Program Description

Physics PhD Program Description

The Physics Department offers two PhD programs:  a Physics PhD, described here on this page, and a Physics PhD with an Astrophysics Emphasis.

The central element in our Physics Ph.D. program is research conducted by students under the close supervision of a faculty Research Advisor. To prepare for this key stage of their graduate career, students take a full year of course work in basic areas of physics, classical mechanics, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, and statistical mechanics, as well as at least three one-quarter courses in advanced topics. Typically these courses are closely related to the student's research interest, but for theorists, at least one must be in a different area.

Students not yet advanced to candidacy meet quarterly with the Faculty Graduate Advisor who provides guidance on selecting courses, progressing to degree, preparing for advancement to candidacy, selecting a research advisor, and on any issues that influence the student's academic progress.

Graduate students should secure a research advisor by no later than the beginning of their third year, and preferably earlier. By the end of Winter quarter of the third year, each student must pass the advancement to candidacy examination, after which the primary focus is research and work on a dissertation.

The Department's course and examination requirements are outlined below:

  • Supervising Committee The student’s program of study and research is overseen by their Supervising Committee in consultation with the Faculty Graduate Advisor.  The student will work with the Faculty Graduate Advisor to assemble this committee during the first year of graduate studies.  The student and committee will meet at least once a year to complete an Annual Update Form. The committee will consist of at least 3 faculty members.
  • Advancement to Candidacy Exam After advancement, the Supervising Committee will be chaired by the student’s research advisor (or co-chaired by the advisor if they are not UCSB physics ladder faculty).
  • The Guidance provided by the Faculty Graduate Advisor and a student's Supervising Committee includes advice in choosing appropriate courses. The committee may require that certain courses be taken in addition to the normal course requirements, or may tell the student to expect questions in certain areas on the Advancement to Candidacy exam. The guidance may also include advice on choosing a field of specialization as well as help in locating research opportunities.
  •  The Oral Advancement to Candidacy Exam is taken by the end of winter quarter in the student's third year. For students who entered in Fall 2010 or later, if they received a master's degree from a previous institution, then they must take their exam winter quarter of their second year. The exam begins with a short presentation in which the student assesses the overall situation in the field, and proposes a possible line of research, justifying its potential significance. The exam committee may then ask more general background questions. The scope and content of the exam are agreed upon beforehand. If the committee fails the student, the reasons will be given in writing, and the student must retake the exam by the end of spring quarter of the third year.
  • Course Requirements
    First year students will be required to pass the following graduate physics courses with a grade of B or better: [Phys 205] Classical Mechanics (Galactic Dynamics [Phys 237] may be substituted for Phys 205 provided the student has demonstrated competency in Lagrangian Mechanics to the 205 instructor; if Phys 237 is used in this way as a substitution, it cannot be used as an elective).In order to count Phys 237 as a replacement for Phys 205, the student must have on record an official verification of proficiency in Langrangian mechanics.  This can be obtained from any recent Phys 205 instructor or from the Graduate Advisor.  It is highly recommended that this be done before enrolling in the course. [Phys 210A-B] Electromagnetic Theory, [Phys 215A-B-C] Quantum Mechanics, and [Phys 219] Statistical Mechanics (see course descriptions on UCSB General Catalog). A student must maintain an over-all B average in graduate courses. Upon petition, a student may be exempted from a normally required course on the basis of equivalent courses taken at another institution. In addition to the core courses, theoretical students must complete a minimum of five advanced graduate courses and experimental students must complete a minimum of three advanced graduate courses. These courses must be passed with a grade of B or better. For theorists, at least one of these courses must be in an area clearly distinct from the student's field of specialization. In appropriate cases, a course in a different department or a different institution may be substituted. The appropriateness of the latter or the suitability of a proposed course as being in a "clearly distinct area" will be determined by the Faculty Graduate Advisor in consultation with the student's Supervising Committee.

Please see the Physics Department Graduate Student Handbook [in PDF form] for details on the graduate program of study.

For information on the Astrophysics Emphasis, please click here.

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