Physics Degree Requirements

The requirements for the Ph.D. are:

  • at least 12 course or supervised research units in physics, as needed to provide a broad foundation
  • passing a set of qualifying exams consisting of both written and oral examinations
  • completion of a Ph.D. dissertation describing original research
  • passing an oral defense in the area of the dissertation

Although it is not required, many students first complete an M.A. degree, before continuing on to the Ph.D.

The 12 units generally include many units of Supervised Research (Phys 701). The written qualifying examinations test students understanding on graduate level Quantum Mechanics, Electromagnetism, Classical Mechanics, Special Relativity, and Statistical Mechanics. The oral qualifying exam is one-hour long, focusing on problems identified for each student from the qualifying written exams.

Our graduate students may specialize in any of the broad subfields of physics represented among our faculty (see our faculty research specialization). In rare circumstances, arrangements have been made for graduate students to work with faculty at other institutions. In all cases, students are expected to acquire a well-rounded understanding of physics as a whole.

All Ph.D. candidates must complete original research the results of which must be presented in a well-crafted dissertation that is worthy of publication. The dissertation defense consists of a presentation of the dissertation material, questions from the general audience, then further questioning by the committee, after the rest of the audience is excused.