Department of Physics and Astronomy



For the Doctor of Philosophy Degree, a student must complete a total of 90 hours of graduate credit including the following:

  • Required courses:
    • PHYS 6/7220 (Classical Mechanics)
    • PHYS 6/7250 (Classical Electrodynamics I)
    • PHYS 6/7320 (Quantum Mechanics I)
    • PHYS 6/7450 (Statistical Mechanics)
    • PHYS 8040 (Physics and Astronomy Professional Development Seminar).
  • 18 additional hours of credit in Physics courses numbered higher than 6100 as approved by the student's committee.
  • 30-60 hours of PHYS 8960 (Ph.D. Thesis Research).
  • Credit in PHYS 6/8010, 6/8020, 6/7030, or 7910 will not count toward degree requirements.

Beyond coursework, the Ph.D. degree requirements include the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination, the Comprehensive Examination, and preparation and defense of a thesis (Thesis Defense). Formal candidacy for the Ph. D. degree requires passing the Qualifying Examination. The Qualifying Examination are normally taken at the beginning of the fall semester, one year after entry, and may normally be repeated once, the following January. The complete policy on the Qualifying Examination is available here.

After passing the Qualifying Examination, the Ph.D. candidate selects a field of specialization. A faculty committee is formed, chaired by the research adviser, to evaluate the student's progress in these matters and to establish an appropriate program of coursework. This committee then administers the Comprehensive Examination, which must be completed no later than the end of the summer after the student's third full year in the Ph.D. program. The Comprehensive Examination is an oral exam designed to: 1. assess the student's grasp of physics at the 6000 level, especially (but not exclusively) the physics needed for dissertation research in the chosen area. 2. assess the student's preparedness to do dissertation research. The time spent in the exam should be divided approximately equally between these goals.

The purpose of the Comprehensive exam is to make sure that the student has a set plan for finishing their thesis work, as well as the background knowledge and skills required for their project. Aside from the topics listed above, the exam usually consists of a roughly hour long presentation of your current work, as well as the work needing to be done that will encompass your thesis project. This includes the number of papers that the student expects to publish, as well as a timeline of major milestones from current day to graduation. The exam is given to the student’s committee members who then decide if any adjustments or additional work are required. Once the committee is satisfied with the student’s plan of action, the comprehensive exam is complete. The student will then have their advisor email the main physics office about their successful comprehensive and that will be the last step. There is no official paperwork to be filled out other than informing the main office of your completion. 

After the student completes the Comprehensive Examination, only the research requirement and Thesis Defense remain. The graduate program ends with the Thesis Defense:  a presentation of the dissertation and its satisfactory defense during an oral examination.


A degree concentration provides students with certification that they have expertise in a sub-field of physics. A concentration for which a student has satisfied the requirements and for which the student has successfully applied before graduation is recorded in the student's transcript upon graduation. It does not appear on the diploma.

Ph. D. in Physics with Concentration in Astrophysics

The Ph. D. in physics with concentration in astrophysics satisfies all the requirements for the Ph. D. in physics while preparing students for a career in astronomy and astrophysics.

Instead of the requirement of 18 hours of credit in physics courses numbered above 6200, this concentration requires:

  • PHYS 6/7810-20-30-40 (Stellar Astrophysics I and II, Galactic Astronomy I and II)
  • Two related elective courses, which may include: PHYS 6/7710 (Atomic Physics), PHYS 6/7720 (Atomic and Molecular Spectroscopy), PHYS 8860 (General Relativity), PHYS 8870 (Cosmology), or other appropriate courses

 In addition, the Astrophysics concentration requires:

  • Three hours of PHYS 6/8980 (Special Topics)
  • A satisfactory dissertation in astronomy or astrophysics with a supervisor who is a member of the Ritter Astrophysical Research Center

Ph. D. in Physics with Concentration in Materials Science

The Ph. D. in physics with concentration in materials science satisfies all the requirements for the Ph. D. in physics while preparing students for a career in materials science.

 This concentration requires:

  • Two core courses in the fundamentals of materials science:

    -PHYS 8540 Structure, Defects and Diffusion
    -PHYS 8550 Thermodynamics and Phase Transformation in Condensed Systems;

  • Two additional elective courses, approved by the student's committee, in the area of materials science and engineering; and
  • A dissertation in a materials-related field with a supervisor who is a member of the Center for Materials Science and Engineering.

Ph. D. in Physics with Concentration in Medical Physics

The Ph. D. in physics with concentration in medical physics satisfies all of the degree requirements for a Ph. D. in physics while preparing students for a career in medical physics. The medical physics-related courses, which total at least 27 credit hours, are provided through the UT College of Medicine. The student’s faculty advisory committee will consist of faculty members from the department of physics and astronomy and the medical physics fields. The committee may also include other members appropriate for this degree. A dissertation research project is chosen that will have relevance to both physics and medical physics. The Ph. D. requirement of 18 additional credit hours outside the core courses will be satisfied by the specified additional graduate courses in physics and in medical physics (College of Medicine).

Last Updated: 11/26/22