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Degree Requirements

The general University requirements are stated earlier in this catalog. The special requirements in physics are as follows:

Course of Study

The student's course of study must have the approval of an adviser. Of the 60 credits of graduate work required for the degree, no more than 9 credits may be in first-level courses; with special permission, up to 18 credits may be taken in subjects other than physics. After students pass the First Examination, they are encouraged to choose a thesis field and adviser; these decisions should normally be made within a year of passing the First Examination. Doctoral students at all the colleges are expected to attend the weekly colloquia.

Students in the photonics track follow the same curriculum, but they may take a photonics course offered in the first year, and they do not need to take Analytical Dynamics.

First Examination

The student must pass the First Examination, which includes quantum mechanics, analytic dynamics, electromagnetic theory, and general physics, which covers topics selected from the fields of atomic and nuclear physics, solid state, thermodynamics and statistical mechanics and optics. For students specializing in fluid-geophysics, an examination in that area may be substituted for the quantum mechanics part of the First Examination.

Second Examination

The Second Examination tests the student's knowledge of the general areas of physics bearing on his or her field of research as well as the student's readiness to undertake a specific piece of research. Detailed information concerning the examination is available from the Executive Officer.


The student is required to prepare the dissertation under the guidance of a thesis adviser. Upon completion, the dissertation will be submitted to the guidance committee appointed for the student. The degree is recommended upon approval of the dissertation by the committee and upon successful completion of an oral defense of the dissertation before the committee. The dissertation must be of such a caliber as to be acceptable for publication in a standard journal when suitably condensed.

College Teaching

Each student is required to participate in some teaching of undergraduate physics courses. Specific requirements are determined for each student in consultation with the Executive Officer and the appropriate Department Chairman. In special cases research may be substituted for this requirement.


Students are supported by a variety of mechanisms. There is support from the Graduate Center and from the campus at which they are affiliated. First year students receive full support from the Graduate Center. After passing the first exam at the end of year 1, students must select an advisor. From this time on support may include research assistantships supported by faculty grants and contracts, teaching assistantships and fellowships.

Minority students, in addition to the normal support mechanisms, benefit from a variety of additional special federally financed fellowships designed to increase the number of minority scientists.


To apply to the Doctoral Program in Physics, please visit the Graduate Center Office of Admissions website.

Special Requirements for Admission

In addition to the general University requirements for admission stated earlier in this catalog, applicants must have received a minimum average of B in their work in undergraduate physics and mathematics and have taken a sufficient number of courses in these fields to indicate that they will profit from graduate study in physics. Applicants with master's degrees in physics from accredited institutions may be considered for admission, even if they do not satisfy the above requirements.