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Division of Natural Sciences & MathematicsDepartment of Physics & Astronomy

Degree Programs

Physics & Astronomy

Doctor of Philosophy

Graduate Curriculum and Guidelines (PDF)


The PhD is the highest degree awarded and is intended for students whose goal is a career in scientific research or teaching at the university level. The ultimate aim of this degree is to train a scientist who can independently pursue a research project. This ability is demonstrated by hands-on research that results in a dissertation. To facilitate the educational process, each student has a research or thesis advisor and an advisory committee that functions both to guide the research and to monitor the student's progress.

The major professional criterion for a PhD degree is the completion of substantially original research of such scope and depth that the scientific community will consider it of publishable quality. This is to be achieved by the definition of a research project, conduct of the research, writing of the dissertation, and an oral defense of the dissertation at a final examination. Equally importantly, the candidate demonstrate a deep knowledge of physics in general and a specialized competence in particular. Satisfactory completion of an approved schedule of coursework and by satisfactory performance on the doctoral comprehensive examination fulfills this requirement. For more details, see the guidelines above and the information on graduate examinations.