) PHYS 494H.

There is no requirement for a ‘thesis defense’, but students do need to submit their thesis for review by their research mentor and honors adviser well in advance of the SHC final deadline.


Students should work with their Honors adviser to ensure that the honors credit requirements relevant to their entrance to the SHC are satisfied on a semester by semester basis.

Students should submit their Annual Academic Plan (AAP) to the SHC before the deadline each year (see the SHC calendar for exact dates)

Students generally are not required to ‘come up with’ their own thesis topics, but rather generate one by working with Physics faculty and their ongoing projects, sometimes in conjunction with postdocs and senior graduate students.

Most students start working on their thesis project with their potential research mentor no later than the middle of spring semester of their junior year. Students often stay over the Summer of the jr-sr year on campus doing research, often being supported by the PSU REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) program or the research funds of their faculty mentor.

There are format requirements for the Honors thesis – consult the web site for templates.

There are no fixed requirements for the thesis (such as page length, having to have a publication arising from the research, etc.) – several good examples of recent honors theses in Physics are linked below. Copies of all recent (post-2010) SHC theses are available on-line and can be sorted by name or department area of honors – see

Examples of recent Physics-based SHC Honors theses:

Experimental example – Marino, Kristen -- Determining the Surface Structure of Si(111)-(√3x√3)R30°-B with Low-Energy Electron Diffraction (LEED) -

Experimental example - fabrication: Hopper, David - Fabrication of Nanoscale Aharonov-Bohm Rings of Bismuth Selenide -

Medical physics example – Bradley, Lena - Dosimetry in Digital Breast Tomosynthesis –

Theoretical example – Snyder, Zachary  - Analysis of the Double Parton Distribution Functions in Quantum Chromodynamics -

Theoretical example – Jaffe, Matthew - The Inverse Scattering Transform for Use in Loop Quantum Cosmology -

Data analysis example - Abercrombie, Daniel - A Search for Dark Matter via Higgs Decay Using Quark Jet Substructure -

Data analysis example - Breysse, Patrick - Bayesian Analysis Techniques for Gravitational Wave Data  -