Course requirements for the Ph.D. in physics or with astronomy specialization (totaling 48 semester hours of coursework and 24 semester hours of research) consist of 5 components:

Advising Worksheet: A Graduate Student Advising Worksheet must be kept on file with the department office beginning the second semester of enrollment. The worksheet on file should be updated each subsequent semester, to keep current. Worksheets for each degree program and sub-area can be found on the Graduate Advising page. An “Outline of Ph.D. Program (Plan of Study)” form based on this worksheet must be submitted to the Graduate School by the semester in which 30 hours have been earned.

Core Courses (18 Hours)

The core courses consist of

  • PH 501: Classical Dynamics
  • PH 531: Electromagnetic Theory I
  • PH 532: Electromagnetic Theory II*
  • PH 541: Quantum Mechanics I
  • PH 542: Quantum Mechanics II*
  • PH 571: Statistical Physics

Courses marked with * may be substituted by some sub-area course (see below).

The customary schedule for completing these core courses is to take two each semester, starting in the first semester, in the following sequence:

  • First Fall: PH 501, PH 531
  • First Spring: PH 541, PH 532* and/or PH 571
  • Second Fall: PH 542*

The completion of any of the above courses (or the equivalent, as approved by the graduate director or department chair) with a grade of B (3.0/4.0) or better prior to enrolling as a graduate student in this department may fulfill the requirement for that course (see §V. Transfer Credit).

Sub-Area Courses (12 Hours)

Students must take 4 courses (12 semester hours) in their chosen sub-area. These should be chosen in consultation with and approved by the student’s research advisor (if chosen) or the graduate advisor responsible for their sub-area. Substitution of courses within the sub-area 8 courses other than those listed here should be made only at the recommendation of the student’s research advisor and should represent a similar level substitution which is more applicable to the student’s research specialty. The suggested courses for each sub-area are as follows:

Condensed Matter Physics

  • PH 581: Solid State Physics
  • PH 585: Magnetism and Magnetic Materials
  • PH 586: Advanced Magnetism and Magnetic Phenomena
  • PH 681: Advanced Solid State Physics

Frequently taken additional courses

  • PH 591: Advanced Laboratory
  • PH 534: Digital Electronics

High Energy Particle Physics Theory

  • PH 523: Relativity
  • PH 561: Nuclear & Elementary Particle Physics
  • PH 641: Relativistic Quantum Mechanics
  • PH 642: Quantum Field theory

Frequently taken additional courses

  • PH 661: High Energy Physics
  • PH 662: High Energy Physics II

Experimental Particle Physics

  • PH 561: Nuclear & Elementary Particle Physics
  • PH 641: Relativistic Quantum Mechanics
  • PH 642: Quantum Field Theory OR PH 591: Advanced Lab
  • PH 661 – High Energy Physics

Astrophysics (within Astronomy specialization)

Core substitutions

  • AY 640: Radiative Processes* in lieu of PH 532 (E&M II)
  • AY 521: Theoretical Astrophysics* in lieu of PH 542 (QM II)
  • AY 533: Observational Techniques
  • AY 550: Stars & Stellar Evolution
  • AY 620: Extragalactic Astrophysics
  • AY 630: Galaxy & Stellar Dynamics

Frequently taken additional courses

  • AY 580: Cosmology
  • PH 523: Relativity

Astroparticle Physics (within Astronomy specialization)

Optional core substitution

  • AY 640: Radiative Processes* OR PH 532 (E&M II)
  • AY 521: Theoretical Astrophysics
  • AY 580: Cosmology
  • PH 523: Relativity
  • PH 561: Nuclear & Elementary Particle Physics

Courses marked with * may be taken in lieu of the indicated core course only by students within the indicated sub-area. Students must submit a plan of study indicating their sub-area before opting out of the relevant core course.

In some sub-areas, courses past the 4 required sub-area courses are those commonly taken instead of Research Techniques courses (see below). Students should consult their advisor as to which of these they should take.

Typically, one sub-area course is taken each semester, along with core courses, so they are completed by the end of a student’s 4th semester. Many of these courses are offered only every other year, so students should consult with their advisor for appropriate scheduling.

Research Techniques and Approved Electives

In addition to the core and sub-area courses, an additional 9 semester hours of graded work is required. This will typically consist of Research Techniques (PH 590) taken with the student’s chosen research advisor after core courses are completed. This 3-hour course can be repeated. The intention is for the student to learn, in an interactive research-oriented setting, research techniques and background even more specific to the sub-field in which they are working than the sub-area courses. It is allowable to instead take additional elective courses pertaining to this goal (with the consent of the student’s advisor), as long as a total of 9 semester hours of graded coursework results.

Seminars, Research Techniques, or Approved Electives

For each semester in residence, full-time students are required to enroll for one hour of PH 597 (Physics Seminar) or AY 597 (Astrophysics Seminar), which are graded on a pass/fail basis. Up to 9 semester hours of seminars (PH 597 or AY 597), can be counted toward the Ph.D. degree. Thus, this requirement will typically be satisfied automatically. If otherwise necessary, these hours may be fulfilled by additional coursework, including Non-thesis Research (PH 598), Non-Dissertation Research (PH 698), additional instances of Research Techniques (PH 590), and approved electives. Note that no more than 9 semester hours of pass/fail coursework (AY 597, PH 597, PH 598, PH 698) can be counted toward the Ph.D. degree.

Physics seminar: Physics seminar requirements include attending at least 10 sub-area seminars (e.g., MINT or theory) and/or departmental colloquia. First-year physics students must attend a minimum of one MINT and one theory seminar. For students in the second year and beyond, the division among seminars and departmental colloquia will be determined by the student’s advisor, in consultation with the student. Students in the 2nd year and beyond must also make one presentation each semester.

Astrophysics seminar: Astrophysics seminar requirements include attending weekly astronomy seminars, departmental colloquia, and making presentations, starting in the first semester.

Other course requirements: Of the 18 hours taken under A.3 and A.4, a maximum of 12 hours may be taken outside the department. These courses, which must be at the graduate level and relevant to their research, should be from the following departments: mathematics, computer science, chemistry, biology, geology, and departments within the College of Engineering.

Dissertation Research

Students are required to earn at least 24 hours of dissertation research (PH 699). However, a student cannot gain credit for Dissertation Research (PH 699) before passing the Preliminary Exam. Note that, once initiated, enrollment in PH 699 must be continuous until the Ph.D. is awarded. (See also §III.D below.)