May 25, 2024  
2023-2024 Catalog 
2023-2024 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Physics, Ph.D.

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Chih-Chun Chien, Program Chair,
Michael Scheibner, Admissions Chair,
Emily Heng, Graduate Student Coordinator,

The mission of the Physics graduate program at UC Merced is to train the next generation of scientific leaders. Our graduates will be well prepared to conduct and communicate independent and original research advancing fundamental understanding of the world around us and using physics to solve important problems in society. Our program is highly interdisciplinary and collaborative, with faculty working in established research areas such as condensed matter, quantum information, atomic, molecular and optical (AMO) physics, astrophysics,  as well as emerging areas such as soft matter and biological physics, renewable energy, quantum science, and nanoscience. Students work closely with their faculty committee to tailor their individualized program of study leading to the degree.

The deadline for receipt of applications is  on the Graduate Division website ( 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 and the subject test in physics are not required. If the applicant chooses to submit the GRE scores, they will be considered. Admission decisions are based on undergraduate grades, 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 to evaluate English proficiency.

Ph.D. Program Description

During the first year in residence, students typically take core 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 the faculty in the program as early as possible, and select a faculty research advisor by the end of their second semester of study. Research normally occupies a majority of the student’s time after the first year in residence.

Ph.D. Program Requirements

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 per semester) 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 the review course, PHYS 202 , within the first year;
  • Pass the pre-qual meeting by the end of the student’s second year;
  • Pass the oral Ph.D. qualifying examination by the end of the student’s third year;
  • Present and successfully defend a doctoral dissertation containing an original contribution to knowledge in the field.

Ph.D. Program Learning Outcomes

Graduates of the Physics Ph.D. 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.

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