Department of Physics and Astronomy

Academic Program

The department currently admits graduate students to two degree programs: The Ph.D. in Physics and the Master's of Science in Physics with emphasis on Teaching. Students in the Ph.D. Program select between the astronomy-track and the physics-track, depending on their interests.

Ph.D. in Physics (with astronomy emphasis)

BACKGROUND. Incoming students should have a strong undergraduate preparation in physics and mathematics. A demonstrated interest in astronomy or physics is also essential. The program is designed for students who wish to pursue research careers or University teaching careers in astronomy or physics. The program emphasizes problem solving, data processing, computational, and hardware instrumentation skills relevant to cutting-edge scientific research.

PROGRAM. During the first two years, students normally take physics & astronomy courses while working with faculty members on one or more research projects. Students participate in our weekly research seminars and journal clubs to learn about a broad range of current research. By the third year, Ph.D. students begin research work in the area of their thesis.

Formal course work consists of a core of 4 physics courses and 6-7 elective courses. Astronomy-track students will take the Phyiscs core plus 5 or more courses from the astronomy core. Physics-track students take the physics core plus 5 or more physics electives.

Phyiscs Core Courses

  • Methods of Theoretical Physics I & II
  • Classical Electrodynamics
  • Statistical Phyiscs

Astronomy Core Courses

  • Galaxies and Cosmology
  • Radiative Processes and Stellar Atmospheres
  • Astronomical Techniques
  • Interstellar Matter and the Milky Way

Astronomy Electives

  • Stellar Structure and Evolution
  • Planetary Astronomy
  • Special Topics in Astrophysics

For the Ph.D., students are required to complete at least 42 regular course credits plus 30 thesis registration credits. For a full description of requirements and courses available, please see the Physics & Astronomy Graduate Student Handbook

EXAMINATIONS. Ph.D. candidates demonstrate their competency in basic undergraduate physics and in graduate astrophysics through a written examination during the winter of their second year. At the beginning of the third year, students take an oral examination based on a research project they have completed during the first two years. At the completion of the Ph.D. Dissertation, candidate makes a public presentation of his or her work and the thesis committee conducts a final examination to award the degree. A final oral exam is also held for the M.S. degree.

FINANCIAL AID. The Physics & Astronomy Department commits to providing first and second-year students with Teaching Assistantships for the 9-month academic year. More advanced students are generally supported on federal grants or fellowships, but may continue as Teaching Assistants as long as they are making satisfactory progress through the program. The minimum monthly stipend for graduate assistantships (both Teaching and Research) currently is $1556/mo ($14,004 for a 9 month appointment, or $18,672 for a calendar year). Both Teaching and Research Assistantships carry a full tuition waiver.

Masters of Science in Physics with Emphasis on Teaching

The Master of Science in Physics with emphasis in Teaching is designed for graduate students preparing to teach in private secondary schools or in community colleges. It includes a small, carefully designed component in psychology and education, and includes 1 and one-half years experience as a teaching assistant. This program requires a thesis project, but the project is based on experience in the classroom. The requirements include 8 hours of physics credit at 5000 level, 16 additional hours selected from Astronomy, Physics, Psychology, or Education, and an original research project. Students interested in this program should contact the current advisor, Prof. Ron Canterna..