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Physics Department Graduate Course Requirements

The Physics Department requires all students to take a set of core courses and also to satisfy a breadth course requirement. The latter includes at least two elective courses offered by the Physics Department in areas outside your thesis research. 

All students must complete ALL required courses before taking their general examination, including the breadth course requirement.

Canonical First Year Course Sequence:

Course (credits) Title
Autumn Quarter
Phys 513 (3)
Phys 517 (4)
Phys 524 (4)
Phys 528 (1)
Phys 501 (1)
Quantum Mechanics
Statistical Mechanics
Introduction to Research
Tutorials in Teaching Physics*
Winter Quarter
Phys 514 (4)
Phys 518 (4)
Phys 525 (3)
Phys 600 (1)
Phys 502 (1)


Quantum Mechanics
Statistical Mechanics
Independent Study
Tutorials in Teaching Physics*
Spring Quarter
Phys 505 (3)
Phys 515 (4)
Phys 519 (4)
Phys 600 (1)
Phys 503 (1)
select 3 from first 4:
Classical Mechanics

Quantum Mechanics
Independent Study
Tutorials in Teaching Physics*

* Only for students holding a TA

Core Graduate Courses

The following Basic Core Courses are linked to the Master’s Review,

Basic Required Core Courses

Course Title
Phys 505
Phys 513-514
Phys 517-518
Phys 524
Classical Mechanics
Quantum Mechanics
Statistical Mechanics

The following Basic Core Course gives an overview of the type of research pursued in our Department and helps finding a research group.

Basic Required Core Course

Course Title
Phys 528 Introduction to Research

The following Advanced Core Courses are also taken during the first year.

Advanced Required Core Courses

Course Title
Phys 525
Phys 515
Phys 519
Statistical Mechanics
Electromagnetism and Relativity
Quantum Mechanics

Physics 600, Independent Study/Research

The department requires that all first year students begin the process of exploring research opportunities within the department or with adjunct faculty in other departments as soon as possible, in particular starting the winter quarter of the first year after being exposed to a selection of research options in the Physics 528 course during the autumn quarter.

Students must register therefore for at least one credit of Physics 600 in both the winter and spring quarter, e.g., to attend weekly research group meetings (with no obligation from either side to continue the relationship beyond that quarter).

Some students can benefit from pursuing more research during their first year. They can contemplate deferring one or more of the Advanced Required Core Courses to the second year and replace them with Physics 600 independent research credits during the first year. Such deferrals can impact passing the Master’s Review negatively. To avoid that, any such actions require formal and documented approval by both your Academic Advisor and the Graduate Program Coordinator.

Such course deferrals only apply to the Advanced Required Core Courses. Deferral to the second year of Basic Required Core classes and their corresponding Master’s Review exams for the purpose of pursuing more research is not allowed. In special circumstances you can formally petition and meet with the Graduate Program Coordinator for approval.

During their first Summer quarter, students are expected to continue their research and/or
investigating potential research groups by registering for Physics 600.

Documentation of Phys 600 type research is an integral part of the Master’s Review. Therefore, a brief report by both the student and the faculty member is expected (if applicable) in the first Annual Report. The graduate program coordinator is likely to request additional brief reports when needed for the Master’s Review Committee meetings.

Typically, students increase their quarterly number of Phys 600 credits steadily during their second and third year. Students holding full or partial research assistantships must register for at least 2 credits of Phys 600 with the faculty member supervising their research.

Do not register for more than 2 Phys 600 credits while you hold a full RA during the Summer because that increases the tuition bill charged to the research grant.

Research Area Specific Breadth Courses

Course Title
Phys 506
Phys 507
Phys 511
Phys 550
Phys 554
Phys 555
Phys 557
Phys 560
Phys 564
Phys 567
Phys 570
Numerical Methods
Group Theory
Topics in Current Physics
Atomic Physics
Nuclear Astrophysics
Cosmology, Particle Astrophysics
High Energy Physics
Nuclear Theory
General Relativity
Condensed Matter Physics
Quantum Field Theory

Breadth Course Requirement

All students are required to pass at least two courses in Physics areas different from their own PhD research to satisfy the Departmental so-called Breadth Course Requirement. Those courses are typically taken during the second or third year.  These can be any advanced Physics Graduate course outside your own research area.

They need to be Physics courses.  The Breadth course requirement represents “breadth within Physics”.  You are encouraged to take courses offered in other Departments on campus, but those do not count towards this requirement.  Consult with the graduate program coordinator on which courses you propose to take towards the breadth requirement. Your choice needs formal approval by the graduate program coordinator at the time you set-up your Supervisory Committee.

The advanced courses listed above are taught in a non-specialized manner ensuring accessibility to all graduate students. Some of them are offered every other year.

Advanced Ph.D. research specific courses

In addition to satisfying the core and breadth course requirement, all students are expected to take all appropriate advanced courses and seminars related to their own research area. This is done in consultation with your research advisor.

These courses include seminars and journal clubs dedicated to special topics organized by the specific research group, and also special topics courses that are offered regularly. Students are invited to request and suggest specific special course topics.

All graduate students are expected to attend the weekly departmental colloquium and also the seminars in their fields of specialization. They are also expected to seek broad knowledge in areas of physics outside their direct research. Students are encouraged to explore related fields such as mathematics, engineering, biological sciences, or other natural sciences.

For a complete PDF version of Physics Ph.D. Program Information, Policies, and Procedures