The Department of Physics
|The Department of Physics offers advanced
degree opportunities in many areas of experimental and theoretical physics,
supervised by a distinguished group of research faculty. Applications are
accepted from students of diverse backgrounds and institutions: graduates
of research universities or four-year colleges, from the U.S. and world-wide.
Most applicants, but not all, have undergraduate degrees in physics; many
have had significant research experience. Seeking to identify the most qualified
students who show promise of excellence in research and teaching, the admissions
process is highly selective and very competitive.
Doctor of Philosophy
During the first year of the doctoral program, a student takes introductory
graduate physics courses and usually serves as a teaching assistant assigned
to one of the introductory or intermediate undergraduate physics courses.
The student is encouraged to explore research opportunities and is also
preparing for the candidacy examination, which is usually taken just before
the beginning of the second year of study. After admission to candidacy
and identification of a research sponsor, the student begins dissertation
research while completing course requirements. Within a year after research
begins, a Ph.D. committee is formed with the sponsor as chairman. A student
continues research, from time to time consulting with the members of the
committee, until completion of the dissertation. The average length of
time for completion of the Ph.D. program in physics is about five and
a half years.
In addition to fulfilling University and divisional requirements, a candidate
for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in physics must:
Master of Science
The graduate program of the Department of Physics is oriented toward
students who intend to earn a Ph.D. degree in physics. Therefore, the
department does not offer admission to students whose goal is the Master
of Science degree. However, the department does offer a masters
degree to students who are already in the physics Ph.D. program or other
approved graduate programs in the University. Normally it takes one and
a half years for a student to complete the masters program. A masters
degree is not required for continued study toward the doctorate.
In addition to fulfilling University and divisional requirements, a candidate
for the degree of Master of Science in physics must:
Part of the training of graduate students is dedicated to obtaining experience and facility in teaching. Most first-year students are supported by teaching assistantships, which provide the opportunity for them to engage in a variety of teaching-related activities. These may include supervising undergraduate laboratory sections, conducting discussion and problem sessions, holding office hours, and grading written work for specific courses. Fellowship holders are invited to participate in these activities at reduced levels of commitment to gain experience in the teaching of physics. First-year graduate students attend the weekly workshop, Teaching and Learning of Physics, which is an important element in their training as teachers of physics.
All formal classwork takes place in the modern lecture halls and classrooms and instructional laboratories of the Kersten Physics Teaching Center. This building also houses special equipment and support facilities for student experimental projects, departmental administrative offices, and meeting rooms. The center is situated on the science quadrangle near the John Crerar Science Library, which holds over 1,000,000 volumes and provides modern literature-search and data-retrieval systems.
Most of the experimental and theoretical research of Physics faculty
and graduate students is carried out within the Enrico
Fermi Institute and the James Franck Institute.
These research institutes provide close interdisciplinary contact, crossing
the traditional boundaries between departments. This broad scientific
endeavor is reflected in students activities and contributes to
their outlook toward research. The research institutes are connected to
the Kersten Physics Teaching Center by an enclosed bridge.
In the Enrico Fermi Institute, members of the Department of Physics carry
out theoretical research in particle theory, string theory, field theory,
general relativity, and theoretical astrophysics and cosmology. There
are active experimental groups in high energy physics, nuclear physics,
astrophysics and space physics, infrared and optical astronomy, electron
and ion microscopy, and modern optics and solar energy concentration.
Some of this research is conducted at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory,
at Argonne National Laboratory (both of these are near Chicago), and at
the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland.
Physics faculty in the James Franck Institute study chemical, solid state,
condensed matter, and statistical physics. Fields of interest include
chaos, chemical kinetics, critical phenomena, high Tc superconductivity,
non-linear dynamics, low-temperature, disordered and amorphous systems,
the dynamics of glasses, fluid dynamics, surface and interface phenomena,
non-linear and nanoscale optics, unstable and metastable systems, and
polymer physics. Much of the research utilizes specialized facilities
operated by the institute, including a low-temperature laboratory, a materials
preparation laboratory, x-ray diffraction and analytical chemistry laboratories,
laser equipment, a scanning-tunneling microscope, and extensive shop facilities.
Some members of the faculty are involved in research at Argonne National
A new interdisciplinary research institute, called the Institute for
Biophysical Dynamics, has been formed at Chicago. It includes members
of both the Physical Sciences and Biological Sciences Divisions, and focuses
on the physical basis for molecular and cellular processes. This interface
between the physical and biological sciences is an exciting area that
we expect to develop rapidly over the next few years, with a bi-directional
impact. Initial research topics include the creation of physical materials
by biological self-assembly, the molecular basis of macromolecular interactions
and cellular signaling, the derivation of sequence-structure-function
relationships by computational means, and structure-function relationships
In the areas of chemical and atomic physics, research toward the doctorate
may be done in either the physics or the chemistry department. Facilities
are available for research in crystal chemistry; molecular physics; molecular
spectra from infrared to far ultraviolet and Raman spectra, both experimental
and theoretical; surface physics; statistical mechanics; radio chemistry;
and quantum electronics.
Interdisciplinary research leading to a Ph.D. degree in physics may be carried out under the guidance of faculty committees including members of other departments in the Division of the Physical Sciences, such as Astronomy & Astrophysics, Chemistry, Computer Science, Geophysical Sciences or Mathematics, or related departments in the Division of the Biological Sciences
Admission and Student Aid
Most students entering the graduate program of the Department of Physics
of the University of Chicago hold a bachelors or masters degree
in physics from an accredited college or university.
December 28 is the deadline for applications for admission in the following
autumn quarter. The Graduate Record Examination given by the Educational
Testing Service is required of all applicants. Applicants should submit
recent scores on the verbal, quantitative, and analytic aptitude tests
and on the advanced subject test in physics. Arrangements should be made
to take the examination no later than December in order that the results
be available in time for the departments consideration. Applicants
from non-English-speaking countries must provide the scores achieved on
the TOEFL examination. A minimum score of 600 with 60 in each subscore,
or, on the computerized version of the test, a minimum score of 250 with
25 in each subscore is rerquired.
All full-time physics graduate students in good standing receive financial
aid. Most graduate students serve as teaching assistants in their first
For an application and detailed information about departmental degree requirements, financial aid, and faculty research interests, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or write to: Graduate Affairs, Department of Physics, University of Chicago, 5720 South Ellis Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637-1434. A departmental counselor will be glad to answer questions. Use URL http://physics.uchicago.edu to access the departments World Wide Web home page for more information.
This text was last revised on 9/02/2003.