The University of Tennessee Department of Physics and Astronomy is a large, diverse department with a strong commitment to quality graduate and undergraduate education and world-class physics research.
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. As a land-grant institution of the State of Tennessee, classified by the Carnegie Commission as a research university with very high research activity, the educational opportunities at UT are abundant. UT's Department of Physics & Astronomy has an exemplary research record, with seven professors earning NSF CAREER awards in the past eight years, with eight professors recently cited amount the world's top two percent of physicists (based on citations), and Professor Geoff Greene honored with the prestigious Bonner Prize in 2020.
At the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains and close proximity to Oak Ridge National Lab with whom UT shares five joint institutes, UT's location makes an intriguing place to consider pursuing a graduate education.
The course requirements include 24 hours of physics courses, of which at least 12 hours are taken from PHYS 506, PHYS 513-PHYS 514, PHYS 521-PHYS 522, PHYS 531, PHYS 541, PHYS 571, PHYS 573. Each candidate must present an acceptable thesis, 6 hours of PHYS 500, and pass an oral examination on course material and thesis.
Geophysics concentration. The department offers an MS thesis program with a concentration in geophysics. Program requirements are 12 hours from PHYS 506, PHYS 513-PHYS 514, PHYS 521-PHYS 522, PHYS 531, PHYS 541, PHYS 571, PHYS 573; a minimum of 12 additional hours in geology, geophysics, and/or physics, as approved by the student's committee; and the presentation of an acceptable thesis, 6 hours of PHYS 500, and the passing of an oral examination on course material and thesis.
The course requirements include a minimum of 30 hours of graduate credit in courses composed of PHYS 513-PHYS 514; 9 hours from PHYS 411-PHYS 412, PHYS 421, PHYS 431-PHYS 432, PHYS 461, PHYS 507, PHYS 508, PHYS 521-PHYS 522, PHYS 531, PHYS 541, PHYS 555, PHYS 571, PHYS 573 (at least 6 hours above the 500-level); 6 hours from PHYS 593, PHYS 594 for a Project in Lieu of Thesis; and 6 additional hours which may come from physics or from a single minor field outside of the Physics Department, such as computer science, mathematics, engineering, chemistry, biology, education, business, or law..
The candidate must pass an oral examination on course material and on the project representing the culmination of an original research project completed by the student. A written report must be approved and accepted by the Physics Graduate Committee and the department head. An electronic version of the written report must also be submitted to the permanent electronic archive of the Physics Department available on the Internet.
Students seeking the non-thesis option must apply to the Director of the Graduate program for permission to enroll under this program. The requirements are the satisfactory completion of 30 hours of course work composed of 18 hours from PHYS 506, PHYS 513-PHYS 514, PHYS 521-PHYS 522, PHYS 531, PHYS 541, PHYS 571, PHYS 573; 6 additional hours from physics or a minor field; and 6 hours from other courses numbered above 400 (preferably of advanced laboratory nature.) At least 20 hours must be taken at the 500-level or above. In addition, the candidate must pass a written examination administered by his/her committee.
All students are expected to take the graduate core curriculum in physics consisting of PHYS 521-PHYS 522 (Quantum Mechanics), PHYS 531 (Classical Mechanics), PHYS 541 (Electromagnetism), PHYS 551 (Statistical Mechanics), and PHYS 571 (Mathematical Methods). Students concentrating in chemical physics may substitute CHEM 572 for PHYS 551 and should complete at least 6 hours from CHEM 530, CHEM 570, CHEM 571, CHEM 573, CHEM 595, CHEM 630, CHEM 670, and CHEM 690. Students concentrating in energy science and engineering should complete ESE 511, ESE 512 (Introduction to Energy Science and Technology (3 + 3 credits), at least 3 hours from the Knowledge Breadth Curriculum (a list of courses is available from the Graduate Program Director) and 3 credit hours (1+1+1) of topical seminars in the focus area of CIRE. Students must take either i) a minimum of 15 hours of 600-level courses with 6 of these hours in their concentration area, or ii) a minimum of 12 hours of 600-level courses with 6 of these hours in their concentration area and a minimum of 3 hours of 500-level courses described in a list available from the Director of the Graduate Program and approved by the student's Doctoral Committee. Among the 600-level courses, PHYS 601-PHYS 602 are normally required of students concentrating in atomic physics; PHYS 621-PHYS 622 of students in nuclear physics; PHYS 626-PHYS 627 of students in elementary particle physics (and/or PHYS 611-PHYS 612 for students concentrating in theoretical elementary particle physics); PHYS 615-PHYS 616 of students in astrophysics and cosmology; and PHYS 671-PHYS 672 of students in condensed matter and surface physics.
Students concentrating in nanomaterials must take a minimum 15 hours of 600-level courses, of which at least 6 hours are offered by the department and at least 6 hours are from a list of courses offered by several departments which are appropriate for a concentration in nanomaterials. This list is available from the Director of the Graduate Program. In addition to the departmental core curriculum listed above, they must take additional courses at the 400- through 500-level, with at least 6 hours offered by the department and 6 hours from the list.
Students concentrating in energy science and engineering must take a minimum of 15 hours of 600-level courses, of which at least 6 hours are offered by the department and at least 6 hours are from a list of courses offered by several departments which are appropriate for a concentration in energy science and engineering. This list is available from the Graduate Program Director.
To be admitted to PhD candidacy, students must fulfill all general requirements of the Graduate Council; pass the qualifying examination; have at least a 3.0 GPA on the graduate core curriculum in physics; form a doctoral committee; and pass the comprehensive examination.
The qualifying examination is designed to test the student's general knowledge of the fundamentals of physics. The performance needed to pass this examination corresponds to a mature command of the material typically included in the undergraduate physics major curriculum. The qualifying examination should be passed after the student's first year of study. Based on the student's performance on the qualifying examinations, the course work, the GRE scores, and optional research participation, the faculty will decide if the student will be allowed to continue in the PhD program.
Students are required to find a research advisor and form a doctoral committee before the end of the second year of study. This committee is responsible for advising the student and monitoring his/her progress toward the doctoral degree.
The comprehensive examination is designed to test the student on specific knowledge and skills in the areas essential to the student's research program; on capability to successfully complete the doctoral dissertation; and on general knowledge of the graduate core curriculum. The most essential component of this examination is the presentation and defense of an original research proposal. The comprehensive examination must be passed before the end of the third year of study. It contains both a written and an oral component and is conducted by the student's doctoral committee and an additional faculty member appointed by the department head.
The dissertation topic will be chosen with reference to one of the fields in which research facilities can be made available either at the University of Tennessee laboratories in Knoxville; the University of Tennessee Space Institute at Tullahoma, Tennessee; the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee; or at other research facilities used by the university faculty.
Energy Science and Engineering Concentration
This concentration is offered in collaboration with the Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education (CIRE). The CIRE is a joint effort between University of Tennessee colleges and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The students who wish to pursue this concentration will normally have completed the ESE Core for CIRE students, and 1 hour of CIRE seminar.
Physics GRE Requirements:
Description of your department culture
With an infusion of 12 new assistant professors in the past 10 years, the faculty have worked to create a vibrant learning atmosphere. Undergraduate students are encouraged to actively engage in research outside of class, whether with members of our department, scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, or elsewhere. The faculty have also worked to recruit a more diverse graduate student body, with the fall 2021 class being majority female for the first time. The department is actively engaged in initiatives to recruit more students and faculty from across all demographics. Our culture is dynamic and we’re always looking for ways to improve the experiences of all our faculty, students, and staff.
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