header image
Mississippi State University Department ofPHYSICS AND ASTRONOMY

Degree Requirements

MS and PhD Guidelines

At the time of entering the graduate program in Physics, all students are required to take placement examinations in classical mechanics, electromagnetic theory and quantum mechanics. The results of these examinations are used to determine whether the student has the appropriate background to take the 8000-level courses. If a student performs unsatisfactory on an exam, she/he will be required to take the corresponding 6000-level course(s).

Students are required to have a research advisor and begin research within one year after entering the program. Once a student has a research advisor, she/he must form a Graduate Committee and formulate a Graduate Program of Study, both in a timely manner.

Students who will have teaching assignments are required to attend and pass the Teaching Assistant Workshop. International students who will have teaching assignments are also required to attend and pass the International Teaching Assistant Workshop.

We offer the following degree programs:
Master of Science in Physics (MS)
- Thesis Option
- Non-Thesis Option
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
- in Physics (through the College of Arts and Sciences)
- in Engineering, concentration Applied Physics (through the Bagley College of Engineering)

The Guidelines presented here are meant to be highlights. Full rules and regulations of the Graduate School can be found in the Graduate Catalog, which is available at: http://www.grad.msstate.edu. Graduate School rules, procedures and forms are complex, change continuously, and many events have deadlines. There are deadlines for
- Applying for graduation.
- Thesis/dissertation defense or non-thesis comprehensive exam.
- Dean’s signature on thesis/dissertation signature page.
- Initial submission of thesis/dissertation to the Library.
- Final (library-approved) thesis/dissertation to the Library.

Students should check the Graduate Academic Calendar on the Graduate School website. When in doubt about anything, a student should consult with the Graduate Coordinator (Dr. Henk F. Arnoldus, 140 Hilbun, 662-325-2919, hfa1@msstate.edu).

The Graduate School awards the degree (not the Physics Department).
The Graduate School will not award a degree if:
- GPA lower than 3.00 on all graduate courses taken.
- GPA lower than 3.00 on courses on the Graduate Program of Study.
- D or F on Graduate Program of Study courses.
- More than two C, D or F on all graduate courses taken while in the program. This includes courses not on the Graduate Program of Study.
- A grade I (Incomplete) in any course.

Course retake policy:
A student may retake a course if her/his ‘Request to Retake a Course’ is approved. Only one course can be repeated. A record of both courses taken will remain on the transcript, and both grades will be included in the computation of the GPA. No additional credit hours are generated from a repeated course. The higher grade will count for the above rules.

Unsatisfactory performance may lead to probation or dismissal. The details of such procedures are given in the document ‘Physics Policy on Probation and Dismissal’.

Students must be enrolled in at least 9 and at most 13 graduate credit hours (courses numbered 6000 or higher) in Fall and Spring in order to hold an assistantship. This includes possible ESL classes.

Students must be continuously enrolled for at least one credit hour in the Fall and one in the Spring or Summer until all degree requirements are met.

In order to maximize the number of Physics credit hours, the Department strongly encourages students to enroll in 13 credit hours per semester. Students should normally not take more than 9 credit hours of lecture courses per semester. The additional credit hours should be Research, PH 8000 (MS) or PH 9000 (PhD).

Continuing financial support is contingent upon the student maintaining at least a 3.00 GPA and making satisfactory progress towards the degree, and for students with teaching assignments, maintaining a satisfactory teaching performance.

Written preliminary examinations on classical mechanics, mathematical physics, electromagnetic theory and quantum mechanics are required for non-thesis MS students and PhD students. The subjects of these examinations are covered in the courses:

  • PH 8213 Mechanics
  • PH 8233 Methods of Theoretical Physics I
  • PH 8243 Methods of Theoretical Physics II
  • PH 8313 Electromagnetic Theory I
  • PH 6333 Electromagnetic Fields II
  • PH 8743 Quantum Mechanics I
  • PH 8753 Quantum Mechanics II

The examinations on classical mechanics and quantum mechanics are offered just before the start of the Fall semester, and the examinations on mathematical physics and electromagnetic theory are offered just before the start of the Spring semester. If a student fails an exam, she/he is required to take it again the following year. Each exam can only be attempted twice.

Theses and dissertations must be approved by the Library before graduation. For details, see http://lib.msstate.edu/thesis/. The signature page must be approved by the Library before the defense. At least two weeks before the defense, a copy of the thesis or dissertation should be given to the members of the Graduate Committee. The thesis or dissertation should be sent to the Library after the defense, so that comments by the Graduate Committee can be included.

MS-Thesis Option

The MS program is designed to be a two-year program. Students should attempt to select a research advisor and begin research by the end of their first semester in the program. Typically, a thesis is completed in the fifth semester. The Graduate Committee has at least three Physics graduate faculty with the major professor as chair. The student must defend her/his thesis. Students who wish to continue in the PhD program should apply for admission at least three months before the thesis defense.

    Required forms:
  • Committee Request
  • Graduate Program of Study
  • Declaration of Examination/Defense
  • Report of Examination Results
  • Physics MS Thesis Defense Evaluation Form

In addition, two copies of the signature page must be signed.

MS-Non-Thesis Option

The MS program is designed to be a two-year program. The non-thesis option provides a means for PhD-track students to complete their PhD program in a timely manner. The Graduate Committee has at least three Physics graduate faculty with the major professor as chair. The student must take and pass the four written preliminary examinations, after which the student formally takes the oral comprehensive exam. If a student does not pass the four written preliminary examinations, she/he will be encouraged to complete the MS-Thesis-Option program. Students who wish to continue in the PhD program should apply for admission at least three months before the oral comprehensive exam. Students must be simultaneously enrolled in the MS and PhD program by the time she/he passes the fourth written preliminary examination in order for these exams to count for both programs.

    Required forms:
  • Committee Request
  • Graduate Program of Study
  • Declaration of Examination/Defense
  • Report of Examination Results

PhD

All PhD students are strongly encouraged to dual enroll in the MS program, and receive a non-thesis MS in Physics along the way. The Graduate Committee has at least four Physics graduate faculty with the major professor as chair. In addition, in the Physics PhD program, an external graduate faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences must be included, and for the Engineering PhD program a graduate faculty from the Bagley College of Engineering must be included.

Students are required to attempt all four written preliminary examinations within two and a half years after entering the program. If a student does not pass the four written preliminary examinations, she/he will be encouraged to complete the MS-Thesis-Option program. For this scenario, it would be advantageous to be dual-enrolled at the time of the failing of the exams. For Engineering PhD students, her/his Graduate Committee may require a written Engineering preliminary examination.

Within 12 months after passing the written preliminary examination (the pass date is the date of passing the fourth exam) the student has to take the oral preliminary examination. During this exam, the student gives a presentation to the Graduate Committee of the proposed PhD research project. A summary of this presentation should be given to the members of the Graduate Committee at least two weeks prior to the exam. A student may attempt the oral preliminary exam at most twice. After passing the exam, the student will be admitted to candidacy.
Students must take the oral preliminary examination before:

  • June 1 for December graduation,
  • November 1 for May graduation,
  • February 1 for August graduation.
The student must graduate within 5 years after passing the oral preliminary exam (hard rule by the Graduate School).

    Required forms for the oral preliminary examination:
  • Committee Request
  • Graduate Program of Study
  • Graduate Program of Study-Attachment Sheet
  • Declaration of Examination/Defense
  • Report of Examination Results
  • Admission to Candidacy
  • Physics PhD Comprehensive Examination Evaluation Form (Physics PhD only)
  • Comprehensive Examination Evaluation Form (Engineering PhD only)

After completion of the dissertation, the student defends the dissertation to her/his Graduate Committee. This includes a presentation of the research results by the student.

Required forms for the dissertation defense:

  • Declaration of Examination/Defense
  • Report of Examination Results
  • Physics PhD Dissertation Defense Evaluation Form (Physics PhD only)
  • Dissertation Defense Evaluation Form (Engineering PhD only)

In addition, two copies of the signature page must be signed.