The Department of Physics and Astronomy grants two degrees:  the Doctor of Philosophy and the Master of Science.  The Department has established qualifications to ensure that all degree candidates have a broad background in experimental and theoretical physics.  In addition, the department (in conjunction with the Department of Chemistry) offers a Chemical Physics track which offers students the opportunity to combine physical and chemical approaches.  A faculty advisory committee is appointed for each student to supervise the program of study leading to the degree. The current areas of research in the department are:  astronomy and astrophysics, biophysics, chemical physics, condensed-matter physics, cosmology and general relativity, and high-energy physics.

Doctor of Philosophy Degree*:

The doctoral candidate must demonstrate proficiency in four core fields: classical mechanics, classical electromagnetism, statistical mechanics, and quantum mechanics, either by achieving satisfactory grades in the relevant courses (A‑ or better in Physics 131 and 153; A‑ or better average in the sequences Physics 145/146 and Physics 163/164) or through special examinations in those fields. However a student whose average grade in classical mechanics (131) and classical electromagnetism (145, 146) is at least A‑ (3.67) will be exempt from the examinations in both subjects. Similarly a student whose average grade in statistical mechanics (153) and quantum mechanics (163 and 164) is at least A‑ (3.67) will be exempt from the examinations in both of those subjects. Graduate courses taken at other institutions may in some cases be used to fulfill part of this requirement.

The doctoral candidate must also complete courses in any two of five specialized fields: astronomy/astrophysics (121 or 122), condensed matter physics (173 or 174), particle physics (183 or 184), general relativity and cosmology (167 or 268), and advanced quantum mechanics (263).

By the end of the second year the candidate must choose a field of specialization and obtain a research advisor. The current research areas in the department are astronomy and astrophysics, biophysics, condensed matter physics, cosmology, general relativity, particle physics, and physics education.

By the end of the third year the candidate must have completed the basic proficiency requirement and taken an oral examination in the chosen specialized field. Satisfactory performance on the oral examination qualifies the candidate to undertake a program of independent research under the guidance of the research advisor, culminating in the preparation and defense of a doctoral dissertation.

Information Regarding Doctoral Qualifying Examination

Doctor of Philosophy, Astrophysics Track*

Students who wish to pursue the doctorate must complete the course requirements for the Master of Science in the Astrophysics track and fulfill additional requirements.

The doctoral candidate must demonstrate proficiency in five core fields: classical mechanics, classical electromagnetism, statistical mechanics, quantum mechanics, and astronomy, either by achieving satisfactory grades in the relevant courses (A- or better in Physics 131, 153, 145, 163; A- or better average in the sequence Astronomy 121/122) or through special examinations in those fields. However, a student whose average grade in classical mechanics (131) and classical electromagnetism (145) is at least A- (3.67) will be exempt from the examinations in both subjects. Similarly, a student whose average grade in statistical mechanics (153) and quantum mechanics (163) is at least A- (3.67) will be exempt from the examinations in both those subjects. Graduate courses taken at other institutions may in some cases be used to fulfill part of this requirement.

By the end of the third year, the candidate must have completed the basic proficiency requirement and taken an oral examination in astrophysics. Satisfactory performance on the oral examination qualifies the candidate to undertake a program of independent research under the guidance of the research advisor, culminating in the preparation and defense of a doctoral dissertation.

Doctor of Philosophy, Physics Education Track*

Students who wish to pursue the doctorate must complete the course requirements for the Master of Science in the Physics Education track and fulfill additional requirements.

Physics proficiency requirement: Each student must demonstrate proficiency in four core fields of physics: classical mechanics, classical electromagnetism, statistical mechanics, and quantum mechanics, either by achieving grades of A- or better in the core physics courses or through special examinations in those fields. However a student whose average grade in classical mechanics (131) and classical electromagnetism (145) is at least A- (3.67) will be exempt from the examinations in both subjects. Similarly a student whose average grade in statistical mechanics (153) and quantum mechanics (163) is at least A- (3.67) will be exempt from the examinations in both of those subjects.

  • Following completion of the core courses, the student shall complete: An oral qualifying examination in physics, similar to that required of other physics doctoral students. This should ordinarily be completed by the 3rd year.
  • A written dissertation proposal, also presented orally to the advisory committee. This should ordinarily be completed in the 4th year.

Doctor of Philosophy Degree, Chemical Physics Track*:

The curriculum requirements for the Chemical Physics track meld those of Chemistry with those of Physics. The curriculum has more emphasis on chemical synthesis than the core program in Physics and more electricity and magnetism than the core program in Chemistry. These greater core requirements are balanced with a greater flexibility in the elective courses. The core program consists of seven graduate-level classroom courses at least three of which must be Chemistry courses and three must be Physics courses. These are to be completed by the fourth semester in residence and include:

o Core courses

  • Two semesters of quantum/structure consisting of either Chemistry 133 or Physics 163 and either Chemistry 136 or Physics 164.
  • One semester of electricity and magnetism consisting of Physics 145 .
  • One semester of statistical-thermodynamics consisting of either Chemistry 131 or Physics 153.
  • One course on structure/bonding, to be chosen from among Chemistry 150 (intermediate organic), 151 (physical organic), 152 (advanced organic synthesis), 161 (advanced inorganic), and 162 (transition metals).

o  Elective courses

  • Two additional courses from among Chemistry 132 (kinetics), 151 (physical organic), or 162 (transition metals) or Physics 131 (Classical Mechanics), 146 (Classical Electromagnetic Theory II), 173 (solid state) or 174 (solid state). Other appropriate courses may be substituted with the approval of the student’s advisory committee.

Two oral presentations are required: a public seminar by the end of the fourth semester and a presentation to the student’s research committee in the fifth semester. The seminar is based on current literature, can be presented in either department and is evaluated by the research committee. The topic for the presentation to the committee is chosen by the student in consultation with the research committee. This presentation maybe waived for students having at least a 3.3 average in the core courses. In addition, the student must prepare a written, original research proposal by the end of the eighth semester. This proposal shall be somewhat distinct from the thesis work and defended orally before the advisory committee.

Further information may be obtained about all programs from the department . E-mail inquiries should be sent to grasp@tufts.edu

*Authoritative requirements can be found in the Tufts Bulletin.

Learning Objectives - Department of Physics and Astronomy (September 27, 2011)
Doctor of Philosophy
1.  Deep understanding and proficiency in the fundamental fields of classical and quantum physics:
Classical Mechanics
Electricity and Magnetism
Quantum Mechanics
Statistical and Thermal Physics

2. Deep understanding of a selected specialized area of physics or astrophysics, including the tools and techniques of research in the field.

3. Familiarity with the fundamental phenomena, concepts and methods of at least one other area outside of the student’s field of specialization.

4. Ability to carry out independent, original research.

5. Ability to communicate scientific ideas and results effectively, orally and in writing, to professional colleagues.

6. Professional skills such as problem-solving, technical writing, collaborating and teaching.