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    University of California Merced
  Sep 26, 2017
2014-2015 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Individual Graduate Program, Physics Emphasis, Ph.D.

Program Description
Contact: Professor Linda Hirst,

The physics emphasis offers individualized research-based programs of study leading to the Ph.D. degree under UC Merced’s Individual Graduate Program (IGP). UC Merced’s faculty research programs are highly interdisciplinary, with collaborative faculty working in both emerging and established research areas such as condensed matter, quantum information, solar energy, atomic, molecular and optical (AMO) physics, soft matter and biological physics, and nanoscience. Students work closely with one or more program faculty to identify, design, and carry out an independent research project that advances knowledge in the field.

The deadline for receipt of applications is January 15. Late applications are considered as space permits. Normally applications are accepted for Fall semester only. The minimum requirement for admission is a bachelor’s degree in physics or a related field of science or engineering with a grade point average of at least 3.0. The GRE general test is required and the subject test in physics is recommended. Admission decisions are based on undergraduate grades, performance on the GRE, accomplishments in undergraduate research, and letters of recommendation. Students from non-English speaking countries must take the TOEFL exam and are normally interviewed by telephone in order to evaluate English proficiency.

During the first year in residence, students typically take courses and serve as TAs for undergraduate science courses. The heart of the Physics Ph.D. program is the completion of original scientific research leading to the preparation and defense of a Ph.D. dissertation. Students are encouraged to discuss research interests and possible Ph.D. projects with all of the faculty in the group as early as possible, and select a faculty research advisor early during the second semester of study. Research normally occupies a majority of the student’s time after the first year in residence.

The Physics group has established the following requirements for the Ph.D. degree:

  • Complete at least four semesters of full-time academic residence (12 units minimum) at UC Merced;
  • Complete the required courses with a letter grade of at least “B” in each course (“S” in seminar courses graded S/U);
  • Serve as a teaching assistant for at least one semester;
  • Pass a preliminary examination;
  • Pass the oral Ph.D. qualifying examination;
  • Present and successfully defend a doctoral dissertation containing an original contribution to knowledge in the field.

Program Learning Outcomes

Graduates of the Physics PhD program will:

  1. Possess a broad foundation in the fundamentals of physics and a deep understanding of their chosen subfield, which will permit them to understand and critically evaluate current research.
  2. Have the experimental, theoretical, and/or computational skills necessary to conduct and lead independent responsible research and contribute to knowledge in their chosen subfield.
  3. Identify new research opportunities, which may cross traditional discipline boundaries, plan effective strategies for pursuing these opportunities and conduct research that makes a new contribution to knowledge in their chosen subfield of physics and solve important problems in society.
  4. Communicate both fundamental concepts of physics and details of their own research effectively, in written and oral form, including in a classroom setting to expert and non-expert audiences. This includes the publication of original research results in peer reviewed scientific journals.