Graduate Student Handbook

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Contents

General Information

Research Profile

Departmental research programs exist in the following fields: astronomy and astrophysics; atomic, molecular, and chemical physics; condensed matter physics; nuclear and elementary particle physics; statistical mechanics; nanotechnology; and biophysics. Experimental research is conducted in state-of-the-art on-campus laboratories for atomic, molecular, and chemical physics, laser spectroscopy of solids, and material synthesis. Research involving the application of computer simulational techniques to condensed matter physics, material science, and stellar atmospheres is conducted at the Center for Simulational Physics. Astronomical research is conducted with the facilities of the National Radio and Optical Observatories those of NASA, and the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center.

Departmental Colloquia and Seminars

All graduate students are strongly encouraged to attend the weekly departmental colloquia (Thursdays at 4 PM) and to attend and to participate in the many topical seminars presented each week.  All graduate students in the Ph.D. program are required to earn two credits for PHYS 6000, which gives one hour of credit for attendance of weekly colloquia, as part of their program of study.

Advisory Committee

Each student is assigned an Advisory Committee upon entering the Department. The committee consists of the Graduate Coordinator (Prof. Magnani), serving as Chair of the committee, and 2 other faculty members appointed by the Graduate Coordinator. For PhD students, the purpose of this committee is to help in guiding the student through the first two steps of obtaining Ph.D. candidacy: passing the core physics courses and the written comprehensive exam. The student will meet with this committee during his or her first semester of residency. In subsequent semesters, advisement will be done individually with the graduate coordinator but all information and advisement recommendations will be transmitted via email to the committee members by the graduate coordinator and approved before the student is advised; in special cases, it may be necessary to convene the committee.  After the first two steps of the process for admission to candidacy (see below for the other requirements) are completed, the student will have to choose a Research Advisor to do his/her PhD research with.  At this point, the original Advisory Committee is disbanded and the Research Advisor and the student will select a research committee and prepare for the oral comprehensive exam (see below). Graduate School guidelines for composition of Advisory Committees should be followed.

For MS thesis students, the major professor will replace the Graduate Coordinator as the committee chair as soon as the student has chosen his or her field of study (and major professor).  The other two members of the committee may also be replaced if the major professor and student so choose.

For MS non-thesis students, the Graduate Coordinator may remain as committee chair or the student may choose a major professor based on his/her area of concentration.  The other two members of the committee may also be replaced if the major professor and student so choose.

Information for Laboratory Assistantships

Most of the Laboratory Assistantships offered by the Department of Physics and Astronomy are considered to be "4/9 time", in other words, 4/9 of a full weekly workload of 40 hours. The rest of the student's time is expected to go towards his/her studies. The time is divided between laboratory contact hours, grading of lab reports, and grading of exams and homework problems. A typical assignment might include:

  1. Preparation, instruction, and grading associated with 3 two-hour laboratories in introductory courses;
  2. Grading of exams and homework problems under the supervision of a faculty member

The Laboratory Assistant assigned to a laboratory must remain in the lab room the entire lab period in order to help the students best. Prior to meeting his or her assigned lab, each Lab Assistant must have performed the week's experiment and be thoroughly familiar with the apparatus and procedures. At the beginning of each period the Lab Assistant will explain the lab to the students and demonstrate use of the apparatus. In most cases short lab reports are handed in at the end of the lab period and the Lab Assistant grades them and returns them the following week. Special problems can be discussed with Mr. Barnello (Room 327) or Prof. Caillault (Room 237).

The responsibilities as a grader depend largely on the faculty member to whom the Lab Assistant is assigned. In most cases the Lab Assistant (i.e., the grader) grades homework problem sets and exam questions given to him or her by the faculty member. In some cases the grader will be asked to post solutions to the problems. Mr. Barnello is in charge of allocating space for posting such solutions. Immediately after being assigned grading duties, the Lab Assistant should discuss his or her assignment with the faculty member to whom he or she has been assigned.

The assignment of a Lab Assistant to laboratories and grading duties is made by Prof Caillault and Mr. Barnello during the first week of classes. Prof. Caillault is the supervisor of the Lab Assistants in all of their instructional duties. Questions, problems, and requests may be discussed with him at any time.

The performance of all Lab Assistants will be evaluated annually. If a student's performance is judged to be unsatisfactory at any time, the assistantship will be terminated.

Any graduate student who is put on academic probation will lose his/her GLA. This does not affect research assistantships or temporary awards of GLA if there is a shortage of students to teach. When the student is no longer on academic probation, he/she is eligible to apply for a GLA position; priority will be given to these students over new students (to whom a commitment has not been made) but not over any current GLA.

In addition to the Lab Assistantship funds, there are also Research Assistantship funds available from some of the faculty. These Research Assistantships are funded by Federal and/or State Research funds.

Stipends are at two levels.  For the 2008-9 school year, applicants admitted into the Ph. D. program will be paid $15,000 for the academic year ($1500/month for ten months) and will be guaranteed at least $2000 in summer support.  Applicants admitted into the M. S. program will receive a bit less for the academic year.  In addition to the stipend, tuition is waived for students with assistantships; graduate assistants pay only fees (approximately 438

REQUIREMENTS FOR THE MS DEGREE IN PHYSICS AND ASTRONOMY

As with our Ph.D. program, all schedules must be approved by the advisory committee before the beginning of each semester. The graduate school requires all students to maintain a GPA of 3.0 or above; the Department of Physics and Astronomy imposes no additional grade requirements for MS students.

There are 2 MS degrees available in our department: a Thesis option and a Non-Thesis option.

MS Thesis Option Requirements

A student must take a minimum of 24 in-class hours and 6 thesis-research hours. 12 of the in-class hours must be at the 8000 level, as required by the graduate school. We require that 3 of the following 4 courses be taken: PHYS 8011, PHYS 8101, PHYS 8102, and PHYS 8201; in addition, 5 more PHYS or ASTR courses must be taken at the 6000 or 8000 level (at least one of these courses must be at the 8000 level).  Of course, a thesis must be written and defended to the student's committee.  It is at this time that a total of at least 6 hours of PHYS 7000 and PHYS 7300 must be taken.

MS Non-Thesis Option Requirements

A student must take a minimum of 30 in-class hours. We require that the following 5 courses be taken: PHYS 8011, PHYS 8101, PHYS 8102, PHYS 8201, and PHYS 8301.  In addition, 3 more PHYS or ASTR courses must be taken at the 6000 or 8000 level and will constitute the student's area of concentration.  Finally, 2 more courses must be taken at the 6000 or 8000 level outside the department but in a related field.

The student must file an application for admission to candidacy for the MS degree after having completed the following:

  1. Program of Study approved by the Advisory Committee and the Dean of the Graduate School.
  2. A GPA of 3.0 or better has been maintained in all graduate courses taken and in the courses in the program of study.

The application for admission to candidacy must be filed with the Dean of the Graduate School by the end of the 1st week of classes of the student's final semester in which courses on the Program of Study will be completed. Application forms may be obtained from the graduate secretary.

An application for graduation must be filed with the Registrar's Office no later than Friday of the 1st full week of classes 2 semesters prior to the anticipated graduation date. The Registrar's Office requires that an application fee of $10.00 must be paid by MS candidates.

REQUIREMENTS FOR THE PH.D. DEGREE IN PHYSICS AND ASTRONOMY

Written Comprehensive Exam

The Written Exam will be offered two times a year, once in January and once in August over a two-day period before classes begin. The student will be given a total of 8 hours (4 each day) to complete the exam which will consist of 10 problems (5 each day) covering material ranging from introductory calculus-based physics to advanced topics in a typical student's undergraduate physics education (example tests are available). The first day consists of problems from Classical Mechanics, Electromagnetic Theory, and Optics.  The second day consists of problems from Modern Physics, Quantum Mechanics, and Thermodynamics.  The exam must be taken by incoming students before they begin classes if they have had the necessary undergraduate preparation (in other words, if they are ready to take the standard 8000-level physics course sequence in their first semester at UGA).  If, after consultation with the Graduate Coordinator, the students are advised to take any 6000 level course to address a deficiency in their undergraduate physics preparation, then they may postpone their first attempt at the written exam until the remedial courses are completed.  The written exam must be taken in consecutive semesters until both days are passed.   Passing scores are based on successfully completing at least 3 of the 5 problems on a given day.  If a particular day is passed on a given attempt, it does not have to be retaken the next semester.  A maximum total of 4 attempts is permitted for each student for each day of the written exam.  If a student cannot pass both days of the written exam after a maximum of 4 attempts, then the student will not be permitted to continue for the PhD degree and will have to either switch to an MS degree program or leave the Department. 

Course Requirements

Six core courses are required for the Ph.D. degree: 

Classical Mechanics (PHYS 8011)
Quantum Mechanics I & II (PHYS 8101-2)
Electromagnetic Theory I & II (PHYS 8201-2)
Statistical Mechanics I (PHYS 8301)

The Department requires that a student achieve a GPA of 3.0 in these "core" courses; the Graduate School requires an overall GPA of 3.0. The Departmental probation policy is the same as the Graduate School's.

In addition, all first-year students are required to take 2 credit hours of  the lab rotation course, PHYS 8990, each semester.  In these courses the student will work with two different professors or groups each semester for periods of one half semester. The purpose of this requirement is to allow students to sample research areas and become acquainted with the faculty, students, and research associates and the research areas in the department.

As noted above, 2 credit hours of PHYS 6000 are required of all students.  It is strongly recommended that this requirement be satisfied during the student's first year of study. In the second year, students will be expected to take the Physics Journal Club course (PHYS 8950). The department offers numerous special topics courses.  In addition, many graduate courses in other departments can be valuable to a student's education.  The student will have to take at least three electives by the end of his/her fourth year. The student's Advisory Committee may add additional specific courses to the Program of Study which both enhance the background in his/her research area and provide diversity in his/her overall program.

Exemption of Parts or All of the Core Curriculum

A student who wishes to be considered for exemption of any of the core course requirements will be required to take the written comprehensive exam just prior to the student's first semester of residence (August, if matriculating in the Fall semester, January for the Spring semester). The Graduate Coordinator will notify the student well in advance of the exam dates.

Based on the student's performance on the written exam and the student's transcripts, the advisory committee will decide what coursework may be exempted. Irrespective of how many courses are exempted, the student is still required to take a minimum of 30 hours at UGA (a graduate school minimum). The student must also maintain a GPA of 3.0 or above in his or her program of study as stipulated by the graduate school.

If the student's performance on the written exam is judged to be unsatisfactory, then he or she will have forfeited his or her rights to waiving any of the core. The student would then be required to take the core in its entirety. 

Part or all of the requirement for PHYS 8990 may be waived by the student's Advisory Committee. Only students who have affiliated with a research group and chosen a major professor may petition for this waiver.

Oral Comprehensive Exam

 

The oral exam will be a presentation of the student’s PhD research proposal. The research committee will attend the presentation and then register a vote of "pass", "fail", or "conditional" for the first attempt.   If two or more votes are "fail", then the student will have failed the oral exam and will not be admitted to PhD candidacy.  If two or more votes are "conditional", or if one vote is "fail", and one or more votes are "conditional", then the student will have to repeat the exam within four weeks of the first attempt. On the student's second attempt, the committee members must register a vote of "pass" or "fail" only, with two or more "fail" votes meaning the student has definitively failed the oral exam (there is no third attempt) and will not be admitted to PhD candidacy.  If the student is not admitted to PhD candidacy, the student’s options are 1) leave the department; 2) stay in the department but be switched to the MS program, either thesis or non-thesis.

 

 

 

Additional Ph.D. Degree Information

A preliminary program of study, developed by the major professor and the doctoral student and approved by a majority of the advisory committee, will be submitted to the graduate coordinator by the end of the student's first year of residence. The program of study should consist of 16 or more hours of 8000- and 9000-level courses in addition to research, dissertation writing, and directed study.

The program of study for a student who bypasses the master's degree must contain 4 semester hours of University of Georgia courses open only to graduate students in addition to 16 semester hours of 8000 and 9000 level courses. Doctoral research (9000), independent study courses, and dissertation writing (9300) may not be counted in these 20 hours.

The student must file an application for admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree after having completed the following:

  1. Program of Study approved by the Advisory Committee and the Dean of the Graduate School.
  2. A GPA of 3.0 or better has been maintained in all graduate courses taken and in all of the "core" courses.
  3. Written and oral comprehensive exams have been passed.
  4. The Graduate School's residency requirement has been met.
  5. Find a professor who agrees to become the student's research advisor.

Application forms may be obtained from the graduate secretary.

A candidate for the Ph.D. must present a dissertation to his or her major professor on a subject connected with Physics and/or Astronomy. The dissertation must represent originality in research, independent thinking, scholarly ability, and technical mastery of the chosen subject. Its conclusion must be logical, its literary form must be acceptable, and its contribution to knowledge should merit publication.

An application for graduation must be filed with the Registrar's Office no later than Friday of the 1st full week of classes 2 semesters prior to the anticipated graduation date. The Registrar's Office requires that an application fee of $25.00 must be paid by Ph.D. candidates.