Carnegie Mellon University

5000 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213, United States of America


The Physics Department at Carnegie Mellon University offers a broad range of OPTIONS FOR UNDERGRADUATES, a strong GRADUATE PROGRAM, and cutting-edge RESEARCH.

We work on CMS at the Large Hadron Collider; on the KATRIN experiment that aims to measure neutrino mass; on experiments at JLab that probe nucleon structure; on a wide variety of cosmic surveys from optical to microwave; on nanophysics here and at the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne; and on biological membrane structure here and at NIST. Our theorists work with pencil and paper, with experimental colleagues, with the largest computers in the world, and with machine learning colleagues on campus. We are a small department (10 staff members, more than 35 faculty, ≈ 20 postdocs, more than 80 graduate students, and many more undergraduates) so we do not do everything. But we aim for excellence in our chosen research areas: subatomic physics, quantum electronics, cosmology, and biological physics. Mentoring the next generations of scholars is our passion: we take all aspects of undergraduate and graduate education seriously, from ensuring that a music major can learn how his instrument works to beaming with pride when a fourth-year graduate student surpasses her supervisor’s knowledge of the cosmic microwave background.

Students, postdocs, and faculty at CMU work with one another, crossing sub-fields, so that, e.g., high-energy theorists write papers with biological physicists. We work with colleagues in other departments, especially engineering and computer science. And we have leadership roles in large international collaborations.

Come visit us. Like Pittsburgh, we are friendly and on the rise, looking towards the future.

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Program Requirements

Graduate Degree Requirements
Carnegie Mellon University

Thirty-two semester hours (96 units) of course work with grade average of B or above are required. There are no thesis or language requirements. One year of residence is required.

Satisfactory performance in an approved program. Additional course requirements will depend on level of preparation. Comprehensive oral research qualifying examination, annual research reviews, thesis, and final thesis defense are required. One year of residence as a full-time student is required. There is a teaching requirement for the Ph.D. degree.

Other degrees:
Thesis may be written in absentia.
GRE Requirements: Not Required
Physics GRE Requirements: Not Required
TOEFL Requirements: Required

Description of your department culture

Physics Graduate Program
Our graduate program trains students at the leading edge of physics research, preparing them to become the next generation of leaders in academia and industry. The first two years of the graduate curriculum are designed to provide students with the solid foundation necessary to perform research in their chosen area of specialization. During this period, they study core physics areas such as quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics, electrodynamics or condensed matter theory. They then specialize in areas such as astrophysics, biophysics, nanophysics, quark interactions or high energy physics and have to opportunity to perform interdisciplinary work at the boundaries of chemistry, biology, materials science, and engineering.

Candidates for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Physics should expect to spend at least four years, or the equivalent, in full-time graduate study, including a minimum of one year of full-time work at Carnegie Mellon. Formal admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. depends on acceptable performance in teaching, research and course work, as well as the Qualifying Examination. Affiliation with a research group is encouraged to happen before admission to Ph.D. candidacy and can take place as early as the first semester; it is expected that those arrangements have been made at the latest by the end of the second year of graduate study.

Beyond the conventional Ph.D. program, Carnegie Mellon offers a degree in Applied Physics. Ph.D. thesis research that may appropriately be characterized as Applied Physics can be carried out either within the Physics Department or in conjunction with other branches of the University, such as the Robotics Institute, the Data Storage Systems Center, the Materials Science and Engineering Department or the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.

Service performed as a teaching or research assistant is part of the graduate training. Such service, or its equivalent, is required of all candidates for graduate degrees whether or not they receive stipends.