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Program Director

Charles A. Nelson
Office: S2-408; SN 2010
Phone: (607) 777-4317

How to apply to the Physics Graduate Degree Program:

Highlights from Graduate Student Handbook

A printed copy of the student handbook is available in the department office.

General information

Physics Department offers the doctorate (PhD) as well as the masters (MA, and MS) degree in Physics. The PhD is awarded for original investigation leading to a significant advance of knowledge in a specialized areas such as Condensed Matter Physics, Applied Physics and Materials Science. Our faculty and staff are strongly committed to providing support for every student in their education and research.

The Physics Department at Binghamton University offers a two-year master's degree in physics, generally based upon a research thesis. Our goal is for students, upon completing their degree, to be able to choose between working as a physicist, or continuing in a PhD program.

Our department offers relatively small classes in the core curriculum of graduate physics. Elective graduate courses include solid state physics, condensed matter physics/materials science and more specialized seminars such as electronic thin-film science. Applicants from smaller colleges have been successful in our two-year program which includes integrated undergraduate-graduate quantum mechanics, electricity and magnetism, and special topics courses. We encourage early assimilation of students into research groups.

Graduate assistantships are available for full-time graduate students. Generally new students begin with teaching assistantships, though a number of research assistantships are also available. National Science Foundation (NSF) fellowships are also available. Fall funding for graduate applicants will be considered beginning January 15 and continue until positions are filled. Throughout the spring semester, we welcome applications and campus visits.

Current physics teaching assistantships  include a stipend of $23,000 for 9 months, in addition to a tuition waiver. Binghamton area living expenses are significantly less than those in larger metropolitan areas. There is additional support for summer term.

For more detailed information, consult the University Bulletin. The link is provided under the Quick links in this page.

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Admission Requirements

Normally, an applicant for graduate study must have a bachelor's degree and a record that indicates a proficient level of scholarship. Specialization in physics or related fields at the undergraduate level is desirable but not essential for admission. Graduate Record Examination scores for the general  tests are required in evaluating applicants. The physics subject test is not required but will strengthen your application. Potential applicants are encouraged to contact the director of graduate programs in the department for further information or for answers to specific questions about admission procedures.

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Doctor of Philosophy in Physics

Upon completion of the PhD Program, the graduates will be able to lead efforts in acedemia and industry in the areas of condensed matter physics, applied physics and materials science. The graduates receive their degree having made significant contributions to advance knowledge in particular area of research. Courses and seminars provide necessary background in the basic principles, methods and theories of physics. Initial research emphases will be in the energy sciences, biophysics, and information sciences with the intent to leverage significant research infrastructure investment recently established under the Small Scale Systems Integration and Packaging Center at Binghamton University.

Most of the basic graduate courses in a student’s program should be taken during the first year of residence. Proficiency in Solid State Physics, Quantum Mechanics, Electrodynamics, Statistical Thermodynamics and Communication Skills will be attained through classroom study, research and teaching. 

The requirements for the doctoral degree include a total of at least twenty-four credit hours of course study (six to eight courses) and at least twenty-four additional credits of dissertation work. The specific course requirements will be determined in consultation with the student's guidance committee (a committee consisting of three Physics faculty members, one of whom is the student’s principal advisor). These course requirements must be approved by the graduate program committee, and will normally include those expected for the Masters degree in Physics.

PhD required courses:

These course requirements must be approved by the graduate program committee, and will normally include

  •   PHYS 522 – Electrodynamics I
  •   PHYS 524 – Quantum Mechanics I
  •   PHYS 527 – Graduate Lab
  •   PHYS  572 – Solid State Physics
  •   PHYS 592 – Communications
  •   PHYS 631 – Statistical Mechanics I

 Most of the basic graduate courses in a student's program should be taken during the first year of residence. Proficiency in Solid State Physics, Quantum Mechanics, Electrodynamics, Statistical Thermodynamics and Communication Skills will be attained through classroom study, research and teaching. To advance to doctoral candidacy, each student will be required to demonstrate competency in these core areas via a written Qualifying Exam and through the oral defense of a written research proposal. Students will, under the guidance of a faculty member, conduct independent research publishable in an archival journal, and communicate their results in dissertation and presentation forms (PHYS 592). All students will be required to write a dissertation and defend it in a public oral defense before their guidance committee.


Students will generally enroll full-time and complete the degree in four to six years. Typically this will involve two semesters of first year graduate courses and a teaching assistantship in introductory Physics courses. All graduate students in Physics attend and participate in seminars presented by fellow students, faculty, and visiting scientists, and attend professional meetings (PHYS 501). The second year in the program may be seen as transitional, including elective courses and potentially a second year of a teaching assistantship, with a growing focus on a research problem. By the end of the second year, the preliminary examination, including a presentation of a proposed dissertation topic, is completed. Dissertation research, writing a dissertation and a public defense complete the degree requirements. 

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Master of Science in Physics

This program is for students seeking careers in applied physics or in research and development in industrial laboratories. It is also intended for technical personnel in industry who wish to attain a higher level of understanding of the physical principles on which modern technology is based.

The MS degree requires the completion, with at least a B average, of 30 credit hours of graduate work and satisfactory performance on a comprehensive examination, or the completion and defense of an acceptable thesis. The courses are normally selected from the required courses (shown below) and other graduate courses offered by the department. A number of courses within the Physics Department have been designed with an emphasis in applied physics. A student’s selection of courses must have the prior approval of the Graduate Committee.

Under the examination option, the candidate must pass a comprehensive examination prepared by the Graduate Committee, covering the basic principles of physics and applied physics and the student’s special area of interest.

Under the thesis option, no more than six credit hours of PHYS 599 may be counted toward the 30-credit requirement for the degree. After submission of the thesis, the candidate must pass an oral examination on the material pertaining to the research area. 

The following courses are normally required as part of the 30-credit requirement:

          • PHYS 521 Analytical Dynamics
          • PHYS 522 Electrodynamics I
          • PHYS 524 Quantum Mechanics I
          • PHYS 527 Graduate Laboratory (This requirement may be waived if a comparable course is included in previous coursework.)

The following courses have been designed with an emphasis in applied physics. PHYS 511, 514, 563 or 572 may be substituted for PHYS 521 and/or 524 listed above. 

          • PHYS 511 Statistical Thermodynamics
          • PHYS 514 Methods of Theoretical Physics
          • PHYS 563 Coherent Optics
          • PHYS 565 Laser Physics and Quantum Electronics
          • PHYS 567 Integrated Optics and Electro-Optics
          • PHYS 569 Non-Linear Optics
          • PHYS 572 Introduction to Solid State Physics
          • PHYS 573-574 Applied Solid State Physics and Devices I, II
          • PHYS 581 Contemporary Topics in Applied Physics

Because of the breadth of the field of applied physics, each student’s coursework is carefully planned to tailor the program to meet the individual’s particular interests and needs. All students, on entering the program, meet with the director of graduate programs to plan their curriculum, and the department’s graduate committee oversees students’ progress. 

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Last Updated: 1/7/19