Guide to Capstone Experiences

Version 1. March 01, 2022

A capstone experience is a multi-faceted project that results in a product, prototype, detailed solution, and/or presentation, and that serves as a culmination of a student’s undergraduate education. A capstone experience may be an individual project or a group project completed through a course, an independent study, or an external research experience or internship. Capstone experiences typically require students to “synthesize and integrate cumulative knowledge; apply learning and create new knowledge; work independently, bringing their own ideas to their work; present the results of the capstone work to an audience; meet rigorous professional and disciplinary standards; [and] reflect on their own development.” (Egan et al.) This section provides guidance on how to weigh the benefits of different capstone structures, provide departmental support for such experiences, and engage students in them. See the sections on Undergraduate Research and Internships for guidance on how to provide students with those specific types of capstone experiences.


Capstone experiences provide opportunities for students to synthesize previous experiences and gain skills and competencies that may not be found elsewhere in the curriculum, including independence, project management, time management, research, communication, producing a final product, and, in some cases, working in teams. Capstone projects can provide opportunities for students to grapple with and develop skills needed to solve complex, open-ended, real-world problems that are generally not found in other courses, and thus prepare students to address the pressing issues facing society. Capstone projects can tackle open-ended, real-world problems that are generally not found in other courses. Capstone experiences have been identified as a high-impact practice and can be a powerful tool for recruiting and retention, particularly for students from

. They provide excellent career preparation for students who are entering the workforce as well as those who are continuing to graduate study. A capstone course can also serve as a vehicle for assessing your and providing a summative assessment of your undergraduate physics program.

Effective Practices

  1. Weigh the benefits of different structures for capstone experiences

  2. Establish and sustain departmental support for your capstone experiences

  3. Engage students

Programmatic Assessments

The Cycle of Reflection and Action

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Nos. 1738311, 1747563, and 1821372. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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