Department of Physics

M.S. Program

Plan I

The student must successfully complete at least 30 semester hours of coursework, including the four core courses PH 635, 650, 671, and 660, and 6 semester hours of Thesis Research (PH 699).  Also included is the course, Responsible Conduct in Research offered by the Graduate School.

The student must also write and complete a successful oral defense of a thesis under the direction of a graduate faculty member. Additional coursework should be selected with the advice of the student's graduate study committee to meet the particular needs of the student.

An interdisciplinary track for an M.S. degree Plan I is also offered. Students admitted to this track will typically hold a bachelor's degree in a science area other than physics, such as astronomy, biology, chemistry, geology, mathematics, or psychology, or an engineering degree, including optics and materials science. Thesis research will be in an interdisciplinary area, including biophysics, chemical physics, geophysics, mathematical physics, neurophysics, optics, materials science, or engineering physics. Students awarded an M.S. degree within this track will be prepared for an Assistant Research Physicist position, including qualification for co-authorship, and would typically work under the direction of a doctoral-level person. The acquired skill would be highly marketable, as individuals trained in multidisciplinary areas for basic and applied research are increasingly in demand in industry, government laboratories, and other research institutions.

Acceptance into this interdisciplinary track will be through a Physics Graduate Faculty member, who will be prepared to supervise the student's thesis research and develop a plan of study. This plan of study will include a core of courses (Classical Mechanics, PH 561; Electromagnetic Theory, PH 545-546; and Quantum Mechanics, PH 550-551), 6 hours of physics graduate-level courses (PH635-PH672), and a minimum of 6 hours of graduate-level courses offered by other departments. The Department of Physics will establish a Physics Interdisciplinary Track Committee to review and concur in each student's plan of study. As is current practice, thesis oversight will be by the student's M.S. Graduate Study Committee.

Plan II

With approval of the physics graduate program director, a nonthesis option (Plan II) is available for all tracks in the Masters program. In this case, the graduate study committee requires the same total credit hours as for Plan I, but does not require 6 semester hours of Thesis Research (PH699).  The committee gives the student an M.S.-degree exit examination upon successful completion of the coursework.

Ph.D. Program

All students are required to pass a written qualifying examination covering the areas of statistical mechanics, electromagnetic theory, and quantum physics. All students are required to take the following core courses:

  • PH760 Methods of Mathematical Physics I (3 CH, 1 semester)
  • PH715 Advanced Statistical Mechanics (3 CH, 1 semester)
  • PH750 Classical Electrodynamics I (3 CH, 1 semester)
  • PH771 Quantum Mechanics I (3 CH, 1 semester)
  • PH 793-794 Scientific Communications I, II 2 credit hours

In addition, GRD717, Responsible Conduct in Research, must be taken prior to completing the qualifying exams described below. Students are encouraged to take the course during their first summer semester in the PhD program.

A qualifying examination is given to test a student’s competency in fundamental areas of Physics. This examination is divided into three sections: statistical mechanics, electromagnetic theory, and quantum physics. Each exam must be taken at the first offering following the completion of the related core course, PH 715, 750, and 771. PH760 should be passed before any of the qualifying exams. The examination may not be taken more than twice. Scientific communications, PH 793 and PH794, must be taken at the first offering following the completion of the qualifying examinations.

Following satisfactory completion of the qualifying examination and consultation with individual faculty members, the student selects a specific area for dissertation research under the supervision of an appropriate graduate faculty member. The student's Graduate Study Committee, chaired by the major advisor, will outline a program of study including at least four graduate courses and appropriate tools of research, such as computer and/or foreign language competency. After the student completes these specialization courses and tools of research, the Graduate Study Committee will administer an oral examination to test the student's knowledge in the area of research. The student must pass this oral examination in no more than two attempts. Then, with direction from the major advisor, the student should focus on formulating and writing a formal research proposal that must be presented and defended before the Graduate Study Committee; this should lead to a recommendation from the committee for admission to candidacy. Dissertation research culminates in the successful oral defense of the dissertation.

Physics Track

For students entering with a B.S. degree, the program requires a total of 72 credit hours distributed as follows:

  • Fourteen semester hours of core course
  • GRD 717 (3 credit hours)
  • PH 752, Light-Matter Interactions (3 credit hours)
  • Three credit hours of elective courses approved by dissertation committee and/or graduate program director
  • Participation in Colloquium (1 credit hour/semester)
  • Directed and Dissertation Research (at least 2 semesters of dissertation research are required to graduate)

For information about transferring credits from a Masters of Science program, please contact the department.

Applied Physics Track

For students entering with a B.S. degree, the program requires a total of 72 credit hours distributed as follows:

  • Fourteen semester hours of core course
  • GRD 717 (3 credit hours)
  • PH 747 Applied Physics Internship (3 credit hours)
  • Participation in Colloquium (1 credit hour/semester)
  • 3 credit hours of elective courses approved by dissertation committee and/or graduate program director
  • Directed and Dissertation Research (at least 2 semesters of dissertation research are required to graduate).

For information about transferring credits from a Masters of Science program, please contact the department.

Elective Courses for the Applied Physics Track

  • PHY 792: Cell Interactions with Biomaterials. 3 credit hours
  • PH 753-754: Advanced Solid State Physics. 6 credit hours
  • MSE 743-744: Materials Characterization I and II. 6 credit hours
  • PH 732-733: Growth and Characterization of Thin Films I, II. 6 credit hours
  • BME 590: Tissue Engineering. 3 credit hours
  • PH 587: Nanoscale Science and Applications. 3 credit hours
  • PH 575-576: Introduction to Biophysics I, II. 6 credit hours
  • PH 581-582: Laser Physics I, II. 6 credit hours
  • PH 585: Laser Spectroscopy. 3 credit hours
  • PH 525-526: Applications of Contemporary Optics I, II. 6 credit hours

Course Descriptions

Descriptions of all graduate courses offered in the Department of Physics can be found in the UAB Graduate Catalog along with links to graduate courses offered in other graduate programs at UAB.