Physics graduate student in lab with laser equipment

​Build your future with the academic experiences offered through the CMU Department of Physics graduate programs.

Minimum Total for Graduation: 30 hours

Admission: Minimum TOEFL iBT of 79 or equivalent for international applicants. No GRE (general or subject) required, but applicants compete for assistantships, so typically admission and an offer of research or teaching assistantship will depend on GPA, TOELF, GRE, and other factors. There is no deadline for applying, but the bulk of the offers are made by late April.​

​The requirements for the M.S. in physics are based on a core of 12 semester hours in advanced mechanics, electricity and magnetism, and quantum mechanics. 3 hours of seminar are required, and 6 hours of credit are given for the thesis. In consultation with an advisor, you will select at least 9 additional hours in areas of specific value to you. The program is normally completed in 2 years. There is no qualifying examination, and no foreign language is required.

Degree Map
Course offerings are organized on a 2-year cycle.

  • Suggested degree map for students starting in an ODD year
​Year 1
​Year 2
​Fall​PHY 624 (3)
​PHY 643 (3)
PHY 517 (3)*PHY 554 (3)*
PHY 685 (1)PHY 685 (1)
​SpringPHY 634 (3)PHY 644 (3)
PHY 556 (3)*PHY 552 (3)*
PHY 685 (1)PHY 798 (3)
​SummerPHY 798PHY 798
Elective courses are marked with an asterisk (*)

  • Suggested degree map for students starting in an EVEN year
​Year 1
​Year 2
​Fall PHY 643 (3)
PHY 624 (3)
PHY 554 (3)*PHY 517 (3)*
PHY 685 (1)PHY 685 (1)
​SpringPHY 644 (3)PHY 634 (3)
PHY 552 (3)*PHY 556 (3)*
PHY 685 (1)PHY 798 (3)
​SummerPHY 798PHY 798
Elective courses are marked with an asterisk (*)

If you have a special interest in astronomy, you would usually choose Observational Astronomy (AST 562 offered during the fall semester of odd-numbered years) and Astrophysics (AST 563 offered during the spring semester of even-numbered years).

You can also opt for Independent Study (PHY 790) or cognate courses in disciplines closely related to your area of specialization, such as courses from the Science of Advanced Materials Ph.D. program (SAM 620, SAM 630, SAM 700, SAM 710, and/or SAM 720).

Recent Theses
A list of recent thesis titles from CMU Department of Physics graduate students includes:

  • Electronic Structure of Oxide/Semiconductor Interfaces
  • Dendrimer-assisted Energy Conversion Processes
  • Problem-based Learning in an Introductory Physics Course
  • Relative Line Strengths for the Hyperfine Doublets in Cesium
  • Rheology of Saline and Polysaccharide Systems
  • Structural Study of Nanocrystalline K-Li-Mn-O-I
Employment of Graduates
Recent physics graduate students from CMU have found employment in industry, in four-year colleges, and in museums and public planetariums. Many also continued graduate studies in a variety of fields including optics, nuclear physics, materials science, medical physics and engineering.​

Mihai Horoi, Program Coordinator
Professor, Department of Physics
The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in physics at Central Michigan University is a research-intensive program providing advanced scientific training in specific subfields of physics and related disciplines. The program will provide students with an opportunity to develop the ability and skills necessary to conduct independent, primary research of professional quality.

Admission Requirements, Retention & Termination Standards
Application Deadline for all materials is February 1.

The deadline for receipt of application materials for admission into the physics Ph.D. program is February 1.

Application materials must be submitted to the Graduate Student Services Office and must include:
  • official college transcripts
  • a personal statement outlining interest in the physics program and identifying a potential faculty mentor with whom the applicant ideally should have communicated with already
  • three letters of recommendation
  • Physics GRE scores if the applicant did not obtain an M.S. physics degree from CMU
Candidates are required to hold Bachelor of Science (B.S.) and Master of Science (M.S.) degrees in physics or a related area of science. Applicants must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher in the CMU physics M.S. core courses or a competitive physics GRE score. The program admissions committee will define this criterion quantitatively according to program needs and while taking into account the portfolios of the pool of applicants for every incoming class. Historically, physics M.S. graduates that have been successful in Ph.D. studies in physics have scored above the 50th percentile.

International students must meet the requirements for regular admission to the College of Graduate Studies. For English proficiency requirements see the CMU English Language Standards in the current Graduate Bulletin. Students admitted for a doctoral degree in physics must have a faculty mentor approved and financial support in the form of a teaching or research assistantship in place.

A formal evaluation of each student's training will be carried out during the first semester of enrollment by the student's mentor. This evaluation will assess the strengths and limitations of each student's academic background and be used to determine the plan of study including coursework and professional activities. Students must form a dissertation committee within the first year of graduate work; this committee will include the faculty mentor plus three additional faculty members, one of whom is outside the student's immediate area of specialization. Student progress will be assessed at mandatory annual meetings between each student and the dissertation committee. Students must maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher in the required classes and must perform satisfactorily in their directed research, as judged by their research advisor and dissertation committee. Those not making satisfactory progress may be terminated from the program. By the end of their second year, students must submit a prospectus abstract, outlining their Ph.D. research project and defend it orally in front of the dissertation committee. Students will have two opportunities to pass this prospectus defense; those who fail a second time will be terminated from the program. Each student will defend the final dissertation in a public presentation summarizing research results followed by an oral defense with the committee. The public presentation and defense of the dissertation will be judged and voted on by the committee and must be approved by the Office of Research and Graduate Studies. All physics Ph.D. students will be expected to publish their results in scientific journals and to present their work at professional conferences. We anticipate that full-time students entering with an M.S. degree will complete the program in 3-4 years.

Program Requirements

The physics Ph.D. is designed to be a research degree in which students are trained primarily by conducting research under the guidance of a faculty mentor. The program includes a set of core courses that will be augmented by elective courses in the student's area of interest.

Successful completion of the Ph.D. requires a minimum of 60 hours of graduate work beyond the M.S. degree. Each student's program of study will be developed in consultation with the faculty mentor and approved by the dissertation committee. All students in the Ph.D. program will be required to take six credit hours of courses in topics related to their specific research subfield; 6-15 credit hours of elective graduate courses (up to 15 of which can be transferred from the M.S. physics degree); 27-36 credit hours of directed research; and 12 Ph.D. Dissertation credit hours.

Required Courses (6 hours)
Select one of the following in consultation with the student's advisor and committee:
  • PHY 781: Topics in Nuclear Physics and Astrophysics 1-6(Spec)
  • PHY 782: Topics in Condensed Matter Physics 1-6(Spec)
Electives (6-15 hours)
Select from the following in consultation with the student's adviser and committee:
  • AST 562: Observational Astronomy 4(3-2)
  • AST 563: Astrophysics 3(3-0)
  • PHY 517: Computational Physics 3(2-2)
  • PHY 552: Nuclear Physics 3(3-0)
  • PHY 554: Optics 3(3-0)
  • PHY 556: Solid State Physics 3(3-0)
  • PHY 578WI: Experimental Physics 3(1-5)
  • PHY 614: Methods of Theoretical Physics 3(3-0)
  • PHY 624: Advanced Mechanics 3(3-0)
  • PHY 634: Advanced Electricity and Magnetism 3(3-0)
  • PHY 643: Quantum Mechanics I 3(3-0)
  • PHY 644: Quantum Mechanics II 3(3-0)
Directed Research (27-36 hours)
  • PHY 796: Directed Research in Physics 36(Spec)
Dissertation (12 hours)
  • PHY 899: Dissertation 1-12(Spec)
Total: 60 semester hours

Mihai Horoi, Program Coordinator
Professor, Department of Physics
Learn more about the Science of Advanced Materials Ph.D. Program here.