Physics Capstone Options

All physics students must complete a capstone, but there are options:

  • BSEP students must take the Senior Design course Phys 797 (two credits in fall and two in spring).  See Prof. Lessard for further details.
  • BS Astronomy option students must take Phys 795 (research) and 799 (senior thesis).
  • BS and BA Physics majors may do EITHER the thesis or the senior project.  The thesis requires that students do a substantial bit of research with a faculty member (about 100 hours or more).  Typically, this research started at the latest the fall of their senior year, and could have begun much earlier.  The research portion is done for credit through Phys 795 or Inco 790.  The project is a much more flexible way of meeting the capstone requirement (see possibilities below in the course description).


For examples of past theses and projects, visit the UNH reposistory and search on "physics" 

With the 798 and 799 options:

  • Students must submit a proposal (sample proposal) for their capstone experience to Prof. Karl Slifer by week seven (mid-October for May grads or mid-March for December grads).This proposal should be about one page, single spaced and begin with a the motivation for your project. This should be followed by about a somewhat detailed description of exactly what you plan to do, how you will do it, and a timeline of when major tasks will be accomplished. Your goal is to convince us that you have a good chance of making significant progress on the task you have set out to do.  
  • Students sign up for the course by emailing Katie Makem, cc'ing thier capstone advisor,  and stating which class (797, 798 or 799) they want to sign up for.  Katie will set up a unique course for each advisor.  If they are taking 798, they should state the number of credits (2, 3 or 4)
  • Students must present their work, either at the URC, at the Physics Department undergraduate colloquium at the end of the Spring semester, or at a conference. Please let Prof. Slifer know which option you are choosing by midsemester (mid-October or mid-March) of your final semester.


Timeline to begin the capstone

The semester before the capstone course is taken (your second to last semester at UNH)

  • End of week three– decide on which course you will take for your capstone (Phys 798 or 799 - see above), which topic, and find an advisor.  
  • How to find an advisor:  
    • If you are already doing research, your research advisor is likely your best thesis advisor
    • Otherwise, consider asking
      • A professor you had a class with and you enjoyed working with them
      • A professor whose research interest match the topic of your capstone
      • Your academic advisor
  • In every case, you must meet with your potential before starting the proposal to see if they are willing and able to act in that role.
  • End of week five – draft a proposal and share with your advisor for feedback (sample proposal); for the Senior Project (798), be sure to specify and justify the number of credits (2-4).
  • End of week seven – submit a final proposal to Prof. Karl Slifer
  • You will be notified by the end of week 10 if your proposal is accepted, or if you need to make revisions.  We will work with you and your advisor to make sure you have a feasible project in place.  Once your proposal is accepted, you will be given permission by Katie Makem to add the correct course with the correct advisor, and then you can add the course via Webcat. Typically this is done by the end of the semester before you begin your capstone.

Course Descriptions

PHYS 799 - Thesis
Students work under the direction of a faculty sponsor to plan and carry out independent research resulting in a written thesis. Required for honors-in-major. Restricted to seniors. 4 credits.  (For more details, see Senior Thesis Procedures.)

PHYS 798: Senior Project
Students complete an independent project and submit a written project report. Possible projects include a research project, a numerical project, an extensive literature review on an advanced physics topic, building an apparatus, or improving, expanding on, or developing a new experiment in Physics 705. To enroll in Physics 798, students must submit a one-page proposal to the Physics Undergraduate Curriculum Committee by the tenth week of the semester preceding the semester in which the student takes Physics 798. A student intending to take Physics 798 must find a faculty advisor for the project, and the student should work with their  project advisor when developing their project proposal.  2-4 credits

Projects must produce a tangible product.  Some examples are a written report, numerical code with users guide, or new demonstration with users guide. 


PHYS 797 - Senior Design Project 
Course is the required Senior Design Project for BSEP majors and fulfills their capstone requirement. Students work under the direction of a faculty sponsor on the design aspect of a specific project, which might include trade studies, design reviews, cost-benefit analyses, etc., all leading to an optimal design solution. Acceptable designs can include detailed hardware aspects of a system or sub-system, numerical modeling of a system, or paper studies of a system concept. Students are required to submit a final report and to present their work at a public forum. Restricted to BSEP seniors. Writing intensive. 4 credits.