Ph.D. in Physics (Physics or Astronomy Track)

The doctoral degree in physics may be completed with an emphasis in physics, or through the Astronomy Track, with an emphasis in astronomy. The degree requirements are similar for the two tracks but the specific coursework requirements differ.  Students who follow the Astronomy Track will receive a designation on their final transcript indicating that they have been awarded the Ph.D. in Physics (Astronomy).

The Doctor of Philosophy program in physics requires a minimum of 72 s.h. of graduate credit, corresponding to coursework at the 3000-level and above. Of the required 72 s.h. at least 24 s.h. must be in physics or astronomy courses at the 5000-level and above (excluding PHYS:7990, PHYS:7992, ASTR:7991, and seminars).

Graduate students who wish to pursue a Ph.D. in physics must pass a qualifying examination in all principal areas of physics at the level of advanced undergraduate work.  The examination, which may be repeated only once, is given each year before the beginning of the spring semester.  Students must pass the qualifying examination before the beginning of their fourth semester of graduate work at The University of Iowa. The qualifying exam is waived for students who have a Physics GRE Subject exam score of 630 or higher.

All Ph.D. students must also pass a Comprehensive Examination; participate in advanced seminars; do original research in experimental physics, theoretical physics, or astrophysics; and prepare and defend a written dissertation based on this work.

Physics Track

The following core graduate level courses are required for the Ph.D. with an emphasis in physics.

Physics Track
Course Title Hours
PHYS:4761-4762 Mathematical Methods of Physics 6 s.h.
PHYS:5710 Classical Mechanics 3 s.h.
PHYS:5730 Statistical Mechanics I 3 s.h.
PHYS:5811-5812 Classical Electrodynamics I-II 6 s.h.
PHYS:5741-5742 Quantum Mechanics I-II 6 s.h.

* (Note: students who pass a written exam are exempt from this requirement)
In addition, each student must complete at least two elective graduate level physics courses at the 5000-level or above (excluding PHYS:7990, PHYS:7992, and seminars):

Astronomy Track

The program of study for the astronomy subtrack consists of courses in the main topics of modern astronomy and astrophysics. Students must complete at least four of the following core graduate level astronomy courses:

Astronomy Track
Course Title Hours
ASTR:6870 Radiative Processes in Astrophysics

3 s.h.

ASTR:6785 The Interstellar Medium  3 s.h.
ASTR:6790 Stellar Astrophysics 3 s.h.
ASTR:6880   High Energy Astrophysics    3 s.h.
ASTR:6781 Galactic Astronomy  3 s.h.
ASTR:6782 Extragalactic Astronomy    3 s.h.
PHYS:7760  General Relativity and Cosmology  3 s.h.
ASTR:7830   Space and Astrophysical Plasma Physics 3 s.h.

In addition, each student must complete at least 6 s.h. selected from the following core graduate level physics courses:

Graduate Level Physics Courses
Course Title Hours
PHYS:5710 Classical Mechanics 3 s.h.
PHYS:5730 Statistical Mechanics 3 s.h.
PHYS:5811-5812 Classical Electrodynamics I-II 6 s.h.
PHYS:5741-5742 Quantum Mechanics I-II 6 s.h.

After a student has a chosen a research specialty, he or she must submit a formal thesis proposal and defend the proposal in an oral comprehensive exam.  The appropriate thesis advisor then becomes the candidate’s general advisor and the chair of the comprehensive and final examination committee.  The comprehensive exam is typically taken within one or two years after beginning research, and must be taken at least one semester prior to the final thesis defense.

Ph.D. candidates are recommended for the degree when they have written and defended their dissertation and, with the approval of their research advisor, have submitted the results for formal publication in a widely distributed, refereed scientific journal.