Course Requirements

A total of 24 semester hours of coursework is required, in addition to 6 semester hours of research. Course requirements for the M.S. (with thesis) consist of 5 components:

  • Core Courses (12 semester hours)
  • Electives (6-9 semester hours)
  • Research Techniques (0-3 semester hours)
  • Seminars (3 semester hours)
  • Thesis Research – PH 599 (6 semester hours)

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.

Core Courses (12 Hours)

The four physics M.S. courses consist of

  • PH 501: Classical Dynamics
  • PH 531: Electromagnetic Theory
  • PH 541: Quantum Mechanics
  • PH 571: Statistical Physics

The customary schedule for completing the M.S. 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 571

Electives (6-9 Hours)

Students must take at least graded 2 electives (6 semester hours). As many as 2 Ph.D. core courses (beyond the M.S. core) may be taken as electives. Electives should be chosen in consultation with and approved by the student’s advisor (if chosen) or a member of the Graduate Advising Committee. These electives, which must be at the graduate level, should be from the following departments: Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Chemistry, Biology, Geology, and departments within the College of Engineering. A maximum of 6 credit hours from outside the department can count for the M.S. degree.

Research Techniques (0-3 Hours)

Up to 3 semester hours of Research Techniques (PH 590), taken with the student’s chosen research advisor after the core courses are completed, can be counted toward the M.S. degree.

Seminars and Pass/Fail Electives (3 Hours)

For each semester in residence, full-time students are required to enroll for one hour of PH 597 (Physics Seminar), which are graded on a pass/fail basis. Up to 3 semester hours of seminars (PH 597) can be counted toward the M.S. degree. Thus, this requirement will typically be satisfied automatically. Note that no more than 3 semester hours of pass/fail coursework (PH 597, PH 598) can be counted toward the M.S. degree.

Thesis Research (6 Hours)

Students are required to earn at least 6 semester hours of thesis research (PH 599), discussed further below.

Selecting a Research Area and Research Advisor

A student should first interview several faculty members whose research may be of interest to the student, and the faculty members will describe potential research projects. The selection of a research area and a research advisor will then be made by agreement between the student and the advisor. As soon as the selection is made, both the student and the advisor should notify the department chairperson of the decision in writing. The selection should be done before or during the second semester of graduate study. The department chairperson must also be notified in writing of any change of research advisor.

The Thesis Committee

After selection of a research advisor and research area, the student, in consultation with his/her advisor and department chairperson, will form a Thesis Committee. The committee will consist of at least three members, including the research advisor as committee chairperson, one other faculty member from the Department of Physics and Astronomy, and one faculty member from another department. (The external committee member may be from another institution if prior approval is obtained from the Graduate Dean.) A form to use in selecting the committee is available on the department website.

The Final Version of the Thesis

A final version of the thesis will be given to each of the members of the Thesis Committee at least two weeks before the oral defense. The student is expected to be responsible for all aspects of the production of the thesis, including the preparation, typing, reproduction, dissemination to the committee members, and all costs involved. Departmental resources cannot be utilized for the production of the thesis.

Oral Examination

A final oral examination must be passed after completion of the thesis. The examination will be both a comprehensive examination on the master’s degree program as well as an examination of the candidate’s research work as embodied in the thesis. The examining committee will be the Thesis Committee previously described. No more than one dissenting vote is allowed for a pass. The student may take the oral examination only once.