The first Ph.D. in physics from Rice was awarded in 1920, as the second doctorate earned at the university.

Since then, the Physics and Astronomy graduate program has grown to an enrollment of about 110, with 15 to 20 students arriving each year. Recent graduates hold positions in academic institutions, national laboratories, industrial laboratories, and entrepreneurial enterprises.

The department now offers graduate programs for a wide range of interests. Research facilities and thesis supervision are available for Ph.D. students in astronomy and astrophysics, atomic, molecular and optical physics, biophysics, condensed matter physics, nuclear and particle physics, and space plasma and solar physics.

Program Requirements

Bachelor's degree requirements:
Bachelor's degree in physics or closely related field is normally required.
Minimum undergraduate GPA: 3.0
GRE Requirements: Not Required
Physics GRE Requirements: Recommended
TOEFL Requirements: Required

Description of your department culture

Rice’s Department of Physics and Astronomy is an internationally-recognized community of scholars that contributes fundamental new knowledge at the cutting edge of science and provides outstanding educational opportunities through its research, teaching, and outreach activities.

The faculty consist of 37 tenure and tenure-track professors, 9 research faculty, and 4 instructors. Recent junior faculty awards include three Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, two Packard Fellowships, a Beckman Fellowship, and several Sloan Fellowships. Senior faculty have recently won the American Physical Society Isakson Prize for Optical Effects in Solids and Davisson-Germer Prize in Atomic or Surface Physics, the Avanti Award in Lipids from the Biophysical Society, the SPARC Public Education and Outreach Award from the American Geophysical Union, a Humboldt Research Fellowship, and several APS and AAAS Fellowships.

Current areas of research strength include Atomic, Molecular, and Optical (AMO) Physics, Biological Physics, Condensed Matter/Nanoscale Physics, Galactic Astronomy, Particle and Relativistic Heavy Ion Physics, High-Energy Astrophysics, and Space Plasma and Solar Physics. Highlights include an AMO group ranked 10th in the country in the most recent US News rankings, and a biophysics program including three members of the National Academy and a Physics Frontiers Center funded by the National Science Foundation. Faculty play leading roles in several collaborative and interdisciplinary entities that create additional resources and opportunities for student research, such as the T.W. Bonner Nuclear Laboratory, Rice Center for Quantum Materials, and Rice Space Institute.

Students benefit from a supportive atmosphere that reflects Rice’s distinctive commitment to education within the setting of a tier-one research university. Active graduate-student associations within the department and spanning the entire university provide frequent social events on and off-campus. Students find it very easy to take advantage of all Houston has to offer because Rice is nestled amidst a beautiful residential neighborhood, art museums, great restaurants, a world famous medical center, a city park, and the Houston city zoo, all just three miles from downtown. Houston is the fourth largest city in the U.S. and home to a diverse blend of ethnic groups and cultures. It’s a center for sports and the visual and performing arts, an international business hub, and home to the U.S. space program.