Progress to PhD

For the Department of Physics, our graduate students under semesters are required to take:

  • One-year Quantum Mechanics sequence (Phys 7501-7502)
  • One-year Classical and Statistical Physics sequence (Phys 7601, 7602)
  • One year sequence consisting of Analytical and Numeric Methods of Physics with Electromagnetic Field Theory (Phys 7701 & 7401)

You need to have an average GPA across the 6 core courses of 3.3 (B+) and any core course in which a student receives a B- or lower grade is required to be repeated for a better grade. This is referred to as the "Physics core course requirement."

     Some students may have already taken an equivalent graduate level core course at another university or institution. In this case the student may request consideration that the core course be waived from the core course requirement. Please email the Graduate Studies Chair and provide a course syllabus,  books used and copy of transcript showing the grades.  This information will be discussed with the relevant core course instructors and then the student will be notified once a determination is made.  

Physics Advanced Topics courses are typically numbered 68xx or 88xx.  In addition to the core course requirement students are required to take at least three semesters of Advanced Topics courses, with at most one of these at the 68xx level. Physics 5810 "Computational Methods" does count as a 68xx level advanced topics course. For 5810 students will need to contact the Graduate Studies Program Coordinator to request manual enrollment in the course before the start of the semester.  

   If a student's advisor recommends that the student takes a course outside of Physics and the student wants this course to count as one of the three required Physics Advanced Topics courses, the student’s advisor should send an email to the Graduate Studies Chair confirming that this non-physics course is important for the student’s research. With this process, one non-physics course at the 4000-level or above will generally be approved to count as one of the required Physics Advanced Topics courses. If a student wants to have a non-physics course below the 4000 level count as a Physics Advanced topics course, or if the student would like more than one non-Physics course to count towards the Physics Advanced Topics requirement, they should discuss this with the Graduate Studies Chair, who may ask the student to prepare a petition that will be discussed with the Graduate Studies Committee.

After you complete your 6 Core Courses, 2 of the 3 Advanced Topics courses and meet the GPA requirements, you are eligible to schedule and complete your candidacy exam.  Candidacy can be scheduled concurrently with your 2nd Advanced Topics course and/or with retaking a core course but should be scheduled late at the end of the term or between terms to verify that you meet the course completion, grade and GPA requirements.  You will need to complete your 3rd Advanced Topics course within 1 year after passing candidacy.

By this point most students would have earned 18 credit hours of Physics Core Courses, 6 hours or more of Advanced Topics Courses, 2 hours of Physics seminars (Physics 6780 and 7891a) and at least 21 hours of Physics 7998 non-thesis independent research for a 2 year, 6 semester total of 47 credit hours. The Graduate School requires students to have completed a minimum of 30 credit hours to be eligible for taking their candidacy exam and this schedule of courses insures that is met.

Selecting your 4 member candidacy committee from the Physics faculty:

  1. Advisor
  2. 2nd faculty in same research area as your advisor
  3. 3rd faculty member is either a theorist or experimentalist in your research area (if your first 2 are experimentalists, you would need a theorist in the same research area and vice versa if your advisor and 2nd member are theorists, you would need an experimentalist in the same research area.
  4. 4th member should be completely unrelated to your research area and can be either a theorist or experimentalist.

           Example: Student is in condensed matter experiment the committee will need to be the student's advisor in CM Experiment, 2nd faculty member in CME, 3rd faculty member in CM Theory and the 4th member from outside of Condensed Matter.

Note that if your advisor recommends a faculty committee member that does not hold any appointment in Physics, you will need to email and petition the Graduate Studies Office for permission to have that faculty member as part of your 4 person committee. Please email your petition request directly to the Vice Chair of Graduate Studies (Prof. Pelz) with copy to your advisor and the Grad Studies Program Coordinator (Kris Dunlap).The Graduate Studies Office encourages most of our Physics grad students to schedule their candidacy exam during their 2nd summer. There are some research areas that this may not be possible and that should be discussed with the Vice Chair of Graduate Studies during the annual review conducted during spring terms. All students are required to pass candidacy by the end of their 3rd year.

The candidacy exam process is 6 weeks and needs to be scheduled to be completed during a current term in order to change your student status from Pre-candidacy to Post-candidacy.  Please see the Candidacy Exam Info page for detailed instructions for how the exam is conducted.

What happens after passing candidacy:

Students should file an Application to Graduate form on to have a Master's degree recorded on their student file.  The Application to Graduate online form will have an option for Master's degree for passing Candidacy and you should select that option.

At this point most students pass into their thesis research with their research advisor. Students begin the term immediately following candidacy registering for Physics 8999 Thesis Research for 3 credit hours only with their research advisor and are now subject to the Graduate School's rule for continuous enrollment for subsequent Autumn and Spring semesters.  Post Candidacy students who may wish to take a term off or need to leave to work on a summer internship could do so during summer term but this should be discussed in advance with the advisor and the Physics Graduate Studies office.

Most students will need to spend another 4 years or 12 semesters  (36 credit hours) working on their thesis research and earning enough credit hours to meet the 80 credit hour minimum to graduate. (Some students will need longer but on average most Physics student complete their PhD in 6 years.)   Note that there is not a minimum number of Physics 8999 Thesis Research hours required for students who started their graduate program with Physics, but a reasonable number should have been earned in the years following passing candidacy. (Students transferring or starting the program with their Master's degree do have different requirements and these will be outlined in the Physics Handbook currently under revision as well as these students are subject to some additional Graduate School rules.)

Your post candidacy period to work on your PhD is limited to 5 years from the date of your candidacy exam but can be extended with a petition form "Committee and Examination Petition" sent to the graduate school using

Some students may wish to take a graduate course sometime between passing candidacy and graduating and in those situations, students should register for the course for 3 credit hours and NOT Physics 8999 Thesis Research. Students should always discuss in advance the course they are interested in with their advisor before signing up for it and if the course is over 3 credit hours, students must have their advisor's permission to exceed 3 credit hours as this does mean a higher tuition cost to the professor.

Students need to have a minimum of 80 total graduate credit hours to apply for graduation.  (Undergraduate courses do not count toward the 80 credit hours.)  Note that as only 30 hours are required for the candidacy exam as well as for applying for your Master's degree, the balance of hours from pre-candidacy will need to be transferred to count toward earning your PhD. The Graduate School has a form for transferring graduate credit hours in excess of 30. 

OSU Travel Policy 

This policy covers that if you would need to travel related to your research for a conference, seminar, workshop or summer school, you MUST enter your travel into the e-Travel system and have it approved PRIOR to your leaving for your trip. Please consult with your research group’s administrative support person when planning your trip.

 Office of Research - Research Compliance

American Institute of Physics  - Statement of ethics and responsibilities of authors submitting to AIP journals:

REV 2/21/24