Ph 70a.  Oral and Written Communication

Fall, 2020

Instructor: Prof. David Hitlin ( )

Teaching Assistant: Nabha Shah (

Enrollment is limited to nine students

The organizational meeting will be held on Tuesday, September 29 from 2:30 to 4:00 PM via ZOOM
This meeting requires a password that will be sent by email

The first meeting will be primarily for informational and organizational purposes, including dealing with time conflicts

Links to the slide presentation at the Organizational Meeting and video recording of the Organizational Meeting

Catalog description: Provides practice and guidance in oral and written communication of material related to contemporary physics research. Students will choose a topic of interest, make presentations of this material in a variety of formats and, through a guided process, draft and revise a technical or review article on the topic. Ph70 is intended primarily for senior physics majors; enrollment will be limited. Completion of this course satisfies the Institute Core Communication Requirement.

This course is part of the Institute Core Communication Requirement. The six unit requirement is to be met in the Junior or Senior years

Ph 70 is organized as a seminar. After some introductory discussion, each student will settle on a theme with a specific topic or topics of physical interest.
Students will make oral presentations and write a paper, in an ongoing dialog with the instructor, TA and other students.
The Oral Presentation portion of Ph 70 will be graded by the class as a whole (see below)


Each student will make three presentations:


A 30 minute physics seminar on a subject of contemporary interest, aimed at a professional audience (your peers)


A 30 minute popular presentation aimed at an educated but non-technical audience


A 10 minute technical physics presentation such as might be given in a parallel session at an American Physical Society meeting

Here is a link to some pointers on making an effective presentation.

As a courtesy to the rest of the class, if you drop this course or are unable to appear for a particular presentation, making it necessary to alter the order of presentations, please inform Prof. Hitlin, so that others are not unduly inconvenienced.

The order of presentations this term will depend in detail on the class size, which sometimes takes a week or so to settle down. This term’s preliminary schedule is:




(click for video)


(click for presentation)




September 29

Organizational Meeting via ZOOM

Topic proposals are due by email to and by Oct. 3


October 6

Discussion of topic proposals


October 13

Richard Bao
Gianfranco de Castro

Nitrogen Reduction with Photo Driven Gallium Nitride Electrocatalysis
Pileup Mitigation Using a Neural Network



October 20

Paper outline due

Shiva Mudide

Zihao Qi

Inelastic Neutron Scattering
Energy Conversion in Strongly Driven Systems



October  27

Gabriel Woolls

Tensor Networks and Applications to Fermionic Encodings



November 3

Paper draft due

Gianfranco de Castro

Pileup Mitigation



November 10

Shiva Mudide

Zihao Qi

The Connection Between Physics and Artificial Intelligence
Proton Decay Searches



November 17
Paper reviews due

Gabriel Woolls

Entropy and Locality in Quantum Physics and Deep Learning



November 24


Shiva Mudide Gianfranco de Castro

Increasing Emission Rate in an LED
Pileup Mitigation


December 1

Final paper due

Zihao Qi

Gabriel Woolls

Exactly Tunable, Stable Flat Bands in Honeycomb Superlattices
Contracting a pseudo-PEPS tensor network




To view the videos of your presentations you may need the VLC viewer, which can be downloaded from


The written portion of the course will consist of the writing of, over the course of the term, an article on a technical topic in a popular style appropriate for Scientific American.

The idea is to communicate an interesting physics topic to a literate, but non-technical, reader. The subject may be the same one on which your popular oral presentation is based. A proper set of references should be included. A typical length target would be around 3000 words.

The writing of this paper will proceed through a series of stages: proposal, outline, draft and revision, in order to provide an environment in which you can receive helpful feedback, an approximation to the way in which real-life papers are drafted.

Each draft will also be reviewed by two students, guided by a Peer Review Form (doc) (pdf).

The schedule is as follows:

Proposal(s) due (October 3, via email): A one-page statement of what you plan to write and how you plan to approach the project with a few references listed.

Paper outline due (October 20) An outline in sufficient detail to demonstrate that you have a clear idea of how to organize the work, together with a list of references you intend to use.

Paper draft due (November 3): A complete version of the paper. This will be read in detail and we will provide suggestions that you may incorporate to improve the paper. Students will read and comment on other students' paper drafts.

Paper reviews due (November 17): Return reviews to authors so that they can make revisions.

Final paper version due (December 1): A final version of the paper.

The medium of exchange for papers and reviews will be Adobe .pdf, Microsoft Word .docx files or a Google Docs shared link. Send these by email; do not hand in the "paper" on paper.


The oral presentation portion of the course will be graded by the class as a whole using a Google feedback form.

Here is a link to the online feedback form:

After each presentation the class will briefly discuss the presentation, and you will rate it in a set of categories (below) on a scale of 1 through 10 (which will be anonymous). To receive a passing grade in the class, you must not only make all of your required presentations, but you must provide ratings for the presentations in at least six of the eight class meetings (after the Organizational Meeting).

Normally, part of your assignment is to view the posted video of your oral presentation and grade yourself in the same manner as the audience has done in real time. This system also presents an opportunity for students who are unable to attend a presentation to do so at a later date. Since this term you will be making your presentations via Zoom, we will post a recorded version of your presentation, which will consist of your shared screen presentation and your voice.  This is not as useful as an actual video of your live presentation; we will evaluate this approach as we gain experience.

Glossary of terms in feedback form

Appropriateness of Level

Was the presentation pitched at a level that would make it interesting and intelligible to the attended audience?


Interest of material

 Was the chosen topic and illustrative material interesting to you and would it be interesting enough to hold the attention of the intended audience?



Was the presentation well organized? Did it have a clear introduction, motivation, exposition and conclusion?


Use of allotted time

Was the allocation of time to each of the above areas appropriate? Did the speaker fill/keep to his/her allotted time?


Slide organization/clarity

 Were the slides well organized? Were they readable? Did they illustrate the points intended?


Clarity of exposition

Was the presentation as a whole well-organized? Were points made clearly and in such a way as to lead you through the topic in such a way as to convey the intended information?


Speaking style

Was the speaker clear? Did he/she speak with adequate volume, making eye contact with the audience. Was the style appropriate to the type of presentation?


Overall presentation

How would you summarize your overall impression of the presentation? Glossary




Most presentations in physics are made using either a laptop computer with an LCD projector. On occasion, people use transparency projector or a blackboard. In the current Zoom situation, you will need a laptop or a tablet. You will make your presentation by sharing your pptx, key or pdf file within Zoom. Please also send the presentation to me as an email enclosure, or post the file in a network-accessible place, in order that I may post a l ink to the presentation on our password-protected course web page. It is a good idea to embed fonts in the file in order to minimize font-related mishaps.

In normal times, we make a video of your presentation, which is also posted to the course web page. Then part of your assignment is to view the video and rate your work in the same way you will rate those of the other presentations.


While most of what you need to know to make an effective presentation is common sense, there are techniques you can learn to improve the quality of your presentations. You may wish to refer to some reading material for general orientation, or for some particular pointers. Here are references to some books and web sites that you may find useful:


1) Nancy Duarte, slide:ology, O’Reilly, 2008.

2) Cigdem Issever and Ken Peach, Presenting Science, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2010.

3) Margot Northey and Judi Jewinski, Making Sense, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012.

4) Elizabeth Tebeaux and Sam Dragga, The Essentials of Technical Communication, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012.

5) Angelika Hofmann, Scientific Writing and Communication, New York, Oxford University Press, 2010.

6) Dan O'Hair, Rob Stewart and Hannah Rubenstein, A Speaker's Guidebook, New York, Bedford/St. Martin's, 2001

7) Sinclair Goodland, Speaking Technically, London, Imperial College Press, 1996.

8) Peter Kenny, A Handbook of Public Speaking for Scientists and Engineers, Bristol, Adam Hilger, Ltd., 1982.

Web Sites on Oral Presentation:

Web Sites on Scientific Writing:

The Hixon Writing Center is also a useful resource. Dr. Susanne E. Hall is the Campus Writing Coordinator (X1738,

How to get in touch with us

Instructor: David Hitlin

Email will often be the most convenient method of communication.
Office: 367 Lauritsen
Mail Stop: 356-48
Telephone: (626) 395 6694
Mobile: (626) 484 0222
Fax: (626) 395 8728

Office Hour: Wednesday 2-3 PM  via Zoom

Meeting ID: 918-3111-0662

Join URL:

Admin: Tracy Mikuriya
Telephone: (626) 395 8579

TA: Nabha Shah 

Office: 414 Lauritsen

Office Hour: Thursday 2-3 PM  via Zoom

Meeting ID: 919-9505-1036

Join URL:




Page last updated December 1, 2020