Academic Programs Catalog

College of Natural Science

Graduate Study

The Department of Physics and Astronomy offers graduate programs leading to the Masters of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in both physics and astrophysics.

Current experimental and theoretical research programs include work in the general fields of accelerator physics, acoustics, atomic, molecular and optical physics, biological physics, computational physics, condensed matter physics, elementary particles, low-temperature physics, nanoscience, nuclear physics, physics education, and quantum computing.

Students who are enrolled in doctoral degree programs in the Department of Physics and Astronomy may elect joint programs with many partnering departments including Biochemistry, Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Computational Mathematics Science and Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Materials Science, and Mathematics.

Students who are enrolled in master’s or doctoral degree programs in the Department of Physics and Astronomy may elect an Interdepartmental Specialization in Cognitive Science. For additional information, refer to the statement on Interdepartmental Graduate Specializations in Cognitive Science in the College of Social Science section of this catalog.

For additional information, visit http://www.pa.msu.edu or contact the Department of Physics and Astronomy.


Astrophysics and Astronomy - Master of Science

The aim of the Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degree programs in astrophysics and astronomy is to help students to develop the ability to perform independent research and to teach in this field.

Master of Science

In addition to meeting the requirements of the university and of the College of Natural Science, students must meet the requirements specified below.

Admission

For admission to the master's degree program in astrophysics and astronomy on regular status, the student must have:

  1. Completed mathematics and astronomy or physics courses equivalent to those that are required for an undergraduate major in physics or astronomy.
  2. A satisfactory grade–point average, normally at least 3.00, in the courses referenced in item 1. above.

Students who do not meet the requirements for admission to the program on regular status may be admitted on a provisional basis to remove deficiencies.

Requirements for the Master of Science Degree in Astrophysics and Astronomy

The student must:

  1. Complete a total of 30 credits for the degree under either Plan A (with thesis) or Plan B (without thesis).
  2. Pass a qualifying master’s exam that tests basic knowledge of undergraduate physics.
  3. Complete the following core physics courses or their subject examinations, and the following core of astronomy courses, with a grade-point average of 3.0 or higher.
    Physics
    PHY    820    Classical Mechanics (3)
    PHY    831    Statistical Mechanics (3)
    PHY    841    Classical Electrodynamics (3)
    Astronomy
    AST    810    Radiation Astrophysics (3)
    AST    825    Galactic Astronomy  (3)
    AST    835    Extragalactic Astronomy (3)
    AST    840    Stellar Astrophysics  (3)
    PHY   983    Nuclear Astrophysics (3)
  4. Complete one semester of half-time teaching.

Additional Requirements for Plan A

  1. Complete at least 4 credits of Astronomy 899 Master’s Thesis Research.
  2. Pass a final oral examination in defense of the thesis.

Additional Requirements for Plan B

  1. Complete 6 credits in Astronomy 805 Research Project. This research project is taken over two semesters and will be graded on the basis of a written paper and oral examination.
  2. Pass a final examination or evaluation.

 


Astrophysics and Astronomy - Doctor of Philosophy

In addition to meeting the requirements of the university and of the College of Natural Science, students must meet the requirements specified below.

Admission

For admission to the doctoral degree program in astrophysics and astronomy on regular status, the student must have:

  1. Completed mathematics and astronomy or physics courses equivalent to those that are required for an undergraduate major in physics or astronomy.
  2. A satisfactory grade–point average, normally at least 3.00, in the courses referenced in item 1. above.

Students who do not meet the requirements for admission to the program on regular status may be admitted on a provisional basis to remove deficiencies.

Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Astrophysics and Astronomy

The student must:

  1. Pass the doctoral qualifying exam that tests basic knowledge of undergraduate physics.
  2. Complete the following core graduate physics courses or their subject examinations, and the following core of  astronomy courses, with a grade-point average of 3.375 or higher.
    Physics
    PHY    820    Classical Mechanics  (3)
    PHY    831    Statistical Mechanics  (3)
    PHY    841    Classical Electrodynamics  (3)
    Astronomy
    AST    810    Radiation Astrophysics  (3)
    AST    825    Galactic Astronomy  (3)
    AST    835    Extragalactic Astronomy  (3)
    AST    840    Stellar Astrophysics  (3)
    PHY    983    Nuclear Astrophysics  (3)
  3. Satisfactorily complete 6 credits in Astronomy 805 Research Project. This research project is taken over two semesters and will be graded on the basis of a written paper and oral examination that also serves as the student’s comprehensive examination.
  4. Complete one semester of half-time teaching.
  5. Complete a doctoral dissertation on original research.
  6. Pass a final oral examination in defense of the dissertation.

 


Chemical Physics - Doctor of Philosophy

For information about the Doctor of Philosophy degree program with a major in chemical physics, refer to the statement on the Department of Chemistry.

 


Physics - Master of Science

In addition to meeting the requirements of the university and of the College of Natural Science, students must meet the requirements specified below.

Admission

For admission to the master's degree program in physics on regular status, the student must have:

  1. Completed physics and mathematics courses equivalent to those that are required for an undergraduate major in physics.
  2. A satisfactory grade–point average, normally at least 3.00, in the courses referenced in item 1. above.

Students who do not meet the requirements for admission to the program on regular status may be admitted on a provisional basis to remove deficiencies.

Requirements for the Master of Science Degree in Physics

The student must complete a total of 30 credits for the degree under either Plan A (with thesis) or Plan B (without thesis).

A grade of at least 3.0 (B) on the qualifying examination based on first–year graduate–level physics courses in classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, electrodynamics, and statistical mechanics is required.  This examination is offered in the fall and spring semesters and must be taken the first time that it is offered after the student has completed his or her first year of graduate study. Detailed regulations and sample examinations are available from the departmental office.

Concentration in Beam Physics. Students interested in pursuing a concentration in beam physics may do so through a partially or entirely online option. The regular requirements for the master’s degree in physics apply. Credits for the concentration may be earned through courses and research including PHY 861, PHY 961, PHY 962, PHY 963, and PHY 964. The student’s program of study must be approved by the student’s guidance committee. Students may transfer up to 9 credits in relevant course topics approved on a case-by-case basis. Up to 10 credits of master’s thesis research (PHY 899) may be earned under supervision of MSU faculty or through a suitable external mentor at a university or national laboratory near the student’s location as determined on a case-by-case basis.

 


Physics - Doctor of Philosophy

In addition to meeting the requirements of the university and the College of Natural Science, students must meet the requirements specified below.

Admission

For admission to the doctoral degree program in physics on regular status, the student must have:

  1. Completed physics and mathematics courses equivalent to those that are required for an undergraduate major in physics.
  2. A grade–point average of at least 3.00 in the courses referenced in item 1. above.

Evidence of some undergraduate or post graduate research experience is desirable.

Students who do not meet the requirements for admission to the program on regular status may be admitted on a provisional basis to remove deficiencies.

Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Physics

A grade of 4.0 (A) on the qualifying examination based on first–year graduate–level physics courses in classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, electrodynamics, and statistical mechanics is required.  This examination is offered in the fall and spring semesters and must be taken the first time that it is offered after the student has completed his or her first year of graduate study.  Detailed regulations and sample examinations are available from the departmental office. A dissertation presenting the results of an original laboratory or theoretical investigation is required. One semester of half–time teaching is also required.

Concentration in Beam Physics. Students interested in pursuing a concentration in beam physics may do so through a partially or entirely online option. The regular requirements for the doctoral degree in physics apply which includes successful completion of four subject examinations in core areas of physics which can be administered by a mutually approved local proctor, where such practice is permissible, and successful completion of a minimum of 24 credits of doctoral dissertation research. A minimum of 54 credits is required for completion of the program when combined with the requirements for the master’s degree with a concentration in beam physics.