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Department of Physics and Astronomy
University of Mississippi

Graduate Program

About the Program

The Department of Physics and Astronomy offers Master’s and PhD degrees in Physics, and all students admitted to our graduate program receive full financial support—including a tuition waiver and generous living stipend. We offer exciting research opportunities in atmospheric physics, condensed matter physics, gravity, high energy physics, and physical acoustics. The University of Mississippi carries the R1 Carnegie designation reserved for doctoral universities with the highest level of research activity.

Admission to the graduate program is based on standardized tests (GRE and, for students from non-English-speaking countries, English proficiency tests), undergraduate academic performance (GPA), and recommendation letters, but we also try to make sure that there is a good fit between the students’ interests and our research groups based on the applicants’ personal statements. The goal of the admissions committee is to identify students who we believe have the skills and temperament to succeed in a research-oriented environment. The department offers guaranteed financial support for all graduate students who are admitted and maintain a good academic standing, through a combination of teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and non-service Honor Fellowships. This support is provided for the nine-month academic year, and additional sources of funding are usually available for the summer months.


  • Doctor of Philosophy — Ph.D.
  • Master of Science — M.S. (course work and thesis)
  • Master of Arts — M.A. (course work only)

Students in our PhD program have the opportunity of obtaining a Master of Education degree (M.Ed.) by taking a few more courses and completing some field work.

Degree Requirements

Each entering student must take a preliminary examination (based on undergraduate physics) to aid the student and the graduate adviser in selecting a course of study.

All students must teach laboratory or lecture sections for at least two semesters.

Students who are present on campus during the Fall and Spring semesters are required to enroll in Phys 510, the Physics Colloquium.

Ph.D. in Physics

A Doctor of Philosophy degree requires 54 hours of graduate course work, including 18 credit hours of dissertation research (Phys 797) and a minimum of 36 credit hours of graduate courses. Of the 36 classroom hours, at least 12 must be in physics courses numbered 700 or higher; at least another 18 must be in physics courses numbered 600 or higher; and up to six may be taken in a related field such as mathematics, chemistry, or engineering.

Ph.D. students must pass the five core courses and three chosen from the pool of breadth courses.  Students must take the core courses at the first opportunity after starting the program.

Core Courses

  • Phys 709: Advanced Mechanics I
  • Phys 711: Quantum Mechanics I
  • Phys 721: Advanced Electromagnetic Theory I
  • Phys 722: Advanced Electromagnetic Theory II
  • Phys 727: Advanced Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics I

Breadth Pool

  • Phys 605: Advanced Acoustics
  • Phys 607: Atomic and Nuclear Physics
  • Phys 712: Quantum Mechanics II
  • Phys 725: Solid State Physics I
  • Phys 731: Quantum Field Theory I
  • Phys 733: Elementary Particle Physics
  • Phys 735: Gravitational Physics

Students in the Ph.D. program are required to pass a Comprehensive Examination covering standard physics material at the introductory graduate level. It is very common for students to begin research before they have passed the Comprehensive Examination (“comps”), but students do not achieve official Ph.D. candidacy until they have done so. The comps must be attempted no later than at the first opportunity after three full semesters as graduate students in physics at UM. In order to remain in the PhD program, students must pass the comps no later than at the first opportunity after five full semesters in our graduate program.

The five core courses serve as preparation for the comps and demarcate the set of topics that are covered on the written examinations. Master’s students typically take many courses from the core as well. Most students will also take Physics 651 (Mathematical Methods of Physics I) in their first year.

Students must recruit a professor to serve as research advisor for their dissertation research, and must also form a faculty committee to guide them during the research. Ph.D. students must submit and defend a prospectus that outlines the research they propose. The prospectus cannot be defended until the comprehensive examination has been passed. Students are advised to defend the prospectus as soon as possible, for a student may not defend a dissertation in the semester of the prospectus defense.

M.S. in Physics

A Master of Science degree requires 24 hours of suitable graduate coursework and 6 hours of thesis (Phys 697). At least 12 hours of the graduate coursework must consist of physics courses numbered 600 level or higher. At least two courses must be taken from the list of core and breadth courses used for the doctoral degree.  M.S. candidates must recruit a professor to serve as research advisor, complete at least 6 credit hours of Thesis Research (Phys 697), and succeed in the oral defense of a Master’s thesis.

M.A. in Physics

A Master of Arts degree requires 30 hours of suitable graduate coursework, at least 15 hours of which must consist of physics courses numbered 600 level or higher. At least two courses must be taken from the list of core and breadth courses used for the doctoral degree.  There is no thesis requirement. Instead, M.A. candidates must pass an oral examination.

M.Ed. in Secondary Science Education

A Master of Education degree can be obtained en route to the physics Ph.D. by taking only four additional education classes. Master of Education candidates are required to take at least 15 hours of 600 level coursework (including EDCI 601, 603, 646, and 630) and have a minimum of 45 clock hours of approved field experiences.  Please note that this is not a physics degree; rather students must enroll with the School of Education to get this degree.

For more information please see the complete graduate catalog at the academic programs web page.

Time Limits

Master’s students must complete all work towards their degrees within six years. Graduate assistantships for Master’s students are normally available for three calendar years. In order to have their assistantships renewed, Master’s students should be on track to finish all required coursework and pass their MA oral exam or MS thesis defense within this period.

Ph.D. students must complete all requirements—including the written dissertation and its defense—within five years of passing the comprehensive examinations or within seven calendar years of their arrival at the University of Mississippi. After passing the comprehensive examinations and achieving official Ph.D. candidacy, students must assemble an advisory committee and begin work on a dissertation prospectus. The prospectus is a plan of work for the Ph.D. research that will be carried out. It should be defended within a year of passing the comprehensive examinations.

Research Areas:

Admission and Support

Admission Requirements

Admission Process

Graduate Assistantships and Fellowships

Additional Information

Graduate Student Achievement Award

The Graduate School awards up to a total of eighteen Graduate Achievement Awards each year for recognition on Honors Day. These include a maximum of two each from Accountancy, Applied Sciences, Business, Education, Engineering, and Pharmacy, and six from the College of Liberal Arts. (In Liberal Arts, the two awards are given in each of the following three areas: Area A, which includes Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Philosophy and Religions, and Physics and Astronomy; Area B, which includes Art, Classics, English, Journalism, Modern Languages, Music, and Theatre Arts; Area C, which includes History, Political Science, Psychology, and Sociology and Anthropology.)

These awards are available to either masters degree seeking students or doctoral degree seeking students. Nominees would have to be enrolled during the current academic year (August and December graduates are eligible). Nominees must have satisfied all conditions of their admission and have been admitted in Full-Standing.

Physics Recipients

  • 2002 Michael McGuire
  • 2003 Lee Coleman
  • 2007 Peter Sonnek
  • 2012 Philip Blom

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