The Freshman Projects is an innovative course in the Physics Department at Loyola University Chicago, designed to give students a project-based learning experience in their first year in the department and to prepare them for more advanced research projects in their later years. Students taking Freshman Projects are divided into small groups, each of which works closely with a faculty mentor over the course of a semester. Each group designs and proposes a project, builds an experiment, takes data, analyzes their data, carries out theoretical investigations, and presents their results at a seminar at the end of the semester.
While undergraduate research has become an important part of many Physics departments, students frequently first become involved in research in their Junior or Senior year. By contrast, the Freshman Project models the research process by involving students during their first year in the program. This innovative project was started in the Spring Semester of 1996 by Dr. Asim Gangopadhyaya as a part of an introductory course for Physics majorsm, and since that time, the project has become its own 1-credit course (PHYS 126F) that is required for all majors in our department. The 2020 Spring semester marked the 25th year of Freshman Projects in the department.
Through engaging in this project, students are able to extend their understanding of the Physics they learn in their introductory classes, apply their knowledge to new situations, develop problem-solving skills, and gain experience working in teams and in communicating technical ideas. These skills are valuable for students not only during their time in the department, but prepare them for their future after graduation.
Details of the syllabus and particular assignments have varied by time and instructor. For an example syllabus and guidelines for the project proposal, please see the following material:
Some projects have gone beyond the Freshman Project itself and have led to ongoing research projects, presentations at conferences and symposia, and even publications in professional journals. Here is a list of some recent publications that began as Freshman Projects:
- Dynamics of the looping pendulum: theory, simulation, and experiment. C. Dannheim, L. Ignell, B. O'Donnell, R. McNees, and Constantin Rasinariu - European Journal of Physics, 42. 065010 (2021)
- R. Polak, V. Acuesta, J. Cirone, M. B. Conway, J. Summers, and L. Tinawi, "Mario Kart 8: a Case Study in Total Internal Reflection," The Physics Teacher, 56, 566-567 (2018), doi:10.1119/1.5064578.
- S. Moses, N. Y. Butler, D. Zavala, and S. Jaradat, "The Nanobiophotonics of Gold Nanoparticles and Allium Cepa and Its Symbiotic Effect on Escherichia Coli," Journal of Bionanoscience, 12, 442-445 (2018). doi:10.1166/jbns.2018.1546.
- R. D. Polak, A. R. V. Davenport, A. Fischer, and J. Rafferty, "Determining Young's Modulus by Measuring Guitar String Frequency," The Physics Teacher, 56 (2), 122-123 (2018), doi:10.1119/1.5021447.
- R. D. Polak, A. Kumar, and M. Schmidt, "A Practical Lesson in Polarization Optics: Creating a 3D Image Using a Liquid Crystal Cell," Molecular Crystals and Liquid Crystals, 646 (1), 132-141 (2017), doi:10.1080/15421406.2017.1285101.
- R. D. Polak, N. Fudala, J. T. Rothchild, S. E. Weiss, and M. Zelek, "Easily Accessible Experiments Demonstrating Interference," The Physics Teacher, 54 (2), 120-121 (2016), doi:10.1119/1.4940181.
- B. Irvine, M. Kemnetz, A. Gangopahdhyaya, and T. Ruubel, "Magnet Traveling Through a Conducting Pipe: A Variation on the Analytical Approach," American Journal of Physics, 82, 273-279 (2014), doi:10.1119/1.4864278.
- G. P. Ramsey and K. Pomian, "Correlating Properties of Stringed Instruments," Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics, 21 (1), 035006 (2014), doi:10.1121/2.0000072.
- K. Pomian, "A Cross Correlation of Stringed Instruments," The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 135 (4), 2184 (2014), doi:10.1121/1.4877111.
- R. Polak, A. J. Cua, D. J. Perez, M. Q. Robertson, J. A. Stuck, and J. M. Thomas, "Low-Cost Student Experiments in Optics," The Physics Teacher, 52 (7), 442-443 (2014), doi:10.1119/1.4895370.
- J. Wiseman, C. Banaszak, and G. Ramsey, "The Harmonica as a Blues Instrument: Part II," The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 132 (3), 1990 (2012), doi:10.1121/1.4755351.
- G. Ramsey, C. Banaszak, and J. Wiseman, "The Harmonica as a Blues Instrument," Proc. of Meetings on Acoustics, 18, 035003 (2012), doi:10.1121/1.4905247.