Requirements for the Ph.D.

Entering students please note:

This page describes the requirements for those students who entered the graduate program before 2012. For those entering the program during 2012 and after, the requirements are described on a separate page.

1) Statute of Limitations

Students entering with abachelor's degree in physics should complete all of the requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy degree within six years, although under exceptional circumstances this statute of limitations can be and has been extended.

2) Candidacy Examination

Doctoral Qualifying Exam: on graduate-level physics, offered in January (and again in May if a second attempt is necessary). This exam is normally taken in January of the second year.  The exam consists of two parts, classical and quantum, which may be passed separately.  Exceptions to the timeline may be granted in special cases by the Graduate Program Director (see Contacts).

3) Research Area Courses

Students earning a Ph.D. in physics must take three research area courses. At least one of these courses must be from a research category different from the student's dissertation category. While two may come from the dissertation category, they should represent significantly different research areas. For example, condensed matter physics has expanded to include traditional solid-state physics and low temperature physics, but also statistical physics, polymer physics, nanostructure physics, complex systems, and more. For a student doing a dissertation in superfluid helium, advanced statistical physics is a very different area of research. Further, general relativity is far removed from the actual work of a student involved in an experiment on electron scattering of nuclei.

Rules Governing the Research Course Requirement:

  1. Research area courses are usually those given at the 700 - 800 level.
  2. Advanced courses can be divided into four categories.
    1. Condensed Matter Physics: any 700 - 800 level course taught by a faculty member identified with the Condensed Matter Group that explores an area past or current research.
    2. Particle/Nuclear/Gravitational Physics: any 700 - 800 level course taught by a faculty member identified with the Nuclear Group, the High Energy Experimental Group, or the Particle and Gravitational Theory group.
    3. Technique courses: courses in which the primary emphasis is to provide students with a useful skill. Examples: advanced computational techniques courses like Physics 690S or Astronomy 723.
    4. Advanced courses (600 - 800 level) taken outside the Department.
  3. Courses in categories A and B automatically qualify as research area courses. The Graduate Program Director can accept a course from category C or D upon review of the course syllabus.
  4. Graduate students are required to take three research area courses. At least one of them must come from the "other" major research area of the Department or from outside the Department. For example, condensed matter students must take at least one course from category B. The other two research area courses may lie within the student's broad area of research, but only one of them can be directly related to the student's research project. If there is doubt about the appropriateness of a particular course, the Graduate Program Director makes the decision.

4) Residency

A minimum of two consecutive semesters in residence at the University, each with nine credits, is required. (Waivers are possible for 8 credits.)

5) Teaching

All degree candidates are required to perform teaching in the department. A waiver of this requirement may be requested from the graduate studies committee.

6) Research Advisor

Students are expected to acquire a thesis advisor no later than eight months after passing the Qualifying Examination.The student should request the relevant faculty member to inform the Graduate Program Director (or Graduate Program Office) upon arriving at this mutual decision between student and advisor. (Note: If a student wishes to choose a thesis advisor outside of Physics for physics related research, approval must be received from the Graduate Program Director.)

7) Dissertation Committee

Students are expected to form a dissertation committee no later than twenty months after passing the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination and submit to the Graduate Program Office The Committee should consist of the research adviser, two other members of the physics faculty, and one university faculty member from outside the student's program. After the members have agreed to be on the Committee, submit the names to the Physics Graduate Program Office to prepare the required memo to the Graduate School.

8) Dissertation Prospectus

Students shall submit a dissertation prospectus (original hard copy) including the signature sheet to the Graduate Program Office by twenty-four months after passing the Ph.D. Qualifying examination. At this stage a student and his or her adviser are expected to define a dissertation topic and the student prepares a brief written proposal. The proposal is presented as a brief seminar to the dissertation committee and other interested members of the department. Once the proposal is approved and signed (in black ink) by the student's dissertation committee, deliver the original document to the Graduate Program Office. It will then be hand delivered to the Graduate School. The proposal should follow the dissertation guideline for format as required by the Graduate School. (See websites below.)

  • For doctoral students, your dissertation proposal must be defended and submitted at least seven months before your dissertation.
  • For master's students, your thesis proposal must be defended and submitted at least four months before your thesis.

9) Thesis Credits

The Graduate School requires that students register for 18 or more dissertation credits before their completion of the Ph.D. program.

10) Dissertation

A written dissertation must be prepared and submitted to the dissertation committee. See website below for required format. The dissertation is a scholarly work containing a written record of the original work of the student. It places the student's contribution to knowledge in perspective. The dissertation must be unanimously approved by the members of the committee. Students must pass a final examination consisting of an open oral presentation of the principal results of the dissertation research.

Ph.D. Defense Announcement - A month before the final defense, give the Physics Graduate Program Office your defense details (date, time, room, thesis title) to be forwarded to the Graduate School. The information needs to be received by the Graduate School (from the Graduate Program Director) at least three weeks before the defense.

The dissertation must be submitted electronically. The original signature sheets (signed in black ink) should be submitted to the Graduate Program Office along with the eligibility form and the survey. See websites below. The Graduate Program Office will deliver all documents to the Graduate School.

11) Timeline

The timeline for satisfactory progress for students admitted before 2012 is found here.


Graduate School Websites

Graduate school policies and forms

Dissertation and other information