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Ph.D. Degree

The physics Ph.D. program is designed to give students a fundamental theoretical background beyond that of undergraduate level and a research experience that produces high-quality and novel work that is recognized by publication in peer-reviewed journals, presentations at discipline-specific conferences or workshops, and sometimes though patents. To obtain a Ph.D. degree the student must complete the coursework, oral examination, and research requirements.

Please note that these requirements supersede those on the university catalog while catalog changes are under review.

Ph.D. Candidacy Requirements

  • Course Requirements:  Students must complete a minimum of 38 credit hours in physics or astronomy at the 600 or 700 level (or approved courses from other departments relevant to the program of study).
  • Calculation of the GPA: Students must maintain a minimum overall GPA of 2.75, and 3.0 or better, with a minimum grade of C-, in graduate courses applied towards the degree. 
  • Research Requirement:  Research is the central focus of the degree and is directed by a faculty adviser over a period of several years. When the research is completed, the student must write a dissertation and defend it before the doctoral committee. The average completion time for the Ph.D. is five years beyond the B.S. Research specialties within the department include astrophysics/astronomy, biophysics, condensed matter physics, physics education research, and plasma physics.
  • Oral Candidacy Examination: To be admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D., a student must pass an oral candidacy examination by the end of their sixth academic semester in the program. This oral presentation is typically 45 minutes in length and covers a research paper selected by the advisor and the student. The exam is open to the public. Following the presentation and questions from the general public, the Ph.D. committee members ask questions of the student related to the paper and the background required. Any general physics questions may also be asked. Next, the student is excused and the committee makes an overall decision on the exam.
  • Progress Toward Completion:  All students must submit an annual report describing their progress in the program after passing their oral candidacy exam. ​All students are evaluated annually before the end of March by their Ph.D. committee and the graduate studies and advising committee.

Ph.D. Research Requirements

Research is the central focus of the degree and is directed by the faculty advisor. The candidate must submit a written dissertation that presents the results of the candidate’s individual investigation.  The candidate must meet with their doctoral committee annually submit a progress report to the graduate studies and advising committee. 

After the faculty advisor has tentatively approved the dissertation, the student makes an oral presentation and defense of the dissertation before the faculty on the doctoral committee.  This must be completed no more than five years after admission to candidacy.

Ph.D. Curriculum Requirements