Graduate Programs

We offer master's and doctoral training in physics, driven by faculty research in the areas of astronomy and astrophysics, biophysics and condensed matter and materials physics.

Our professors advise and collaborate with our graduate students, offering the personal attention necessary for students to reach their fullest potential. Physics graduate students have landed positions at highly-prestigious organizations including National Renewable Energy Labs (NREL), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Intel.

Doctor of Philosophy in Physics

Our doctor of philosophy (PhD) program in physics prepares students for careers across a spectrum of scientific pursuits. PhD students will be equipped with the experience and knowledge necessary to build a career in the advancement of scientific knowledge or education at the highest levels, which can open doors to careers in research and development in academia, government, and private industry.

Our department offers research opportunities in theoretical, experimental and computational astronomy and astrophysics, biophysics, and condensed matter and materials physics. PhD candidates in the program will work closely with faculty advisors to create a path of study that culminates in a dissertation defense based on independent research of a publishable quality. 

Doctor of Philosophy in Molecular and Cellular Biophysics

The molecular and cellular biophysics PhD program provides opportunities for doctoral studies in the interdisciplinary field of biophysics. Participation of faculty from the Departments of Biological Sciences, Chemistry & Biochemistry, and Physics & Astronomy enhances the strength and breadth of our program by incorporating cross-disciplinary and collaborative approaches to research. This PhD program is centered on research activities that coincide with faculty experience and expertise. Areas of research in the biophysics include cellular physiology, developmental dynamics, protein folding and aggregation, protein network analysis, signal transduction cascades, synthetic biology, systems biology and the development of novel imaging techniques. Projects at the interface of traditional disciplines of physics, biology and chemistry as well as methods of mathematical analysis and computer modeling are particularly encouraged.

The MCB PhD program offers both a core foundation in biophysical theory and practice yet provides flexibility and individualized attention such that students with diverse scientific backgrounds will have the opportunity to be trained in molecular and cellular biophysics. During their first year in the program, students conduct lab rotations, take a year-long course sequence that covers foundations of molecular and cellular biophysics and take additional graduate courses to supplement their undergraduate training. At the end of their first year, students will join the lab in which they will conduct their thesis research.

Students with strong quantitative undergraduate backgrounds (e.g., undergraduate degrees in physics, chemistry, mathematics, computer science/engineering) who desire to apply these skills to various biological problems, as well as students with a background in cell or molecular biology with a solid foundation in mathematics and physics are particularly encouraged to apply. Financial aid is usually offered in the form of Graduate Teaching or Graduate Research Assistantships, which cover tuition costs and provide a stipend for living expenses.

Master of Arts in Physics

A master of arts (MA) degree in physics is intended primarily for students who are seeking an advanced degree without a significant research component. For instance, the MA degree is appropriate for students pursuing careers in pre-college or community college teaching, planetarium or museums, or as technical representatives of various organizations.  With complementary courses in education, MA graduates are well qualified to teach at the secondary level. The main difference between the MA and MS degree is that a research thesis is not required for the MA degree. However, students pursuing the MA degree will get exposed to some research experience through Introduction to Research courses in their first year in the program. 

Master of Science in Physics

Our master of science (MS) in physics graduates typically work in industry or government laboratory research positions, enter pre-college or community college teaching, join planetarium or museum staffs or become technical representatives of various organizations. With complementary courses in education, MS graduates are well qualified to teach at the secondary level. The MS in Physics is also a popular course of study and professional improvement for people already working in industry. For those currently employed, research projects can usually be matched to the employer’s programs, and often someone from the industry can serve as co-advisor so that the continuing education benefits both the student and the employer.

Graduate Examinations

  • Comprehensive Examination

    All graduate students are required to take the graduate Comprehensive Examination in their second year. Incoming graduate students with graduate credits that have been transferred from another institution may petition the Graduate Committee to take the Comprehensive Examination during their first year as a graduate student. The Examination has two components, written and oral. Detailed guidelines can be found here

  • Thesis/Dissertation Defense

    Students who have passed both parts of the comprehensive exam and hold MS/PhD candidacy are required to give an oral presentation on their thesis/dissertation research before the degree can be awarded. Each student's oral defense committee will determine whether the completed thesis/dissertation research warrants awarding of the degree being sought.