Undertaking a group research project

The Department of Physics at UVM offers a master of science degree in physics. In addition, the department participates in the Materials Science Program in which students can get either an M.S. or a Ph.D.

Almost all of the graduate students in physics are supported through Graduate Teaching Fellowships (GTF). This includes a stipend for nine months and a tuition scholarship covering up to 10 credits per semester. Beginning graduate students are assigned to teach laboratory classes in the introductory physics courses. In later years, these students may continue to teach laboratory classes or recitations, but often are increasingly supported through research grants as they focus on thesis research. The department participates in the American Institute of Physics' comparison project, Grad School Shopper.

Graduate Degrees in Physics

Research within the department is broadly defined in three categories: Theoretical and Experimental Condensed Matter Physics, which includes dynamics of quantum systems with application to electronic, magnetic, optical, structural, and thermal properties of nanomaterials (eg. fullerene-derived solids and nanotubes); quantum many-body physics, superconductivity and superfluidity, electronic properties of graphene and its derivatives, strongly-correlated electronic systems and quantum magnetism, spintronics, optical properties and magnetism of thin films, organic semiconductors and nanostructures (professors: Clougherty, Del Maestro, Kotov, Headrick, Furis); Astrophysics, the use of radio astronomy to study pulsars (Professor: Rankin); and Biological Physics, which includes use of Atomic Force Microscopy to study DNA, lipid membranes, and viruses; studies of the application of ultrasound to biological systems; protein crystallography to study the shapes of proteins and how function follows form. (Professors: Vanegas, Wu, Yang)

PhD Program in Physics

The Department of Physics offers research opportunities in theoretical and experimental condensed matter physics, astronomy and astrophysics, and soft condensed matter physics and biophysics. For the PhD, 75 credits are required including six core graduate courses: PHYS 301 Mathematical Physics, PHYS 311 Advanced Dynamics, PHYS 313 Electromagnetic Theory, PHYS 323 Contemporary Physics, PHYS 362 Quantum Mechanics II, PHYS 365 Statistical Mechanics. See a detailed description of the program requirements here

Requirements for The M.S. Degree

This degree requires thirty credit hours of course work course work and thesis research for graduation. At least six of these, but no more than 15, must be master's thesis research credits. At least nine credit hours must be taken from 300-level courses, the remaining courses can be taken at the 200-level. At least 21 credit hours must be taken at UVM in order to satisfy residency requirements. At the start of their second semester at UVM, students are expected to sit for the written part of the Comprehensive Exam which covers classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, electricity and magnetism, statistical thermal physics, modern physics, and experimental physics. Students are given two opportunities to pass the comprehensive exam. In addition to the written portion, there is also an oral portion that consists of a Master's thesis proposal given after the start of a thesis research project.

Program Outcomes

Upon completion of the MS degree, students will be able to:

  • Apply the laws of physics in classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, electrodynamics, and statistical mechanics at a level commensurate with current standards in physics.
  • Demonstrate mastery of advanced physics within their chosen subfield (e.g. astronomy, condensed matter, biological, and engineering physics).
  •  Demonstrate fluency in comprehension of the primary research literature in their chosen subfield
  •  Conduct primary research literature searches in their chosen subfield.
  • Complete an original, creative project that demonstrably advances human knowledge within their subfield.

Here on the Cutting Edge

To get a feel for the depth and breadth of work completed by UVM graduate students in physics, review past theses and dissertations. These documents are maintained by UVM's Bailey/Howe Library. 

Sample Comprehensive Exams

If you are a prospective graduate student interested in seeing what current graduate students can accomplish, or if you're a current graduate student studying, here are some links to previous Comp Exams: