Graduate Studies

Over the last three centuries, the study of physics has revealed a world remarkably united around a small set of fundamental laws and basic forces of nature. These laws govern phenomena as varied as the behavior of subatomic particles and the motion of galaxies, making the study of physics a basic foundation for all the physical and life sciences.

At Yale, theorists and experimentalists explore and test these physical laws and search for new phenomena that will provide evidence for more comprehensive and unified theories. Yale’s Department of Physics is recognized for its experimental and theoretical work on nuclear, atomic, solid state, and high-energy particle physics. In addition, Yale’s Center for Theoretical physics provides a forum in which researchers from many universities and all areas of physics can share ideas.

Star2 image.

Fields of study

Fields include atomic physics and quantum optics; nuclear physics; particle physics; astrophysics and cosmology; condensed matter; quantum information physics; applied physics; and other areas in collaboration with the School of Engineering and Applied Science, Applied Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry, Geology and Geophysics, and Astronomy.

Special Admissions Requirements

The prerequisites for work toward a Ph.D. degree in physics include a sound undergraduate training in physics and a good mathematical background. The GRE General and GRE Subject tests in physics are required.

Special Requirements for the Ph.D. Degree

To complete the course requirements students are expected to take a set of nine term courses. A set of six core courses (Advanced Classical Mechanics, Electromagnetic Theory, Quantum Mechanics I and II, Statistical Mechanics, and Mathematical Methods) serve to complete the student’s undergraduate training in classical and quantum physics. A set of four advanced courses, including required courses in classical and quantum field theory, provide an introduction to modern physics and research. Certain equivalent course work may reduce the course requirement or allow substitution of elective courses for individual students.

In addition, all students are required to be proficient and familiar with mathematical methods of physics (such as that necessary to master the material covered in the five core courses) and to be proficient and familiar with advanced laboratory techniques. These requirements can be met either by having had sufficiently advanced prior course work or by taking a course offered by the department. All students will also attend a seminar during their first semester in order to be introduced to the various research efforts and opportunities at Yale.

Detail, Yale's Old Campus.
Students who have completed their course requirements with satisfactory grades, pass the qualifying examination, and submit an acceptable thesis prospectus are recommended for admission to candidacy. The qualifying examination, normally taken at the beginning of the third term (and no later than the beginning of the fifth term), is a six hour written examination covering the five core courses and mathematical methods as described above.

Students normally submit the dissertation prospectus before the end of the third year of study.

All students are expected to serve as teaching fellows during their first two years of study.

Formal association with a dissertation adviser normally begins in the fourth semester after the qualifying examination has been passed and required course work has been completed. An advisor from a department other than physics can be chosen in consultation with the director of graduate studies, provided the dissertation topic is deemed suitable for a physics Ph.D.

Master’s Degrees

M.Phil. Students who have completed all requirements for the Ph.D., including the prospectus and admission to candidacy, qualify for the M.Phil. degree.

M.S. (en route to the Ph.D.) Students who complete the first-year graduate courses with a satisfactory record (including two Honors or four High Passes) qualify for the M.S. degree.