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PhD in Physics

The Department of Physics offers students earning their doctorate degree the opportunity to study with leading researchers in astrophysics, biophysics, solid-state physics, particle physics and physics education research as well as to participate in international collaborations. Coursework for the PhD in Physics includes advanced training in core areas of physics and topics of current research. All coursework and exam requirements for the PhD are completed by the spring of the second year. Comprehensive statistics regarding our program can be found at the American Institute of Physics.

Graduate Student Handbook [PDF]

Physics PhD Program Highlights

  • Research beginning research in the first year, with freedom to explore different areas of physics before choosing a thesis topic
  • Opportunities to participate in major worldwide research collaborations, including the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope in Chile, the IceCube Neutrino Observatory in Antarctica, the PICO dark matter detection experiment at SNOLAB in Canada, and neutrino experiments including DUNE, PROSPECT, EXO-200 and nEXO
  • Topics courses in areas of current research, including astrophysics, biophysics, nanoscience, particle physics, solid state and physics education research
  • An active, tightly knit community of graduate students that enjoys dinners and outings together
  • Physics Graduate Student Association, run by our students and funded by Drexel University
  • Graduate-student-only research seminars
  • Interaction with world-renowned researchers who visit Drexel for our colloquium series, and the acclaimed Kaczmarczik Lecture, which has featured several Nobel laureates
  • Fellowships with 12-month stipend support, full tuition remission and free health insurance
  • All coursework and exam requirements are finished in June of the second year; the MS in Physics is also awarded at that time

Doctorate in Physics Degree Requirements

The typical PhD in Physics schedule consists of two years of coursework, a research-based candidacy exam and research training followed by dissertation research. All PhD students follow a common set of eight core courses during their first two years of study. In addition to these core courses, students also choose at least four topics courses.

Physics PhD Course Requirements

Graduate students should complete the following eight core graduate level courses and four topics courses within the first two years. Two of the four topics courses should be outside the student’s research specialty. Students must maintain a minimum GPA of 3.00 for core courses, with no more than two core courses below B- to get a PhD in Physics.

Learn More in the Course Catalog

Core Courses

  • PHYS 501: Mathematical Physics I
  • PHYS 506: Dynamics I
  • PHYS 511: Electromagnetic Theory I
  • PHYS 512: Electromagnetic Theory II
  • PHYS 516: Quantum Mechanics I
  • PHYS 517: Quantum Mechanics II
  • PHYS 521: Statistical Mechanics I
  • PHYS 522: Statistical Mechanics II


  • PHYS 997: Research

Topics Courses

  • PHYS 502: Mathematical Physics II
  • PHYS 518: Quantum Mechanics III
  • PHYS 531: Galactic Astrophysics
  • PHYS 532: Cosmology
  • PHYS 553: Nanoscience
  • PHYS 554: Quantum Technology
  • PHYS 558: Quantum Information
  • PHYS 561: Biophysics
  • PHYS 562: Computational Biophysics
  • PHYS 576: Particle Physics
  • PHYS 626: Solid State Physics I
  • PHYS 627: Solid State Physics II
  • PHYS 631: Relativity Theory I
  • PHYS 679: The Standard Model
  • PHYS T580: Special Topics in Physics
  • PHYS T780: Special Topics in Physics

Dissertation Course

  • PHYS 998: PhD Dissertation

Physics PhD Program 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 Graduate Academic Committee. Post-master's students are expected to pass the candidacy exam by the end of the spring quarter of their first year of study. To be prepared for the candidacy exam, post-master's students should begin research as soon as possible (Candidacy Exam below).

Physics Doctoral Program Research Requirements

Students begin research in the spring and summer terms of their first year. The spring project culminates in a poster presented to the department. A two-page proposal for their summer research is also due at the end of the spring term. At the end of the summer, students are required to submit an in-depth written report and give an oral presentation of their summer project. Research during the second year is toward the candidacy exam. More details can be found in the Physics Graduate Student Handbook.

PhD in Physics Candidacy Exam

The candidacy exam is based on original research performed by the student. A written report should be submitted to the exam committee and the Associate Head for Graduate Studies at least one week prior to the exam, which consist of a public seminar followed by an oral exam conducted by a faculty committee. More details can be found in the Physics Graduate Student Handbook.

Physics PhD Thesis Defense

PhD candidates must perform original research, write a satisfactory thesis describing that research, and defend this thesis in an oral examination. It is required by the university that a graduate student complete the PhD degree within seven years after enrollment. We expect that most students can complete the PhD in five years. More details can be found in the Physics Graduate Student Handbook.