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Ph.D. in Physics

Carl Brune with graduate students Cody Parker and Shamim Akhtar
Cody Parker and Shamim Akhtar with Dr. Carl Brune in Edwards Accelerator Laboratory.

Program Overview

The Physics & Astronomy Department offers the Doctor of Philosophy degree. This involves a combination of course work and the completion of an original, scholarly piece of research that is then presented as a Ph.D. dissertation. The research activities of 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 

The Ph.D. degree qualifies the recipient to pursue work as a professional physicist. It also readies them for a variety of careers involving analytical thinking, and experimental or computational skills. More than 75 percent of our students go on to postdoctoral research positions at other universities and/or national laboratories. These postdoctoral positions further their training and are considered an essential step toward securing a permanent academic or research position. A significant fraction of the department's recent graduates have used this career path to obtain a tenure-track position at universities or colleges.

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

  • Achieve a good understanding of physical laws and principles.
  • Gain experience with measurement techniques and equipment.
  • Develop analytical skills and the ability to solve problems.
  • Develop the ability to assess uncertainties and assumptions.
  • Demonstrate the ability to present the results of investigations orally and in writing.
  • Acquire facility in the use of mathematics to solve problems and test hypotheses.