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Graduate Program Description
The Department offers comprehensive programs of study and research leading to the degrees of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), as well as Master of Science (M.S.), and Master of Science in Teaching (M.S.T.) in conjunction with the Lynch School of Education. Courses emphasize a strong foundation in the basic principles of physics, preparing the student to undertake advanced research under the supervision of a faculty advisor. Graduate students are encouraged not only to collaborate closely with their research advisor, but also to draw upon the experience of the entire faculty and other graduate students. Our students are trained primarily to carry out independent research at the Ph.D. level, and our graduates have gone on to successful careers in many areas.
Each candidate for a terminal Master’s degree must pass a Master’s Comprehensive Examination administered by the Department, and meet specified course and credit requirements. The Master’s Comprehensive Examination shall be prepared by a committee of at least three faculty members appointed by the Chairperson as necessary. This committee shall evaluate the Master’s Comprehensive Examinations in conjunction with the graduate faculty. Generally, no more than three (3) credits of PH 799 Readings and Research may be applied to any Master’s program. The M.S. degree is available with or without a thesis, and the M.S.T. requires a paper, but no thesis.
M.S. With Thesis
This program requires 30 credits that normally consist of 27 credits of course work plus three thesis credits (PH 801). Required courses include the following: PH 711, PH 721, PH 732, PH 741, and PH 707-708. The Master's comprehensive examination is essentially based on the contents of the first four required courses and is usually taken at the first opportunity following the completion of these courses. The M.S. thesis research is performed under the direction of a full-time member of the graduate faculty, professional, or research staff. A submitted thesis shall have at least two faculty readers, including the director, assigned by the Chairman. The thesis is accepted after the successful completion of a public oral examination conducted by the readers.
M.S. Without Thesis
This program requires 32 credits of course work. The same courses and Master's Comprehensive Examination requirements for the M.S. with thesis apply here except that, in addition, the courses PH 722 and PH 742 are required.
The Master of Science in Teaching (M.S.T.) degree is administered through the Lynch School of Education in cooperation with the Department of Physics. It requires admission to both the Lynch School of Education and the Department of Physics. This program requires at least 15 credits from graduate or upper divisional undergraduate courses in physics. These credits will most often include two of the following courses: PH 711, PH 721, PH 732, PH 741. All Master's programs leading to certification in secondary education include practica experiences in addition to course work. Students seeking certification in Massachusetts are required to pass the Massachusetts Educators Certification Test. The M.S.T. qualifying examination in physics will be based on the student's actual course program. A research paper supervised by a full-time member of the graduate faculty is required. For further information on the M.S.T., please refer to the Master's Programs in Secondary Teaching in the Lynch School of Education section of the University Catalog or call the Office of Graduate Admissions, LSOE, at 617-552-4214.
A student enters the doctoral program upon faculty recommendation after passing the Doctoral Comprehensive Examination. Upon entering the doctoral program, each student shall select a field of specialization and establish a working relationship with a member of the faculty. With the approval of a faculty member, who normally shall be the principal advisor, the student shall inform the chairperson of his/her major field selection and the chairperson shall appoint a faculty Doctoral Committee consisting of at least two full-time faculty members to advise and direct the student through the remainder of his or her graduate studies.
Required courses for the doctorate are the following: PH 722, PH 742, PH 707-708, and four additional courses in distinct areas outside the student's research specialty chosen from the graduate electives of the department or from other graduate departments with the approval of the chairperson. PH 761 and PH 762 are strongly recommended as two of these four courses.
Some teaching or equivalent educational experience is required. This requirement may be satisfied by at least one year of service as a teaching assistant or by suitable teaching duties. Arrangements are made with each student for a teaching program best suited to his or her overall program of studies.
Within one year of entering the graduate program, each student will take the comprehensive examination, usually offered each September. In principle, this examination covers all of physics that a physics graduate student can be expected to know at the end of one year of formal course work in the curriculum; however, it will stress classical mechanics, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, and statistical physics. The examination has both a written and an oral part. The examination is prepared and administered by a faculty committee, appointed by the chairperson, and the examination is evaluated by this committee with approval of the entire graduate faculty of the department. Students may attempt this examination twice.
Research and Thesis
After passing the Comprehensive Examination, a student's principal activity is research. Normally, within a year after passing the Comprehensive Examination, the student shall take the Research Proposal Examination. The purpose of this examination is for the student to demonstrate knowledge of his/her area of research specialization and to expose the topic of his/her proposed thesis to scrutiny for its soundness and scientific merit. This will be done at a public meeting. The examination will be evaluated by the student's Doctoral Committee, and the results reported to the chairperson and recorded in the student's file. Upon the student's satisfactory performance in this examination, the chairperson shall recommend to the dean the appointment of a Doctoral Thesis Committee consisting of at least three members of the departmental faculty (including the student's Doctoral Committee) and an external examiner, where feasible, to read and evaluate the completed thesis and to conduct an open meeting at which the thesis is defended in an oral examination. The thesis is accepted when endorsed on the official title page by the Doctoral Thesis Committee after the oral examination.
Support for qualified students is available in the form of teaching assistantships. Research assistantships are also available during the summer and academic year, depending on research area and the extent of current funding.
Students are required to take the GRE Aptitude Test and Advanced Test and to have the scores submitted as part of their application. Students whose native language is not English must take the TOEFL exam.
Waivers of departmental requirements, if not in violation of graduate school requirements, may be granted by recommendation of the Graduate Affairs Committee with approval of the Chairperson.
A diagnostic examination is administered to entering students to help identify the strengths and weaknesses in their academic preparation, and to advise them accordingly. Students with an advanced level of physics preparation are encouraged to take the Doctoral Comprehensive Examination upon arrival thereby accelerating their progress in the program.
The Physics Department is strongly research oriented with faculty involved in both experimental and theoretical areas. Some areas of current interest are in the condensed matter physics areas of superconductivity, photovoltaics, metamaterials, thermoelectrics, nanomaterials, plasmonics, plasmas, topological insulators, novel electronic materials and other strongly correlated electron systems.
Significant research facilities are available to our graduate students. Departmental facilities include high magnetic field/low temperature physics, THz/optical physics, and materials/nanomaterials preparation laboratories, graduate and undergraduate computational facilities, and access to the University computing system. The Department of Physics is constantly enhancing and supplementing these facilities.
The Department of Physics also has developed strong ties to many outside facilities, including Los Alamos National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, the Institute for Complex Adaptive Matter (ICAM), Brookhaven National Laboratory, the Naval Research Laboratory, and the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory. Boston College's participation in the Boston Area Graduate School Consortium enables students to cross-register for graduate courses at Boston University, Brandeis University, and Tufts University.
Students wishing more detailed information can write to the Physics Department or visit their website at http://www.physics.bc.edu/.