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September 2006 handbook

University of Oregon Physics Department

Graduate Student Handbook

22 September 2006


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 the Master’s degree here, 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) submitting a written thesis, or iii) taking specific physics courses. Waivers of departmental requirements may be obtained by applying to the Director of 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. degree, if they wish. All others receive a M.S. degree.

General Department Requirements:

  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 grade point average 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. 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 Geometry
    • 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

Options for completion of the Master’s Degree:

The general department requirements are required of all General Master’s candidates. The Master’s requirements can be completed by either passing the Master’s final exam, submitting a written thesis, or taking specific courses. These options are described below.

  • Master’s Examination Option:The Master’s Examination is Part I of the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination and is given every Spring and Fall. It 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.
  • Master’s Thesis Option:Students who choose to submit a Master’s Thesis must complete the following:
    1. Secure a thesis advisor.
    2. Inform the Director of Graduate Studies, who will appoint an advisory committee consisting of three physics faculty members including the advisor as chairman.
    3. The candidate will meet with the committee, which will judge the proposed scope and content of the thesis. Both of these 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 5) may occur no earlier than three months after this committee meeting.
    4. Complete 9 credits of Thesis (PHYS 503) or 6 credits of Thesis and 3 credits of Research (PHYS 601).
    5. 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.
    6. Present a short oral defense of the thesis to the committee.
    7. Submit the thesis in a form acceptable to the Graduate School.
    8. Students must complete the Master’s thesis within three years of the date of admission to the graduate program.


  • 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 term]
      • PHYS 621, 622, 623 Electromagnetic Theory

      Each of these six terms 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:
      • PHYS 526 (Modern Optics Laboratory)
      • PHYS 531 (Analog Electronics)
      • PHYS 532 (Digital Electronics)
      • PHYS 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.


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. The student must complete 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). The grade point average for all graduate work at the University must be 3.0 or better.
  2. The student must pass the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination.Except as noted below, this is a written examination in three parts, all of which are given every Spring and Fall.
    • Part I of the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination is also the Master’s Examination. (See above.) In special cases where the candidate already has a Master’s degree in Physics, the requirement to pass Part I of the examination may be waived by the Director of Graduate Studies. Students are expected to take Part I of the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination every time it is offered beginning in the Spring of the first year of study until they pass the exam, which should normally be by the Spring of the second year of study.
    • Parts II and III of the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination 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. Students are expected to take Parts II and III of the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination every time it is offered beginning in the Fall of the second year of study until they pass the exam, which must be by the Fall of the third year of study.

    Students must pass the Ph.D. Qualifying Exam by the end of the Fall Quarter of their third year in the program, or be terminated from the program. However, students who have not passed all three parts of the written Ph.D. Qualifying Exam have ten days from when the exam results are announced in the Fall of their third year to petition the Graduate Studies Committee for an oral examination. The Graduate Studies Committee shall review the case of the student and, if the student has, in the view of the committee, been making satisfactory progress in coursework and research, shall appoint an ad hoc committee of three professors to administer an oral exam to the student within 30 days of their petition. The student’s research advisor, if any, shall not be appointed to the ad hoc committee.

    This oral exam shall cover any areas that appear weak in the prior written exams, other areas of physics covered in the written exams, and areas of physics that are especially relevant to the student’s research interests. The ad hoc committee shall report the results and its recommendations to the Graduate Studies Committee.

    Based on the results of this oral exam and the totality of the student’s record, the Graduate Studies Committee may rule, after a meeting open to the faculty, that the student has passed the Ph.D. qualifying exam. The Graduate Studies Committee will report the outcome to the faculty.


    Students who entered the Ph.D. program during or before academic year 2004-2005 have the option of following the deadlines specified for passing the Ph.D. Qualifying Exam set out in the 2004 Graduate Student Handbook.


  3. 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.
  4. The student is to round out his/her knowledge of physics by taking at least six graduate physics courses (excluding the core courses PHYS 611, 612, 613, 614, 621, 622, 623, 631, 632, 633) or other graduate science courses as approved by the Physics Graduate Studies Director. These six courses need to include at least one two-term sequence.
  5. The student must pass the Comprehensive Examination.The Comprehensive Examination should normally be taken within two years (and in any case no later than three years) after passing the qualifying examination. It 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 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.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.
  6. The student must present a talk. 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.
  7. The student must write a dissertation. This 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.
  8. The student must pass the Final Examination, which 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.