Academic Requirements

For a complete overview see the PhD Milestones Guide.

Academic Requirements Overview

Course Requirements

Course Requirements Introduced in 2018

Take at least

  7 one-semester courses=

  (6 ‘lecture’ + 1 ‘special investigation (SI)’)=

  (5 ‘foundational’ + 1 ‘elective’ + 1 ‘SI’)

Plus the ‘helpful info’ , low-workload requirements of PHYS 515 (Physics Research Options) in Fall, and PHYS 590 (Responsible Conduct of Research) in Spring


Course Requirements for those students who matriculated prior to the Fall of 2016

9 Term Courses; 1 Lab Course; Phys 590 Responsible Conduct in Research

(For core courses: if you’ve already taken a comparable class, sign-up for Pass Out exam, see OrgSync)

6 Core Courses
  • Phys 500a Advanced Classical Mechanics
  • Phys 506a Math Methods
  • Phys 508a Quantum Mechanics I
  • Phys 502b Electromagnetic Theory
  • Phys 512b Statistical Physics I
  • Phys 608b Quantum Mechanics II

(a = fall term; b = spring term)

Lab Course
Phys 504b Modern Physics Measurements - OR - Phys 990 Special Investigation

Advanced Courses One from the following:

  • Phys 538 Intro to Relativistic Astrophysics & General Relativity
  • Phys 609a Relativistic Field Theory I
  • Phys 610a Quantum Many Body Theory
  • Phys 628b Statistical Physics II
  • Phys 630 Relativistic Field Theory II

Two additional electives

Teaching Requirement

4 semesters as a Teaching Assistant at the TF10 level (10 hrs/week)

Grades

Yale Graduate School grade format: Honors (H); High Pass (HP); Pass (P); Fail (F)

  • Grad School Requirement: 2 grades of Honors by the end of the fourth term of full-time study
  • Physics department Requirement: High Pass average by the end of the fourth term of full-time study 

Typical Time Line for Academic Requirements

Year 1

Summer Bootcamp:

  • The Bootcamp on Physics Fundamentals is an optional two-week program in August intended to help students review Quantum physics and Classical Mechanics before the first-year classes begin.

First Semester:

  • Begin course requirements: Five foundational courses + one advanced elective + one PHYS 990: Special Investigations (SI) + two research seminars.
  • PHYS 500: Advanced Classical Mechanics + PHYS 508: Quantum Mechanics I + an advanced elective or PHYS 990: Special Investigations (SI) + PHYS 515: Topics in Modern Physics Research
  • Required teaching: Teaching Fellows Program, 10hrs/week

Second Semester:

  • PHYS 502: Electromagnetic Theory I + PHYS 512: Statistical Physics I + PHYS 608: Quantum Mechanics II* + advanced elective or PHYS 990: Special Investigations (SI) + PHYS 590: Responsible Conduct in Research for Physical Scientists
  • *PHYS 608 can be postponed until the second year
  • Required teaching: Teaching Fellows Program, 10hrs/week

Summer:

  • Work as Assistant in Research to identify potential thesis research advisers
  • English language training to prepare for SPEAK test through the Center for Language Study (International students)
  • Qualifying Examination preparation

Year 2

First Semester:

  • Sit for Qualifying Examination at the start of the Fall semester
  • Required teaching: Teaching Fellows Program, 10hrs/week
  • Once requirements are finished, take advanced electives as desired
  • Work as Assistant in Research to identify potential thesis research advisers

Second Semester:

  • PHYS 608: Quantum Mechanics II if not taken in the first year
  • Required teaching: Teaching Fellows Program, 10hrs/week
  • Once course requirements are complete, take advanced electives as desired
  • Work as Assistant in Research to identify potential thesis research advisers

Summer:

Finalize thesis adviser and begin dissertation research

Year 3

First Semester:

  • Sit for Qualifying Examination portions and Oral exam if not completed at the beginning of second year
  • Preliminary Dissertation Research
  • Establish a 3 faculty “Core Thesis Committee”, including thesis adviser

Second Semester:

  • Prepare Thesis Prospectus

End of Third Year/Summer:

  • Submit Thesis Prospectus with oral defense to the core thesis committee
  • Admission to Candidacy after Thesis Prospectus approval
  • Work with the thesis adviser to complete initial Dissertation Progress Report (DPR) send out by the Graduate School; due 30 days after Admission to Candidacy

Years 4 & 5

  • Continue dissertation research
  • Identify 4th faculty member for core thesis committee
  • Work with thesis adviser to identify an external reader for core thesis committee
  • Meet with core thesis committee at minimum once a year and discuss progress towards dissertation; includes oral presentation of research progress to committee
  • Complete Dissertation Progress Report (DPR) with thesis adviser; DPR is sent out by the Graduate School before May 1st of each year.

Years 5+

  • Continue dissertation research
  • Work with thesis adviser to complete the Dissertation Progress Report (DPR) sent out by the Graduate School before May 1st of each year.
  • When you and your adviser agree you are ready:
  • Notify department of intent to submit dissertation by August for December degree or February for May degree (dates determined by the Graduate School)
  • Schedule Thesis Defense and oral examination by core thesis committee. Submit written dissertation to 4 internal core thesis committee members to read, 3 weeks in advance of scheduled defense. The Graduate School will send the dissertation out to the external reader after the oral defense and official submission.
  • Official submission of written dissertation to the Graduate School by October for December degree or March for May degree (dates determined by Graduate School)
  • Reader’s reports from all core thesis committee members (including external reader) due one month after submission of written dissertation
  • Degree awarded

Printable version.

Registration information

All students must register for their courses on-line.  If a student does not need to take other courses in a particular semester, then the student must enroll in either Admission to Candidacy (CAND 999) (for students in yrs. 2-3), or Dissertation Research (DISR 999) (for students in yrs. 4+).

Students should go to the Yale University Student Systems and log in with their netID and password. Then choose On Line Course Selection to choose courses. The DGS will then approve your course selections or notify you if there are any questions. Registration normally ends two weeks after the first day of classes for that term.


Registration information for those students who matriculated prior to the Fall of 2016

All students must register on-line, either for course enrollment, or in the case of more advanced students: Admission to Candidacy (CAND 999), or Dissertation Research (DISR 999).

Students should go to the Yale University Student Systems and log in with their netID and password. Then choose On Line Course Selection to choose courses. The DGS will then approve your course selections or notify you if there are any questions. Registration normally ends two weeks after the first day of classes for that term.

First and Second Years

Course requirements and suggested sequencing

To complete the Physics Department’s course requirements, students are expected to take a set of six term courses (course information can be found on the Search Yale Courses page): five foundational courses and one elective. The five core courses (1. PHYS 500, Advanced Classical Mechanics; 2. PHYS 508, Quantum Mechanics I; 3. PHYS 502, Electromagnetic Theory I; 4. PHYS 512, Statistical Physics I; and 5. PHYS 608, Quantum Mechanics II) serve to complete the student’s undergraduate training in classical and quantum physics. For the sixth course, students select from the list of graduate elective courses offered by the Physics or Applied Physics departments, or courses offered by other departments with the approval of the DGS. In addition, all students are required to engage in a research project by taking PHYS 990, Special Investigations. In their first year of study, students must take, at a minimum, the foundational courses one through four, along with the research seminar courses: PHYS 515, Topics in Modern Physics Research, and PHYS 590, Responsible Conduct in Research for Physical Scientists.

For students already familiar with the material, the Physics Department offers “pass-out” examinations for the five core courses, to be given at the start of each course, to determine whether a student has sufficient mastery of basic material to be excused that particular core course. To be eligible to take this exam a student must have had a more-or-less equivalent-level course elsewhere. The exam will be administered by the DGS and the previous year’s lecturer of the course in question. In a separate process, if a student has taken an equivalent course while registered as a graduate student elsewhere, the student may at the discretion of the DGS petition the Associate Dean of the GSAS to replace that course with an elective (the petition process factors in grades earned at Yale, which means that this alternative to the pass-out exam process is typically only used after one semester of coursework).  In both processes, a student who is excused from a core course must replace it with an advanced elective in order to reach the same total number of required courses.

The PHYS 990, Special Investigations (SI) course is a course-based research experience, intended to help students to identify promising areas of thesis research. To pursue an SI, a student first identifies a faculty advisor for the project, who must have a primary or secondary appointment in the Physics Department. In consultation with the advisor, a student is required to write a brief proposal specifying the plan of action for the project. (A cover page for the proposal is here.) The SI project proposal must be approved by the DGS. In addition, a 40-minute Powerpoint or similar presentation on the SI is required at the end of the semester to a 3 person panel (e.g., advisor and two other faculty, or advisor and two postdocs). The SI grade is assigned by the SI advisor and written feedback to the student should be given on this form. Students may want to pursue SIs in different subfields to explore their research options before committing to a PhD thesis topic. The DGS will not approve an SI for audit.

The new course requirements (for students who matriculated in, or after, the Fall of 2016) are intended to offer increased flexibility to customize a student’s path through the courses, and to jumpstart a student’s pursuit of research opportunities.  Four different examples of first year course selections are shown here (Sample Schedules A, B, C, D). 

Sample 1st Yr Schedule A 

Fall

Spring

1. PHYS 500 (ClassMech)

3. PHYS 502 (E&M)

2. PHYS 508 (QuantMech1)

4. PHYS 512 (StatPhys1)

-

-

-

-

PHYS 515 (Research Topics)

PHYS 590 (Resp. Cond. of Research)

At or Above 1st Yr minimum load

Sample 1st Yr Schedule B 

Fall

Spring

1. PHYS 500 (ClassMech)

3. PHYS 502 (E&M)

2. PHYS 508 (QuantMech1)

4. PHYS 512 (StatPhys1)

-

PHYS 990 (SI) or an advanced elective (this could be in the Fall or Spring)

-

-

PHYS 515 (Research Topics)

PHYS 590 (Resp. Cond. of Research)

At or Above 1st Yr minimum load + Could qualify for “M.S. en route” in 1st Yr

Sample 1st Yr Schedule C 

Fall

Spring

1. PHYS 500 (ClassMech)

3. PHYS 502 (E&M)

2. PHYS 508 (QuantMech1)

4. PHYS 512 (StatPhys1)

-

5. PHYS 608 (QuantMech2)

-

-

PHYS 515 (Research Topics)

PHYS 590 (Resp. Cond. of Research)

At or Above 1st Yr minimum load + Could qualify for “M.S. en route” in 1st Yr + Take all 5 foundational courses pre-2nd Yr Qual

Sample 1st Yr Schedule D 

Fall

Spring

1. PHYS 500 (ClassMech)

3. PHYS 502 (E&M)

2. PHYS 508 (QuantMech1)

4. PHYS 512 (StatPhys1)

PHYS 990 (SI) (this could be in the Fall or Spring)

5. PHYS 608 (QuantMech2)

-

An advanced elective (this could be in the Spring or Fall)

PHYS 515 (Research Topics)

PHYS 590 (Resp. Cond. of Research)

At or Above 1st Yr minimum load + Could qualify for “M.S. en route” in 1st Yr + Take all 5 foundational courses pre-2nd Yr Qual + On track to finish up all course requirements in 1st Yr


Course Requirements and suggested sequencing for those students who matriculated prior to the Fall of 2016

To complete the Physics Department’s course requirements, students are required to take nine one-term classroom courses and a one-term lab course. A set of six core courses (PHYS 500 Advanced Classical Mechanics, PHYS 502 Electromagnetic Theory, PHYS 506 Mathematical Methods of Physics, PHYS 508 Quantum Mechanics I, PHYS 512 Statistical Physics I, and PHYS 608 Quantum Mechanics II) and a laboratory course (PHYS 504Lb or PHYS 990a,b) serve to complete a student’s undergraduate training in classical and quantum physics. Three advanced courses, including a required course in one of either Relativistic QFT, Many-Body Theory or Statistical Mechanics II, provide an introduction to modern physics and research. For students already familiar with the material, the department implements “pass-out” examinations for the core courses, to be given at the start of each course, to determine whether a student has sufficient mastery of basic material to be excused that particular core course. To be eligible to take this exam a student must have had a more-or-less equivalent-level course elsewhere. The exam will be administered by the DGS and the previous year’s lecturer of the course in question. Students passing out of a core course must instead take an elective to make up the total number of required courses, unless the student has taken an equivalent course while registered as a graduate student elsewhere, in which case the student may at the discretion of the DGS petition the Associate Dean to be entirely excused that course.

All first-year graduate students must take either PHYS 504Lb or a laboratory-based Special Investigation (SI) (PHYS 990a,b), supervised by a particular faculty advisor who must have an appointment in Physics. Either course must be completed in the first year of graduate study. To be able to choose the SI option, the student must have previously taken an advanced undergraduate laboratory class, and is required to write a brief proposal specifying what the SI project is. (A cover page for the proposal is here.) The SI project must be approved by the DGS. In addition, a 40-minute Powerpoint or similar presentation on the SI is required at the end of the semester to a 3 faculty panel. The SI grade is assigned by the SI advisor and written feedback to the student should be given on this form. Additional SIs may be carried out after Year 1, but a proposal is not required in this case. The DGS will not approve an SI for audit.

First Semester Second Semester
1500a Advanced Classical Mechanics 1502b Electromagnetic Theory I
1508a Quantum Mechanics I 1608b Quantum Mechanics II
1506a Mathematical Methods of Physics 1512a Statistical Physics I
  504Lb Modern Physics Measurements
  2590b Responsible Conduct in Research for Physical Scientists
Third Semester Fourth Semester
3609a Relativistic Field Theory I 4Electives
3628a Statistical Mechanics II 3610b Many Body Theory of Solids
1 Core courses
2 one day seminar required for all first year students
3 or at least one of the following: 538, 610, 628 or 630.
4 Electives - At least 3 semesters of more advanced or survey courses depending on field of specialization.

Choosing an adviser

Formal association with a dissertation adviser normally begins in the third or fourth term after the qualifying examination has been passed and after most required course work has been completed. It is best though to start exploring possible advisors in your first year at Yale. An adviser from a department other than Physics can be chosen in consultation with the DGS, provided the dissertation topic is deemed suitable for a physics PhD.

It is up to you to seek out faculty and talk to them no later than your third term (if not earlier) to discuss your interest and possibilities of collaborating. It is up to you to be proactive in seeking out a mentor because the Department does not “provide” a mentor for you and there is no guarantee that a particular mentor will have an opening (and research funding) available at the time you are ready to begin research. Hence it is imperative that you explore different advising opportunities within a subfield and perhaps even more than one subfield of physics.

Research over the summer between Years 1 and 2

Students are generally expected to work in a research laboratory during the summer after their first year in order to gain experience in a field of potential interest. This may turn out to be the beginning of a research collaboration with a future adviser, but there is no obligation to continue working in the same group if you decide it is not suitable. Students who have not passed the qualifying examination are expected to make arrangements with the summer adviser to allow time to study for the exam.

At the end of the summer, students are expected to to make a Powerpoint or similar presentation of their research. Written feedback concerning the overall performance will be provided by the summer research advisor and also will be reviewed by the DGS.

Taking courses outside the department

If you desire to take a course outside of Physics or Applied Physics, this should be brought to the attention of the DGS and especially your research adviser for their review.

Grades

The grades assigned in the Graduate School are:

H = Honors
HP = High Pass
P = Pass
F = Fail

The Physics Department requires a grade point average of HP for a student to remain in good standing. In addition, there is a Graduate School requirement that a student must attain at least two grades of Honors within the first two years of study. A grade of P is generally considered an unsatisfactory grade, its name notwithstanding.

Incomplete grades

In occasional circumstances, a student may need additional time to complete coursework. An arrangement for a completion date must be worked out with the instructor. The instructor will submit the grade as a Temporary Incomplete (TI) with the intended completion date (http://gsas.yale.edu/forms). Incomplete grades must be converted to a final grade no later than October 1 of the following academic year. Otherwise, the TI will be converted to a permanent Incomplete (I) . See Graduate School Program & Policies Bulletin for more details.

Language and teaching requirements

Teaching experience is regarded as an integral part of the graduate training program although it is not an absolute requirement for a Physics PhD at Yale. However, students on University Fellowships must serve as teaching fellows during a portion of their first two years of study. Teaching in this case refers not to grading papers, but teaching in a laboratory or discussion section in which you can develope classroom presentation skills. These presentation skills are essential to your future success as a teacher and researcher.

Students whose native language is not English (and have not taken the Test of Spoken English (TSE) with a score of at least 50) are required to pass the SPEAK assessment administered at Yale within the first two years of study. Non-native English speakers are strongly encouraged to take advantage of the many course opportunities and English conversation groups available through the Graduate School and the English Language Institute (ELI). If you are not able to speak and write English fluently, you will find it very difficult to carry out your research, write publications, or find employment.

Course waivers

Equivalent course work, completed elsewhere and taken while registered as a graduate student, may enable a student to be excused from a core course requirement, which is then replaced with an advanced elective. This is done at the discretion of the DGS and with the approval of the Graduate School Associate Dean.

Qualifying Exam

The Qualifying Examination must be taken for the first time no later than the beginning of a student’s third semester. Any entering students may take the qualifying examination at the start of their first year. If a first-year student passes the exam, it satisfies the requirement. If the student does not pass, it does not count against the student in any way. In particular, it does not count as one of the two permitted opportunities to pass.

The exam will consist of four (independent) parts, with two questions in each part.  A typical exam might be as follows- Part 1: Classical Mechanics; Part 2: Electricity & Magnetism; Part 3: Quantum Mechanics; Part 4: Statistical Mechanics.  The Parts are graded and passed (or failed) separately. The content of the exam will draw from this list of topics

To create, administer, and grade the Qualifying Examination, a committee will be established by the Chair of the Physics Department. Both the Exam Committee and the students will be given the list of exam topics. Students taking the examination will remain anonymous to the committee and to the faculty (except the DGS) until the results of the examination are accepted by a vote of the faculty.

Students will be given associated letter grades, one for each part – A through F – based on their performance. A, B, and C are passing grades. D and F are failing grades. The letter grades will indicate performance in the top third of passing grades (A), performance in the second third of passing grades (B), performance in the bottom third of passing grades (C), inadequate performance (D), and very poor performance (F). The line between C and D, and D and F will be established by the committee for each of the two parts and approved by a vote of the faculty.

Students will have two opportunities to pass each part of the Qualifying exam. If a student fails any part(s), then they only need to retake those part(s) in their next attempt. Students who do not pass all four parts of the Qualifying exam by the beginning of their second year will typically take an Oral exam after 2-3 months, only in the part(s) that they failed. Alternatively, students may also opt to retake those part(s) of the written Qualifying exam at the beginning of their third year.

After two failures (either (one written + one oral) or (one written + one written)), the whole faculty will discuss the particular student, to decide if they should be allowed to continue in the PhD program.

Please make sure to look over the syllabus (>= 2018) covering topics which may be on the qualifying examination. Please see the “Qualifying Exam - Past exams page” below to retrieve copies of the exam for the past 10 years.


Qualifying Exam for students who matriculated prior to the Fall of 2016

The Qualifying Examination must be taken for the first time no later than the beginning of a student’s third semester. Any entering students may take the qualifying examination at the start of their first year. If a first-year student passes the exam, it satisfies the requirement. If the student does not pass, it does not count against the student in any way. In particular, it does not count as one of the two permitted opportunities to pass.

The exam will be in two separate parts. Each part will consist of four questions and last for three hours. Each part will be given on a separate day. The structure of each of the two parts is as follows. Part 1 will consist of one question each on Classical Mechanics and Mathematical Methods, and two questions on E& M. Part 2 will consist of two questions each on Quantum Mechanics and Statistical Mechanics. The content of the exam will draw from this list of topics.

To create, administer, and grade the Qualifying Examination, a committee will be established by the Chair of the Physics Department. Both the Exam Committee and the students will be given the list of exam topics. Students taking the examination will remain anonymous to the committee and to the faculty (except the DGS) until the results of the examination are accepted by a vote of the faculty.

Students will be given associated letter grades, one for each part – A through F – based on their performance. A, B, and C are passing grades. D and F are failing grades. The letter grades will indicate performance in the top third of passing grades (A), performance in the second third of passing grades (B), performance in the bottom third of passing grades (C), inadequate performance (D), and very poor performance (F). The line between C and D, and D and F will be established by the committee for each of the two parts and approved by a vote of the faculty.

Students will have two opportunities to pass each part of the Qualifying exam. If a student fails one part, he or she will normally be required to retake only the failed part the following year. Two failures to pass either part of the exam will ordinarily result in withdrawal from the PhD program. Only under exceptional circumstances, at the discretion of the faculty may students who have failed one or both parts of the qualifying exam for the second time be permitted to take a Special Oral Examination. The outcome of the Special Oral will then determine whether the student in question will be permitted to continue in the program. The purpose of any such Special Oral Examination is to test whether the student, who has twice failed the written qualifying examination, is nevertheless sufficiently secure with the material of the core courses to eventually graduate with a Physics PhD. Any Special Oral Exam, therefore, should test whether this is the case by asking a number of questions at the level of and on the material of the written Qualifying Exam. The Special Oral Exam committee shall consist of 4 faculty nominated by the DGS.

Please make sure to look over the syllabus (<= 2017) covering topics which may be on the qualifying examination. Please see the “Qualifying Exam - Past exams page” below to retrieve copies of the exam for the past 10 years (currently 2009-2018).

Qualifying Exam - Past Exams

Ten years of exams (2010-2019)

2019 Solutions: Part 1Part 2Part 3, and Part 4

2018 Solutions: Part 1Part 2Part 3, and Part 4

2017 Solutions: Part 1 and Part 2

2016 Solutions: Part 1 and Part 2

2015 Solutions: Part 1 and Part 2

2014 Solutions: Part 1 and Part 2

2013 Solutions: Part 1 and Part 2

2012 Solutions: Part 1 and Part 2

2011 Solutions: Part 1 and Part 2

2010 Solutions: Part 1 and Part 2

Third Year

Admission to candidacy

The graduate school requires all students to be admitted to candidacy by the end of the third year. Students who have completed their course requirements with satisfactory grades (a High Pass average and the Graduate School requirement of two Honors (which can include PHYS 990 Special Investigation)), pass the qualifying examination, and who have submitted an acceptable thesis prospectus are recommended for admission to candidacy.

Students must be admitted to candidacy by the end of the third year or they will not be permitted to register for the next term.

Core Thesis Committee

A core thesis committee, consisting of 3 faculty members must be selected by each student at the earliest opportunity, either in the second semester of the second year or in the first semester of the third year. The committee composition can be changed later.

The first meeting between the student and the core thesis committee should take place early in the first semester of the third year. Here the student will present their Year 2-to-3 summer research as well as their initial thesis research plans.

Subsequently, each student must meet periodically with their core thesis committee in closed session to discuss progress. These meetings will occur at least once per year, but could be more frequent. It is the student’s responsibility to arrange these closed session meetings at least once per year or more frequently if deemed necessary by student or the committee.

The purpose of these closed-session meetings is NOT for the student to provide a formal scientific presentation to the committee. An update on the student’s research progress is appropriate, but should not be the sole focus of this session. Rather, the goal of these meetings is for the committee to assess the student’s overall progress as a physicist. For example, one important role of the core thesis committee is to ensure that the student has a sufficiently broad knowledge of their subfield. The committee may choose to do this via a variety of procedures at their discretion. Questions on, and related to, the field and on physics in general will be a typical part of these sessions. In addition, the committee should assess the student’s professional progress, i.e. exposure to the literature and the work of other groups e.g. via conferences; opportunities to write and present their work orally; attendance at relevant seminars and/or classes; etc.

The ongoing monitoring of a student’s research progress through these meetings should diminish the chances of surprises at the thesis defense. Such monitoring can also provide a protection to both the student and advisor: First, if a student has sufficient material for a PhD, then the committee can push a reluctant advisor to agree to a thesis defense. Alternatively, if a student’s research performance is inadequate, the committee can support academic sanctions on the student, i.e. that the student is not in good academic standing.

After the closed-session meeting, the core thesis committee chair will prepare a brief report of the committee’s assessment of the student’s progress towards the thesis, and present this to the student and Departmental Registrar: Thesis Progress Report.

In addition to the private committee meetings, students will periodically give presentations (at least once per year) in a public forum, which the core thesis committee members are expected to attend and concerning which the core committee should provide written feedback to the student. Possible forums for such presentations include the Weak Interaction Discussion Group, The Monday Evening Seminar, the Sackler Discussion Group, collaboration presentations, group meeting presentations, etc. The format of the presentation should be a talk that lasts 30 minutes or more. The allowable format and content for the “public presentations” should be viewed broadly, subject only to the participation of the core thesis committee. Especially early on in their research career, to satisfy this requirement, it may be that it makes most sense for a student to make a journal club-type presentation in the context of a group meeting, later on progressing to a research-based presentation in one of the regularly scheduled series. It is also the student’s responsibility to arrange for this public presentation.

This public presentation is NOT meant to be merely a progress report for the core thesis committee, or an opportunity for the committee to ask physics questions about the work. Rather, the goal is primarily for the student to practice communicating in a public setting, and to receive feedback about how to improve their presentation abilities.

After the public presentation, the core thesis committee chair will prepare a brief report of the committee’s assessment of the student’s presentation, and present this to the student and Departmental Registrar. Once again, the focus of this report should be on presentation style rather than a comment on the scientific progress.

Preparing a prospectus

The first page should contain the following information: title, student’s name, adviser’s name, Yale University Physics Department, and date. Prospectus should also include an abstract. The faculty adviser and the student’s core thesis committee should read and approve the thesis prospectus before it is submitted to the Physics Graduate Registrar’s office. Here is the approval form. The submission should be done electronically in PDF format. In addition each student will present their thesis Prospectus in an oral presentation (Powerpoint or similar) to their core thesis committee (before the end of their third year).

The following is an excerpt from the Graduate School Programs and Policy Bulletin describing the prospectus:

The prospectus should be viewed as a preliminary statement of what the student proposes to do in his or her dissertation and not as an unalterable commitment. The appropriate form and typical content of a prospectus inevitably vary from field to field. In most cases, however, a prospectus should contain the following information:

  1. A statement of the topic of the dissertation and an explanation of its importance. What in general might one expect to learn from the dissertation that is not now known, understood, or appreciated?
  2. A concise review of what has been done on the topic in the past. Specifically, how will the proposed dissertation differ from or expand upon previous work? A basic bibliography should normally be appended to this section.
  3. A statement of where most of the work will be carried out - for example, in the Yale library or another library or archive, in the laboratory of a particular faculty member, or as part of a program of field work at specific sites in the United States or abroad.
  4. If the subject matter permits, a tentative proposal for the internal organization of the dissertation - for example, major sections, subsections, sequence of chapters.
  5. A provisional timetable for completion of the dissertation.

Although it is difficult to prescribe a standard length for the prospectus, it should be long enough to include essential information for the proposed topics but not overly long. Seven to ten pages, excluding figures and bibliography, should be appropriate in most cases. The prospectus should be written in a manner comprehensible to people who are not experts in your particular subfield. A concise introduction to the subject is therefore essential.

University teaching fellowships

Teaching Fellowships can be offered to advanced students (third year and up) who are no longer on university support. This is subject to availability of teaching assignments after all first and second year students on university fellowships have been given their assignments. Students will be compensated at the rates established by the Graduate School Teaching Fellows Office.

Fourth Year and Beyond

Annual dissertation progress report

The Dissertation Progress Report is due each May 1 for work done in the academic year just completed. Filling in the form is now an on-line process.

Dissertation Requirements

The Graduate School has specific rules about formatting, etc. When you are preparing your final draft, you should consult their Dissertation Submission Checklist.

Forming a dissertation committee

The Physics Department requires a 4-member faculty committee plus an outside reader and must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. Therefore, the student should consult with their research adviser, core thesis committee and then the DGS about the make-up of the committee and when approval is given, the student should then ask those wanted on the Committee if they will agree to serve. The Committee should be made up of at least two tenured faculty members. Typically, the Committee would include the members of the core thesis committee and one more faculty member.

Usually, the make-up of the committee is as follows:

For students in an experimental field:
Adviser and another in same experimental field; another in same field but theoretical; another experimentalist (any field).

For students in a theoretical field:
Adviser and another in same theoretical field; another in same field but experimental; another theorist (any field).

Dissertation First Chapter

The Physics Department recommends that the first chapter of the thesis be a succinct summary of the entire thesis, including in particular:

  1. a brief review of the field prior to the thesis research to provide context
  2. a presentation of the goals and motivations of the thesis research
  3. a clear description of what the student has achieved in the thesis research (primarily written in the first person singular, but with due credit to others as appropriate). This description should refer back to (1) and clearly indicate the relation to prior work.

    It may also make sense to add:
     

  4. suggestions for how to best build upon the thesis research in future work.

Otherwise these suggestions should appear in the conclusion of the thesis.

Dissertation defense

Once the Defense Committee is chosen and approved by the DGS, it is the student’s responsibility to set the date, time and place for the defense at a time convenient to all members of the Committee. Copies of the dissertation should be given to them at least three weeks in advance. The Physics Registrar’s office will assist in locating a room if necessary. The dissertation defense shall consist of two consecutive parts. The first part, which shall be open to anyone interested, will consist of an oral presentation of approximately one-hour in length, in the style of a research seminar. An announcement will appear in the weekly Seminar Notices. The second part will consist of detailed questioning of the candidate by the dissertation committee, at which attendance will be restricted to members of the committee.

Outside reader (after oral defense)

The outside reader must be someone outside of Yale who has had no involvement with the student’s research and who can be completely objective in his/her evaluation of the dissertation. The outside reader is usually selected by the dissertation adviser and approved by the DGS. Usually the adviser contacts the reader and requests his/her services. The dissertation is forwarded to the outside reader after the final copy of the dissertation is submitted to the Graduate School.

Submitting your dissertation

After the defense, the committee may ask the student to make some changes in the dissertation. These changes must be made before submission to the Graduate School.

Submission guidelines are posted on-line at the Graduate School’s website: Dissertation Guidelines, Dissertation Check list (under Resources), and Notification of Readers form. Remember to list your advisor as one of the 5 readers.

Note: Students must be registered through the term of dissertation submission (unless they have already completed their sixth year).

Petitioning for Extension

A student wishing to extend his/her registration beyond their original six year terminal date must file a Petition for an Extension. A Dissertation Progress Report must also be completed along with a letter to the DGS stating the reasons for needing an extension. The extension can be requested for one or two terms. Extensions beyond the seventh year are not normally allowed. Note: It is not necessary to be a registered student beyond your sixth year to be able to complete your dissertation and defend. However, you would not be allowed to receive AR salary as a student, nor would you have health insurance if you were not registered.

Preparing for the job market

Office of Career Strategy (OCS)

The Office of Career Strategy (OCS) is a comprehensive career center for students and alumni/ae of Yale University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and for postdoctoral fellows. Through individual counseling, programs and a library of online resources, the office assists graduate students and alumni/ae with non-academic career planning and decision-making. OCS encourages students to begin using the services of the office early in their graduate careers in order to expand the choices they will have upon completion of their degrees. For more information visit http://ocs.yale.edu

Teaching

Graduate Teaching Center

The Graduate Teaching Center is a useful resource for all of your teaching needs. Workshops and courses are held throughout the year. Consultations with staff can be arranged by request. For more information visit the Graduate Teaching Center web site.

Requirements

Teaching experience is regarded as an integral part of the graduate academic program. Most physics students serve as Teaching Fellows in their first two years, with a teaching commitment of 10 hours per week (TF10 appointment) each semester. As soon as you know the course in which you will be a TF, you should immediately contact the course instructor to let him/her know that you’ve been assigned to their course, and to find out when any course staff meetings are scheduled. Such meetings are usually held a little before the undergraduate semester begins and mark the start of your semester’s teaching responsibilities. Throughout the semester you must fulfill your teaching obligations conscientiously. If you find that you are routinely required to spend more than 10 hours per week on your teaching duties, you should contact the DGS. Your teaching obligations only end when you are released by the course instructor. In particular, you will likely be asked to help grade the final exam. It is therefore essential that you be at Yale from a few days before the first day of classes until after the final exam is graded.

Degrees

Masters requirements and petitioning for master’s degree

M.S. (en route to the Ph.D.) Students who complete the four core courses (1. PHYS 500, Advanced Classical Mechanics; 2. PHYS 508, Quantum Mechanics I; 3. PHYS 502, Electromagnetic Theory I; 4. PHYS 512, Statistical Physics I), plus one of the following: PHYS 608, Quantum Mechanics II; PHYS 990, Special Investigations; or an advanced elective (all with a satisfactory record) qualify for the M.S. degree. Certain equivalent course work or successful completion of a pass-out examination may allow individual students to substitute an elective course for a required one. Course information can be found on the Search Yale Courses Page.

M.Phil. Students who have successfully advanced to candidacy qualify for the M.Phil. degree.

Students can petition for their degree once they have met the requirements for the degree. This should be done at the end of the term in which requirements have been completed. A form can be obtained by visiting the University Registrar’s Office Forms & Petitions web page.

At the time of advancement to candidacy, students who have not petitioned for or received en route masters’ degrees will automatically be considered for such degrees at the next degree award date.