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Department of Physics

Doctoral Program

graduate program

'A student enters the doctoral program upon faculty recommendation after passing the Ph.D. 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:

  • PHYS7722 Statistical Physics II
  • PHYS7732 Electromagnetic Theory I
  • PHYS7742 Quantum Mechanics II
  • PHYS7707-7708 Phy. Grad. Seminar I and II
  • 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. PHYSS8761 Solid State Physics I and PHYS8762 Solid State Physics II 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.

Comprehensive Examinations

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.

Diagnostic Exam

A diagnostic examination is administered to each entering student 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 upon arrival thereby accelerating their progress in the program.

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 department members (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.