Physics (Ph.D., M.S.)
View PDF of Physics Admissions Checklist
Prospective students should use this checklist to obtain specific admissions requirements on how to apply to Graduate School.
Dr. Mary Ellen Zvanut
Renato P. Camata, Associate Professor (Physics); Laser Synthesis, Processing, and Characterization of Nanostructured Materials; Aerosol Strategies in Nanoparticle Research; Hybrid Organic/Inorganic Nanocomposites; Bioactive Nanoparticles and Coatings.
Shane Aaron Catledge, Assistant Professor (Physics); Materials Science, Nanolithography of biomaterials, biosensors, bone regeneration, synthesis and properties of nanostructured super-hard materials; Chemical vapor Deposition (CVD) of diamond films and novel nanostructured coatings for biomedical implants; mechanical properties
Joseph G. Harrison, Associate Professor (Physics); Energy-Band Structure, Electronic Structure of Defect Systems, Simulation of CVD processes and EM Energy Deposition in Tissue.
David J. Hilton, Assistant Professor (Physics); Terahertz Time-Domain Spectroscopy, Correlated Electron Materials, Complex Functional Nanomaterials. High Magnetic Field Spectroscopy, Imaging.
Ryoichi Kawai, Associate Professor (Physics); Condensed Matter Physics Theory, Computational Physics, Science of Complexity
Chris M. Lawson, Professor (Physics); Nonlinear Optics, Fiber Optics, Optical Sensor
Sergey B. Mirov, University Professor (Physics); Experimental Quantum Electronics, Solid-State Lasers, Laser Spectroscopy
Thomas M. Nordlund, Associate Professor (Physics); Structure and Dynamics of Biological Macromolecules, Optical Spectroscopy and Imaging, Photobiophysics.
David L. Shealy, Chair, Professor (Physics); Geometrical Optics, Laser Beam Shaping Optics; Theoretical Optics, High Performance Computing.
Andrei Stanishevsky, Associate Professor (Physics); Nanomaterials and Nanoparticles, Thin Films, Nanostructures, Biomedical and Optical Applications of Nanomaterials and Nanodevices
Yogesh K. Vohra, Professor & University Scholar (Physics); High Pressure Materials Research, Growth and Characterization of Synthetic Diamond, and Nanoscale Materials for Biomedical Applications
Xujing Wang, Associate Professor (Physics); Physics of Complex Systems, Network Biology, Integrative Genomics of Complex Disease, and System Biology of Glycemic Control.
Lowell E. Wenger, Professor (Physics); Magnetic Materials and Superconductors
Mary Ellen Zvanut, Professor (Physics); Electrical and EPR Studies of Insulators and Semiconductors
Students in the M.S. and Ph.D. programs may specialize in any of the areas of interest to the faculty, including experimental physics and astrophysics, theoretical and computational physics, or biophysics and medical applications of physics.
Admission into the physics graduate program is by recommendation of the graduate admission committee of the Department of Physics. The committee takes into consideration GRE General Test scores, prior academic performance, personal statement, prior research experiences, and the letters of evaluation, usually from former instructors and research supervisors.
Beginning the Program
All students must take a placement examination on basic physics concepts before registering for any courses. Upon arrival at UAB, international students may be required to take English as a Second Language course or Scientific Communication courses at UAB during their first year of study.
The student must successfully complete at least 30 semester hours of coursework, including at least four core courses selected from PH 610-611, 650-651, and 671-672 and 6 semester hours of Thesis Research (PH 699). 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 astrophysics, astrobiology, 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 561-562; Electromagnetic Theory, PH 545-546; and Quantum Mechanics, PH 550-551), other physics graduate-level courses, and a minimum of 12 hours of graduate-level courses offered by other departments. The Department of Physics will establish a standing 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.
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 an additional 6 semester hours of coursework instead of a thesis and gives the student an M.S.-degree exit examination.
Students may choose from a Physics Track or Applied Physics Track. All students are required to pass a written qualifying examination covering the areas of classical mechanics, electromagnetic theory, and quantum physics. This examination is to be taken within two terms of completing at least four core courses, PH 710-711, 750 -751, and 771-772. Under no circumstances may the examination be taken more than twice.
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 Graduate Study Committee, chaired by the major advisor, 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. Based on the results of the exam, the Committee will outline a program of study including graduate courses such as computer and/or foreign language competency. The types of courses and distribution of credit hours depends on the PhD track chosen. See below for details. 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: 90 total credit hours
- Twenty semester hours of existing core course work chosen from classical physics, quantum physics, statistical physics, and electromagnetic theory. Two semesters of scientific communications is required.
- Nine semester hours of elective courses in physics
- Directed and Dissertation Research (at least 2 semesters of dissertation research are required to graduate)
Applied Physics Track: total 90 credit hours
- Fourteen semester hours of existing core course work chosen from classical physics, quantum physics, statistical physics, and electromagnetic theory. Two semesters of scientific communications is required.
- Twelve semester hours of elective courses in applied physics
- Three semester hours of applied physics internship
- Directed and Dissertation Research (at least 2 semesters of dissertation research are required to graduate)
Core and elective courses are listed at http://www.uab.edu/physics/graduate/programs-of-study
The following doctoral fellowships are available to the graduate students enrolled in the PhD program in physics at UAB.
NIBIB Supported T-32 Predoctoral Training Grant
National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) has awarded an interdisciplinary predoctoral training grant to UAB that is entitled “Nanotechnology in Biosensors and Bioengineering”. It is a five year program that started on September 1, 2007. Benefits to participating graduate students include: graduate stipends of $25,000 per year, full tuition and health insurance, and a travel award of $1,000 per year. The purpose of this grant is to implement a training program at the interfaces of physics, chemistry, materials science and engineering, and biomedical engineering that will reduce the time from discovery of a new tool in nanotechnology to its application in medical devices, tissue engineering, and biosensors for earliest detection of molecular signatures of disease.
Department of Education – Graduate Assistantship in the Areas of National Need (GAANN)
The U.S. Department of Education has funded the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Department of Physics for three years, 2012-2015, to support the department’s doctoral students in their academic pursuits. The funding released through the fiscal year 2012 Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAAN) program, will support five physics Ph.D. students at a stipend level up to $30,000 depending on the financial need of the applicant as assessed by the UAB Office of Financial Aid. The GAANN program also makes an annual institutional payment of $13,552 per student. The project title for the UAB physics program is “Doctoral Fellowships in Nanoscale Materials and Computational Physics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham”. This distinctive program will lead to a Ph.D. degree in physics involving individualized academic course work, closely-supervised research experiences, optional industrial internships, continuous development of pedagogical and communication skills, and comprehensive supervision and evaluation of teaching performance.
|Deadline for Entry Term(s):||
Each semester Fall
Deadline for All Application Materials to be in the Graduate School Office:
Six weeks before term begins
Number of Evaluation Forms Required:
GRE (TOEFL and TWE also required for international applicants whose native language is not English.)
GRE General Test is required; in addition, subject test is recommended
For detailed information, contact Dr. Mary Ellen Zvanut, UAB Department of Physics, CH 384, 1530 3rd Avenue South, Birmingham, AL 35294-1170.
Unless otherwise noted, all courses are for 3 semester hours of credit. Course numbers preceded with an asterisk indicate courses that can be repeated for credit, with stated stipulations.
501. Instructional Astronomy I. Survey of selected topics in astronomy of the universe, stellar systems, and solar systems, with a focus on preparing to teach. Corequisite: PH501L. 4 hours.
501L. Instructional Astronomy Laboratory. Laboratory for PH501. Corequisite: PH501. 0 hours.
502. Instructional Physical Science. Lecture and discussion in areas of the physical sciences of importance to basic scientific literacy and to current technology, with a focus on preparing to teach. Corequisite: PH502L. 4 hours.
502L. Instructional Physical Science Laboratory. Laboratory for PH502. Corequisite: PH502. 0 hours.
504. Intermediate Mechanics. Intermediate treatment of the kinematics and dynamics of classical systems. Presentation of problem solving techniques is emphasized.
505. Intermediate Electricity and Magnetism. Intermediate treatment of electricity and magnetism including fields, potentials, induction, Maxwell’s equations, circuits. Presentation of problem solving techniques is emphasized.
507-509. Physical Science for Teachers I-III. Concepts of physical science. Laboratory includes evaluation of experiments and equipment for lecture demonstrations. Prerequisite: Permission of instructor. 3 hours each.
520, 521. Introduction to Methods in Theoretical Physics I, II. Vector calculus. Curvilinear coordinate systems; commonly encountered ordinary differential equations and special functions; complex variables and contour integration partial differential equations, including solutions by Green function methods. Prerequisite: Permission of instructor. 3 hours each.
525. Applications of Contemporary Optics I. Applied geometrical optics. Refraction and reflection, paraxial optics, thick lens, matrix theory, optical aberrations, optical systems, and optical design using computer simulations.
526. Applications of Contemporary Optics II. Applied wave optics. Fresnel equations, optical interference, optical interferometry, coherence, diffraction, lasers, and Gaussian beam propagation. Prerequisite: PH 525.
527. Geometrical Optics. Properties of optical systems. Lenses, mirrors, and stops; aberrations; rays and wave fronts, optical instruments; aspheric components. Lecture and laboratory.
528. Physical Optics. Interference and diffraction phenomena; emission, propagation, and absorption of radiation; polarization and dispersion; stimulated emission. Lecture and laboratory.
529. Applications of Optics III. Applied optical interactions with materials–linear and nonlinear polarization phenomena, optical properties of materials, anisotropic optics, electro-optics, and nonlinear optics. Prerequisite: PH 526.
532, 533. Statistical Thermodynamics I, II. Statistical basis of laws of thermodynamics; ensembles and partition functions; quantum statistics of ideal gases, including photons and electrons; applications to solids, real gases, liquids, and magnetic systems; transport theory. Prerequisites: PH 550. 3 hours each.
545, 546. Electromagnetic Theory I, II. Electromagnetic theory approached from standpoint of fields and using Maxwell's equations. 3 hours each.
550, 551. Introductory Quantum Mechanics I, II. Principles of quantum mechanics; their application to particle waves, angular momentum, tunneling, radiation, and selection rules; perturbation and variational methods. Prerequisites: PH 351 and PH 562, PH 352 recommended. 3 hours each.
553, 554. Introductory Solid-State Physics I, II. Properties of crystal lattices, lattice dynamics, lattice imperfections, and bonding energies; electronic properties of dielectrics, semiconductors, and metals; ferroelectric, magnetic, and optical properties of solids. Prerequisites: PH 331 and PH 551 or equivalent. 3 hours each.
561, 562. Classical Mechanics I, II. Kinematics and dynamics, including central forces, rotating coordinate systems, and generalized coordinates; Lagrangian and Hamiltonian. 3 hours each.
567. Special Relativity. Foundations and principles of special relativity with applications to mechanics and electrodynamics. Prerequisites: PH 546 and PH 562.
571. Fundamentals of Spectroscopy. Explanation of phenomena related to rotational, vibrational and electronic spectroscopy of atoms and molecules; operational principals of spectroscopic tools including diffraction gratins, waveguides, and interferometers; basic group theory concepts and notation. Prerequisite: Modern Physics 351 or equivalent.
575, 576. Introduction to Biophysics I, II. Application of physical techniques and analytical methods of selected biological problems. Prerequisite: Permission of instructor. 3 hours each.
581, 582. Laser Physics I, II. Physical principles of laser operation and design. Spontaneous and stimulated emission, population inversion, light amplification, laser resonators, Q-switching, mode-locking, pulse shortening techniques, spectral narrowing, and tunable lasers. Individual types of lasers will be considered. Practical applications of lasers will be treated in detail. 3 hours each.
585. Laser Spectroscopy. Practical applications of lasers and modern techniques and instrumentation in laser spectroscopy.
587. Nanoscale Science & Applications. Physics of electronic, mechanical, and biological properties of materials at the nanoscale level approaching one billionth of a meter. Applications of nanoscale materials in electronic, mechanical, and biomedical systems are emphasized. Special tools in synthesis and characterization of nanomaterials are discussed.
590. Experimental Methods. Design and operation of experimental systems for use in teaching laboratories. 3 hours.
591-593. Advanced Physics Laboratory I-III. Laboratory investigation of topics of modern physics. Prerequisite: Permission of instructor. 1-3 hours each.
610, 611. Classical Mechanics. Applications of methods of LaGrange, Hamilton, Poisson, and Hamilton-Jacobi to such classical problems as central force, small oscillation, and rigid body motions. Prerequisite: PH 562. 3 hours each.
623, 624. Modern Optics I, II. Classical and modern theories of propagation of radiation, interference, diffraction, and dispersion; optical devices, including lasers, holograms, sources, and detectors. 3 hours each.
635. Statistical Mechanics. Interpretation of macroscopic phenomena from microscopic principles; fundamental laws of statistical mechanics; applications to simple equilibrium systems, phase transitions, and transport problems. Prerequisite: PH 551.
650, 651. Electromagnetic Theory I, II. Boundary value and Green function methods for solving potential problems; fields in dielectric, magnetic media, and radiation fields. Prerequisite: PH 546. 3 hours each.
653, 654. Solid-State Physics I, II. Structure and dynamics of solids; optical, magnetic, and transport properties. Prerequisites: PH 553, 554. 3 hours each.
655. Advanced Solid-State Laboratory. Thin film X-ray diffraction, Raman spectroscopy in materials characterization, electron paramagnetic resonance, and thin film deposition. Prerequisite: PH 351.
671, 672. Quantum Mechanics I, II. Discrete and continuous spectra; central force problems; angular momentum and spin; systems of identical particles; perturbation theory; scattering theory. Prerequisites: PH 550, 551. 3 hours each.
673. Applications of Quantum Mechanics. Scattering theory, density matrix, and polarization; applications to atomic and nuclear reactions. Prerequisites: PH 671, 672.
697. Special Topics in Physics. Topics of current interest, such as theoretical physics, computational physics, experimental techniques. May be repeated for credit. 1-12 hours.
698. Nonthesis Research. May be repeated for credit.
699. Thesis Research. May be repeated for credit. Prerequisite: Admission to candidacy. 1-12 hours.
710, 711. Advanced Classical Mechanics I, II. Analysis of dynamics, including rigid body motion, featuring the LaGrange formulation, introduction to the Hamiltonian, formulation, Poisson brackets, analyses in nonrelativistic applications. 3 hours each.
715, 716. Advanced Statistical Mechanics. Applications of statistical laws to modern topics such as quantum fluids, critical phenomena, and nonequilibrium systems. Prerequisite: PH 533 or PH 635. 3 hours each.
732, 733. Growth and Characterization of Thin Films I, II. Basics of vacuum science. Methods of thin film deposition. Nucleation, evolution of microstructure and surface morphology of thin films. Simulation of growth processes. Thin film characterization techniques (SEM/SIM, TEM, SPM, XPS/AES, XRD, optical and mechanical measurements). Laboratory practicum on thin-film deposition and basic characterization of film microstructure and properties. Prerequisites: PH553 and PH554 or permission of instructor. Lecture and laboratory. 3 semester hours each.
740. Physical Applications of Group Theory. Point groups, space groups, and applications in atomic, molecular, and solid-state physics.
741. Mössbauer Spectroscopy. Theory of nuclear gamma resonance phenomena; experimental techniques; computer fitting of Mössbauer data; application to structure chemistry and properties of nuclei.
742. Electron Spin Resonance. Microwave techniques, spin Hamiltonian formalism; applications of ESR to solids.
745. Molecular Spectroscopy. Infrared, Raman, and ultraviolet techniques applied to study of molecular properties, including rotation-vibration spectra and spectra of crystalline solids.
750, 751. Classical Electrodynamics I, II. Static and time-varying fields in vacuum and in matter, radiation fields, solutions and implications of Maxwell's equation utilizing advanced mathematical methods. Prerequisite: PH 546. 3 hours each.
753, 754. Advanced Solid State I, II. Properties of electrons and photons in crystal lattices; electromagnetic interactions with solids; lattice defects. 3 hours each.
760, 761. Methods of Mathematical Physics I, II. Vector and tensor analysis; differential and integral equations; Green functions; variational techniques; linear operator theory; Fourier and Laplace transforms. 3 hours each.
762, 763. Computational Physics I, II. Numerical techniques for solution of differential, integral, and matrix equations of physics; computer simulations of physical phenomena; optimization problems. Prerequisites: PH 545, 551, and 561.
764-767. Directed Problems in Computational Physics. Prerequisite: Permission of instructor. 3 hours each.
771, 772. Quantum Mechanics I, II. Discrete and continuous spectra; central force problems; angular momentum and spin; systems of identical particles; perturbation theory; scattering theory. Prerequisites: PH 550, 551. 3 hours each.
773. Applications of Quantum Mechanics. Scattering theory, density matrix, and polarization; applications to atomic and nuclear reactions. Prerequisites: PH 771, 772. Spring.
791, 792. Seminar in Physics I, II. Topics of current interest in physics, presented by graduate students, faculty, and visitors. Required each term of all full-time graduate students. 1 hour each.
793. Scientific Communications I. Scientific writing exercises and recent topics in physics presented by graduate students in order to provide experience in written and oral scientific communication. 1 credit hour.
794. Scientific Communications II. Scientific writing exercises and recent topics in physics presented by graduate students in order to provide experience in written and oral scientific communication. 1 credit hour.
797. Special Topics in Physics. Topics of current interest, such as group theory, medical physics, computational methods, biological physics, materials physics, optics, and space physics. May be repeated for credit. 1-12 hours.
*798. Non-dissertation Research. Prerequisite: Permission of instructor. 1-12 hours.
*799. Dissertation Research. Prerequisite: Admission to candidacy. 3-12 hours.