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. Ph.D. guidelines, forms and deadlines are available on the Office of Graduate Studies website.

  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

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 is offered twice a year: once before the beginning of the fall semester (August) and once after the spring semester ends (May). Students may take the exam up to three times and must pass before beginning their second academic year.
Top of Page

Ph.D. Course Work

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

  • PHYS 811: Methods in Theoretical Physics I
  • PHYS 911: Classical Mechanics
  • PHYS 912: Statistical Physics
  • PHYS 913: Electromagnetic Theory I
  • PHYS 914: Electromagnetic Theory II
  • PHYS 916: Quantum Mechanics I
  • PHYS 917: Quantum Mechanics II
  • PHYS 918: Quantum Mechanics III
  • PHYS 998: Special Topics in Current Research

Plus three of the following four introductory "survey" courses:

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

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

  • Math 824: Introduction to Partial Differential Equations
  • Math 935 or 936: Advanced Methods of Applied Mathematics I or II
  • PHYS 812 or 813: Methods in Theoretical Physics II or III

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 SemesterSecond Semester
First Year
  • Physics 811: Methods in Theoretical Physics I
  • Physics 911: Classical Mechanics
  • Physics 913: Electromagnetic Theory I
  • Physics 998: Special Topics in Current Research
  • Physics 914: Electromagnetic Theory II
  • Physics 916: Quantum Mechanics I
  • Physics 998: Special Topics in Current Research
  • Math Elective
Second Year
  • Physics 912: Statistical Physics
  • Physics 917: Quantum Mechanics II
  • Physics 92x
  • 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 III (918) 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 (Master's 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.
Top of Page

Qualifying Procedure and Formation of the Supervisory Committee

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 required 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 adviser and an outside representative.
Top of Page

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 Program Associate in the Main Office (208 JH) for assistance.
Top of Page

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 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.
Top of Page

Ph.D. Dissertation

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.
Top of Page