Ph 70c.  Oral and Written Communication

Spring, 2016

Instructor: Prof. David Hitlin ( )

Teaching Assistant: Michael McAneny

The organizational meeting will be held on Tuesday, September 27 from 2:00 to 4:00pm in 469 Lauritsen

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

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

The Oral Presentation portion of Ph 70 will be graded by the class as a whole (see below)

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.


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

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. This terms preliminary schedule is:




     (click for video)


                                                                          (click for presentation)




September 27

Organizational Meeting


October 4

Topic proposals due by email to and

will be discussed in class


October 11

Luke Liao

Gradient Index Lenses



October 18

Johnathan Stauffer
Daniil Ilyin
Marco Cruz-Heredia

The Solar Dynamo: a Review
Interface Instabilties in Reactive Flows
Investigating the Effects of a Microwave on a Quantum Dot Device



October 25

Paper outline due

Johnathan Stauffer
Luke Liao

Methods of Solar Observation
History of Lenses



November 1

No Class


November 8

Paper draft due

Daniil Ilyin
Marco Cruz-Heredia

Instabilities, Stars, Life
Semiconductor Quantum Dots



November 15
Paper reviews due

Johnathan Stauffer
Luke Liao
Daniil Ilyin
Marco Cruz-Heredia

Tracking Magnetic Flux in and around Sunspots
Gradient Index Lenses
Combustion front instabilities in radical-driven peroxide decomposition
Investigating the Effect on a Quantum Dot Due to an incident Microwave



November 22


November 29

Final paper due



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 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 4, 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.

Outline due (October 25) 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.

Draft due (November 8): 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 15): Return reviews to authors so that revisions can be done.

Final version due (November 29): 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. A rating sheet will be handed out to the class for each presentation. The class will briefly discuss and then rate the presentation, with ratings (which will be anonymous) on a scale of 1 through 10. To receive a passing grade in the class, you must not only make all of your required presentations, but you must hand in ratings for the presentations in at least six of the eight class meetings (after the Organization Meeting).

Oral presentations will be recorded on video and made available to the presenter as streaming video. Presenters will view the video of their lecture and grade themselves in the same manner as the audience. This also presents an opportunity for students who are unable to attend a presentation to do so at a later date.

Here is a link to the online Feedback Form. We fill out the web version of the form in real time so please bring your laptop to class.


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. Both an LCD projector overhead and a transparency projector will be available for the class. You can either provide your own laptop, send the presentation to me as an email enclosure, or post the file in a network-accessible place. If you want to use my laptop, be aware that it has a network connection, a USB 2.0 port, and a CD-ROM. I encourage you to send me the presentation by email (or provide a URL) before the class, in order to allow efficient use of class time. It is a good idea to embed fonts in either pdf or ppt files, to minimize font-related mishaps.



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

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

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

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

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

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

7) 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.

I will not keep formal office hours; feel free to come by or call at any time.

Office: 367 Lauritsen

Mail Stop: 356-48

Telephone: (626) 395 6694

Mobile: (626) 484 0222

Fax: (626) 395 8728


Admin: Marlene Fouche


Telephone: (626) 395 2340


TA: Michael McAneny

Office: 413 Downs


Telephone: (626) 395 2632

Office Hours: email for an appointment



Page last updated November 15, 2016