PHYSICS 396T: Pizza Seminar
Unique #: 55860

Tuesdays, 5 - 6:15 PM
Painter Hall 3.02
in the Fall of 2020!

Fall 2020 Schedule!

The Pizza Seminar is held irregularly from week to week, to introduce both graduate and advanced undergraduate physics students to themes of basic research going on here in the Physics Department of the University of Texas at Austin. Usually the seminars do not begin until several weeks after the beginning of each semester.  It is getting fairly rare to have more than six or seven speakers per semester, so check the schedule link above regularly, since it is updated as soon as new speakers and dates are added.  Posters announcing the seminars are also placed on bulletin boards near the elevators on all the floors of PMA.

On a typical Tuesday, especially in the Fall semester,  you might find about 20 people in the audience for the week's seminar, of which some are undergraduate senior physics majors, and around 10 are first-year graduate students, while about 5 are graduate students or postdocs in the speaker's research group, and typically there are 5 graduate students who are nearing the end of their Ph. D. research. There are usually also one or two "civilians," people from the greater Austin community who want to know about the speaker's research and its applications, and also several physics faculty members directly interested in the speaker's research.  Beginning in Fall 2009, the number of students taking the course for credit, CR/NC, remained at about 5, but in addition  5 or more students took the course to earn a letter grade.  [As of 9/21/2020. attendance in Pai 3.02 is officially capped at 40.] Because of the pandemic situation in Fall 2020, some seminars will be held in person in Pai 3.02, and some seminars will be handled by Zoom, based on the choice of the volunteer speaker.  An attempt will be made to create a video capture of each in-person lecture in Pai 3.02 using the CNS lecture-capture system, with the videos promptly posted on Canvas.  The Powerpoint slides shown in each lecture will also be posted on the internet shortly after the corresponding lecture. Note the following rules in effect for ALL in-person class sessions at UT in Fall 2020: Rules for in-person class sessions.

Students registered CR/NC obviously must receive the equivalent of attendance credit, as arranged individually with the instructor, in order to receive course credit.   Those students who are registered for a letter grade, in addition to required attendance credit,  have to do seminar-specific class work. For each faculty lecture, students registered for a letter grade must submit to Coker via e-mail within two weeks of the lecture a 4-page or more double-spaced report on, and synopsis of, the content of the lecture. These reports should be in the form of an attached pdf file.
BE CAREFUL! Every semester typically at least one student thinks he or she is registered CR/NC when he or she is actually registered for a letter grade, and thus flunks the class! Here is the official Fall 2020 syllabus.

If you register for the class Credit/No credit, your entire grade is based on some form of attendance credit, as individually arranged with the instructor.  If you miss even one pizza seminar during the semester, expect a grade of NC.

Each semester, faculty from many different research groups will talk about current research and what is involved in doing it, as well as immediate or near-future opportunities for students. Note well: It is current departmental policy that graduate students should have chosen a research area by the end of their first year. That is, for example, if you entered graduate school in August of 2019, you should have chosen a research area before September 2020.

The atmosphere is informal.  Because of the pandemic,  no food or drink of any kind can be consumed in the lecture hall.  Graduate students relatively new to the department are especially encouraged to attend, but junior and senior physics majors will also find the presentations of great interest. In the past, advanced undergraduates have often made up about 50% of the audience at the Pizza Seminars.

The Pizza Seminar tries to do several things simultaneously.

(1) It provides a chance to hang around with cohorts and faculty outside of formal classes.

(2) It alerts you to the existence of many active fields of ongoing research, one of which you may decide to choose to pursue in your own future career.

(3) Even if you are already involved in graduate research, it informs you as to what else is going on within this department today --- and you may be surprised to find that current research done by some other group links up directly with, or has important relevance to, your own research.

For those of you who have yet to find a faculty research advisor for your thesis or dissertation, reflect that by far the most important decision facing you in graduate school is the choice of a specific research area. You're about to stop doing homework problems where the answer was obtained so long ago no one knows who to credit, and plunge into the bottomless depths of open-ended questions. Your entire future career as a physicist will be determined by a single decision... it's wise to seek information widely before making that decision.

Even if you already think you know what area you want to do graduate research in, you may find while listening to the Pizza Seminar lectures that

(1) there is something going on that interests you as much as, or even more than the topic you are currently leaning toward, or
(2) you would like to know more about a particular faculty member or group, or that
(3) someone else's research interests and experience are potentially of great relevance and benefit to your own area of research focus, so that collaboration or frequent consultation would benefit you both.
Past Seminar Series
Spring 2020
Fall 2019
Spring 2019
Fall 2018
Spring 2018
Fall 2017
Spring 2017
Fall 2016
Spring 2016
Fall 2015
Spring 2015
FALL 2014
FALL 2013
FALL 2012
Fall 2011
Spring 2011
Fall 2010
Spring 2010
Fall 2009
Spring 2009
Fall 2008
Spring 2008
Fall 2007
Spring 2007
Fall 2006
Spring 2006
Fall 2005
Spring 2005
Fall 2004

If you have questions about the Pizza Seminar series, or comments on lectures, or suggestions for speakers, or want to volunteer, please contact Prof. Rory Coker, PMA 8.312,
(, or

Prof. Coker's Homepage
Physics Department
See You There!