The Department of Physics offers the opportunity for students to pursue a Ph.D. in many areas of experimental and theoretical physics. Entering students typically have undergraduate degrees in physics or related fields, and are drawn from the most qualified applicants from around the world. The department does not offer a terminal master's program; however, a student can specialize in physics in the master's program offered by the Physical Sciences Division.
Applications are normally accepted September 1 through December 28. Please complete your application and submit it online at the following URL: https://apply-psd.uchicago.edu/apply/ . When you create your application account, you will be able to access the Physics Department's admission requirements and related information. All our graduate students begin in the autumn quarter; there are no mid-year admissions.
When you fill out your application, please pay special attention to the "Physics Supplement" page. Make sure that you indicate your area(s) of research interest. Students interested in working with advisors in the Institute for Molecular Engineering should indicate so in the personal statement. Also, please do not submit your application until it is complete.
Please direct questions about the admissions process to Ms. Nobuko McNeill, Assistant to the Chairman for Graduate Affairs/Admissions, firstname.lastname@example.org, 773-702-7007. Please direct questions about academic matters to Dr. David D. Reid, Executive Officer, email@example.com, 773-702-3067.
General Admissions Information
For admission to the doctoral program in Physics, a bachelor's degree in any physical science or engineering is required. The General GRE and the Advanced Physics GRE tests are both required. The average GRE Subject Test score for the Class of 2012-13 was 846, and 115 students were admitted from 551 applicants. Students from non-English speaking countries are required to demonstrate proficiency in English via the TOEFL or the IELTS examination. The University of Chicago requires a non-refundable graduate application fee of $55. All admitted graduate students are appointed as teaching or research assistants with full financial aid. The Department of Physics also awards a few special fellowships.
IMPORTANT: Applicants are to enter all the information being requested before submitting the application form. This includes your GPA and the required test scores (GRE and TOEFL). We strongly recommend that you take the GRE Physics Subject Test administered on October 13, 2012, and the General Test as early as possible. Please log in to the following URLs to get the details on the GRE and the TOEFL schedules and related information: http://www.ets.org/gre and http://www.ets.org/toefl (for international students).
During the first year of the doctoral program, a student typically takes introductory graduate courses and usually serves as a teaching assistant. The student is encouraged to explore research opportunities and is also preparing for the candidacy examination, which is usually taken in the spring of the first year or just before the beginning of the second year of study. After admission to candidacy and identification of a research sponsor, the student begins dissertation research while completing course requirements.
Interdisciplinary research leading to a Ph.D. degree in physics may be carried out under the guidance of faculty committees including researchers from other departments such as Astronomy and Astrophysics, Chemistry, Computer Science, Geophysical Sciences, Mathematics, and Statistics. Opportunities also exist for student to perform dissertation research in laboratories in Biological Sciences Division, at Argonne National Laboratory, the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, or the new Institute for Molecular Engineering.
In addition to fulfilling University and Divisional requirements, a candidate for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in physics must:
- Pass the candidacy examination. This examination covers fundamental material usually studied in upper-division undergraduate courses and requires some knowledge of particles and fields and of the structure of matter. The candidacy examination is given twice per year, every spring and autumn, and must be passed within two years of the time of matriculation.
- Fulfill the experimental physics requirement by completing Advanced Experimental Physics (PHY 33400) or a Special Experimental Project (PHY 33500).
- Pass four post-candidacy advanced graduate courses devoted to the broad physics research areas of (A) Condensed Matter Physics, (B) Particle Physics, (C) Large-Scale Physics, and (D) Intermediate Electives. The four courses selected must include at least one from each of the categories (A), (B), and (C).
- Pass two other advanced (40000-level) courses either in physics or in a field related to the student’s Ph.D. research.
- Successfully defend his/her dissertation.
- Submit for publication to a refereed scientific journal the thesis which has been approved by the Ph.D. committee or a paper based on the thesis.
The average length of time for completion of the Ph.D. program in physics is about five and a half years.
For more details concerning our graduate program, please consult the Graduate Catalogue or contact either the Assistant to the Chairman for Graduate Affairs/Admissions or the Executive Officer. For more information on research opportunities please see our research page. You may also consult our entry in the AIP Grad Programs Book.