Physics & Astronomy Graduate Handbook

I. Introduction

Graduation ceremony


We are happy that you have decided to pursue graduate studies at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln. Graduate students play an integral role in the department. We hope that this guide will help you negotiate the maze of paperwork and procedures that are essential to life in a university.

The faculty and staff are always available to help you with academic and non-academic concerns.  Please feel free to call on us if you need advice or help.  We look forward to helping you achieve your goal of a graduate degree in physics.

II. Contact Information

Although there are many people who can assist you with things, these are the primary people with the most experience.



 Contact Information

Graduate Secretary
Graduate admissions, processing PAFs (personnel action forms - which are necessary to get paid), problems with pay and/or billing.
Marjorie Wolfe

208 Jorgensen Hall

Various forms, general advice; course permission codes.
Cyndy Peterson

208 Jorgensen Hall

Graduate Chair
Faculty member in charge of general advising, course advice, graduate student progress, etc.
Kees Uiterwaal

077 Jorgensen Hall

Lecture/Demonstration Manager
Makes TA assignments, schedules summer courses.
Cliff Bettis

134A Jorgensen Hall

Laboratory Manager
Manages introductory labs.
Shawn Langan

139 Jorgensen Hall

Vice Chair
Oversees TA assignments.
Bradley Shadwick

310N Jorgensen Hall

Department Chairman
The buck stops here.
Dan Claes

258G Jorgensen Hall

Business Manager
Supplies, keys, ordering lab and teaching equipment, travel reimbursements, office assignments.
Patricia Fleek

208D Jorgensen Hall

Purchasing Assistance
Ordering lab and teaching equipment, travel reimbursements.
Joyce McNeil

208G Jorgensen Hall

Electronics Shop Manager
Help with computer issues, electronics.
Bob Kelty

356 Jorgensen Hall

Student and Instrument Shop Manager
Machine shop training for students.
Bob Rhynalds

177C Jorgensen Hall

III. Departmental and University Procedures


A. Paychecks

Assistantships for the academic year are divided into ten equal payments, with the first check on August 31stYou must sign up for direct deposit of your pay to a bank; see Marge Wolfe for forms.  New students must be on campus to do paperwork no later than August 10th in order to receive an August paycheck. A teaching assistantship or research assistantship may be available for the two summer months.

B. Communications


E-mail accounts can be obtained by logging into My Red.

Please give the main office your e-mail address for inclusion in the departmental directory, and for the departmental distribution list.  Remember to update the main office if there is a change in your contact information.

The department uses email as the primary mode of communication, so you should check your e­­mail at least once a day for important messages.

Free anti-virus software is available from Information Services at It is a good idea to install and keep this software updated.  Please be prudent when opening files and/or forwarding messages from unknown sources.

Regular Mail

All graduate students have mailboxes located in 214 Jorgensen Hall.  The office staff receives mail on even-numbered calendar days only and distributes it to the mailboxes.  Large packages may be placed on the table in the mailroom and a note left in your mailbox.  Please check your mailbox at least once per day for interdepartmental mail.

Outgoing mail for both ‘Campus’ and ‘U.S. Postal Service’ should be placed in the trays in 214 Jorgensen Hall.  Note that no personal mail can be sent from or delivered to the departmental office. All outgoing mail must have the department’s address and the sender’s name on the outside of the envelope.

Campus mail addresses must include the recipient’s name, the room and building, and the on-campus zip code.  Departments on City Campus (like us) are denoted by CC (xxxx), where the xxxx are the last four digits of the extended zip code.  The Department of Physics and Astronomy’s campus zip code is 0299.  Departments on East Campus are denoted by EC (xxxx). 


All campus offices start with the 472 prefix.  To phone a campus office from campus, dial 2-xxxx where the ‘xxxx’ is the last four digits of the telephone number.  The departmental phone directory is posted on its website.

To get an off-campus number, you must dial ‘9’ first.

C. Photocopying

Research or Teaching Related Photocopying

Research- and teaching-related photocopying can be done in the department copy room (214 Jorgensen Hall).  Codes have been assigned to all research grants and teaching-related areas. Ask your advisor or the professor for whom you are teaching, which code(s) you should use. The office staff can also assist you.

If the photocopier is out of order and you have an urgent photocopy need, see one of the secretaries in 208 Jorgensen Hall for instructions.

Appendix C is a copy of a recent memo summarizing photocopy policies.

Personal Photocopying

Personal photocopying for members of the department can also be done in 214 Jorgensen Hall.  The copy code for personal copies is available from the office staff.  Mark the number of copies you make next to your name on the clipboard near the copy machine.  Copies are tallied once every month or so, and you will receive a bill in your mailbox that can be paid in room 208F Jorgensen Hall.  Current price is 4.5 cents per copy.

D. Use of Computers

Computers are available in some graduate student offices. The Association of Students of the University of Nebraska (ASUN) will provide you with a used computer for your office, as available. See Marge Wolfe for details on how to get one of these computers.

E. Obtaining Supplies

Supplies (paper, pens, chalk, etc.) for research- and teaching-related uses are located in room 208G Jorgensen Hall.  Some materials are in an open cabinet; others must be requested from the business office staff.  If you need something that is not stocked, it can be ordered through the Office Depot catalog (which is also available in the Physics Business Office, 208.2 Jorgensen Hall).  The supplies in 208.2 Jorgensen Hall are for research and teaching related needs only.

Equipment or supplies not in stock must be requisitioned through the web forms available on the departmental website (  Click on “Department Home” tab, then “Downloadable Forms.”  The Excel or PDF form must be e-mailed to

When you receive your order, verify that the shipment is correct, and then sign the invoice or packing slip and return it to room 208.2 Jorgensen Hall.

F. Access to Facilities


All students must have a student ID, which is available at the ID office in the University Bookstore (Union).  The ID office is on the first floor of the Student Union.  You must already be registered for classes, and bring your social security card and a picture ID with you to the ID office.  The ID will cost you $20. Your student ID also serves as your library card and will give you access to Jorgensen Hall outside business hours.

International students must first check in at the International Student and Scholar Office (ISSO) at 201 Seaton Hall.  The form given to students when they check in must be completed by Marge in 208 Jorgensen Hall and returned to ISSO. After you have been on campus 10 days you go to the Federal Building to apply for a social security card.  A receipt showing the application must be presented to the ID Office before they will issue you an ID, and presented to Marge in the Physics and Astronomy Office for payroll.

Keys/NCard Access

You will need to get a key for your office on arrival.  Keys are obtained from Patty in 208G Jorgensen Hall

Keys are the property of the University.  Security concerns dictate that keys may not be duplicated or lent to anyone else.  Report any suspicious activity to the Main Office. Return the key to the Physics Department when you graduate or separate from UNL.

Jorgensen Hall’s exterior doors will be locked at all times outside the building’s normal business hours.  You will need your NCard activated to enter the building after normal hours.  You will also need your NCard activated to enter the Mail Room (214 JH) which is locked at all times.  NCard access is obtained from Beth Farleigh in 208A Jorgensen Hall.


Keep your offices and labs locked when they are empty. If you enter through a locked door, make sure that the door shuts and latches afterward.  Do not prop open doors.

Keep purses and valuables (such as laptop computers) out of view.  Although rare, items have been taken from offices and labs in the past.  The problem is usually at its worst during the last few weeks of classes each semester.  Report any suspicious people to the main office, or to the campus police at 402-472-2222.

G. Love Library

Many research journals are available over the web.  To access them from any computer in the department, go to the UNL library web site (, select “E-Resources” on the navigation bar, scroll down to “Electronic Journals,” then select “Electronic Journal Finder.” 

Also available on the web are a number of databases for searching the scientific literature. Links to these databases are located on the library’s E-Resources webpage, and can be found listed alphabetically by clicking on the appropriate letter in the “Databases by Title” section in the center column.  One of the most powerful databases is the “Web of Science” database located under ‘W’.  The library periodically offers workshops on using these databases. 

The physics department also has an embedded librarian that can help you with any research needs you may have. Her contact information is below:

Kiyomi Deards
N219 Love Library, City Campus 4100


Most books can be checked out of the library using your student ID card.  Some books are on reserve for courses, or are designated reference materials that can only be used in the library.  Please be aware of fair use copyright laws and limit your copying to materials that fall within the fair use guidelines. 

Do NOT remove any material from the library without checking it out.

Ordering Articles

The delivery of any books that you request will be made to the Engineering library, so you can pick them up at our Circulation desk, W204 Nebraska Hall. Any journal articles you request will continue to be delivered as usual -- directly to your email address. If you need a book or an article, you can request an Interlibrary Loan (ILL) via the university library’s website. To access Interlibrary Loan, go to: (, and select “Interlibrary Loan (ILLiad)” below the “Get Materials” section on the left of the page. 

H. Office Space

The department endeavors to provide all graduate students with office space.  Office space is assigned by the Department, is considered to be temporary, and will expand or contract depending on current teaching and research requirements of the Department.  New graduate students will receive office assignments in 208 Jorgensen Hall.

I. Parking

Parking permits are available from UNL Parking and Transit Services, 625 Stadium Drive, Suite A (located in the ground level of the Parking Garage), or online (

J. Reimbursements for Travel

If you are going on a work-related trip for which you will be reimbursed, you must fill out a travel authorization prior to leaving.  On the department website (, choose “Department Home,” then ”Downloadable Forms.”  During travel, be sure to get itemized receipts for all expenditures. Upon return, you must fill out a travel reimbursement form. Both are submitted electronically to papurchasing@unl.eduReimbursement must be requested within 60 days of the last day of travel.

IV. Requirements for Graduate Degrees

The Department of Physics and Astronomy of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln offers graduate education leading to the degrees of Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy in Physics. The Department has a flexible program of graduate study that can easily accommodate students with a wide variety of goals and backgrounds. Every entering graduate student will be assigned an academic advisor who is a member of the Department's Graduate Committee. Entering students are required to take a Preliminary Exam during their first week on campus in August prior to registering for classes. This test, which is also required for Ph.D. candidacy, will be used to assess the level of their knowledge of undergraduate physics, and will aid the Graduate Committee in giving them advice about which courses to take during their first semester.

The time required for obtaining a degree should be kept to a minimum, giving due consideration to the student's background and particular subfield of specialization. During the first and second years of graduate study an adequately prepared student will take most of the formal courses in the program. For well-prepared students, the times needed to obtain an M.S. degree and a Ph.D. degree should be about two years and five years, respectively.

An outline of the steps that a student must complete to obtain a graduate degree in physics follows:

  1. Obtain admission to the Graduate College.

  2.  Pass the Preliminary Exam on undergraduate-level physics.

  3. Complete all required course work with an adequate GPA (see below).

  4. M.S. degree students must

  • File a Memorandum of Courses before finishing one half of the course work for the M.S. degree (i.e., for most students this should be done during the second semester of their studies);
  • apply for the degree; pass the “M.S. Comprehensive Examination” (comprising only course grades; see below);
  • complete a thesis (if the thesis option described in the Graduate Bulletin is chosen; see below).`

5. Ph.D. degree students must

  • complete 91x courses (excluding 918) with a GPA of 3.00 or better (ultimately, a cumulative GPA ≥ 3.00 is required to graduate);
  • form a supervisory committee;
  • file a memorandum of courses approved by the supervisory committee;
  • pass the Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination at least 7 months (but not longer than 3 years) prior to the final oral examination on the dissertation;
  • complete a dissertation, including an oral defense of the dissertation.
Knowledge of foreign languages can be valuable both personally and professionally. Although the Physics and Astronomy Department has no general foreign language requirement, individual supervisory committees may include a language (or research tool requirement) in the student's program if they feel it is appropriate.

Each student is responsible for knowing the requirements of his or her degree program as specified in the Graduate Bulletin. THESE REQUIREMENTS ARE NOT DISCUSSED IN THIS HANDBOOK. Copies of the Bulletin may be obtained from the Graduate Studies web site at:  In addition to the requirements of the Graduate College, the faculty of the Department of Physics and Astronomy has approved the following requirements:

Preliminary Exam

A preliminary exam on undergraduate-level physics must be passed. All students will take this exam as a placement exam prior to the first semester of study. Depending on the outcome, the graduate committee may recommend or require the student to take selected 800-level courses before the corresponding 91x courses. The exam will be offered twice a year: after the end of the spring semester, and before the beginning of the fall semester. Students may take the exam up to three times and must pass it before the beginning of their second academic year.

A. M.S. Degree Program

i. Course Work

In addition to the requirements given in the Graduate Studies Bulletin, a candidate for an M.S. degree must satisfactorily complete the following courses:

  • Physics 911: Classical Mechanics
  • Physics 913: Electromagnetic Theory I
  • Physics 916: Quantum Mechanics I
  • Physics 998: Special Topics in Current Research
  • Math 842: Methods of Applied Mathematics I

Plus one of the following courses:

  • Physics 912:     Statistical Physics
  • Physics 914:     Electromagnetic Theory II

Math 827 may be substituted for Math 842. This option should be discussed with the Graduate Chair and/or the respective instructors of the two courses. The passing grade in Math 827 is B; the passing grade in Math 842 is C.

ii. M.S. Comprehensive Examination

To pass the M.S. Comprehensive Examination, students must record a GPA of at least 2.5 in Physics 911, 912 (or 914), 913, and 916. Students with an average GPA of 3.00 or above in these courses will be awarded an M.S. degree en route to a Ph.D. without having to write a Master’s Thesis (“Option III” as specified in the Graduate Bulletin). This GPA will be reported to Graduate Studies as the grade for the M.S. Comprehensive Exam.  Students with a cumulative GPA below 3.00 but at least 2.50 will be able to obtain the M.S. degree by defending an M.S. thesis and passing an oral exam (“Option I”). Students with a cumulative GPA below 2.50 for two consecutive semesters will be dismissed from the program. The Committee has the option of giving an oral examination, a written examination, or both. 

B. Ph.D. Degree Program

i. Course Work

The required courses for every student seeking a Ph.D. degree are:

  • Physics 911 Classical Mechanics
  • Physics 912 Statistical Physics
  • Physics 913 Electromagnetic Theory I
  • Physics 914 Electromagnetic Theory II
  • Physics 916 Quantum Mechanics I
  • Physics 917 Quantum Mechanics II
  • Physics 918 Quantum Mechanics III
  • Physics 998 Special Topics in Current Research
  • Math 842 Methods of Applied Mathematics I
Plus three of the following four introductory “survey” courses:

  • Physics 925 Introduction to Atomic and Molecular Physics
  • Physics 926 Introduction to Elementary Particle and Nuclear Physics
  • Physics 927 Introduction to Solid State Physics
  • Physics 928 Introduction to Plasma Physics

Plus at least one additional mathematics course, chosen in consultation with an advisor, from the following list:

  • Math 814 Applied Linear Algebra (Matrix Theory)
  • Math 822 Advanced Calculus
  • Math 823 Introduction to Complex Variable Theory
  • Math 824 Introduction to Partial Differential Equations
  • Math 827 Mathematical Physics
  • Math 843: Methods of Applied Mathematics II
  • Stat 880: Statistics and Applications
  • Math 935/936: Advanced Methods of Applied Mathematics

Math 827 may be substituted for Math 842. This option should be discussed with the Graduate Chair and/or the respective instructors of the two courses. The passing grade in Math 827 is B; the passing grade in Math 842 is C.

Students with little or no laboratory experience as undergraduates are urged to take Physics 231: Electrical and Electronic Circuits I, and/or one of the Advanced Laboratory Courses, Physics 841‑843.

The recommended order in which a fully prepared student should take these courses is:

First Year

First Semester
Physics 911
Classical Mechanics

Physics 913
Electromagnetic Theory I

Physics 998
Special Topics in Current Research

Math 827
OR Math 842
Math Methods in Phys Sci
OR Applied Math I

Second Semester

Physics 914
Elecromagnetic Theory II

Physics 916
Quantum Mechanics I

Math Elective

Second Year

First Semester

Physics 912
Statistical Physics

Physics 917
Quantum Mechanics II

Physics 92X

Second Semester

Physics 918
Quantum Mechanics III

Physics 92X

Physics 92X (will generally need to be taken in the third year)

Note that in the table above, courses are listed in the semester in which they are usually given. It may be necessary to wait until the third year to finish the Introductory Course (925, 926, 927, and 928) sequence.

Normally 911, 912, 913, 914, 916, and 917 will be offered once each year, and Quantum Mechanics III and the survey courses (925, 926, 927, and 928) will be offered at least once every two years. Students participating in research may register for one of the following: Physics 899 (Masters Thesis), Physics 996 (Research other than Thesis), and Physics 999 (Doctoral Dissertation). Note that all beginning graduate students, both M.S. and Ph.D. students, must take Physics 998 (Special Topics in Current Research). This is a 1 credit hour course introducing students to the research activities in the Department.

ii. Qualifying Procedure and Formation of the Supervisory Committee

A minimum GPA of 3.00 in the 91x courses (excluding 918 Quantum III) is required for Ph.D. candidacy. Ultimately, the student must have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 in the required courses to get the Ph.D. Students may take 91x courses no more than twice.

As soon as a student has completed satisfactorily the required Ph.D. course work, he/she should form a supervisory committee guiding his/her dissertation research. The committee should consist of at least four members including the student’s research advisor and an outside representative.

iii. Program of Studies

A complete program of studies approved by the supervisory committee must be filed with the Office of Graduate Studies. See the graduate secretary in the main office for assistance with this.

iv. Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination

A written comprehensive examination of each Ph.D. applicant is required by the Graduate College. The examination may also include an oral presentation and examination. This examination is administered by the student's supervisory committee and will normally have the form of a written report based on approximately one week of intensive research on a subject approved by the Supervisory Committee. It is expected that this topic will be in the general area of the student’s Ph.D. thesis (e.g., AMO, HEP, etc.), but will not be a simple extension of their Ph.D. research topic.

v. Ph.D. Dissertation

The dissertation must be completed between 7 months and 3 years following the passing of the Ph.D. Comprehensive Exam. In addition to the written dissertation, an oral defense of the research is required.

V. Departmental Expectations For Graduate Students

A. Advisors

A member of the Department’s Graduate Committee will advise every graduate student until a Ph.D. supervisory committee is formed. At that time, the thesis or dissertation supervisor becomes the student's advisor. Students are, of course, encouraged to seek advice from any member of the faculty at any time.

B. Evaluation of Student Progress

Students are expected to make timely progress towards their degree objective. Each student will be informed periodically by letters from the Graduate Committee and by their advisors of the faculty's evaluation of their progress. Some issues that are considered by the faculty when evaluating a student's progress are:

1. Is the student taking a full load of substantive courses relevant to his/her degree?

2. Is the student's grade point average (over all graduate courses) B or better?

3. Does the student show interest in current research through attendance at colloquia and seminars and discussions with faculty members?

4. Has the student started his or her research training at the appropriate time?

C. Grades and the Honor System

Students seeking a Ph.D. are required to have a "B" average (i.e., a GPA of at least 3.00) in the courses taken to satisfy the degree requirement. No special seminar or research course grades will be included in the calculation of this grade average. In some graduate courses a grade of "P" will be given to indicate passing work. It is important to understand that in all 900-level courses, a grade less than a C is considered to be failing; in 800-level courses, a passing grade is B or better unless there is no 300- or 400-level equivalent in which case the passing grade is C (e.g., in Math 842).  Students receiving grades of D or worse, or those who have failed more than one course in a given semester will be put on academic probation. A student put on academic probation for these reasons who fails to significantly improve his or her grades during the next semester will likely be dismissed from the program.  Students with a cumulative GPA less than 2.50 will be put on academic probation.  If they fail to raise their cumulative GPA above 2.50 in the next semester, they will be dismissed from the Ph.D. program.

If a student fails a required course, he or she must retake it to remain in the program, but no course may be taken more than twice. Cumulative grade point averages will be based on the highest grade a student receives in a given course.  Required courses may not be taken on a Pass/Fail basis.

Students are expected to abide by the honor system for examinations and, as specified, for other assignments. If, for example, an instructor gives a take-home or other examination and a student obtains assistance on the examination from written or verbal sources not explicitly approved by the instructor, the student is in violation of the University's Code of Conduct. (For details see The Student Code of Conduct in the UNL Graduate Studies Bulletin; see also Section H below, and Appendix A of this document.)

D.  Attending Colloquia and Seminars

Departmental Colloquia take place on most Thursdays during the Fall and Spring semesters.  Colloquia are generally at 4:00 p.m. in room 136 Jorgensen Hall.  Refreshments are available in the vending machine area from 3:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Departmental Colloquia are an important part of graduate student education and help to provide students with knowledge of a broad range of topics in physics and astronomy.  All graduate students are required to attend Colloquia.  As your research interests develop, you are encouraged to attend Seminars, which are more technical talks in specific subfields.  Colloquium speakers are specifically told that graduate students are a primary audience in Colloquium.

E.  Commencing Research

Physics 998, a one-credit course required of all graduate students during their first fall semester in residence, is designed to introduce students to research in the Department. It comprises 10 or more lectures by our faculty on their research programs. This course must be taken during the first semester of a student’s residency unless permission to take it in the second year is granted by the Graduate Committee.

Students are also encouraged to register for non-thesis research. A brief summary of the research interests of the faculty is presented on the Physics and Astronomy website, in the Department booklet entitled Graduate Studies and Research, and in the Department's listing in The American Institute of Physics' annual book entitled Graduate Programs in Physics, Astronomy, and Related Fields. The latter two are available in the Department office.

F.  Registration

Graduate students are expected to register during early registration. If there is some reason why registration cannot be accomplished at that time, the Department office should be notified.

G. Policy for Withdrawals

Students are urged to consult with their advisor if they consider dropping a course, particularly because they are expected to make timely progress towards their degree objective (see Sec. V. B). The effects of dropping a course depend on when the withdrawal is filed: there is “early withdrawal” and “late withdrawal”. Also, you must maintain a minimum of 9 credit hours during fall and spring semester to meet your Graduate Assistantship requirements.  If withdrawal from a course results in less than 9 credit hours, your advisor will assist you in determining course enrollment to replace these credit hours.

We follow the Academic Calendar to define the deadlines for the “early” and “late” withdrawals. The early withdrawal deadline is found in the Academic Calendar as “Last day to file a drop to remove course from student’s record”. The late withdrawal deadline is found as “Last day to withdraw from one or more courses for the term”.

The consequences of a withdrawal are:

  • On or before the early withdrawal deadline:
    Effect of early withdrawal: The course has not been taken, and no grade will be recorded.
  • On or before the late withdrawal deadline:
    Effect of late withdrawal: The course has been taken, and a grade of “W” will be recorded. This “W” will be disregarded in GPA calculations. Notice: the courses 911, 912, 913, 914, 916, and 917 may only be taken twice; late withdrawal counts as one of the two attempts.   
  • After the late withdrawal deadline:
    No withdrawal is allowed.

H. Distribution of M.S. and Ph.D. Theses and Thesis Abstracts

Two unbound copies of each thesis should be given to Love Library. Graduate students and/or their advisors are also asked to distribute to faculty and other graduate students a copy of the M.S. or Ph.D. Thesis Abstract to better inform the faculty of student progress and to acquaint graduate students with the research being carried out in the Department.

I.  Academic Dishonesty

Graduate students in the Department of Physics and Astronomy historically have displayed a high level of integrity when carrying out classroom assignments and when working on examinations or thesis research. The purpose of the discussion here is to make sure that students are fully informed of faculty expectations in this regard. A fairly complete discussion of what may constitute academic dishonesty and the possible penalties for such dishonesty may be found in the Graduate Studies Bulletin issued by the Graduate College of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. This section of the Graduate Student Handbook summarizes for graduate students in the Department of Physics and Astronomy some of the main points made in the Graduate Studies Bulletin regarding academic dishonesty and clarifies some issues regarding penalties for engaging in academic dishonesty.

Any student found guilty of academic dishonesty shall be subject to both academic and disciplinary sanctions. Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  1. Cheating. Copying or attempting to copy from an academic test, examination, or assigned work of another student; using or attempting to use unauthorized materials, information, notes, study aids or other devices for any academic test or assignment.
  2. Fabrication and Falsification. Falsifying or fabricating any information or citation in any academic exercise, assignment, or examination. Falsification is the alteration of information, while fabrication is the invention or counterfeiting of information.
  3. Plagiarism. Presenting the work of another as one's own (i.e., without proper acknowledgement of the source) and submitting examinations, theses, reports, or other academic work in whole or in part as one's own when such work has been prepared by another person or copied from another person.
  4. Abuse of Academic Materials. Destroying, defacing, stealing, or making inaccessible library or other academic resource material.
  5. Complicity in Academic Dishonesty. Helping or attempting to help another student to commit an act of academic dishonesty.
  6. Falsifying Grade Reports. Changing or destroying grades, scores or markings on an examination or in an instructor's records.
  7. Misrepresentation to Avoid Academic Work. Fabricating an excuse such as illness, injury, accident, etc., in order to avoid or delay timely submission of academic work or to avoid or delay the taking of an examination.

For a more complete description of what may constitute academic dishonesty, the student is referred to the current Graduate Studies Bulletin. Penalties for academic dishonesty are discussed in Appendix A.

VI. Teaching and Research Assistantships: Rules and Benefits

A.  Minimum Registration Requirement

The Department requires that all graduate students holding either a teaching or a research assistantship (TA or RA) be registered for at least 9 credit hours during each semester of the academic year.

B.  English Requirement for ALL Foreign Graduate Teaching Assistants

The statement of the University policy is attached as Appendix B. The University requires all foreign Teaching Assistants to successfully complete an International Teaching Assistant Institute. This three–week–long institute is offered during the latter part of each summer.

C. Getting Paid

The delay between when you work and when you get the check for that work is two weeks.  The year is divided into two long semesters and two summer sessions.  Summer TAs result in a slightly strange pay schedule.  At the end of June, you get paid for the first half of the first session.  The July paycheck includes the second half of the first session and the first half of the second session.  In August, you get paid for the second half of the second session.  In addition, if you have a TA or RA for the next Fall, two weeks of the TA/RA salary will be included in the August paycheck.  See the graduate secretary for questions about paychecks.

D.  Limitations on Graduate Teaching Assistantship Support

In order to improve research productivity, decrease the average length of graduate study, and mitigate potential problems arising from the minimum class size policy, the Department limits the extent of TA support as follows:

1. All students are restricted to 12 semesters of full-time TA support after enrolling with a B.S. degree (or UNL equivalent), and eight semesters of full TA support after enrolling with an M.S. degree (or UNL equivalent). Support during the summer is not restricted.

2. If funding is available, students making satisfactory progress will be guaranteed 10 semesters of full–time TA support toward the Ph.D. degree (6 semesters if entering with an M.S. degree) or 5 semesters toward the M.S. degree. Beyond these limits, support will be granted only at the convenience of the Department.

E. Tuition Credit

i. During the Academic Year

To be eligible for tuition credits, graduate students must give evidence of some combination of teaching and research assistantships equivalent to at least a 2/3 assistantship. Students will get credit toward tuition for up to 12 credit hours. Note however, that Graduate College regulations restrict full TAs or RAs to registering for no more than 10 credit hours per semester.

ii. During the Summer Sessions

Students having a graduate assistantship during the academic year may receive tuition credit during the following summer sessions. The amount of tuition credit depends on the level of the academic year graduate assistantship stipend. Details are available from the Main Office, the Graduate Committee Chair, or the Graduate College. Graduate assistants not on appointment for both semesters are not eligible for the summer session tuition credit. However, a graduate assistant on appointment during the spring semester may be eligible for a reimbursement of summer session tuition if he/she receives a graduate assistantship appointment for the following fall semester. To obtain such reimbursement, graduate assistants must apply to the Student Accounts Office, 110 Administration, after the fall semester has begun and after their assistantship appointment has been processed.

F.   Social Security Taxes

Some graduate students unnecessarily pay social security (F.I.C.A.) taxes every summer on their summer income. The Payroll Office (ext. 2-2010) describes the regulations as follows:

1.     Foreign Students here on an F-1 or J-1 visa generally do not pay social security taxes. Those on F-2, H-1, H‑2, or J-2 generally do pay social security taxes. For further information, consult the Payroll Office.

2.     American students who have a graduate teaching or research assistantship do not pay social security taxes provided they have half-time status.  This means that they must be registered for a total of four credits over the course of the summer.  Note that there are two 5-week summer sessions and one 8-week summer session that runs concurrently with the first 5-week session. For example:  You can register for two credit hours during the first (8-week) summer session and two credit hours during the second 5-week summer session, or two credit hours for the first 5-week session and two credit hours for the second 5-week session to avoid paying social security taxes. See Marge Wolfe for details.

G.  Full-Time Status 

(See the Graduate Studies Bulletin)

During the summer, students are not required to register for credit hours to maintain graduate student status; however, if they do not register for at least a total of 4 credit hours over the summer sessions as noted above, Social Security and Medicare taxes will be withheld. During the Fall and Spring semesters, full-time status is 9 credit hours.

VII. Teaching Assistantships: Duties and Advice

A. Duties

Teaching assistants make essential contributions to the Department's teaching program. They are among the few instructors from whom a student obtains guidance in the study of physics and astronomy. These duties are described in detail in the memo entitled, “Teaching Assistant Duties,” which is issued by the Vice Chair each August. A recent copy of this memo is appended to this handbook.

A full TEACHING LOAD for a teaching assistant includes:

  • The teaching of three laboratory sections, or six recitations, or some other equivalent assignment. Depending on the Department's schedule of courses, the assignment may be split in a number of ways. Every effort will be made to schedule a teaching assistant in only one course, but this is not always possible. Attendance at laboratory briefings scheduled by the Laboratory Manager is required of students with lab sections.
  • The tutoring of undergraduate students taking introductory physics courses (such as Physics 115, 141, 142, 151, 211, 212, 213, 260 and 261) for one hour per week. Teaching assistants are to be present in the Physics Learning Center during the entire assigned hour and are to be prepared to assist the undergraduates with the questions they are likely to ask. They should feel free to seek help from others if needed.
  • The proctoring of examinations.  Proctoring assignments are made at the beginning of the year.  It is your responsibility to contact the professor or instructor for whom you will be proctoring to receiving information about the assignment.
  • The grading of examinations. Course lecturers are to distribute the grading work load equitably among the faculty and teaching assistants assigned to them, taking into account the number of recitation sections taught by each instructor.

According to the Bylaws of the Board of Regents it is the responsibility of every faculty member "to fulfill the assigned time schedule of all classes, including quizzes, laboratories, tests, and other meetings unless absence is caused by an emergency or approved University business."   Teaching assistants have the same responsibilities. For teaching assistants, the "assigned time schedule" includes assigned grading, proctoring, and tutoring duties as well as scheduled recitation and laboratory teaching.

All incoming graduate students are required to take part in TA Training which is held the week before the beginning of Fall classes All teaching assistants are expected to be present in the Department during General Registration, which occurs on the Thursday and Friday immediately before the first day of classes for both Fall and Spring semesters. Assistants will be notified of their duties through their Department mailboxes. Mailboxes should be checked frequently, especially at the beginning of the semester.

If a student will be away on University business or unavoidably absent for other reasons, he/she has the responsibility to arrange for a replacement for his/her teaching responsibilities, as detailed in the Teaching Assistant Absence Policy, which is appended to this handbook or is available in the Department office. As detailed in the policy, these arrangement must be satisfactory to the lecturer for the course (in the case of recitation teaching and/or grading and proctoring assignments) and/or to the laboratory manager (in the case of laboratory teaching). In addition, the teaching assistant must complete the Teaching Assistant Substitution Approval Form, which is appended to this handbook, or is available in the Departmental office. The completion of this form is also necessary to assure coverage under the University's employee insurance policies.

In the case of an absence caused by an emergency, a teaching assistant should notify the course instructor and the Department office as soon as possible. If a teaching assistant knows beforehand of an unavoidable absence, he/she is expected to proceed as described in the previous paragraph.

The duties of a teaching assistant are not complete until the grades for the course he/she has been teaching have been filed or posted. The Academic Senate has proclaimed that all grades must be completed and filed within 5 working days of the final examination. The teaching assistant is expected to have the grades ready at the time specified by the course lecturer and to be available for consultations with the lecturer until the course grades have been filed.

Yearly renewal of a teaching assistantship is based on:

            1. Satisfactorily meeting the obligations of a teaching assistant.

            2.  Satisfactory progress toward a degree.

            3. Availability of funds.

B. Recommended Procedures

i. Preparing for Class

When preparing for a class, an assistant should read and understand the assigned material, work the assigned problems, and be thoroughly prepared. Nevertheless, situations may arise in which the assistant is unable to respond correctly to some reasonable question. In such situations it is usually best to admit one's difficulty and have the needed information available at the next class meeting.

ii. Holding Office Hours

Each full-time teaching assistant is required to have three office hours per week.

iii. Proctoring of Examinations

Due to scheduling of classes, you may proctor exams for courses other than the ones for which you are teaching.  The following procedures should be followed:

  1. Proctors should contact the course instructor to whom they are assigned at least 2 days before the exam in order to find out when and where their services are required. They will be expected to be available 10 to 20 minutes before the examination begins.
  2. Proctors should see that students' seats are uncluttered and that all books, papers and other material are deposited at the front of the room.
  3. Students' seating should be arranged so that communication between them is minimized.
  4. A count of the number of students taking the examination should be taken at least twice. Attendance should be taken when seats have been assigned.
  5. At the beginning of the examination, the number of problems and the number of pages on the exam should be announced so that each student can tell whether his or her exam is complete.
  6. Proctors should remain alert to what is happening in the examination room.
  7. Proctors should be ready to clarify questions the students may have about the examination, without actually solving the problems.
  8. When the examination is over, but before leaving the room, the proctor should count the number of papers turned in. If it differs from the number of students, check the room for fallen or misplaced exams, compare the tests turned in with the attendance roster, etc.
  9. Any suspected cases of improper student conduct during an examination should be reported to the instructor in charge with all of the evidence collected. Do not make any accusations during the examination period.

iv. Grading of Examinations

  1. When grading, it is important to establish a grading pattern by first looking at several papers, so that consistent and fair results can be obtained.
  2. Whenever justifiable, give partial credit for incomplete or incorrect solutions to a problem. Do not penalize the student for continuing initial errors. For example, if a student uses the diameter for the radius in a problem, deduct for this error only once and not again, even if this mistake is repeated elsewhere in the same problem.
  3. Papers should be marked in such a fashion that the instructor can detect modifications made by the students after the papers have been returned to them.

C. Graduate Student Teaching Award

The department has established the distinguished teaching assistant award to recognize the important role that graduate TAs play in the department’s mission.  The award is given each Spring at the department’s Recognition Luncheon.

VIII. Physical Facilities

The Department of Physics and Astronomy occupies Jorgensen Hall, Behlen Laboratory (the Diocles Laser), and Behlen Observatory at Mead, Nebraska. The various Departmental facilities and their locations are as follows:

A. Departmental Offices

The Department chairman and his or her secretary have offices in 208B, 208A Jorgensen Hall adjoining the main Department office in 208 Jorgensen Hall. The Department's business office is in 208D. The photocopier and the mailboxes are in Jorgensen Hall 214.

B. Physics Learning Center

Graduate students are assigned to serve as tutors various hours of the week in the Learning Center (253 Jorgensen Hall).

C. Lecture Halls

The two lecture rooms used for large–enrollment introductory physics courses are Jorgensen 110 and 136, which both seat 150.

D. Introductory Laboratories

Laboratories for all of the lower–level physics courses are held in the various rooms on the north half, first floor Jorgensen Hall. The office of the Laboratory Manager is 139 Jorgensen Hall.

E. Advanced Undergraduate Laboratories

Jorgensen 241 and 233 house the advanced undergraduate laboratories.

F. Conference/Seminar Rooms

Jorgensen 207, 300A, 309, and 071 are available for seminars and can also be used as conference rooms. Reservations for their use should be made with the secretaries in the Department Office.

G. Meeting Room

Faculty, staff, graduate students, and undergraduate physics majors may use the meeting room, Jorgensen 207, for informal meetings.

H. External Research Laboratories

Professors doing experimental work maintain laboratories in the two buildings housing the Department on the UNL campus (Jorgensen Hall and Behlen Lab).Off-campus research is carried out at:

  • Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (near Chicago)
  • The Large Hadron Collider at CERN (in Switzerland)
  • The Advanced Light Source at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Berkeley, CA
  • The Center for Advanced Microstructures (in Louisiana)
  • The Behlen Observatory (near Mead, NE)
  • Thomas Jefferson National Laboratory, Newport News, VA

I. Lecture Demonstration Apparatus

The office of the lecture demonstrations manager is in Jorgensen 134A. Demonstration apparatus is stored and assembled in that room.

J. Electronics Shop

The Electronics Shop is located in 356 Jorgensen Hall.

K. Instrument and Student Shops

The Department maintains a fully–equipped instrument shop in Jorgensen 177 as well as a student shop in Jorgensen 175. The machines in the main shop are to be operated only by the shop staff, but those in the student shop may be used for Departmental work by students authorized by a member of the faculty. For safety reasons, students may use the machines only after being trained by the student shop machinist and passing a safety test. Students must always have a second person in the shop at all times (“buddy” system) when they are working.

Appendix A: Penalties for Academic Dishonesty

The academic and disciplinary sanctions which may be imposed on an individual who has engaged in academic dishonesty vary with the kind and extent of the dishonesty. In what follows, some possible sanctions are presented in specific instances. It should be noted that the Bylaws of the Department of Physics and Astronomy require a discussion and vote by the faculty of the Department if a student is to be expelled from the graduate program.

An individual who engages in academic dishonesty in a particular course will face penalties at the discretion of the faculty member teaching the course. These penalties may range from failing the assignment or examination to failing the course. Regardless of the degree of the penalties he/she has assessed, the faculty member will report the nature of the infraction to the Graduate Committee of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. The Graduate Committee may, after investigation, impose further penalties or sanctions, up to and including expulsion from the graduate program (with faculty consent and approval).

An individual who engages in academic dishonesty during the Preliminary Exam will normally be expelled from the graduate program. The extent and degree of academic dishonesty will be investigated as fully as possible, and the Graduate Committee will recommend penalties to the faculty of the Department for their discussion and decision.

An individual who engages in academic dishonesty while carrying out the research for an M.S. thesis, or in presenting the results of such research, will normally be expelled from the graduate program. The student's advisor will report the nature of the academic dishonesty to the Graduate Committee. The Graduate Committee will then investigate the extent and degree of academic dishonesty as fully as possible and make a recommendation regarding expulsion from the graduate program to the faculty of the Department.

An individual who engages in academic dishonesty while carrying out research for a Ph.D. dissertation, or in presenting the results of such research, or when taking the Comprehensive Examination, will normally be expelled from the graduate program. The student's Supervisory Committee will investigate, as fully as possible, the extent and degree of the academic dishonesty and report its findings to the Graduate Committee. After completing its own investigation and deliberations, the Graduate Committee will make a recommendation regarding expulsion from the graduate program to the faculty of the Department.

Appendix B: Policy for Awarding Teaching Assistantships to Foreign Graduate Students


Concerns over the verbal communication skills of some of our foreign graduate teaching assistants arise on occasion. This long–standing issue has received considerable attention at UNL. The following policy is not designed to eliminate all speaking accents, but to ensure that all of our foreign graduate teaching assistants possess effective verbal communication skills.

Policy Statement

A foreign student may be awarded a Graduate Teaching Assistantship (GTA) involving classroom or laboratory contact with students only if the foreign student:

  1. has been admitted to a degree program in the Graduate College, and
  2. has successfully completed the International Teaching Assistant Institute offered at UNL.

Note that all foreign students, whether or not they wish to be TAs, must take the UNL English Placement Examination (EPE) on arrival on campus and must take any subsequently required English coursework. If a student is a native of a country in which English is the only national language, and English is the student's original language, both the EPE and requirement (2) above for TAs may be waived. Other criteria that must be considered by the Department Chair when appointing and reappointing Graduate Teaching Assistants include, of course, knowledge of the material,  good teaching skills, etc.

Appendix C: Using the Copier

Using the Copier

  • Who Can Use the Copier?Anyone who works in the department can charge copies to a grant number for research or teaching uses. People who work in the Physics and Astronomy Department can make copies for personal use. These copies are tallied approximately once a month and a bill delivered to your departmental mailbox.
  • Research- and Teaching-Related Copies. The copy machine uses code numbers for all teaching and research accounts. These numbers are available from the office staff. If you don’t know the grant number to use, contact your advisor or supervisor, someone in the Business Office or someone in the Department Office for assistance.
  • Personal Copies: A clipboard with a list of names and “Personal Xeroxing” across the top is located on the table next to the copy machine. This is the place to record the personal copies you make. Please note the number of copies very clearly under your name. We have had problems in the past with people writing copies under other people’s names. The list of names is in alphabetical order based on the last name. If you do not see your name on the list, write your name and the number of copies you made at the bottom of the last page on the clipboard.

If you have a question as to whether your copies should be recorded as departmental or personal, consult the person you work for or see someone in the Department Office.

Copiers do not last forever. A few suggestions on how to extend the life of our copier:

  • Make sure the lid is closed completely before you copy.
    • Do not copy papers that may leave marks on the glass, such as papers with white-out that is still wet.
  • Do not put ink-jet printouts in the automatic feeder.
    • Be careful not to put anything on the photocopy surface that could scratch the glass. The scratch will be reproduced on everything copied on the machine!
    • Do not use any transparencies in the photocopier that aren’t specifically marked for use in photocopiers. The photocopier uses a great deal of heat to set toner, and thin transparencies will melt in the copier, causing a gooey mess and necessitating a service call.
  • If you aren’t sure how to use the machine, ask one of the department staff for assistance.
  • If the copier needs toner, paper, etc., notify the office staff and they will handle the maintenance.
    • Unless your research is in the area of copier repair, don’t try to fix the copier if it breaks. Report all problems to the department office.

Appendix D: Brief History of the Department

The founder of this Department over a century ago was Dewitt Bristol Brace, who came to Nebraska in 1887, after receiving his doctoral degree in Germany under Hermann Helmholtz. The following year the Department was established with Brace as chairman. Under his leadership it grew rapidly both in facilities and in reputation for scholarly research.

Brace was able to do forefront research that was recognized by contemporaries around the world, despite being handicapped by a lack of funds. One of his projects was to measure the effect of motion on the double refraction of light, a subject of intense interest at the time because of its bearing on the question of the luminiferous ether, alleged to pervade space. This work was one of four experiments that disproved the ether theory and as such may have influenced Einstein in his development of the theory of relativity. In 1901, Brace was elected Vice President of the American Physical Society (APS). His untimely death in 1905 brought a very promising career to an end (and prevented him from serving as President of the APS). At the time of his death, tributes came to the University from many prominent scientists, including Nobel Laureate Ernest Rutherford.

Although a Ph.D. in physics was awarded in 1896 (which was the first Ph.D. in the U.S. west of the Mississippi), the present Ph.D. program in physics was initiated after World War II and the first degrees were awarded in 1953.

The Department's circumstances improved dramatically in the 1960's when two major grants stimulated substantial growth in the size of the Department as well as in the scope of its research and teaching activities. A sum of $1.25 million comprised of a National Science Foundation grant, a gift from the Behlen family of Columbus, Nebraska, and University funds, permitted the construction of Behlen Laboratory of Physics, which was dedicated in 1965. Then in September 1969 the Department received an $811,000 grant from the National Science Foundation's Science Development Program to increase the size of its permanent staff from 19 to 29. At the same time, new equipment was purchased and additional personnel were added to the shops. Further expansion occurred in 1971 when the Department took over part of Ferguson Hall.

The study of astronomy at Nebraska began in 1894 when Professor Goodwin D. Swezey came here from Doane College. The modern program, however, began in the early 1970's when four astronomy faculty members were hired and the Behlen Observatory was built. The Observatory, completed in 1972 at the Mead Field Laboratory, was made possible by a $300,000 grant from the Behlen family. The Observatory facilities are continually updated and now include full computer control and modern digital imaging technology.

The Department has approximately 30 faculty members. The largest research groups are in Atomic, Molecular, Optical, and Plasma Physics, Condensed Matter Physics, and High Energy Physics. An overview of the Department's research programs, grant and contract funding, and research facilities is provided in the annual A.I.P. listing for the Department as well as in the Department's Graduate Studies and Research booklet, both of which are available from the Department Main Office 208 Jorgensen Hall.

In May 2010, the Physics & Astronomy Department moved into its new building, Theodore Jorgensen Hall, named for Ted Jorgensen, who was a University of Nebraska physics graduate and professor.

Professor Jorgensen was born in Connecticut but grew up on the sparsely populated region of northwestern South Dakota. His parents were the only source of his education before he enrolled at the University of Nebraska in 1923. He and a friend had ridden their motorcycles to Lincoln. By 1935 he had earned two degrees at Nebraska and a Ph.D. in physics from Harvard University. While he was at Harvard he mastered the techniques of Chinese cooking, something he was well known for.

He was on the faculty at Nebraska from 1938 to 1975 except for a three-year interval in the 1940s when he was invited to Chicago and later to Los Alamos, NM to join the group of scientists assembled to develop an atomic bomb.

Jorgensen’s research on the Manhattan Project gave him ideas for areas of research in atomic collision that required the use of an ion accelerator which he built with the help of two graduate students and the department machinist. Jorgensen obtained support from the Atomic Energy Commission and many students and faculty members utilized the accelerator. The work started by Jorgensen brought Nebraska to the forefront of atomic collision research.

Professor Jorgensen was well liked as a teacher and was the first in the department to receive a Distinguished Teaching Award.  He was department chairman for three years. In 1994 he published a book on the physics of golf that was so popular that it was translated into other languages. He was 100 when he died in 2006.

Appendix E: Teaching Assistant Responsibilities Policy

A Teaching Assistantship (TA) is intended to contribute to the department’s teaching responsibilities and to your professional development. Your compensation and your continuation in the program depend in part upon your performance as a TA. As University employees, you are expected to adhere to all applicable policies and procedures, including those described in this document and at

TA Categories

TAs fall into one of three categories as follows:
  • GTA—Graduate student Teaching Assistant
  • UTA—Undergraduate student Teaching Assistant
  • OTA—Other Teaching Assistant

TA Supervisors

Cliff Bettis
TA Manager
JH 134A
(402) 472-2789
Shawn Langan
Laboratory Manager
JH 139
(402) 472-2199

(All offices are in Jorgensen Hall – JH.)

Department Administrators

Dan Claes
Department Chair 
JH 258G or 208
(402) 472-2783,
Stephen Ducharme
Vice Chair (Instruction)
JH 310F
(402) 472-8590
Kees Uiterwaal
Graduate Chair (graduate advising)
(402) 472-9010
Herman Batelaan
Acting Undergraduate Chair (undergrad advising)
(402) 472-3579

Cyndy Petersen
Department Secretary
(General questions, registration, scheduling, tutoring room)

Marjorie Wolfe
Graduate Secretary
(Graduate programs, grad student payroll)

Jennifer Barnason
Undergraduate Secretary
(Undergraduate programs, undergrad student payroll)

(Department Office (JH 208, 472-2770,

Teaching Assignments

You will be assigned to teach laboratories, teach recitations, set up labs, do course grading, or some combination of these. A Full TA (6 units) is expected to work 20 hours/week on average. If you find that you are spending more time than this, discuss it with your supervisor or the Vice Chair. Your work assignment begins the week before classes and ends only after you have completed all of your assignments, usually by the end of finals. You may not arrange to leave for break or vacation until after finals are over. Due to likely visa problems, International Students may not travel abroad during winter break.

Typical Assignments (supervisor):
  • One laboratory section = 2 units (Laboratory Manager)
  • One recitation section = 1 unit (Course Instructor)
  • One laboratory setup = 1 unit (Laboratory Manager)
  • Course grading = varies as assigned (Course Instructor)

Other Duties (supervisor):

Office Hours
(TA Manager)
Most TAs are required to hold office hours each week in the Physics Learning Center (JH 253). The number of hours depends on your specific assignment—up to 1 hour per week for 1/3 and 1/2 TAs, and up to 2 hours per week for 2/3 and full TAs. You must attend all office hours (that is a full hour, not 50 minutes), or arrange a substitute and help any student who comes in – though you should give priority to your own students. The office hour schedule will be distributed during the first week of classes. You must sign in at the main office (JH 208) at the beginning of each assigned office hour.

Exam Proctoring
(TA Manager)
You will be scheduled to assist with administering exams several times per semester. This will not necessarily be for the same course as your teaching assignment.

(Course Instructor). You are expected to complete weekly grading for assigned labs. and/or recitations. In addition, recitation instructors may be asked to assist in grading class hour exams.

Lab Training
(Laboratory Manager). You are expected to participate in weekly lab-training meetings for your course (141, 142, 221, 222, 223) unless you are excused by the Laboratory Manager.

Guidelines and Procedures:

Find out what your duties are. Check in with your supervisor(s) frequently. Be prepared, be on time, be engaged in class, office hours, etc. Complete out-of-class duties (e.g., grading) promptly & thoroughly.

Learning Center (JH 253)
Sign in for each session in the main office. Help students; do not work problems for them.
The students are responsible for bring a copy of the assignment and the text.
Help students from your recitations or labs first, then any others that come by.

You are responsible for contacting the Course Instructor at least one day in advance of a scheduled exam if they have not already contacted you. They will instruct you when and where to meet. The exam may not be in the same location as the class, so be sure you know the room, building and time. Consult a campus map if the exam is held in a building unfamiliar to you.

Paid Tutoring
The Department does not arrange or coordinate paid tutoring. You may, however, engage in tutoring for pay, subject to the following conditions.
  1. You may not accept payment for tutoring from students in classes that you are assigned to teach or for which you are assigned grading.
  2. You may not tutor for pay in the Learning Center (JH 253) or in your office.
  3. You may apply to have your name included on the Departmental list of qualified tutors. 
  4. You must obtain written permission from your research supervisor before you begin paid tutoring.
  5. You must inform the Vice Chair before you begin paid tutoring.

Attendance Policy:

You are required to complete all of your assigned teaching duties as scheduled. These duties may include any or all of the following:
  • laboratory or recitation classes
  • training
  • office hours 
  • grading
  • meeting with your supervisor
  • exam proctoring
Your appointment begins one week before classes start and ends the last day of finals. You are expected to be available and ready for work any and all weekdays except for specified University Holidays ( If you are not a US citizen or permanent resident – do not travel outside the country between semesters, because delays in handling your visa are very likely, causing you to return late, in which event you may lose your TA for the Spring Semester.

Under very limited circumstances, you may request to be excused from teaching to fulfill a professional obligation, such as to attend a research conference. There are three very important limitations to these excused absences. i) It is your responsibility to arrange for a suitable substitute and obtain written permission as explained on the form entitled Teaching Assistant Substitute Request Form at least two weeks before the planned absence. ii) This option is limited to one absence, for a maximum of one week, each semester. iii) You may not be excused during the first or last week of classes. Under no circumstances are you to cancel, dismiss, or reschedule class.

If some unforeseen and unavoidable circumstance, such as illness or accident, prevents you from teaching your assigned classes or other TA duties, you must inform the Department Office (472-2770, as soon as you are able. We will attempt to find a substitute. Do not cancel or dismiss the class yourself.

Check your mailbox and e-mail regularly – at least once a day. The graduate students mailboxes are in JH 214, grouped alphabetically in the center section of the west wall. Notify the Main Office (JH 208, 472-2770, immediately if your contact information changes.

Talk to us!

We try to make your teaching experience as pleasant and rewarding as possible. We welcome questions or discussion about any aspect of your teaching duties and studies. Consult the Vice Chair (Stephen Ducharme) for clarification about about the duties, policies, and procedures described in this document.

(As of September 2013)

Appendix F: Teaching Assistant Absence Policy and Teaching Assistant Substituiton Form

If for some unforeseen and unavoidable circumstance, such as illness or accident, prevents you from teaching your assigned classes or other TA duties, you must inform the Department Office (JH 208, 472-2770, as soon as you are able. We will attempt to find a substitute. Do not cancel or dismiss the class yourself.

Under very limited circumstances, you may request to be excused from teaching to fulfill a professional obligation, such as to attend a research conference. There are three very important limitations to these excused absences. i) It is your responsibility to arrange for a suitable substitute and obtain written permission at least two weeks prior to the planned absence. ii) This option is limited to one absence for a maximum of one week per semester. iii) You may not be excused from teaching during the first or last week of classes. Under no circumstances are you to cancel, dismiss, or reschedule class. The procedure for obtaining permission is as follows.

  1. Fill out this form explaining the reason for your absence, the assignment information (course number and section, date and time, etc.), your contact information while away, the name and contact information for your substitute. These forms are available in the departmental office.
  2. Arrange for a suitable substitute who is willing and able to take your place. This substitute must be qualified to teach the class that you will be missing, preferably one of the other TAs teaching the same course. Have the substitute sign the form indicating their agreement to the arrangement. You should return the favor, soon.
  3. Obtain the permission and the signature of the appropriate supervisor (Course Instructor, Laboratory Manager, or TA Manager). Note: this is not the same as your research supervisor or academic advisor.
  4. Make four copies of the form. Keep the original, give one to your substitute, one to your supervisor, and one to the Main Office. 

Teaching Assistant Substituiton Form
Teaching Assistant Substitution Form