PhD in Physics

Recent graduate student.

Every PhD in Physics recipient is expected to acquire:

  • Comprehensive understanding of core physics principles in the subjects of classical mechanics; electrodynamics; statistical mechanics; and quantum mechanics; and in-depth knowledge in the area of doctoral research
  • Broad knowledge of contemporary physics developments
  • Independent research skills in formulating and solving original physics problems
  • Strong oral and written communication skills

Students must earn a minimum of 36 credit hours in formal graduate courses approved by the Department of Physics. Courses in PHY 598, PHY 599, and all PHY 600 level courses do not count toward this requirement. Students must maintain an overall GPA minimum of 3.0 (equivalent to a grade of "B") for all courses leading to the degree.

Minimum Course Requirements

All PhD candidates must take and pass the following graduate courses with an average grade equivalent to "B" or higher:

  • Classical Dynamics (PHY 509)
  • Electrodynamics I and II (PHY 513, 514)
  • Quantum Mechanics I and II (PHY 507, 508)
  • Statistical Mechanics (PHY 519)
  • Graduate Lab (PHY 551 or 552)

Of the remaining 15 required credits, student may take only graduate level courses. The following two courses are required:

  • Colloquium (PHY 602B 1st year and PHY 602A 2nd year)
  • Research Ethics

PHY 503 and 504, as well as any undergraduate courses taken for graduate credits, are excluded. Students who must take remedial or undergraduate courses during the first two semesters will require more than two years to complete their course work.  

Qualifying Exam

Within 18 months (three semesters) of enrollment as a full-time graduate student, every student in the PhD track is required to pass the Qualifying Examination. Students are permitted a maximum of two attempts, in addition to a free trial exam upon initial enrollment in the department.

For regulations concerning the Qualifying Examination, please see the Graduate Physics Handbook.

Example problems from former Qualifying Examination can be found here (accessible limited to UB-ID). 

Thesis Topic Defense

Students are required to present their Thesis Topic Defense as soon as possible after they have chosen an advisor and a committee. Under normal circumstances, the Thesis Topic Defense should be passed no later than 36 months after enrollment in the graduate program. In exceptional circumstances, where there is a change in advisor, the Graduate Studies Committee will set a new time limit for defense. Failure to meet the schedule may result in the student no longer maintaining good academic standing.

A summary of the presentation must be given to the committee members two weeks before the Thesis Topic Defense. The presentation itself will include a 30-45 minute seminar in front of the PhD committee. During the presentation, the student will give a review of the relevant literature and discuss the proposed work. This presentation is open to the public.  On the basis of the presentation, the committee evaluates the candidate's level of understanding of the proposed topic. If the proposal is not approved, the committee will advise the student on a possible course of action.

Thesis Committee Composition

Students must choose their Major Professor and PhD committee members by filling out the Thesis Advisor Form no later than 24 months after enrollment in the graduate program. The Major Professor (or one of the co-Major Professors) must be a regular faculty member in the Department of Physics. The Major Professor must also be a member of the Graduate School Faculty who holds the rank of Assistant Professor or higher. Failure to choose an advisor may result in losing Departmental financial support.

The PhD Committee should consist of two or more faculty members (in addition to the Major Professor) chosen by the student with approval from the Graduate Studies Committee. All committee members should demonstrate active engagement in research during the last five years. When possible, at least one committee member should work in a field or research similar or relevant to the student's thesis topic. Faculty from other UB departments may also serve on the committee. The same criteria regarding research apply for the selection of committee members outside the Department of Physics.

For further information, please consult the Graduate Student Handbook or contact Dr. Xuedong Hu, Director of Graduate Studies.