Qualifications for Ph.D. Candidacy
Evaluation by Physics & Astronomy Faculty
At the end of a student's first year of graduate study, his or her suitability for Ph.D. work will be evaluated by the full Physics & Astronomy faculty. This evaluation will be based primarily on the student's GPA in the six core courses (see above). As a general guide, a core-course GPA of 3.3 or higher might qualify the student to proceed to research work directed toward Ph.D. dissertation. However, additional considerations, such as performance as a teaching and/or research assistant will also be taken into account when the faculty assesses the student's readiness. Students who pass this assessment are said to have passed the comps. Students who are fulfilling the minimum requirement of a GPA above 3.0 for remaining in the graduate program, but do not pass the initial assessment, will be asked to complete a research project with a faculty member and obtain an M.S. degree by thesis (see guidelines under M.S. degree in Physics & Astronomy) within one year. If they complete this M.S. their case will be reconsidered by the full faculty.
Dissertation Prospectus and Formation of the Dissertation Committee
After passing the comps, students form a Dissertation Committee in consultation with their research adviser. Students must prepare a Dissertation Prospectus for approval by this committee within 18 months of passing the comps. The Prospectus is typically 10-20 pages long. It should be produced in consultation with the student's research adviser, but must be written by the student himself or herself. The Prospectus should justify the proposed Dissertation in the context of related scholarly activities, outline the shape of the research that will ultimately form the student's Ph.D. work, and demonstrate its feasibility. Therefore the document should: (a) contain some discussion of relevant literature; (b) provide a summary of any research results the student has already obtained that are part of his or her Ph.D. work; (c) lay out plans for the research that will form the rest of the Dissertation; and (d) describe an approximate timeline for completion of the Ph.D.
The student will defend the Dissertation Prospectus before his or her Dissertation Committee after that Committee has had at least one week to consider the document. At that time the Committee will raise with the student any questions or concerns that they may have. The Committee may then either approve the Prospectus, or, if it have substantial concerns, ask the student-in consultation with his or her adviser-to revise the document and re-submit it for the Committee's later consideration and approval. The final Dissertation need not exactly follow the plans laid out in the Prospectus, but once the Prospectus is approved the student's Dissertation Committee must be informed if research directions change substantially. The Graduate Chair also may convene the Dissertation Committee for advice should problems arise.
The remainder of the Ph.D. program consists of research, advanced coursework, and other studies relevant to the Dissertation. Upon completion of the Dissertation, the student gives a public presentation of the findings. The final copy of the Dissertation must be in the hands of the committee members at least two weeks prior to the public presentation. Following the defense, the committee has a maximum of three days to provide comments and corrections to the student. Requirements for the Ph.D. are completed following the successful defense of the Dissertation before the Dissertation Committee and the submission of the approved dissertation document to Thesis and Dissertation (TAD) Services and signed report form to the College of Arts & Sciences.