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M.S. in Physics

Program Overview

The Physics & Astronomy Department offers the Master of Science degree, which is achieved through a combination of research and coursework. The M.S. degree can be earned by submission of a research thesis with an oral examination and at least 14 credit hours of graduate level lecture or laboratory courses in Physics & Astronomy. It can also be obtained under a non-thesis option, which requires satisfactory completion of a faculty-approved project (one to four credits) and the department’s set of six core courses. The research activities in the department are broad and include astrophysics and cosmology, biophysics, condensed matter and surface sciences, and nuclear and particle physics. Experimental and theoretical studies take place in these areas. Furthermore, inter-disciplinary and inter-departmental programs are also possible.


  • Astrophysics and Cosmology: Students will learn the physical principles behind the workings and evolution of the universe and structures located within, including stars, black holes, galaxies, and cosmological large-scale structure.  The program combines observational and theoretical studies with the option of a thesis project in observational or theoretical astrophysics.  Observational work can be completed with Ohio University’s share of the MDM observatory and/or other national and international observatories.
  • Biophysics: Students will learn the physics, mathematics and life science principles involved in this strong interdisciplinary field of research, where concepts of physics, mathematics, and biology are combined to study how living things work. Ohio University’s Quantitative Biology Institute, the interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program and the Bioengineering Program facilitate this advanced training. Students will often work in collaboration with biologists, bioengineers and mathematicians on campus or off campus. Furthermore, they have access to and learn how to utilize emerging computing technologies.
  • Condensed Matter and Surface Science Physics: Students will learn the basic principles that govern the physics of condensed matter physics, including phenomena at atomic, nano-, meso- and macroscopic scales for crystalline solids and amorphous materials. The program combines experimental and theoretical studies in all these areas. Experimental work can be completed within the Athens campus with state-of-the-art facilities and/or in collaboration with national facilities. Research on theoretical physics range from analytic model development to computational physics.
  • Nuclear and Particle Physics: Students will learn the basic principles that govern sub-atomic particles, from the quark-and-gluon substructure of nucleons to how complex nuclei are composed. The program includes both theoretical and experimental components as well as the application of nuclear physics to astrophysics. Experimental work is performed in the on-campus Edwards Accelerator Laboratory, or at external facilities including the Thomas Jefferson and Brookhaven National Laboratories. Theoretical research includes computational investigations as well as analytic models.

Career Opportunities 

Students achieving the M.S. in Physics can go on and pursue further graduate studies in Physics and Astronomy or in other fields. They can also obtain positions as professional scientists. The M.S. is the minimal professional qualification for most physicist/astrophysicist positions in the USA. 

Graduation Requirements for the M.S. Degree

M.S. Non-Thesis Option

  1. Satisfactory completion of the six core classes that comprise the core graduate curriculum.
  2. Minimum of 30 semester hours.
  3. Faculty approved project (one to four credits).

Thesis requirement: No

Qualifying exam: No

Comprehensive exam: No

Expected time to degree if studying full-time:  2 years

M.S. by Thesis

  1. Minimum of 30 semester hours.
  2. Minimum of 14 credits of graduate laboratory and/or lecture courses in Physics and Astronomy numbered 5xxx, 6xxx, 7xxx excluding research courses PHYS 6940 and PHYS 6950.
  3. Submission of research thesis and oral examination.

Thesis requirement: Yes

Qualifying exam: No

Comprehensive exam: No

Expected time to degree if studying full-time:  2 years

Culminating Experiences

  • Faculty-approved project (non-thesis option).
  • Oral defense of a written thesis (thesis option).

M.S. by Thesis

A student wishing to complete an M.S. by thesis must take at least 14 credits of graduate laboratory or lecture courses in Physics and Astronomy.

They must also submit a research thesis to a committee of three faculty members and pass an oral examination on this research. Typically, the submission of the thesis and subsequent examination occur at the end of the student's second year at Ohio University. The final copy of the thesis must be in the hands of the committee members at least two weeks prior to the oral examination date. Following the examination, the committee has a maximum of three days to provide comments and corrections to the students.

The examination consists of a presentation by the student describing the research, followed by questions from the thesis committee. The questions are designed to test the student's understanding of the research he or she has performed. The committee may also probe the student's knowledge of the background to the work he or she carried out for the M.S.

Requirements for the M.S. by thesis are completed when the student has taken sufficient lecture/laboratory course credits, passed this oral exam, and submitted the approved thesis document to the College of Arts & Sciences.

M.S. Non-Thesis Option

The M.S. can be earned under a non-thesis option. This requires satisfactory completion of a faculty-approved research project (of one to four credits), and the Department's set of six core courses (5041, 6001, 6011, 6020, 6021, and 6031, see below). Typically an M.S. student would take all the core courses in their first year, and would do so in the following order:


  • PHYS 5041 Mathematical Methods
  • PHYS 6001 Mechanics
  • PHYS 6020 Quantum Mechanics I


  • PHYS 6011 Statistical Mechanics
  • PHYS 6021 Quantum Mechanics 2
  • PHYS 6031 Electrodynamics

Admission Requirements 

Students entering this program are normally expected to have successfully concluded undergraduate work in mechanics, electricity and magnetism, thermodynamics, statistical mechanics and quantum mechanics. They should also possess a working knowledge of mathematics including calculus, ordinary differential equations, Fourier series, vector analysis, and basic elements of partial differential equations. The Verbal and Quantitative GRE General Tests are optional. The Physics GRE Subject Test is optional. Deficiencies of undergraduate preparation should not deter a prospective student with an otherwise good record, as these may be made up during the first year of graduate study.

There are no specific deadlines, but most applications for financial aid are received by Jan. 15 and most offers are made by April 15. Most students enter the physics program in the fall, although some add the preceding summer session. Entry during the academic year is possible although not generally encouraged. For all details concerning graduate programs, contact the Chair of the Graduate Admissions Committee (

Program Mission

The graduate program mission is to: (a) give our students a thorough grounding in the theoretical and experimental knowledge required to be a professional physicist; (b) partner students with faculty to perform cutting-edge research on joint projects with direct supervision and intense feedback; and (c) initiate them into the worldwide scholarly community and improve their oral and written communication skills through writing of research papers, presentation of results at conferences and seminars, and production of theses and dissertations. 

Program Learning Objectives

  • Develop analytical skills and the ability to solve problems.
  • Achieve a good understanding of physical laws and principles.
  • Gain experience with measurement techniques and equipment.
  • Develop the ability to assess uncertainties and assumptions.
  • Demonstrate the ability to present the results of investigations orally (with thesis) and in writing (without thesis).
  • Acquire facility in the use of mathematics to solve problems and test hypotheses.