Graduation With Distinction


The Physics Department offers an honors program that can lead to graduation with distinction or with high distinction based on academic excellence and on excellence in research as judged by a committee of physics faculty. The honors program requires writing a thesis followed by defending the thesis. These requirements and procedures apply to both physics and biophysics degrees.

A physics major can also graduate with Latin honors, which is based on the student's grade point average and does not require any research. Details about Latin honors can found on the Registrar's webpage Academic Recognition and Honors.

Students doing senior thesis may wish to register for PHYSICS 495, an independent study course. However this is not required.

A senior thesis is required for Graduation with Distinction in the Physics Department. The thesis is a written document that summarizes and explains the thesis research for a faculty committee who will evaluate the quality of the research, the quality of the thesis, and the student's understanding of the thesis as demonstrated during an oral thesis defense. The committee will then decide on whether to award honors and what kind (honors or high honors).

The honors thesis defense is an oral examination that involves a student giving a 30-minute presentation to a committee of faculty that will then evaluate the quality of the thesis work and of the student's understanding of his or her thesis work. The committee will then vote on whether the student has obtained honors and, if so, award honors or high honors.

The defense must be held no later than the last day for undergraduate classes during the spring semester. A final version of the thesis must be submitted to the DUS in PDF format before the end of the examination period of that same semester.

The thesis defense will last no longer than two hours. The student should plan on speaking for no longer than 30 minutes (without interruptions). The remaining time will involve the committee asking the student questions about the thesis and for discussion (in the student's absence) about whether to grant honors and what kind.

The student is strongly recommended to practice his or her thesis presentation at least once with the thesis advisor before the actual defense. 

It is the responsibility of the student to make all arrangements for the defense in consultation with the faculty advisor. These responsibilities include:

  1. Finding three committee members to be on the thesis committee and emailing the membership of the committee to the Assistant to the DUS for approval by the DUS. The committee chair is the student's advisor; the DUS (or the Associate DUS for Biophysics, for Biophysics theses) will often (but not always) serve on the committee. The student should request one or two additional faculty members to serve on the committee.  Any faculty member at Duke may serve, although at least two should have appointments in Physics. Non-faculty members with Ph.D.s involved in supervising students (e.g., research associates) may also serve on the committee, but there must at least three faculty members.  It is preferable for at least one committee member to have expertise outside of the subfield represented by the thesis topic.  
  2. Finding a time when all committee members can meet for the two-hour defense, on a date no later than the last day of classes.
  3. Reserving the meeting room with the help of the Assistant to DUS. The defense date must be set and the room reserved by the Friday before spring break, 5 pm.


  • Juan Pablo Gonzalez Fernandez: Experimental Measurement of Detailed Balance Violation in Noise-Driven Linear Circuits
  • Bryan Higgins: Fabrication of Low-Cost Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells Using Kudzu
  • Alec Koss:The Role of Mechanical Linker Protein Vinculin in the Interpretation of Mechanical Signals by Living Cells
  • Micaela Kulvaranon: Obesity Alters the In Vivo Biochemical and Biomechanical Properties of Articular Cartilage
  • Alice Liu: 3-D Modeling Patient Eyes using Whole-Eye Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT)
  • Jeong Min Park: Synthesis, Characterization, and Inelastic Neutron Scattering Studies of Breathing Pyrochlore Ba3Yb2Zn5O11
  • Kya Sorli: Hydrodynamic Modeling of the Deep Impact Mission into Comet Tempel 1
  • Wei Tang: Deep Learning Techniques in Standard Model W Gamma Extraction
  • Tianqing Zhang: Measuring the Chromatic Effect of Atmospheric Point-Spread-Function in Optical Wavelength


  • Nadim Marwan Atalla: Saltation in the Presence of a Prevailing Wind 
  • Tianji Cai: Probing Quark-Gluon-Plasma Properties with a Bayesian Model-to-data Comparison 
  • Jordan Creswell Fleming: Blocking Sound Transmission Through a Wall of Oscillating Panels 
  • Hao Geng: A New Relation between Two Important Coupling Constants in Nuclear Physics in Large Nc Limit and Large Nc Analysis of Magnetic Radii of Proton and Neutron 
  • Akhil Ghanta: Geometric Manifestations of Detailed Balance 
  • Dean Samer Hazineh: The Applicability of Relativistic Fluid Dynamics in Heavy Ion Collisions 
  • Zhetao Jia: Design and Application of Acoustic Metamaterial Unit Cells with Uniform Transmission 
  • Kaitlin Paige McCreery: Fabrication and Electrical Measurement of Copper Sulfide Memristors 
  • Tamra Meron Nebabu: Toward Plasmonic Enhancement of Spontaneous Parametric Down Conversion 
  • Ji Won Park: The Impact of Atmospheric Turbulence on Telescope Images, as a Function of Wavelength: Comparison of Theory and Simulations 
  • Matthew Tyler Tobin: Improving Jet Mass and Transverse Momentum Calibration in the ATLAS Detector with Machine Learning Techniques 


  • Benjamin D. Suh: Measuring the 127 I, νe Charged-Current Cross-Section of NaI[Tl]
  • Katrina Miller: Advancements in Tracking Detector Technologies Using Novel Target Gases
  • Christopher J. Flower: Observation of Rb Clusters in 129 Xe Spin-Exchange Optical Pumping Cells By Electron Microscopy
  • Melody X. Lim: Forces and flows during high speed impacts on a non-Newtonian suspension
  • Connor Hann: Growth of Icosahedral Quasicrystals
  • Stephen Yates: Measurements of Photonuclear Reactions Induced with Linearly Polarized Gamma Rays
  • Emily Kuhn: Magnetic Field Evolution in Magnetars with Gravitational Wave Applications
  • Tianchang He: Second Harmonic Generation With A Free-Electron Laser
  • Fan Zhang: Supernova Neutrino Directionality
  • Vaishali Oza: An Investigation of how Adult Female Drosophila Respond to the Repulsive Odor CO2 by Electrophysiological Recordings of Olfactory Receptor Neurons and by an Analysis of Video Recordings of Fly Walking Behavior


  • Jenny Su: Reservoir Computing in Forecasting Financial Markets
  • Lydia Thurman: The Physics of Solar Cells for the Developing World
  • Aaron Webb: Vector Boson Scattering at the LHC
  • Eugene Rabinovich: The conformal manifold in 2d N = (2, 2) SCFTs
  • Eric Scotti: Studies Toward Optimizing Selection Criteria for Top Quark Pair Production in Association with a Vector Boson at ATLAS
  • Yu-Sheng Huang: Complex Bifurcation Phenomena in a Tunnel Diode Model


  • Jack Matteucci: Characterization of Zγ and Zγγ production as observed in proton-proton collisions at 8 TeV.


  • Joshua Loyal: Search for the Standard Model Higgs boson in the H → Zγ decay mode with pp collisions at √s=7 and 8 TeV
  • Zongjin Qian: Physics of a Limit-Periodic Structure
  • Will DiClemente: Search for Quartic Gauge Couplings in the p + p → W (μν) + γ + γ Channel with the ATLAS Collaboration
  • William B. Zhang: Sequence-Dependence of DX DNA Electronic Properties and Thermal Fluctuations


  • Travis Byington: Thermodynamics of a Homogeneous Limit-Periodic System
  • Alejandro Javier Cortese: Technique for Long-Lived Anomalously Charged Particle Searches at ATLAS
  • Farzan Beroz: Angular Distribution of Events in Water Cherenkov Detectors for Supernova Neutrino Measurements
  • Yu-Po Wong: Building a Quantum Key Distribution System
  • Vivek Bhattacharya: Parton Cascade Initial Conditions for Event-by-Event Hydrodynamic Modeling of Relativistic Heavy-Ion Collisions at RHIC