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PhD in Physics

The Department of Physics offers opportunities for students to study with leading researchers in astrophysics, biophysics, nonlinear dynamics, particle physics and solid-state physics, as well as to participate in international collaborations. Coursework for the PhD degree includes advanced training in core areas of physics and topics of current research. PhD students begin research early in the program.

The usual schedule for physics graduate students consists of two years of coursework, qualifying exams, and research training, followed by dissertation research. All PhD students follow a common set of 10 core courses during their first two years of study. In addition to these core courses, students also take four special topics courses.

PhD Students Admitted with Post-Master's Status

Students who are admitted for PhD study with "post-master's" status must take 15 credits of graduate coursework with a minimum GPA of 3.0 to become doctoral candidates. Courses are to be chosen in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies. Post-master's students are expected to pass the written and oral qualifying exams by the end of the spring quarter of their first year of study. Ordinarily, this means taking the written qualifying exam in September before the start of classes. To be prepared for the oral exam, post-master's students should begin research as soon as possible.

Learn more about the degree in the Course Catalog

Teaching Fellow Policy

The College of Arts and Sciences regards training in pedagogy and instruction to be core to the mission of doctoral education. Therefore, all PhD students in the College are required to perform significant teaching duties (defined over multiple terms) during their pursuit of their degree. These activities may include, but are not limited to:

  • Supervising teaching labs
  • Running course recitations
  • Teaching as the primary instructor
  • Running student seminars
  • Training junior researchers in core research methods
  • Running or actively participating in pedagogical seminars or conferences

Alternate fulfillment of this requirement is at the discretion of the program director and the head of the student's home department.

Student Testimonials

“... the physics department here is extremely supportive. Everyone knows everyone else (including between students and faculty), and there is very little competition amongst the students. We are all here for the same reasons, and we all want to see each other succeed.” - Kelly Douglas, DC

“I love the graduate students here. They are a fun group to work with and hang out with outside the office. It is non-competitive, collaborative environment to do research in and we have a great time camping or going to happy hours after work.” - Tina Peters, DC

There are a great deal of things in this department to love, but I am most fond of how well the people in the department get along. We are a very welcoming group of people and a very close-knit bunch, which holds true for the department as a whole. I am able to talk to both students and faculty very openly and comfortably, which makes discussing work and easy to do. - John Timlin, DC