May 27, 2024  
2023-2024 Graduate Catalog 
2023-2024 Graduate Catalog

Doctor of Philosophy in Physics

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Check departmental information for any additional requirements.

The student learning outcomes for this degree are located at


Students seeking admission to the Ph.D. program in physics must have a background equivalent to that attained by acquiring the B.S. degree in physics at NIU. Although the GRE Subject Test in physics is not required for admission, the submission of these scores could enhance their application.

Course Requirements

The Graduate Studies Committee of the department is responsible for approving each student’s program to meet the course requirements specified below. Each student must complete at least 90 semester hours of graduate course work. The committee will assess all work done at other institutions and will recommend acceptance of transfer credit for any graduate work deemed appropriate, subject to the policies of and approval by the Graduate School. The Graduate Studies Committee of the department is also responsible for the administration of the qualifying and candidacy examinations. All Ph.D. students are required to register for PHYS 798, Physics Seminar, for two semesters. In addition, all students are required to complete the following.

Core Courses (15)

All Ph.D. students must successfully complete at least five of the following six courses:

Distribution Requirements (12)

All students are required to take 12 semester hours in physics at or above the 600 level, excluding PHYS 659, PHYS 699, PHYS 798, and PHYS 799, distributed over two areas of the discipline. Up to 9 semester hours of this requirement can be replaced by courses of comparable level in engineering, biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, or geology. If all six of the core courses are successfully completed, then one of them can be applied to this distribution requirement.

Courses chosen to meet the distribution requirement must be approved in each case by the Graduate Studies Committee of the department.

Dissertation (24)

A minimum of 24 semester hours in PHYS 799, Doctoral Research and Dissertation.

Elective Course Work (39)

This may include dissertation work as well as graduate course work in physics and the other natural sciences, engineering, mathematics, and computer science. The courses chosen to meet this requirement are subject to the approval of the Graduate Studies Committee.

Qualifying Examination

A student without a master’s degree in physics is required to pass a qualifying examination which will consist of the proficiency examination for one of the specializations in the M.S. physics program. Students admitted to the program with a master’s degree in physics are exempt from the qualifying examination. Students admitted to the Ph.D. program with a master’s degree in a related field can be exempted from the qualifying examination with approval of the department.

Candidacy Examination

The candidacy examination is a written examination based on the core courses and other graduate courses. The examination is to be taken within one year of completion of the core courses.

Language/Research-Tool Requirements

There are no foreign-language or extra-departmental research tool requirements. The mathematics prerequisites to undergraduate physics courses constitute a sufficient researchtool requirement.

Dissertation Committee

The dissertation committee for each student will be nominated by the chair of the department and appointed by the dean of the Graduate School. This committee will consist of three to five graduate faculty members and will otherwise meet the specifications of the Graduate School. It will be chaired by the dissertation director, who is appointed by the chair of the department and the deans of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and of the Graduate School.

Oral Dissertation Defense

An oral examination on the dissertation will be conducted by the dissertation committee according to Graduate School regulations.

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