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Department of Physics
University of Oregon

University of Oregon Physics Department

Graduate Student Handbook

May 2008

Requirements for Master's Degrees in Physics

Students obtaining a master's Degree in Physics must satisfy both general University requirements (underlined throughout) and departmental requirements. The Physics Department awards a "General Master's Degree" and an "Applied Master's Degree". The University requirements are listed at the beginning of the University Bulletin. See the Director of Graduate Studies for the department requirements for the Applied Master's Degree. All candidates for the General Master's Degree must satisfy the department requirement listed under General Department Requirement. The candidate may then complete the General Master's requirement by either, i) passing the Master's exam, ii) submitting a written thesis, or iii) taking specific physics courses. Waivers of departmental requirements may be obtained by applying to the Director of Graduate Studies.

Those candidates who can demonstrate competence in a foreign language equivalent to that attained at the end of two years of college study may receive a M.A. degree, if they wish. All others receive a M.S. degree.


General Department Requirements:


Options for completion of the General Master's Degree:

The general department requirements are required of all General Master's candidates. The Master's requirements can be completed by either passing the Master's final exam, submitting a written thesis, or taking specific courses. These options are described below.

Requirements for the Ph.D. Degree in Physics

To obtain a Ph.D. in Physics, a student must meet both University requirements (underlined throughout) and Departmental requirements. The Physics Department may accept for the fulfillment of any departmental requirement work at another institution, results of a special examination, or any other appropriate evidence which substantially meets the spirit of the requirement. The most important requirements are listed below:

  1. The student must complete three years full-time work beyond the bachelor's degree with at least one academic year (three consecutive terms of full-time study, with a minimum of 9 completed graduate credits per term) in residence on the Eugene campus after the student is classified (Y) or (D) (enrolled in Ph.D. program). The grade point average for all graduate work at the University must be 3.0 or better.
  2. The student must complete the department's core graduate courses, PHYS 611,612 Mechanics, PHYS 613,614 Statistical Physics, PHYS 622, 623 Electromagnetic Theory, PHYS 631, 632, 633 Quantum Mechanics and PHYS 610 Mathematical Methods.. Students who can demonstrate adequate competence in one or more of these subjects based on previous study in graduate-level courses can be excused by the Director of Graduate Studies from completing the corresponding required courses here. (Students who entered graduate study in the academic year 2006/7 or earlier are excused from taking these required courses.)
  3. The student must pass the unified graduate exam (see Master's Examination Option) at the master's level by Spring of the second year of graduate studies, or be terminated from the program.
  4. The student must pass the unified graduate exam at the Ph.D. level by the end of the Fall Quarter of their third year in the program, or be terminated from the program. (For Ph.D. candidates all problems are included when calculating the exam score.) However, students who have not passed the written Ph.D. Qualifying Exam have ten days from when the exam results are announced in the Fall of their third year to petition the Graduate Studies Committee for an oral examination. The Graduate Studies Committee shall review the case of the student and, if the student has, in the view of the committee, been making satisfactory progress in coursework and research, shall appoint an ad hoc committee of three professors to administer an oral exam to the student within 30 days of their petition. The student's research advisor, if any, shall not be appointed to the ad hoc committee. This oral exam shall cover any areas that appear weak in the prior written exams, other areas of physics covered in the written exams, and areas of physics that are especially relevant to the student's research interests. The ad hoc committee shall report the results and its recommendations to the Graduate Studies Committee. Based on the results of this oral exam and the totality of the student's record, the Graduate Studies Committee may rule, after a meeting open to the faculty, that the student has passed the Ph.D. qualifying exam. The Graduate Studies Committee will report the outcome to the faculty.
  5. Students who entered the Ph.D. program during or before academic year 2004-2005 have the option of following the deadlines specified for passing the Ph.D. Qualifying Exam set out in the 2004 Graduate Student Handbook.
  6. Within one year of passing the qualifying examination, the student must obtain a dissertation research advisor and a Departmental Advisory Committee. Immediately upon passing the examination (or earlier, if possible) the student should identify a prospective advisor and by mutual agreement register for research, PHYS 60l, with that advisor. Within 6 months it should be determined whether the apprenticeship should continue. If the initial pairing is unsuccessful, the student must arrange for another prospective advisor and repeat the trial process. After an advisor has been secured and the trial period has been completed, the advisor will notify the Director of Graduate Studies, who will then appoint a Departmental Advisory Committee for the student. (This committee is different from the Dissertation Committee, which is appointed later.) The committee will normally consist of the advisor and two faculty members in research areas related to the student's projected research. The chair of the committee, who shall have the responsibility to call and chair meetings of the committee and report to the Director of Graduate Studies, shall normally be someone other than the research advisor and shall be a Physics Department faculty member. The committee will promptly meet with the student to plan future studies. Thereafter, the committee will meet at least annually with the student to review progress towards the degree. These meetings will normally include an oral report and a short written progress report by the student. The written report shall be delivered to the committee at least one week prior to the committee meeting. (In the event that the student is doing research outside of the state, the committee may, at its discretion, modify these procedures appropriately.) The chair of the Departmental Advisory Committee will report to the Director of Graduate studies (preferably by email) that the meeting has taken place, what the committee projects for the date of completion of the Ph.D. and, if the Comprehensive Examination has not yet taken place, for the date of the Comprehensive Examination. The Director of Graduate Studies should be notified immediately of any serious problems.
  7. The student is to round out his/her knowledge of physics by taking at least six graduate physics courses (excluding the core courses PHYS 611, 612, 613, 614, 621, 622, 623, 631, 632, 633) or other graduate science courses as approved by the Physics Graduate Studies Director. These six courses need to include at least one two-term sequence.
  8. The student must pass the Comprehensive Examination. The Comprehensive Examination must be passed before the beginning of the student's fourth year unless the Director of Graduate Studies waives this timing requirement based on special circumstances. It will be administered by a committee formed by increasing the Advisory Committee to five members, including one regular University of Oregon faculty member from outside the Department of Physics. The chair of the Dissertation Committee normally will be the chair of the Advisory Committee. (The augmented committee will be proposed as the Dissertation Committee after the student passes the examination, and therefore its membership should conform to Graduate School guidelines.) The examination must be scheduled when all five committee members can attend. In unanticipated circumstances the examination may proceed with only four committee members present. However, these four must include the committee chair (and co-chair, if any). The student will prepare a written presentation of current problem in physics and a proposal for a research project related to that problem. At the Comprehensive Examination the student will be expected to present this material orally. The committee will question the student on the subject of the presentation and related physics issues. The examination will be closed to the public.

    The student is expected to understand the background and fundamental physics of the problem area and to communicate this knowledge to physicists in other fields. The student will be judged on his or her understanding of the problem, ingenuity, and ability to apply his or her knowledge in the proposed research area. If minor deficiencies emerge as a result of the oral examination, the committee may require additional work, oral examination, or written presentations. Deficiencies must be rectified within a six month period. More major deficiencies may result in disqualification from graduate study, or may require a change in research area.

    After passing the Comprehensive Examination, the student is advanced to candidacy by the Graduate School, which then appoints the candidate's dissertation committee. The candidate cannot graduate any sooner then six months after the appointment of this committee, nor any later than seven years after passing the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination.

  9. The student must present a talk. The Physics Department believes that every student should be capable of giving a lucid talk about physics. Accordingly, sometime during his or her research work (and certainly before submitting a Ph.D. dissertation) the student must give at least one talk in a research seminar or a research group meeting. This talk must be advertised or posted in advance and the audience must include faculty. The talk may cover an item of interest in the research literature or the student's own work.
  10. The student must write a dissertation. This is the most important requirement. It must embody the results of research and show evidence of originality and ability to perform independent investigation. The student must take at least 18 credits of Dissertation (PHYS 603) after advancement to candidacy in order to graduate.
  11. The student must pass the Final Examination, which is the defense of the dissertation. For important regulations concerning the time of notices, final approval of the thesis, etc., consult the University Bulletin and the Graduate School.