May 17, 2024  
2023-2024 Catalog 
2023-2024 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Physics, M.S.

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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.

Master’s Program Description

While the M.S. degree is offered, it is to be noted that admission is normally granted to students who intend to pursue a Ph.D. degree. Additionally, a Ph.D. student who meets residence and coursework criteria may petition to pursue a terminal M.S. degree. The normative length of the master’s program is two years and students may also choose to optionally pursue research for credit if a suitable advisor and project is identified. The recipient of a M.S. degree is understood to possess knowledge of a broad field of learning that extends well beyond that attained at the undergraduate level as well as professional skills for a variety of careers.

Master’s Program Requirements

The Physics group has established the following requirements for the M.S. degree:

  • Complete at least two semesters of full-time academic residence (12 units minimum per semester) at UC Merced;
  • Pass the preliminary examination;
  • Complete at least 30 semester units of upper-division and graduate course work with a cumulative grade-point average of at least 3.0. At least 24 semester units must be from graduate-level courses in the 200 series, while the remaining 6 units may be research or similar courses;
  • Either (1) Pass a comprehensive oral examination administered by the faculty committee. This examination will test the student’s understanding of the main concepts in the field at the graduate level. If the student has advanced to candidacy, the qualifying exam can be used to substitute for the comprehensive oral examination requirement. Or (2) Submit a Master’s thesis under the supervision of a faculty member, documenting the progress towards a proposed research or summarizing the research conducted in a research group. The minimal length of the Master’s thesis is 15 pages and the student needs to submit an assessment of the Master’s thesis from the student’s committee. The Master’s thesis must be submitted before the end of the student’s third year.
  • In addition, M.S. students are recommended to take research units (PHYS 295 ) to help fulfill their unit requirements, and attend journal clubs and group meetings.

Master’s Program Learning Outcomes

Graduates of the Physics Master’s 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. Be proficient in professional skills necessary to lead a productive career in physics or a related career including ethical conduct in research.
  3. Communicate both fundamental concepts of physics and details of their own research effectively, in written and oral form, to expert and non-expert audiences.

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