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grad2010-300x225The Applied Physics PhD program within UMBC’s Physics Dept has recently introduced an “Astrophysics Concentration” for students interested in pursuing graduate studies in Astronomy and Astrophysics.

To obtain a PhD in the Astrophysics Concentration, students must pass a number of Graduate Courses, pass a Qualifier Examination, present a viable Thesis Proposal, conduct a minumum number of Research Credits, and finally of course write & successfully defend a PhD Thesis.

Graduate Course Requirements
The formal course requirements are the same as for the regular Applied Physics Program, namely at least 46 credit hours, with 28 credit hours of lecture courses at the 600 level or higher and 12 credit hours of doctoral research. All prospective doctoral students must complete the PhD core curriculum consisting of:

  • PHYS601 Quantum Mechanics I
  • PHYS701 Quantum Mechanics II
  • PHYS602 Statistical Mechanics
  • PHYS605 Mathematical Physics
  • PHYS606 Classical Mechanics
  • PHYS607 Electromagnetic Theory
  • PHYS707 Advanced Electromagnetic Theory
  • PHYS640 Computational Physics
  • PHYS690 Professional Techniques in Physics

All students are also required to take Physics Seminar (PHYS698) for three semesters. To be admitted to candidacy for the doctoral degree, students must complete the PhD core curriculum with a grade of “B” or higher in each core course. In addition, students within the Astrophysics Concentration normally also take The Physics of Astrophysics I & II (PHYS631 & PHYS632). Finally, students with limited prior knowledge of astrophysics will most likely be advised (or required) to take one or more undergraduate courses (which earn graduate credits) such as Stellar Astrophysics (PHYS405), Astroparticle Physics (PHYS415), ExtraGalactic Astronomy & Cosmology (PHYS416), and Relativistic Physics (PHYS425). Prior to their advance to Candidacy, students usually also pick up graduate credits via Pre-Doctoral Research (PHYS898).

Qualifier Examination
The written qualifying examination covers all of undergraduate physics and it is divided into three segments. Each segment is separately passed or failed. The entire examination is offered in August and January. The examination must be taken no later than one year after admission into the PhD program. Students who fail a segment of the qualifying examination must retake that segment at the next opportunity. Students who do not pass the entire qualifying examination by the beginning of their third year of being in the doctoral program will not be admitted to candidacy for the PhD degree.

Thesis Project Proposal (& Admission to Candidacy)
To be admitted to candidacy for the doctoral degree, students must complete the PhD core curriculum with a grade of “B” or higher in each core course (see above), and also pass all sections of the Qualifier Examination (see also above). The student must also prepare and successfully present a Thesis Project Proposal. This is performed working closely with a putative thesis advisor. Typically this consists of a written proposal (usually 15-30 pages) and an oral presentation (usually ~45 mins), but of which are presented to the student’s preliminary thesis committee. A successful proposal usually consists of a description of a ‘big picture’ introduction to the field, the question(s) to be addressed in the proposed thesis research, and some kind of feasibility study which demonstrates that the project is indeed viable within a reasonable amount of time.

It should be noted that UMBC has a close relation with the NASA’s Astrophysics Science Division; GSFC-based thesis projects & advisers are possible.

Research, PHD Thesis, & Defence
After admission to candidacy and completion of the research, the student will be required to write and defend a dissertation before a committee constituted in accordance with Graduate School regulations. This research should be of a quality suitable for publication in a referred physics journal. The chair of this committee must be a regular member of the graduate faculty and a tenure-track faculty member in the Department of Physics.