Physics and Astronomy Doctoral Programs

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Doctor of Philosophy Degree (Physics)

The Ph.D. program requires the student to complete at least 90 hours of coursework, take and pass the written Qualifying and General (Specialist) examinations, and complete and successfully defend the results of original research as a dissertation.

The student must complete at least 90 hours of graduate coursework as follows: 36 hours or more of required physics and astronomy courses, which must include PHYS 5013, PHYS 5153, PHYS 5163, PHYS 5393, PHYS 5403, PHYS 5573, and PHYS 5583.

In addition to the above 21 hours, students must complete at least 15 hours of other physics and astronomy courses numbered 5000 or above (excluding PHYS 6980, which may be included below). To complete the remaining 54 hours of required coursework the student may use any combination of coursework at or above the 4000 level in physics or astronomy, courses in other departments listed as acceptable for graduate credit, and dissertation credit hours (PHYS 6980).

Additional course requirements that are appropriate to the student’s area of research specialization may be required by the Advisory Committee. In addition to an overall GPA of 3.00, candidates for the Ph.D. degree must receive a grade of B or better in the required core courses: PHYS 5013, PHYS 5153, PHYS 5163, PHYS 5393, PHYS 5403, PHYS 5573, PHYS 5583.

All Ph.D. students are required to take an appointment as a teaching assistant with a minimum of two semester contact hours for two semesters. This teaching practicum is independent of financial support by the department.

The Qualifying examination deals with four subjects (mechanics/statistical mechanics, electromagnetic theory, quantum mechanics, and modern physics or astrophysics). The modern physics exam is satisfied by passing three graduate courses, PHYS 5213, PHYS 5243, and PHYS 5813 with a grade of B or better. The examination is constructed by a committee of faculty members. The student must have attempted all four parts of the Qualifying exam by the end of his/her fourth semester. Every student will be given two opportunities to pass the examination.

After passing the Qualifying examination and choosing a research advisor and an Advisory Committee, an advisory conference will be convened by the student. The Report of the Advisory Conference, to be approved and held by the Graduate College, sets the specific course requirements for each student’s degree program. In most cases the Advisory Committee becomes the doctoral committee.

The General exam, which we call the Specialist examination, is an oral and written presentation of a topic related to but not the same as the student’s dissertation subject. It also consists of an oral examination over the material in the presentation and related basic physics. This General examination is normally not taken until the student has completed all required coursework, passed the Qualifying exam and has chosen a research area.

The final requirement for the Ph.D. degree will be the doctoral dissertation, an original piece of research conducted personally by the student which constitutes a contribution to knowledge. The dissertation must be defended in a final oral examination.

Doctor of Philosophy (Engineering Physics)

Students who are interested in the engineering physics doctoral program should refer to the general requirements of the Graduate College and the College of Engineering. Every student will be assigned an advisory committee who will determine the specific requirements within the guidelines set by these colleges and the career study goals of the student.

The required physics core courses and the Qualifying and Specialist exams are the same as for physics.