Graduate Students Program

An Orientation for Graduate Students in the Physics Department

The Department of Physics provides coursework, training and research experience to students who wish to further their education beyond the bachelor's level in order to achieve a greater degree of competence and recognition in their profession.

The Department offers two master's degree options (thesis and non-thesis). The Master of Science in physics with research thesis is ordinarily chosen by those students preparing for industrial employment, college teaching, or for further graduate study leading to the Ph.D. degree. The Master of Science without thesis is usually chosen by students preparing to teach in middle and secondary public schools or by students who plan to pursue applied physics careers in industry.

The physical facilities of the department include well-equipped instructional and research laboratories. Sophisticated equipment and faculty direction are available for experimental research in solid state physics, x-ray spectroscopy, x-ray photoelectron, auger electron, appearance potential spectroscopy of surfaces, signal analysis of speech signals, microcomputer hardware and software development, and digital electronics.

Theoretical investigations are carried out in optical properties of inhomogeneous media, design of nonlinear optical materials, and electronic coupling in macromolecular systems.

The graduate catalog is a valuable source of information regarding general university and departmental requirements. Appropriate sections should be studied and consulted regularly. No amount of advising or orientation can substitute for a careful reading of the catalog. The primary responsibility of knowing the rules is that of the graduate student. Orientation and advising procedures are to assist you in fulfilling that responsibility.

Questions and Answers Regarding the Physics Graduate Programs

How do I get admitted to the physics graduate program?

There are no special requirements for admission to the physics department programs. Admission to the university graduate program will provide admission to the physics programs. However, the department head or graduate coordinator will examine various transcripts and test scores to determine background courses necessary in order to take specific courses. The purpose of taking background courses is to ensure a high probability of success in the core graduate courses. Some background courses may not be applicable for graduate credit or count toward graduation requirements.

Who is my advisor?

The graduate coordinator and/or department head will work with you to match you with a faculty member to be your major professor. The match will be made on a basis of mutual interest and available resources.

When do I get a degree plan? Do I have to take a comprehensive exam?

You and your major professor will map out an initial plan for graduation including courses, research plans, and other graduation requirements. After a full semester, or four courses, or when appropriate, you will be given a test called the admission to candidacy exam. This exam will be individualized and its purpose is to determine if you are likely to be successful in completing the program. The exam may consist of physics questions, career questions, and will involve an in-depth advising session. It is at this time that a complete degree plan will be finalized (this plan can be changed as conditions are warranted). A comprehensive written exam is administered following the completion of all or nearly all of the coursework toward the degree. An oral portion of this comprehensive exam may be necessary and may be combined with a thesis defense for students choosing that option.

If I do not do well on the comprehensive exam, can it be re-taken?

The written comprehensive exam covers the material from the various core courses. It is possible that a student can take all or some portions of the test over–one time–if the department faculty feel that it is justified.

My question is not on this list. How do I get an answer to my specific question?

It would be foolish to try to anticipate all of the questions that students might have in this limited space. You should contact the department head or graduate coordinator or the graduate catalog for these answers.