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College of Arts & Sciences

About Graduate School

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Graduate students Cody Parker and Shamim Akhtar with Dr. Carl Brune in the Edwards Accelerator Lab.

Advice for Undergrads Considering Graduate School

If you have enjoyed taking physics as an undergraduate student, then you should think about pursuing an M.S. or Ph.D. in the subject.

The M.S. is the minimum professional qualification for physicists. Students who have obtained this degree in our department have gone on to a wide range of successful careers. In addition to teaching physics, students with an M.S. from our department work in government service and industry, e.g. acting as software consultants or engineers, developing the next generation of computer chips, applying physics to problems in medicine, and working for the U.S. patent office.

The M.S. usually takes two years of full-time study to complete. A Ph.D. is a substantially longer endeavor, lasting five to seven years.

A Ph.D. is intended to equip you for a research career that requires analytical thinking and experimental or computational skills. More than 75 percent of our Ph.D. recipients go on to post-doctoral research positions at other universities or national laboratories. These postdoctoral positions further their training and are considered an essential step toward securing a permanent academic or research position.

What is Expected of Graduate School Applicants?

Our department offers both M.S. and Ph.D. degrees. Either involves a combination of research and coursework, with the Ph.D. requiring the completion of an original, scholarly piece of research that is presented as a Ph.D. dissertation. The research activities of the department are broad. They currently include astrophysics, biophysics, condensed matter and surface science, nanoscience, nuclear physics, and particle physics. Both experimental and theoretical studies are in progress in these areas.

Interdisciplinary and inter-departmental programs of study also are possible. Before beginning either an M.S. or Ph.D. in our department, students are expected to have successfully concluded undergraduate work in mechanics, electricity and magnetism, thermodynamics, statistical mechanics and quantum mechanics. They should also be familiar with the mathematical tools used in physics, including calculus, simple ordinary differential equations, Fourier series, vector analysis, and basic linear algebra.

If you are interested in our program, but feel your background in one or more of these areas may be lacking, we encourage you to nevertheless apply to do a graduate degree in our department. We do our best to ensure all students are adequately prepared for the core graduate courses that they typically take during their first year in our program. We don't want deficiencies of preparation to deter you from applying if you have an academic record that is strong in other respects.

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