This page guides you through the departmental requirements for earning a Ph.D. degree; however, each student is responsible for knowing the requirements of his or her degree program as specified in the Graduate Studies Bulletin, which are in addition to the requirements listed here. These requirements are not included in this discussion. The Bulletin is available online, or a copy may be obtained from the Graduate Studies Office, 301 Administration Building.

  1. Pass the Preliminary Exam on Undergraduate-Level Physics.
  2. Complete all 91x courses (excluding 918) with a GPA of 3.0 or better.
  3. Form a Supervisory Committee.
  4. File a Program of Studies approved by the supervisory committee.
  5. Pass the Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination at least seven months (but not longer than three years) prior to the final oral examination on the dissertation.
  6. Complete a Ph.D. Dissertation, including an oral defense of the dissertation.

Preliminary Examination (back)

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, before the beginning of the Fall and Spring semesters. Students may take the exam up to three times and must pass it before the beginning of their second academic year.

Ph.D. Course Work (back)

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.

We recommend that fully prepared students take courses in this order:

First Year
First Semester

Physics 911: Classical Mechanics
Physics 913: Electromagnetic Theory I
Physics 998: Special Topics in Current Research
Math 827 or 842: Mathematical Methods in Phys. Sci / Applied Math I

Second Semester

Physics 914: Electromagnetic 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 lists 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 II 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).

All beginning graduate students, both M.S. and Ph.D., 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.

Qualifying Procedure and Formation of the Supervisory Committee (back)

A minimum GPA of 3.00 in the 91x courses (excluding Physics 918: Quantum Mechanics III) is required for Ph.D. candidacy.
Students may take 91x courses no more than twice. As soon as a student has completed the required Ph.D. coursework, 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.

Program of Studies (back)

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 (208 JH) for assistance.

Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination (back)

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 be in 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.

Ph.D. Dissertation (back)

The dissertation must be completed between seven months and three years following the passing of the Ph.D. Comprehensive Exam. An oral defense of the research is also required in addition to the written dissertation.