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Physics, Ph.D.

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in physics at Central Michigan University is a research-intensive program providing advanced scientific training in specific subfields of physics and related disciplines. The program will provide students with an opportunity to develop the ability and skills necessary to conduct independent, primary research of professional quality.

Admission Requirements, Retention & Termination Standards

Application Deadline for all materials is February 1.

The deadline for receipt of application materials for admission into the physics Ph.D. program is February 1.

Application materials must be submitted to the Graduate Student Services Office and must include:

  • official college transcripts,
  • a personal statement outlining interest in the physics program and identifying a potential faculty mentor with whom the applicant ideally should have communicated with already,
  • three letters of recommendation,
  • Physics GRE scores if the applicant did not obtain an M.S. physics degree from CMU.

Candidates are required to hold Bachelor of Science (B.S.) and Master of Science (M.S.) degrees in physics or a related area of science. Applicants must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher in the CMU physics M.S. core courses or a competitive physics GRE score. The program admissions committee will define this criterion quantitatively according to program needs and while taking into account the portfolios of the pool of applicants for every incoming class. Historically, physics M.S. graduates that have been successful in Ph.D. studies in physics have scored above the 50th percentile.

International students must meet the requirements for regular admission to the College of Graduate Studies. For English proficiency requirements see the CMU English Language Standards in the current Graduate Bulletin. Students admitted for a doctoral degree in physics must have a faculty mentor approved and financial support in the form of a teaching or research assistantship in place.

A formal evaluation of each student's training will be carried out during the first semester of enrollment by the student's mentor. This evaluation will assess the strengths and limitations of each student's academic background and be used to determine the plan of study including coursework and professional activities. Students must form a dissertation committee within the first year of graduate work; this committee will include the faculty mentor plus three additional faculty members, one of whom is outside the student's immediate area of specialization. Student progress will be assessed at mandatory annual meetings between each student and the dissertation committee. Students must maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher in the required classes and must perform satisfactorily in their directed research, as judged by their research advisor and dissertation committee. Those not making satisfactory progress may be terminated from the program. By the end of their second year, students must submit a prospectus abstract, outlining their Ph.D. research project and defend it orally in front of the dissertation committee. Students will have two opportunities to pass this prospectus defense; those who fail a second time will be terminated from the program. Each student will defend the final dissertation in a public presentation summarizing research results followed by an oral defense with the committee. The public presentation and defense of the dissertation will be judged and voted on by the committee and must be approved by the Office of Research and Graduate Studies. All physics Ph.D. students will be expected to publish their results in scientific journals and to present their work at professional conferences. We anticipate that full-time students entering with an M.S. degree will complete the program in 3-4 years.

Program Requirements

The physics Ph.D. is designed to be a research degree in which students are trained primarily by conducting research under the guidance of a faculty mentor. The program includes a set of core courses that will be augmented by elective courses in the student's area of interest.

Successful completion of the Ph.D. requires a minimum of 60 hours of graduate work beyond the M.S. degree. Each student's program of study will be developed in consultation with the faculty mentor and approved by the dissertation committee. All students in the Ph.D. program will be required to take six credit hours of courses in topics related to their specific research subfield; 6-15 credit hours of elective graduate courses (up to 15 of which can be transferred from the M.S. physics degree); 27-36 credit hours of directed research; and 12 Ph.D. Dissertation credit hours.

Required Courses (6 hours)

Select one of the following in consultation with the student's adviser and committee:

PHY 781Topics in Nuclear Physics and Astrophysics


PHY 782Topics in Condensed Matter Physics


Electives (6-15 hours)

Select from the following in consultation with the student's adviser and committee:
AST 562Observational Astronomy


AST 563Astrophysics


PHY 517Computational Physics


PHY 552Nuclear Physics


PHY 554Optics


PHY 556Solid State Physics


PHY 578WIExperimental Physics


PHY 614Methods of Theoretical Physics


PHY 624Advanced Mechanics


PHY 634Advanced Electricity and Magnetism


PHY 643Quantum Mechanics I


PHY 644Quantum Mechanics II


Directed Research (27-36 hours)

PHY 796Directed Research in Physics


Dissertation (12 hours)

PHY 899Dissertation


Total: 60 semester hours