Independent Study

The yearlong senior thesis project, or senior Independent Study (I.S.), allows you to experience the beauty and cohesiveness of physics by working on an extended project closely with a faculty advisor. There are few projects, even though narrow in scope, that do not require a breadth of understanding and a dependence on the lecture and laboratory material covered in the major courses. Thus, the senior thesis is an integral part of your education. It can provide a stimulating climax to your college career while, at the same time, it can be a defining introduction to your profession. 

This guide is written to clarify past questions and is not intended to dampen any of your enthusiasm for your senior thesis project. It does assume that you will enrolled in Physics 451-452 during successive Fall and Spring Semesters. The Physics Department reserves the right to update the guide at any time.

We do not expect you to embark on a project unaided by an advisor, but you should not expect your advisor to do the work for you (conduct the library search, construct the apparatus, develop the simulation, perform the calculation, take the data, and (re)write the thesis). Advisors advise and guide while you do the work. 

Understanding the science in your project is extremely important and time should be taken to reflect on its meaning. This might mean, for example, not taking a last data run so you can understand the meaning of the previous data runs.

2018 Senior Independent Study Titles


  • Emma Brinton, Exploring the Dynamics of a Small Dielectric Sphere Due to the Higher-order Modes of an Optical Nanofiber
  • Gabriel Dale-Gau Employing a system of pressure sensors to characterize avalanche dynamics over a conical bead pile
  • Collin Hendershot Attacking the Curve: A study of the effect of concavity on aerodynamic forces associated with high speed automobiles
  • Kyle McNickle A Visual Investigation of Criticality: Avalanche Classification on a Conical Bead Pile
  • Jack Mershon Modified Propagation of Anomalous Belousov-Zhabotinsky Waves in a Quasi-1D System
  • Nathaniel Moore Local Analogues: Comparing the 12-inch Telescope to the Hubble
  • Nathaniel Smith A Computational Simulation of Belousov-Zhabotinsky Wave Behavior Around Obstacles
  • Zane Thornburg An Investigation into the Lambert-Beer Law in Incoherent Broad-band Cavity-Enhanced Absorption Spectroscopy
  • Avi Vajpeyi Studying Universality with Physics Engines: Accelerating Granular Flow on GPU with OpenCL and CUDA
  • Justine Walker Dancing Our Way to the Cosmos: A Study in How Extraterrestrial Travel Will Change the Mechanics of Dance

2017 Senior Independent Study Titles


  • Herokazu Endo, Transient Absorption of CdSiP2 and ZnGeP2
  • Alex Gould, Chaos Dynamics in the Rotation of the Small Moons of Pluto
  • Roy Hadfield, C//
  • Dylan Hamilton, Development of a Turbulent Fluid Flow Simulation Using the k-ω Turbulence Model
  • Marc Manheim, On the Creation of a Lab-sized Hydrodynamic Even Horizon Analogue
  • Robin Morillo, The Effects of Slope upon Propagation Speed and Pattern Formation in Forest Fires
  • Preston Pozderac, Blinded by the Light: An Investigation of the Wave Propagation of Vector Modes of Light in a Spherically Symmetric Refractive Index Profile
  • Ziyi Sang, Understanding Mental Causation in the Enlightenment of Top-down Causation within the Physical
  • Michael Wolff, Optical Tractor Beam: Force on a Small Nanobead

2016 Senior Independent Study Titles


  • Michael Bush, A Comparative Analysis of Photon and Electron Wave Functions in Spherically Symmetric Potential
  • Mitch Gavin, An Injector to Investigate Reaction-Diffusion-Advection Systems
  • Laura Grace, Period Doubling in Bubbling from a Submerged Nozzle
  • Mitch Gavin, An Injector to Investigate Reaction-Diffusion-Advection Systems
  • Colm Hall, Nonlinear Dynamics Analysis of Stellar Data Sets
  • Nathan Johnson, Charge Carrier Characteristics in Doped Semiconductor Heterostructures
  • Andrew King-Smith, Manipulation of Polarized Transverse Spatial Modes to Induce Non-linear Structures Using the Geometric Phase
  • Matthew King-Smith, Analog Quantum Simulator
  • Spencer Kirn, Excitation Waves in Planar, Inhomogeneously Illuminated Systems
  • Maggie Lankford, The Production and Manipulation of Nonseparable Spin-Orbit Modes of Light Under Hong-Ou-Mandel Interference Conditions
  • Yashasvi Lohia, Modal Analysis of Light Propagating Through Structurally Disturbed Optical Fibers
  • Noah Megregian, Stochastic Resonance in a Mechanical Bistable System
  • Calvin Milligan, Strange Nonchaotic Pendulum
  • Diego Miramontes, Creating Quasi Two-Dimensional, Curved Molds with 3-D Printing Technology
  • Paroma Palchoudhuri, An Experimental and Mathematical Study of Avalanche Behavior
  • Graham Schattgen, Air Powered One-Way Arrays
  • Nathan Stone, Critical Systems: An Exploration of Cohesion and the Moments of Distribution
  • Catherine Tieman, Quantum Ring Exchange Interaction on a Pyrochlore Lattice

2015 Senior Independent Study Titles

  • Shawn  Bowman, Modeling the Optical Emission Line Profiles of Active Galactic Nuclei: Working Towards a Continuous Optical Classification Scheme Beyond Type1/Type2
  • Evan Hagedorn, Understanding the Origin of Swelling Force in Organically Modified Silica
  • Nicolae Istrate, Theoretical Resonance Calculations for the Isobaric Analogs 133Sn and 133Sb
  • Min Sung Kim, Stopping Power Analysis of 37K, 44Cl, and 71Br Incident on a He: CO2 (9:1) Gas Target
  • Brian Maddock, Modifying the Virasoro-Shapiro Amplitude to Correspond to the Glueball Trajectory
  • Saul Propp, Relativistic Perturbations and Ontological Implications: Exploring the Zitterbewegung and Laying the Groundwork for a Quantum Ontology
  • Jairaj Ranchod, Archimedes Drill Propulsion
  • Joseph Smith, Topological Defects in Nematic Liquid Crystals and the Behavior Induced by Adding Polystyrene Microspheres to 5CB
  • Amanda Steinhebel, Solitons and Their Symmetries: A Mathematical Analysis
  • Elliot Wainwright, Avalanches on a Critical Conical Bead Pile: Exploration of Tuning Parameter Space and Mathematical Foundations

2014 Senior Independent Study Titles

  • Benjamin Harris, Establishing Methods to Track Surface Avalanches on a Bead Pile
  • Vanessa Logan, Worlds as Real as Ours: Image Processing and Differential Photometry of Transiting Exoplanets
  • Danielle Shepherd, Go with the Flow: Developing Computational Fluid Dynamics Simulations According to the Navier-Stokes Equations
  • Prakrit Shrestha, Universe from Scratch: Exploring Quantum Gravity in 2+1 Dimensions Using the Causal Dynamical Triangulation Method
  • Deepika Sundarraman, The Manipulation of Transverse Spatial Mode and Polarization Degrees of Freedom of Light in an Asymmetric Interferometric System

2013 Senior Independent Study Titles

  • Theresa Albon, The Entanglement and Relaxation of Liquid Crystal Shaped Granular Media
  • Daniel Axe, Temperature's Effects on Expansion Force of Osorb®
  • Andrew Blaikie //
  • Lilianna Christman, The Effects of a Magnetic Field on a Conical Bead Pile
  • Lorenzo Dumancas, Optimization of BEEM Techniques
  • Thomas Gillis, Manipulation of Transverse Photonic Degrees of Freedom via Classical and Hong-Ou-Mandel Interference
  • Samuel Mermall, The Motion of a Flapping Flag: Chaos or Noise?
  • Duncan Price, Liquid Body Armor and Shear Thickening Fluids
  • Tyler Rhoades, Differential Photometry of Transiting Exoplanets
  • Michael-Erik Ronlund, Sorting Spatial Wavefunctions of Photons by Parity
  • Syne Salem, Spacetime: Engineering and Metaphysics
  • Matt Schmitthenner, A Theoretical and Experimental Pattern Analysis of Electrohydrodynamic Convection in a Liquid Crystal System
  • Karl Smith, Electrons Aligned and Felines Undefined: Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics and Perturbing the Spin-Orbit Interaction in Electrons
  • Andrew Sopher, Head for Safety
  • Philip Wales, Spring Dot

2012 Senior Independent Study Titles

  • Mohammad Saif Ahmad, Parity-based Measurement and Control of the Spatial Wave Function of Photons
  • Patrick Butler, Air Drag and External Ballistics
  • Matt Damon, Progress toward Using an Optical Tweezer to Make Scattering-based Size Measurements
  • Sarah-Beth Loder, Experimentally and Computationally Determining the Theoretical Aqueous pKa of Three UV-absorbing Benzophenone Derivatives
  • Alyse Marquinez, The Rocket Science Behind the Political Science: Comparing Space Visions fo the Presidents from 1993-2011 and the Rocket Technology That Helped Characterize Them
  • Katsuo Maxted, A Cyclic Aero-mechanical Array of One-way Coupled Oscillators
  • Larry Markley, Perturbing Spacetime
  • Margaret Raabe, Manipulation of a Photon's Spatial Wave Function
  • Kemal Ramic, Monte Carlo Simulations of the Clumpy Torus in Active Galactic Nuclei
  • David Simpson, Analysis of the Correlation Length Amplitude of Nitrobenzene and Dodecane Binary-Fluid Solution

2011 Senior Independent Study Titles

  • Louisa Catalano, Tighten Up: A Preliminary Study of Knots
  • Amanda Logue, Understanding the Expansion of a Swellable Silicate
  • Roger Klein, A Study of the Structure/Function Relationship of NicF in the Bordetella bronchiseptica Nicotinic Acid Degradation Pathway
  • Alex Saines, Order and Chaos in the Rotation and Revolution of Two Line Segments
  • Daniel "Alex" Sullivan, Determining the clumpy nature of the toroidal region: An analysis of X-ray emissions from active galactic nuclei
  • Ingrid Thvedt, Exploration of the Effects of Cohesive Forces in a Bead Pile

2010 Senior Independent Study Titles

  • Corwin Atwood-Stone, Accretion Features of AU Mon
  • Alison Huff, Examining the Characteristics of 17R4 Using Refractive Indices and Dynamic Light Scattering
  • Heather J. Moore, Continuous Wave Cavity Ringdown Spectroscopy
  • R. Michael Winters, The Two-Higgs Doublet Model and Sonification: Using Sound to Understand the Origin of Mass (Physics and Music)

Read the abstracts to these Senior Independent Study theses and more at our department website.