Feb 04, 2023  
2022-2023 Graduate Catalog 
    
2022-2023 Graduate Catalog

Physics, PhD


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Natural Sciences & Mathematics  > Department of Physics  > Physics, PhD

The Doctor of Philosophy in Physics degree signifies that the recipient has acquired a broad and in-depth knowledge of the discipline and has demonstrated research competence meeting the national standards. Students accepted for the program typically possess a four-year bachelor’s degree in physics or related fields. Physicists are recognized for their ability to investigate secrets of the natural world through careful experimentation, theoretical modelling or computer simulations or a combination of these, the final goal being uncovering/validating/extending laws of nature. These skills acquired during the degree are highly valued not only in academia and research labs but also by a variety of industries. Our graduates have gained employment in academia as well as in research labs, industries and businesses in a wide range of areas including oil & gas, renewable energy, medical research, semiconductors (example: Intel Corporation), financial analysis, software/hardware development and data science.

For more information, please visit the Physics Graduate Programs website: http://www.uh.edu/nsm/physics/graduate/.

Admission Requirements


Applicants are expected to have completed, or be in their last term of completing, a bachelor’s in physics or a related field, or a master’s degree, and have acquired a working knowledge of the basic areas of physics including mechanics, thermodynamics, and electromagnetism. The applicants holding a three-year bachelor’s degree must have received or be in the final semester of finishing a master’s degree in physics. Both general and subject GRE taken in the last 5 years are recommended, but optional. International applicants have further documentation requirements, including proof of English language proficiency, which are described on the International Graduate Students web page: http://www.uh.edu/graduate-school/international-students/.

Admission to the program is competitive within the applicant pool. The admissions committee and the department chair will evaluate the credentials of each applicant for the PhD program, considering a broad range of criteria, including:

  1. Content of the undergraduate program and, if applicable, graduate program and grades earned, particularly in the areas of physics and mathematics.
  2. A cumulative GPA of 3.00 or better in the last 60 hours.
  3. Letters of recommendation from three (3) individuals (preferably faculty members), who are able to judge the candidate’s academic abilities and potential for scholarly research.
  4. GRE scores (optional).
  5. Fulfilling the university’s English Language Proficiency Requirement .
  6. Scientific, professional, technical publications and Master’s Thesis (if applicable).

Degree Requirements


Credit hours required for this degree: 54.0

To receive a Ph.D. in Physics, a student must satisfy the following three requirements:

1. Course Requirements


Successful completion of a minimum of 54 credit hours for which graduate credit is accepted by the department. These 54 hours must include courses that satisfy Basic Core and Advanced Core requirements; and successful completion of a minimum of 3 and no more than 12 letter-graded credit hours of doctoral dissertation. Courses taken outside the department of Physics will require prior approval from the graduate faculty advisor.

Basic Core Requirements (total credit hours: 18.0)


 The doctoral students must enroll in 6 Basic Core courses or be exempt from taking one or more of them in the first year. In order to qualify for doctoral candidacy, students must pass each Basic Core course with a grade of B or higher. Students who have successfully completed equivalent graduate courses at another institution will be allowed to qualify for the doctoral program if they appear for a qualifying examination for each of those courses and earn a B or higher grade. The qualifying examinations will be offered before the start of the semester. Nonetheless, this will be counted as one of the two attempts for completing the qualifying exam (see Requirement 2 below for number of attempts criterion).

Basic Core Courses:

Advanced Core/Elective Requirements(total credit hours: 12.0)


Four courses with a minimum of two from the Advanced Core course list below must be successfully completed. At most one of the remaining courses can be taken from outside of the Department with permission from the Chair of the Dissertation Committee and the Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee.

Advanced Core courses:

Advanced Electives


Advanced Elective courses will be offered at regular intervals. These are typically expositions of topics of current interest. The student body will be polled to find their choices at least a semester before an Advanced Elective is offered; the department will attempt to fulfill the students’ wishes. Some Electives offered in recent years include:

  1. General Relativity and Gravitation
  2. Solid State Physics II
  3. Atmospheric Physics
  4. Particle Physics
  5. Biological Physics
  6. Scattering Theory
  7. Seismic Physics I and II
  8. Physics and Applications of Semiconductors
  9. Optics

2. Qualification for PhD Candidacy


Full-time students must advance to candidacy no later than 2 years after entry into the PhD program (within the first 36 hours of graduate coursework for part-time students). To advance to candidacy for the doctoral program, a student must pass all six Basic Core courses with a grade of B or higher. A student must also receive a grade of B or higher in the first attempt in at least four (4) of the six Basic Core courses. The student receiving a grade of B- or below is offered a second attempt to obtain a grade of B or higher in the remaining Basic Core courses; however, this opportunity will not be available for those who have taken the pre-semester exams as indicated in Requirement 1. A student who earns less than a B grade in three (3) or more Basic Core courses at the first attempt will be dismissed from the program due to failure to advance to candidacy. If the failure is due to extenuating circumstances, the student can appeal the decision to the Graduate Studies Committee.

3. Original Research Requirements


An acceptable dissertation based on original research in Physics must be presented and defended orally before the student’s doctoral dissertation committee.

Academic Policies


  • University of Houston Academic Policies   
  • Academic Policies: College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics   
  • Department Academic Policies
    • Students must assemble their doctoral committee within the first term after they pass all the Ph.D. core courses listed above, or before the end of their third academic year whichever comes first. The dissertation committee must consist of the research advisor, at least two (normally three) additional graduate faculty members from the Department of Physics, and at least one UH faculty member from outside the department. A dissertation committee must be on file with the College no later than the term prior to the anticipated graduating term. More details on committee composition can be found on the Graduate Degree Requirements: College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics .
    • Annual Progress Evaluation (APE): Before the end of the student’s third academic year, AND IN EACH SUBSEQUENT ACADEMIC YEAR, the student must make an oral presentation to their doctoral dissertation committee. The committee must certify that the student is making adequate progress toward completion of his/her Ph.D. in a timely manner.  If the grade of overall performance, based on the averaging  of all item scores from all committee members is lower than 3, then the student is given an opportunity for a follow-up examination by the committee, at a time to be determined by the committee. If the re-evaluation score is 3 or above, the student can proceed with his/her research and prepare for the next APE or dissertation defense. If the score in the re-evaluation is less than 3 then the student has failed the APE, and will be terminated from the PhD program.
    • All graduate students are required to attend the weekly Department of Physics Colloquium. Failure to do so without an approved proper excuse may result in a loss of financial support.

Scholastic Requirements: Graduate students must maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.00 in all course work to be considered in good standing. Students not in good standing cannot receive a graduate degree and can be declared ineligible for support with a graduate assistantship (IA, TA, RA/TE or RA).

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