The Physics Department is an internationally recognized research institution and ranks well in the National Research Council surveys of research-doctorate programs in the United States.

PHYSICS AT UT The Physics Department is an internationally recognized research institution and ranks well in the National Research Council surveys of research-doctorate programs in the United States. More importantly, our national rankings have been steadily improving over the years, and future growth and development should place the Department as one of the best in the nation.

Our graduate population consists of approximately 220 students. The Physics faculty consists of sixty members. Two professors in the Department, Ilya Prigogine (deceased) and Steven Weinberg, have been honored by the Swedish Academy; Prigogine was named the 1977 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and Weinberg received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979.

Three members of the Department are members of the National Academy of Science. Approximately half of the faculty are experimentalists while the other half are theorists.

An indication of the dynamic growth of the Department is that fifteen young faculty were hired over the last decade.

Areas of Research:

  • Atomic, molecular and optical physics
  • Nonlinear dynamics
  • Nuclear physics
  • Plasma physics
  • Fluid dynamics
  • Condensed matter physics
  • Relativity and cosmology
  • Statistical mechanics
  • Elementary particle physics

The Department enjoys close collaborations with scientists in other departments with related research interests. Several faculty members belong to the Science and Technology Center (STC), the Texas Materials Institute (TMI), and the Texas Institute for Computational and Applied Mathematics (TICAM). Industrial collaborations have expanded in recent years with the growth of the “high-tech” base in Austin.

The strong support of basic and applied research by the State of Texas through the Advanced Research and Advanced Technology Programs has enabled the development of new research directions in the Physics Department, and is an indication of a deep commitment to academic excellence.

The Physics Department occupies an area of over 190,000 square feet in Physics, Math, Astronomy building. This building is shared with Mathematics and Astronomy, and has complete facilities for state-of-the-art laboratories.

Program Requirements

Master of Arts: The time required for the degrees will average about one calendar year plus one semester for a student with a strong undergraduate background. Requirements include 30 semester hours with a “B” average. Eighteen to 24 semester hours, including the thesis, must be in the major program. The minor, which is obligatory, consists of a minimum of six hours in a supporting subject or subjects outside the major program. Each program must include at least 30 semester hours of graduate work, including the thesis. All completed work included in the degree program at the time of admission to candidacy must have been taken within the previous six years.

The Master of Science in Applied Physics: This degree is designed to provide students with a broad background in physics and related fields, with an emphasis on those aspects of the science most used in an industrial setting. The required physics courses include PHY 380N, 387K, and 389K, a course in the physics of sensors, and a technical seminar. A thesis is also required. The supporting work must be in engineering, chemistry, or geological sciences.

A student must fulfill the following requirements to be admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree in Physics: (1) fulfill the core course requirements described below; (2) show evidence of exposure to modern methods of experimental physics--this exposure may be gained in a senior-level laboratory course taken by the student as an undergraduate and approved by the graduate adviser and the chairman of the Graduate Studies Committee by previous participation in an experimental program or in Physics 380N; and (3) fulfill the oral examination requirement described below.

Core courses: During the first two years of graduate studies, the student must take four core courses: Classical Mechanics (385K), Statistical Mechanics (385L), Electromagnetism I (387K) or Electromagnetism II (387L), and Quantum Mechanics I (389K) or Quantum Mechanics II (389L). The student must earn an official grade of at least “B” in each course and must maintain a grade point average of at least 3.30 in the four courses. The student may ask for the grade he or she earns in Physics 380N to be substituted for the grade in one of the core courses when the average is computed. A well-prepared student may seek to fulfill the core course requirement by earning satisfactory grades on the final examinations for some of these courses rather than by registering for them; in this case, the student does not receive graduate credit for these courses and the grade is not counted toward the required average.

Oral qualifying examination: After satisfying the first two requirements above, and within 27 months of entering the program, the student must take an oral qualifying examination. The examination consists of a presentation before a committee of four physics faculty members, one of whom is a member of the Graduate Studies Subcommittee. The presentation is open to all interested parties. It is followed by a question-and-answer period restricted to the student and the committee. The questions during this session are directed to clarifying the presentation and determining whether the student has a solid grasp of the basic material needed for research in his or her specialization. The student passes the examination by obtaining a positive vote from at least three of the four faculty members on the oral qualifying committee. Each program of work for the doctoral degree must include at least four advanced courses in physics; a list of acceptable courses is maintained by the Graduate Studies Subcommittee. The program must also include three courses outside of the student's area of specialization; one of these must be an advanced physics course, another must be outside of the Department of Physics, and the third may be either an advanced physics course or a course outside of the Department of Physics. A dissertation is required of every candidate, followed by a final oral examination covering the dissertation and the general field of the dissertation.
GRE Requirements: Required
Physics GRE Requirements: Required
TOEFL Requirements: Required

Description of your department culture

The University of Texas at Austin-Physics Department is a diverse, globally recognized program which strives to connect students to their educational peers and provide an environment that is inclusive and engaging. Below is a listing with short descriptions of extracurricular opportunities our program offers.

The Graduate and Welfare Committee (GWC) has been in place at The University of Texas at Austin-Physics Department for more than four decades. This committee combines efforts from both elected student representatives and departmental professors to engage our Physics community and provide support as students transition to the diverse environment that is UT-Physics. The GWC host social events such as movie and game nights, Chinese New Year celebrations and monthly coffee/tea gatherings for all graduate students to become involved and meet their peers. These events also regularly include students in our closely related Astronomy & Mathematics departments.

Our Women in Physics (WIP) group highlights the importance of all perspectives in the ever changing science realm. WIP regularly meets to exchange ideas, provide mentoring, organize social events, and host seminars with renowned visiting speakers to discuss the leading topics in Physics and the impact research has on the learning experience.

We also offer a Directed Reading Program (DRP) that pairs graduate students with undergraduates to undertake independent reading projects related to Physics and act as mentors to our undergraduate population. The program includes weekly mentor meetings to discuss the chosen project. Experience with this program has shown that the work conducted helps to mitigate mechanisms that promote stigmas, especially surrounding under-represented groups, in the classroom setting.

In addition to these programs, the department hosts weekly seminars and visiting researchers to further expand our diverse curriculum and social environment.