PhD in Physics: Physics Education

Program Requirements and Policies

  • Graduate TA should register on SIS for PHY 405 (counting as 3 credits); Graduate RA should register on SIS for PHY 406 (counting as 3 credits).
  • Students who are working on a thesis or dissertation project for their doctoral degree should also register for PHY 502 FT (Doctoral Degree Continuation) in each semester.

Required Degree

Completion of all the requirements for the MS in Physics: Physics Education

Demonstrated proficiency in four core fields:

  • Classical mechanics
  • Classical electromagnetism
  • Statistical mechanics
  • Quantum mechanics

Students can demonstrate proficiency through:

  • Passing the relevant course(s) with final grades or average final grades of A- (3.67) or better as described below:
    • A final grade of A- or better in PHY 131:¬†Advanced Classical Mechanics meets the proficiency requirement for classical mechanics.
    • A final grade of A- or better in PHY 145: Classical Electromagnetic Theory I meets the proficiency requirement for classical electromagnetism.
    • A final grade of A- or better in PHY 153: Statistical Mechanics meets the proficiency requirement for statistical mechanics.
    • A final grade of A- or better in PHY 163: Quantum Theory I meets the proficiency requirement for quantum mechanics.
    • An average combined final grade of A- or better in PHY 131: Classical Mechanics and PHY 145 - Classical electromagnetic Theory I meets the proficiency requirements for both classical mechanics and classical electromagnetism.
    • An average combined final grade of A- or better in PHY 153:¬†Statistical Mechanics and PHY 163: Quantum Theory I meets the proficiency requirements for both statistical mechanics and quantum mechanics.
  • Passing a written qualifying exam in the subject(s).

Proficiency Assessment Policy

Oral qualifying examination

By the end of the third year, the student must complete an oral qualifying examination in his/her chosen specialized field.

By the end of the third year the student must take an oral qualifying examination in his/her chosen specialized field. The purpose of the oral qualifying examination is threefold:

  1. to provide the student with an opportunity to apply his/her fundamental knowledge of physics to a specific topic in his/her field of interest;
  2. to evaluate the student's ability to carry that skill forward into his/her dissertation research, and
  3. to provide practice in the presentation of scientific material.

The topic should be selected by the student in consultation with his/her research advisor, in order best to advance that student's progress. It could be a review of research relevant to the student's intended research project, a proposal for a possible research topic, or another topic in the general area of the student's research, but not directly related to that research. It should be sufficiently well defined that the student can achieve substantial mastery and depth of understanding in a period of 4-6 weeks. In general, depth is more important than breadth.

The student shall prepare and deliver a public presentation of 30-45 minutes duration, with the expectation that during that period the audience and guidance committee will freely ask questions. The form of the presentation will be determined by the student's advisor and guidance committee, but regardless of the format, the student must be prepared to depart from the prepared material to answer questions.

Following the presentation and an open question period, the audience will be asked to leave, and the student's guidance committee will pose additional questions. While some questions will be directly related to the topic of the presentation, others will probe fundamental physics underlying or related to the topic. The student's ability to respond appropriately, exhibiting both understanding of the relevant physics and the ability to apply it to the topic at hand, is at least as important as the prepared presentation.

While the primary function of the examination is educational rather than evaluative, if the guidance committee does not find the student's performance to be satisfactory, it may:

  1. Fail the student, resulting in his/her administrative withdrawal from the doctoral program;
  2. Require the student to submit to another oral examination covering the same or different material;
  3. Require other remedial work, which may include preparing and presenting a written or oral explanation of some topic, or such other steps as the committee deems appropriate.

In cases (2) and (3), the requirement must be completed successfully within two months after the original examination, but no later than the beginning of the student's fourth year. In no case will the student receive a third opportunity to fulfill the requirement.

Dissertation proposal

The student must complete a written dissertation proposal and an oral presentation of this proposal to the student's advisory committee. This is ordinarily completed in the fourth year.

Independent research

After completion of the dissertation proposal, the candidate undertakes a program of independent research under the guidance of their research advisor, culminating in the preparation and defense of a doctoral dissertation. Students must register for one credit of PHY 0297: Graduate Research and one credit of PHY 0298: Graduate Research in their final two semesters of the program.