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Fall 2003 handbook


University of Oregon

­Fall, 2003


1. Master’s Degree Requirements

2. Ph.D. Degree Requirements

3. Recommendations

4. Guidelines for Termination of Graduate Students in Degree Programs

5. Graduate School Policies and Regulations (2003-2004 catalog excerpts)

6. Sample Master’s and Ph.D. Qualifying Exams


Passed by Physics Faculty, June 5, 1969

Amended through September, 2000

Students obtaining a Master’s Degree in Physics must satisfy both general University requirements (underlined throughout) and departmental requirements. The Physics Department awards a general Master’s Degree, just called Master’s degree, and an Applied Master’s Degree. The University requirements are listed at the beginning of the University Bulletin. See the Director of Graduate Studies for the department requirements for the Applied Master’s Degree. All candidates for the general Master’s Degree must satisfy the department requirement listed under General Department Requirement. The candidate may then complete the physics master’s requirement by either, i. passing the Master’s exam, ii. submit a written thesis, or iii. taking specific physics courses. Waivers of departmental requirements may be obtained by applying to the Director Graduate Studies.

Those candidates who can demonstrate competence in a foreign language equivalent to that attained at the end of two years of college study may receive a M.A., if they wish. All others receive a M.S..

General Department Requirement:

1. Training equivalent to a bachelor’s degree in physics.

2. A total of 45 graduate credits of which at least 30 credits are earned Oregon courses. The GPA for all graduate work at the University must be 3.0 or better.

3. At least 32 credits must be in physics, including at least one full-year sequence at the 600 level. The 32 credits in physics must be graded.

4. The remaining credits may be earned in related fields, such as mathematics, chemistry, biology, geology or other courses approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.

5. At least 3 terms in mathematics are required although, this requirement may be met (totally or in part) by previous courses taken in a mathematics department. Courses selected from the following list will satisfy the requirement provided that they include a two or three term sequence. Other courses may also satisfy the requirement, but they must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies prior to registration.

MATH 511, 512 Functions of a Complex Variable I, II MATH 513, 514, 5l5 Introduction to Analysis I, II, III

MATH 521 Differential Equations II

MATH 522, 523 Fourier Series and Orthogonal Functions;

Fourier and Laplace Integrals

MATH 531, 532, 533 Introduction to Topology; Differential


MATH 541 Linear Algebra

MATH 544, 545, 546 Introduction to Abstract Algebra I, II, III

MATH 551, 552, 553 Introduction to Numerical Analysis I, II, III

MATH 561, 562, 563 Introduction to Mathematical Methods of Statistics I, II; Mathematical Methods of Regression Analysis and Analysis of Variance

The General Department Requirement is required of all General Master’s candidates. The Master’s requirement can be completed by either, i. passing the Master’s final exam—which is part I of the Ph.D. qualifying exam, ii. submit a written thesis, or iii. taking specific courses. These options are described below.

I. Master’s Examination Option:

The examination is given every Spring and Fall and covers undergraduate physics (mechanics, electricity and magnetism, optics, modern physics and thermodynamics). The exam must be passed by Spring of the second year of graduate studies.

II. Master’s Thesis Option:

Students who choose to submit a Master’s Thesis must complete the following:

a. Secure a thesis advisor.

b. Inform the Director of Graduate Studies, who will appoint an advisory committee consisting of three physics faculty members including the advisor as chairman.

c. The candidate will meet with the committee, which will judge the proposed scope and content of the thesis, which should be reasonably well-defined at the outset. The thesis should be worthy of at least 9 graduate credits and should require some original contribution by the student. Submission of the thesis to the committee members (step e.) may occur no earlier than three months after this committee meeting.

d. Complete 9 credits of Thesis (PHYS 503) or 6 credits of Thesis and 3 credits of Research (PHYS 601).

e. Submit the Master’s Thesis to the committee members. If the committee agrees that the thesis does not require major revisions in its scope or content, it will schedule an oral defense.

f. Present a short oral defense of the thesis to the committee.

g. Submit the thesis in a form acceptable to the Graduate School.

h. Students must complete the Master’s thesis within three years of the date of admission to the graduate program.

III. Specific Physics Course Option:

Students may also choose the specific physics course option. The courses that are used to satisfy the general requirement may also be used to satisfy this requirement.

1. Students must take at least 40 credits in graduate physics courses at the University of Oregon. The 40 credits in physics must be graded and passed with a C- or better.

2. Six terms must be chosen from the three courses:

PHYS 631, 632, 633 Quantum Mechanics

PHYS 611, 612/613, 614 Theoretical Mechanics/Statistical Physics [612

(2 Credits) & 613 (2 Credits) count for one


PHYS 621, 622, 623 Electromagnetic Theory

Each of these six courses must be taken at the University of Oregon, taken for a grade and passed with a C- or better.

3. Students must take twelve credit hours of laboratory courses. Courses taken from the following list will satisfy the requirement: 526 (Modern Optics Laboratory), 531 (Analog Electronics), 532 (Digital Electronics), and 590 (Advanced Physics Laboratory). Other laboratory courses may be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. The approval for these laboratory courses must be made prior to the time of registration. The laboratory courses must be taken at the University of Oregon, taken for a grade, and passed with a C- or better.

If the student chooses the specific physics course option then all courses for the Master’s degree must be completed within a three year period starting from the time the student enters the physics graduate program.


Department of Physics, University of Oregon

(As Amended through July, 2003)

To obtain a Ph.D. in Physics, a student must meet both University requirements (underlined throughout) and Departmental requirements. The Physics Department may accept for the fulfillment of any departmental requirement work at another institution, results of a special examination, or any other appropriate evidence which substantially meets the spirit of the requirement. The most important requirements are listed below:

1. Three years full-time work beyond the bachelor’s degree with at least one academic year (three consecutive terms of full-time study, with a minimum of 9 completed graduate credits per term) in residence on the Eugene campus after the student is classified (Y) or (D) (enrolled in Ph.D. program).

2. Pass the Master’s Final Examination called Part I of the Ph.D. Qualifying Exams, which is given every Spring and Fall and covers undergraduate physics (mechanics, electricity and magnetism, optics, modern physics and thermodynamics). All candidates must pass the written Master’s Final Examination. In special cases where the candidate already has a Master’s degree in Physics, this requirement may be waived by the Director of Graduate Studies. Normally, students must pass the examination by the Spring of the second year of study.

3. The Ph.D. Qualifying Examination will consist of three parts: Part I will test undergraduate physics, and Parts II and III will test the core of graduate physics (theoretical mechanics, statistical mechanics, quantum mechanics, electromagnetic theory, methods of mathematical physics). Students may pass Part I separately from Parts II and III which must both be passed in the same exam. All three parts of the examination will be offered at the beginning of Spring and Fall Quarters each year. Students are required to pass Part I by the Spring of the second year (of graduate study), and Parts II and III by the Spring of the third year. Students are expected to take Parts of the exam not yet passed every time they are offered beginning in the Spring of the year for Part I, and in the Fall of the second year for Parts II and III. Part I of the Qualifying Examination is the Masters final examination in the requirements for the Master’s Degree. The faculty may make exceptions in special cases.

4. Within one year of passing the qualifying examination, the student must obtain a dissertation research advisor and a Departmental Advisory Committee. Immediately upon passing the examination (or earlier, if possible) the student should identify a prospective advisor and by mutual agreement register for research, PHYS 60l, with that advisor. Within 6 months it should be determined whether the apprenticeship should continue. If the initial pairing is unsuccessful, the student must arrange for another prospective advisor and repeat the trial process. After an advisor has been secured and the trial period has been completed, the advisor will notify the Director of Graduate Studies, who will then appoint a Departmental Advisory Committee for the student. (This committee is different from the Dissertation Committee, which is appointed later.) The committee will normally consist of the advisor and two faculty members in research areas related to the student’s projected research. The chair of the committee, who shall have the responsibility to call and chair meetings of the committee and report to the Director of Graduate Studies, shall normally be someone other than the research advisor and shall be a Physics Department faculty member. The committee will promptly meet with the student to plan future studies. Thereafter, the committee will meet at least annually with the student to review progress towards the degree. These meetings will normally include an oral report and a short written progress report by the student. The written report shall be delivered to the committee at least one week prior to the committee meeting. (In the event that the student is doing research outside of the state, the committee may, at its discretion, modify these procedures appropriately.) The Comprehensive Examination, when it is given, substitutes for one of the Departmental Advisory Committee meetings.  The chair of the Departmental Advisory Committee will report to the Director of Graduate studies (preferably by email) that the meeting has taken place, what the committee projects for the date of completion of the Ph.D and, if the Comprehensive Examination has not yet taken place, for the date of the Comprehensive Examination. The Director of Graduate Studies should be notified immediately of any serious problems.

5. Before taking the Comprehensive Examination, the student is to round out his/her knowledge of physics, and to acquire a knowledge of some area of current research in physics. The formal requirements which must be fulfilled before taking the Comprehensive Examination are:

a. Pass the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination.

b. Demonstrate competence in written and spoken English.

c. Pursue advanced studies in at least 3 areas. Normally the requirement is met by taking a total of at least 6 quarter courses chosen from a minimum of 3 of the groups of courses listed below, including at least one 2-quarter sequence in 2 of the 3 groups chosen. Equivalent courses taken at other institutions may be counted toward this requirement if approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.


PHYS 671-3 Solid State Physics

PHYS 674-6 Theory of Condensed Matter


PHYS 661-3 Elementary Particle Phenomenology

PHYS 634 Advanced Quantum Mechanics

PHYS 665-6 Quantum Field Theory


PHYS 681-3 Atomic and Molecular Physics

PHYS 684-6 Quantum Optics and Laser Physics


PHYS 607 Astrophysics Topics 3 credit lecture courses

PHYS 694-6 General Relativity



Laboratory courses carrying graduate credit, such as

PHYS 526 Modern Optics Laboratory

PHYS 531-2 Electronics and Computer Instrumentation

PHYS 607 Special Topics in Mathematical Physics, or graduate

level courses (numbered 600 or above) in mathematics

relevant to physical theory.


(Prior approval of the Director of Graduate Studies required.)

For students in Biophysics the following courses are recommended:

CH 561, 562, 563 Biochemistry

PHYS 527 X-ray Crystallography

CH 664, 665 Physical Biochemistry

6. The Comprehensive Examination will be administered by a committee formed by increasing the Advisory Committee to five members, including one regular University of Oregon faculty member from outside the Department of Physics. The chair of the Dissertation Committee normally will be the chair of the Advisory Committee. (The augmented committee will be proposed as the Dissertation Committee after the student passes the examination, and therefore its membership should conform to Graduate School guidelines.) The examination can be given any time after the fulfillment of the requirements in (4) and (5), but no later than 3 years after passing the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination. The examination must be scheduled when all five committee members can attend. In unanticipated circumstances the examination may proceed with only four committee members present. However, these four must include the committee chair (and co-chair, if any).

The Comprehensive Examination is normally an oral examination, though it may include a written part also. The oral examination will start with an hour-long presentation by the student of a current problem in physics and a proposal for a research project. The problem area will be subject to prior approval by the committee. The subject of the oral presentation is often, but not necessarily, the student’s current thesis research. At the discretion of the committee chair, a written synopsis of the presentation may be required prior to the examination. The examination will be closed to the public.

Revision — September 1998

The student is expected to understand the background and fundamental physics of the problem and to communicate this knowledge to physicists in other fields. The student will be judged on his or her understanding of the problem, ingenuity, and ability to apply his or her knowledge in the proposed research area. If minor deficiencies emerge as a result of the oral examination, the committee may require additional work, oral examination, or written presentations. Deficiencies must be rectified within a six month period. More major deficiencies may result in disqualification from graduate study, or may require a change in research area.

After passing the Comprehensive Examination, the student is advanced to candidacy by the Graduate School, which then appoints the candidate’s dissertation committee. The candidate cannot graduate any sooner then six months after the appointment of this committee, nor any later than seven years after passing the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination.

7. The Physics Department believes that every student should be capable of giving a lucid talk about physics. Accordingly, sometime during his or her research work (and certainly before submitting a Ph.D. dissertation) the student must give at least one talk in a research seminar or a research group meeting. This talk must be advertised or posted in advance and the audience must include faculty. The talk may cover an item of interest in the research literature or the student’s own work.

8. The Dissertation is the most important requirement. It must embody the results of research and show evidence of originality and ability to perform independent investigation. The student must take at least 18 credits of Dissertation (PHYS 603) after advancement to candidacy in order to graduate.

9. The Final Examination is the defense of the dissertation.

For important regulations concerning the time of notices, final approval of the thesis, etc., consult the University Bulletin and the Graduate School.


The following is a set of recommendations which should be considered in pursuit of a graduate degree. The recommendations apply mostly, but not exclusively, to Ph.D. students. Master’s degree students have a fairly explicit list of requirements which must be met.

I. Course Selection

1. We ask full-time doctoral students to register for and attend the Physics Colloquium, PHYS 607, unless doing so would cause them to exceed 16 credits each term.

2. Most Ph.D. students in physics should sooner or later take the core courses; Classical Mechanics (PHYS 611, 612), Electromagnetic Theory (PHYS 621, 622, 623), Quantum Mechanics (PHYS 631, 632, 633), and Statistical Physics (PHYS 613, 614), preferably before pursuing the required advanced studies in three specialized fields.

3. The core courses should not be taken without a good undergraduate background in the same subjects.

4. Taking four 600-level formal courses at once is too much work for most students. Normal loads are about three courses, although some students have difficulty with this many. Taking four 500-level courses or a combination of 500- and 600-level courses might be considered, but this will require substantial effort.

5. Take formal physics courses graded (the pass-differentiated option). This allows your work to be evaluated more precisely. Unfortunately, P’s in course work are assumed to be C’s by many evaluators. For graduate courses, a P corresponds to B or better.

6. Normally, you should strive to complete the 600-level core courses and specialized studies in three areas within three years of entrance. Exceptions might be Ph.D. students who must first rectify deficiencies in their undergraduate background.

II. Language Proficiency

1. Foreign language proficiency is recommended, but not required for the Ph.D. or M.S. degrees.

2. Fluency in English is required. If you are a foreign student and your English writing ability, and/or reading or listening comprehension are weak, you should consider writing courses like LING 91, 92, 93 or Linguistics courses such as LING 81, 82, 83, 84. (See the catalog for descriptions. You may be required to take some of these courses if your TOEFL score is below 575.) You might be able to arrange for help through the Learning Resources Center or American English Institute also.

III. Research

1. Ph.D. students should consider registering for 1-3 credit hours of research (or reading) as early as Spring quarter of their first year and to continue research involvement in a fairly regular way thereafter. This is done by first identifying areas of potential interest and then finding a faculty member willing to supervise your work in one of those areas. A long-term commitment to a particular research area need not be made until thesis research begins sometime after passing the qualifying exam.

2. Students should register for and attend one research seminar each term in addition to the required physics colloquium. Although students typically understand only a small fraction of the material presented at first, a great deal can be learned through continuing exposure.

IV. Qualifying Exam

1. Take the Master’s exam in the Spring of your first year. You must take it then to be seriously considered for financial support in your second year.

2. In preparing for the qualifying exams, practice problem solving in a variety of areas. Solve past exams. Study formal text material also, but not exclusively. Most problems must be soluble within 20-30 minutes for these exams, so this means physics rather than tedious algebra is emphasized.

Department of Physics, University of Oregon

Guidelines for Termination of Graduate Students

in Degree Programs

(Amended June 1989)

A student will be terminated by the Department if it is determined that he or she is not making satisfactory progress toward a degree and the student does not voluntarily leave the program.

The Director of Graduate Studies will periodically review the performance of all graduate students. Grounds for consideration of termination are the following:


1. Cumulative or term GPA below 3.0

2. N, F or D in any physics, mathematics or other science courses

3. Excessive W’s and/or I’s


4. Failure to pass the Master’s Final Examination by the Spring of the second year of graduate study.


5. Failure to complete all requirements by the end of the third year of graduate study.


6. Failure to pass the Master’s Final Examination (Part I of the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination) by the Spring of the second year of graduate study.

7. Failure to pass the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination by Spring of the third year of graduate study.

  1. Failure to secure a research advisor within one year of passing the Qualifying Examination.

9. Such poor performance on the Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination that the student’s Ph.D. Advisory Committee recommends consideration of termination.

10. Failure, after passing the Ph.D. Qualifying Examinations, to make satisfactory progress toward completing a thesis.

The Director of Graduate Studies will conduct an investigation of a student if any of the grounds for consideration of termination are present.

In this investigation, the Director of Graduate Studies may consult with the student and the student’s advisor, Advisory Committee (if already formed), and instructors. Extenuating circumstances and the strength of the student’s record as a whole will be taken into account. For example, students who spent a significant amount of time taking undergraduate courses to make up for a weak undergraduate background may be allowed extra time.

If the Director of Graduate Studies concludes that the student is not making satisfactory progress toward a degree, the student will be notified in writing that academic disqualification will be recommended. If the student wishes to appeal, the decision will be considered by the student’s Advisory Committee, if it is already formed; otherwise an ad hoc committee will be formed, consisting of at least three faculty members of the Department of Physics and including the student’s academic and/or research advisor. The Committee will consider the evidence assembled by the Director of Graduate Studies, and collect any other evidence it deems may be helpful. The Committee will give a full and impartial hearing to the student. If the committee recommends termination, the student will be given an opportunity to leave the program voluntarily; otherwise formal termination notices will be sent to the student and to the Graduate School.

The decision of the committee may be appealed to the Chairman of the Department. Any further appeals would be outside the Department of Physics.