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Ph.D. Assessment Plan

Ph.D. Assessment Plan

  1. Statement of Student Learning Objectives
    The Department of Physics and Astronomy has a well-defined program for the learning objectives to be achieved by graduate students.  The program requirements may be found in the on-line graduate student handbook. The objectives of the program, in reference to the degree requirements, are:

    1. The student should have a good working knowledge of  “the foundations of physics”, particularly in fundamental classical mechanics, electricity and magnetism, quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, optics, and special relativity.

    2. The student must have a good working knowledge of the core areas of physics at the advanced level.  These areas are classical mechanics, electricity and magnetism, quantum mechanics, and statistical mechanics.

    3. In addition to the core areas a student should acquire more specialized knowledge of other areas of the discipline. 

    4. The student must be able to orally present research results and to be able to defend his/her ideas and results. 

    5. Finally, 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.

  2. Learning Assessment Procedures
    The assessment of the learning objectives listed in Section 1. of this document is well established in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.  In reference to the list given, these assessment procedures are:

    1. This objective is assessed by our Written Comprehensive Examination which must be passed by all students before becoming Ph. D. candidates.

    2. This objective is assessed and quantified by the grade assignments in the required courses (Course Requirements) in these areas.

    3. To achieve this a Ph. D. candidate is required to take four additional courses beyond the core courses in his/her program of study.

    4. This is fostered and assessed in numerous ways in our department:

      1. The Oral Comprehensive Examination is structured in such a way that, while truly comprehensive, it requires the student to do research and prepare a formal presentation as part of the overall process of the examination.

      2. Students are encouraged (or often required) to present talks at one of our departmental seminar or colloquium series.

      3. Students are encouraged (or often required) to present talks at meetings of professional societies and other conferences or workshops.

      4. The student’s final oral examination, defending his/her dissertation, is one of the most important parts of the program.

    5. The assessment of the dissertation research is continuous throughout the process.  Regular meetings between the student and the major professor or the entire advisory committee occur over the entire research and writing periods.  The entire process culminates in the final oral defense of the dissertation which is rigorous.

  3. The Use of Assessment Results for Improvement
    The Department of Physics and Astronomy has always used the results of the assessment data described above in improving the Ph. D. program.  Often this has resulted in “fine tuning” of the program, for example revisions of courses required of all students and changes in the format of the written comprehensive examination.  Recently, however, the entire program was revised as a result of faculty examination of assessment data described in Section 2.

    Further, assessment in the Department of Physics and Astronomy is an ongoing process, one which is taken seriously.  Each potential Ph. D. student is assigned an Advisory Committee immediately upon his acceptance to the Graduate Program which meets with him/her every semester in order to monitor and assess the student’s progress in achieving the learning objectives.