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Doctor of Philosophy in Physics

Major: PHYS
Degree Awarded: Ph.D.
Unit: GA
Program Webpage:

Program Information

Mission Statement

The Doctor of Philosophy degree in Physics will prepare students for research-oriented careers in government, industry, and academia.

General Information

The PhD is typically a five-year degree program available to qualified individuals possessing a bachelor’s degree in Physics from an accredited college or university. Students with a bachelor’s degree in other related subjects, e.g. Mathematics, Chemistry and Engineering will also be considered. The first two years of the program are very similar to the non-thesis MS program. Under normal circumstances PhD students will meet the requirements for the MS degree after two years of study. The remaining three years will be dedicated primarily to research leading to the required dissertation.

For the first two years of the program, qualified students will be considered for Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTAs). As part of the educational experience, GTAs perform certain undergraduate teaching responsibilities in exchange for a stipend and full tuition remission. In most cases, support for the remaining three years of study is via Graduate Research Assistantships (GRAs) provided by extramural faculty research funding.

Program Admission

Departmental requirements for admission are as follows:

  • A baccalaureate degree with at least 24 credit hours in physics, or the equivalent.
  • A minimum quality-point standing of 3.0 (base 4.0) in physics courses.
  • Mathematics course work through differential equations. (MATH 405 or equivalent).
  • Submission of the Graduate Record Examination (general) scores.  The Physics subject GRE is preferred, but not required.

For general information concerning admission to graduate programs at the University of Louisville consult the application directions at

Program admission procedure:

Admission into the Physics PhD program is competitive. The application procedure is as follows:

  • Submit a completed graduate application to the University of Louisville, School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies, Graduate Admissions together with the application fee. Applications may be submitted on-line at Admittees are most commonly accepted to begin their program of studies in the Fall semester (which starts in late August). However, programs beginning in the Spring semester (which begins in early January) can be arranged. There is no formal application deadline, but to ensure full consideration for Fall entry applications should be received no later than February 1.
  • Official transcripts from each university or college attended must be submitted to the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies, Graduate Admissions.
  • Take the general section of the Graduate Record Examination and arrange for the official score to be sent to the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies,  Graduate Admissions (the Physics subject GRE is recommended, but not required).
  • Arrange for at least two letters of recommendation to be sent to the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies, Graduate Admissions. Persons familiar with the applicant’s academic work should write these letters. Please use the recommendation form found at
  • All applicants whose native language is not English are required to achieve a TOEFL score greater than 213 on the computer-based test, greater than 550 on the paper-based test or greater than 79 on the internet-based test. Students holding a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution in the United States are exempt from this requirement.

In individual cases, the department may recommend conditional admission of a student who does not satisfactorily meet the above requirements. If admission is granted, that student will be subject to those conditions specified by the Department of Physics and Astronomy, the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies as being necessary to remedy the conditional admission.


General requirements for the Ph.D degree are set forth in the General Information section of the graduate catalog. Specific requirements for the Ph.D degree in physics are as follows:

    A. Core Courses – 21 credit hours, comprising the seven 3 credit hour courses below:
  • PHYS 561 – Mathematical Methods I

  • PHYS 605 – Classical Mechanics

  • PHYS 611 – Classical Electrodynamics

  • PHYS 621 – Quantum Mechanics I

  • PHYS 622 – Quantum Mechanics II

  • PHYS 625 – Statistical Mechanics

  • PHYS 650 – Research Methods for Physics and Astronomy (Pass/Fail course)

    B. Elective Courses – 9-18 credit hours

Each student is required to take at least three (3) credit hours of elective courses. Courses outside the department are acceptable, if approved by the student's thesis advisor and the department Director of Graduate Studies.

    C. Research Training – Minimum of 6 credit hours

Each student must earn a minimum of six (6) credit hours of Physics Research – PHYS 699

    D. Qualifying Examination

In order to demonstrate proficiency in knowledge of Physics and the ability to apply that knowledge, students will be required to pass a qualifying exam. The qualifying exam will have a written and oral component.

    1. Written Component

To satisfy the written component, the student will take a written exam composed by members of the faculty of the department.  The exam will cover basic and intermediate problems in the areas of mechanics, electricity and magnetism, quantum mechanics, thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, and special topics in contemporary physics.  It will be administered twice yearly with advance notice, typically in September and January.  Students will be required to pass all areas of the exam, normally by the end of their fourth semester, or by the end of the first semester after completing their last class numbered lower than Phys 699.  A total of four attempts at the exam will be permitted.  Once a subject area part of the exam is passed, that part does not need to be retaken.  Under certain circumstances, in order to confirm their familiarity with a particular subject, a student may be extended the opportunity to take an oral examination in that subject.

2.  Oral Component

To satisfy the oral component the student must pass an oral exam, in the form of a presentation to the Ph.D. committee of his or her proposed research.  The student is expected to take the exam before the end of their fifth semester as a graduate student. The test may be taken at most two times, and must be passed by the end of the sixth semester.

    E. Candidacy

Having passed both parts of the qualifying examination the student will register for degree candidacy and continue with their dissertation research.

    F. Dissertation

A doctoral dissertation is required of each student.

Departmental Faculty

David N. Brown

Undergraduate Program Director

Joseph S. Chalmers

Professor Emeritus

Chris L. Davis

Director of Graduate Studies

Timothy E. Dowling

Wei-Feng Huang

Professor Emeritus

Chakram S. Jayanthi

Department Chair

John F. Kielkopf

James T. Lauroesch
Associate Professor

Shudun Liu
Associate Professor

Sergio Mendes

Roger E. Mills
Professor Emeritus

John C. Morrison

P. J. Ouseph
Professor Emeritus

John J. Sinai
Professor Emeritus

Serban Smadici
Assistant Professor

Gamini Sumanasekera

Gerard M. Williger
Associate Professor

Shi-Yu Wu
Professor Emeritus

Ming Yu
Associate Professor

Contact Information

Physics - Ph.D.

Dr. Chris L. Davis
Graduate Program Director or
Dr. Chakram S. Jayanthi

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