Orals Guideline

There are Two Exams

  • The experimental Presentation: The second section of the general examination is the experimental project, which consists of a report and oral presentation on an experiment that the student has either performed or assisted others in performing at Princeton. First year students should plan to spend three to four months on their project and they should begin by May of their first year.  If you plan to work on it full time it should take about six weeks.  The length and format of the write-up is flexible, but typically comparable to a report in a letter-type journal.  It is advisable that the level be aimed at physicsits who are not expert in the field.   A written report is due to the advisor of your experimental project and the Graduate Administrator by the end of October of your second year.  You will be given one grade for your write up by your advisor and one grade for your presentation from the Committee.  Please plan your presentation to be no more than 15 minutes, since the main purpose is for the Committee to ask questions.  The Committee will have received the written report prior to the oral presentation.  Your presentation will be in front of a Committee of two professors that is put together by the Graduate Administrator.  Questions about anything in your report are fair game as are reasonable questions about the equipment on which your report is based. You should be prepared to discuss the sources of systematic and statistical error as well. For example, if you did a report on the Sloan Digital Sky Survey you should know how the observations are made but not necessarily how the CCDs are placed in the focal plane. Remember, this is an experimental oral given by experimentalists!  Dates for the experimental oral presentation are at this link.   The Graduate Administrator will send out a sign up schedule for students to select a 30 minute time slot for their presentation.
  • Advanced project/pre-thesis:  This is a research project in the student's area of interest, to be done under the supervision of a faculty advisor. The final product is a written report and an oral defense in the presence of a pre-thesis committee.  One should have a prepared write-up no more than ~20 pages and your talk should be absolutely no longer than 30 minutes.  The format of the write-up that you submit to the department is flexible.  You will get frequent questions. In this oral especially, we are looking for a depth of understanding that is indicative of independent research. This is not about reporting science but about intellectual engagement. You should know far more than you are able to present and that should come across in the presentation. You will provide your advisor and the Graduate Administrator with a final draft of your write-up three days before you present. It is your responsibility to schedule and choose your Committee of three professors.  Your advisor will be one of your committee members.  For the other two, they can be in your field but one of the two should be outside your research view.  For example, you can have three theorists but one theorist needs to be outside your research view.   If your advisor is in another department then one of the committee members needs to be a faculty member from the physics department.  You are encouraged to think of pre-thesis committee members who will also serve on your thesis committee.   Once you have a date and time, please contact the Graduate Administrator to reserve a room for you.   The Committee will give one grade for your presentation. The deadline to complete your pre-thesis oral defense is before the start of winter break during your third year.  There is wide agreement that these orals are fun: they give the faculty a chance to see what's happening in other fields. Come tell us what you've been thinking about!