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Department of Physics

Professor Calvin W. Johnson

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Mini-journal club


   Many groups have "journal club," where students and postdocs take turns choosing a recent journal article and giving an informal seminar explaining it.  While journal club can be very enlightening, it can also suck up a lot of time of students, especially in small groups.
   Therefore we will engage in what I call "mini-journal club."  The point here is not to full master the material in a paper, but instead to gain exposure to current issues and concerns in physics as well as to standard practices with regards to scientific publications (i.e., things as gritty as how do figures and tables look, how are they captioned, how are they referenced in the text, etc.). I also want to get students in the habit of browsing the scientific journals, instead of just relying upon their textbooks and me.

   If you are carrying out research under me, i.e., are enrolled in a research or thesis course or are being paid as an RA, I expect the following from you each week:
   1. Spend roughly 1-1.5 hours, and no more, reading an article from one of the approved sources below.   
   2. Prepare either a brief oral summary, of 3-5 minutes of the paper for informal presentation during group meeting, or one to two paragraphs summarizing the paper.
   Specific things to pay attention to and to note in your summary (you are unlikely to answer all these questions, but these are ones to keep in mind):
   What is the general motivation for this research? What is the specific question being investigated?  What techniques were used? What answer was arrived at, and how did it reflect upon the specific question and general motivation? Also: What role did the tables and figures (or some select subset) play in explaining the research?
 
You are also encouraged to bring specific questions about the research (but not "I didn't understand anything in this paper--can you explain it to me"; if you don't understand anything in a paper, choose a different one) which I will usually be happy to address.
   Note: if you have trouble finding the couple of hours needed to do this, or it conflicts with your research (remember, this is for students enrolled in research or paid to do research) you are likely not managing your time well and should consult with me.

    Acceptable sources:
   
    Physical Review Letters, especially but not only the nuclear physics section;
    Physical Review C, especially but not only the nuclear strcuture section;
    Other Physical Review journals;
    Nuclear Physics A;
    Physics Letters B;
    Journal of Physics G;
    Astrophysical Journal;
    arXiv, especially the nuclear theory section.

    There are other journals, but these are major ones in my field so I would prioritize them. If you want to occasionally stray to another journal, that's fine, but it must be a peer-reviewed journal (aside from the arXiv).

    I would encourage relatively recent papers (last 5 years) and papers relevant to our research (i.e. nuclear structure physics, nuclear astrophysics, and astroparticle physics) but some variation will be tolerated.  If a paper really interests you, I encourage you to read it and report on it.   If a paper seems interesting but you have difficulty understanding any of it, I suggest you find a different paper.