-- James Lockhart Thornton Hall 334,
--Sue Lea, Thornton Hall 308,

General Information
The department offers the Master of Science in Physics. This program serves students who seek advanced knowledge in physics: for application in physics related industries, for preparation to continue graduate work elsewhere towards the doctoral degree, for qualification for teaching credentials for which a master's degree is required. The choice of electives in the master's program may emphasize either physics, astrophysics, or astronomy. Before beginning course work toward the M.S., the candidate must prepare a plan of study in consultation with the Graduate Coordinator. (See also Coordinator's page.)

Admission to Program
Applicants for admission to the master's program should have a bachelor's degree in physics or related subject with a 3.0 grade point average in physics and mathematics courses. Those with undergraduate degrees in other subjects, or requiring remedial work may also be admitted.  Such applicants should contact the Graduate Coordinator or Department Chair to discuss possible admission to conditionally classified status.  Check here for application procedures.

Course Requirements:

Group I: Core courses (9 units)

PHYS 701 Classical Mechanics (3)
PHYS 704 Electricity & Magnetism I (3)
PHYS 706 Quantum Mechanics (3)

Group II: Graduate physics electives (9 units)

Elective graduate physics courses with numbers in the range from PHYS 700 to 729, and 740 to 785. (Note that PHYS 730, 897, 898, 899 do not count in this category) Physics 785 is recommended for all students.

Group III: General electives (12 units)

Advanced upper-division or graduate courses in physics or appropriately related subjects, selected after advisement and approval by the Graduate Coordinator. (Note that PHYS 730, and up to 6 units of 897, 898, 899, count in this category. Generally these will be courses numbered 400 and above.)

Group IV: Thesis and/or oral examination

PHYS 898: Master's Thesis (3) and Oral Defense of Thesis
(units will be included in Group III)
Master's Comprehensive Oral Examination

Total Units: 30


The Oral Defense of Thesis is delivered to the Advisory Student's Committee and emphasizes questions from the committee on subjects related to the thesis topic. The Master's Comprehensive Oral Examination is delivered to the Student's Advisory Committee and covers all areas of theoretical and experimental physics deemed appropriate by the committee. The Oral Defense of Thesis or Master's Comprehensive Oral Examination may be repeated once, at the discretion of the committee, upon petition by the student. Prior to scheduling the final oral, each student must take the Physics GRE and achieve a score of 25th percentile or above.
Writing proficiency:

Level one proficiency is satisfied by either a score of PASS on the Graduate Essay Test (GET, administered by the Testing Center) or a passing grade in SCI 614 no later than the first semester of enrollment in core graduate courses, or presentation of a satisfactory writing sample to the graduate coordinator. Students are allowed to take the GET once, preferably prior to their first semester of enrollment.
Level two proficiency. Each student must demonstrate writing skills which exemplify scholarly style in physics. This is demonstrated by the master's thesis, or a paper submitted to a professional journal or written for a graduate course in the department.

List of Graduate Courses ( Link to graduate course descriptions):

Course Number Course Title Course Number Course Title
Phys 701 Classical Mechanics Phys 713 Nuclear Physics
(not offered in recent years)
Phys 703 Electromagnetics
(not offered in recent years)
Phys 714 Low-temperature Physics
Phys 704 Electricity & Magnetism I Phys 715 Lasers & Quantum Optics
Phys 705 Electricity & Magnetism II Phys 721 Physics of Elementary Particles
Phys 706 Quantum Mechanics Phys 722 Astrophysics
Phys 710 Graduate laboratory Phys 723 Advanced Classical Mechanics
Phys 711 Semiconductor Materials Phys 724 Advanced QuantumTheory
Phys 712 Physics of Plasmas Phys 725 Special & General Relativity
Phys 726 Quantum Field Theory Physics730 Seminar
Phys 740 Computational Physics Phys 775 Statistical Physics
Phys 785 Introduction to Theoretical Physics Astr 770 Graduate Observational Astronomy

Typical graduate student programs In truth, there is no such thing as a "typical" graduate student program. Diversity is the rule. So every graduate student takes a placement test upon arrival and must see the graduate coordinator before beginning his or her studies in order to work out a suitable program. Also, you should come by for repeat visits every semester, and whenever considering any major shifts in your planned program. The programs below, or samples, are intended to give you some idea how yours might look.

An idealized graduate program for someone who does not need any remedial work before beginning graduate level courses and whose financial situation permits a 9-unit load might be:

FIRST FALL Phys 785 Phys 701 elective
FIRST SPRING Phys 704 (or 703) Phys 706 Research or elective
SECOND FALL Phys 705 Phys 710 Research or elective
SECOND SPRING Phys 7xx Phys 898 thesis or elective  

For someone who has the same preparation but who can take only 6 units:

FIRST FALL Phys 785 Phys 701
FIRST SPRING Phys 704 (or 703) elective
SECOND FALL Phys 7xx Research or elective
SECOND SPRING Phys 706 Research or elective
THIRD FALL Phys 7xx Research or elective
THIRD SPRING Phys 898 thesis elective

Someone admitted to conditionally classified status who essentially needs all of upper-division physics before beginning graduate study might precede the above program by:

FIRST PRELIMINARY FALL Phys 330 Phys 385 Math 376
FIRST PRELIMINARY SPRING Phys 360 Phys 370 Phys 430
NEXT FALL Phys 460 Phys 785 Phys 701

Some (very successful) graduate students enter our program having had almost no college physics work previously. Their programs will necessarily involve more preliminary work before beginning even the "preliminary" semesters above.

Students are expected to make steady progress toward their degree.  Students who are not making sufficient academic progress are subject to dismissal from the MS program. Satisfactory progress requires meeting all university requirements such as minimum grade point average (3.0), and either (a) passing at least two courses per year which are applicable toward MS course requirements or which the graduate advisor has prescribed, or (b) receiving a statement from the thesis advisor that satisfactory progress toward thesis completion is being made.

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