Requirements for a Doctorate in Physics

An advanced degree in physics at Caltech is contingent upon an extensive research achievement. Students in the program are expected to join a research group, carry out independent research, and write publications for peer-reviewed journals as well as a thesis. The thesis work is then presented and evaluated by a Caltech thesis committee in a public defense. Initially, students are required to consolidate their knowledge by taking advanced courses in at least six subfields of physics. Students must also pass a written candidacy exam in both classical physics and quantum mechanics in order to progress into the research phase of the degree.

Graduates of our program are expected to have extensive experience with modern research methods, a broad knowledge of contemporary physics, and the ability to perform as independent researchers at the highest intellectual and technical levels.

The following are the requirements that need to be met in order to receive a PhD.

  1. Plan of study is approved by Option Rep and entered into REGIS (by the end of first term)
  2. Phys 242 Course (Fall & Winter Term)
  3. Basic Physics Requirement - pass the Written Candidacy Exams; Classical Physics & Quantum Mechanics (by the end of the second year)
  4. Advanced Physics Requirement – study in at least six graduate courses spread over at least three of the following categories: (by the end of the second year)
    1. Elementary Particle Physics (Nuclear Physics, High Energy Physics, String Theory)
    2. Quantum Information and Matter (Atomic/Molecular/Optical Physics, Condensed-Matter Physics, Quantum Information)
    3. Space Physics (Gravitational Physics, Astrophysics, Cosmology)
    4. Interdisciplinary Physics (Biophysics, Applied Physics, Experimental Physics, etc.)
  5. Oral Candidacy Exam (by the end of the third year)
  6. Annual Thesis Advisory Committee meetings (6 months to 1 year after your oral candidacy exam and every year thereafter)
  7. PhD Defense (by the end of fifth or sixth year)

 

Written Candidacy Exam Schedule

October 12th & 19th, 2017

Week of July 16th and 23rd, 2018

Week of October 8th, 2018

Email mika.walton@caltech.edu to sign up

 

Course category breakdown for the Advanced Physics Requirement

Physics of elementary particles and fields (Nuclear Physics, High Energy Physics, String Theory)

                Ph135c Intro to Particle Physics
                Ph205c Relativistic Quantum Field Theory
                Ph217 Intro to the Standard Model
                Ph230 Elementary Particle Theory (offered every two years)

Quantum Information and Matter (Atomic/Molecular/Optical Physics, Condensed-Matter Physics, Quantum Information)

                Ph127 Statistical Physics
                Ph135a Intro to Condensed Matter Physics
                Ph135b Quantum Optics
                Ph 136a Applications of Classical Physics (Stat Mech, Optics) (offered every two years)
                Ph223 Advanced Condensed Matter Physics
                Ay121 Radiative Processes

Physics of the Universe (Gravitational Physics, Astrophysics, Cosmology)            

                Ph101 Order of magnitude (offered every two years)
                Ph136b Applications of Classical Physics (Elasticity, Fluid Dynamics) (offered every two years)
                Ph136c Applications of Classical Physics (Plasma, GR) (offered every two years)
                Ph236 Relativity
                Ph237 Gravitational Waves (offered every two years)
                Ay121 Radiative Processes

Interdisciplinary Physics (e.g. Biophysics, Applied Physics, Chemical Physics, Mathematical Physics, Experimental Physics)

                Ph101 Order of magnitude (offered every two years)
                Ph103 Atomic Physics (offered every two years)
                Ph118a/b Low Noise Measurement
                Ph118c Physics of Measurement (offered every two years)
                Ph127 Statistical Physics (must take two terms to count for this category)
                Ph129 Mathematical Methods of Physics
                Ph 136a Applications of Classical Physics (Stat Mech, Optics) (offered every two years)
                Ph136b Applications of Classical Physics (Elasticity, Fluid Dynamics) (offered every two years)
                Ph205a/b Relativistic Quantum Field Theory (must take two terms to count for this category)
                Ph219 Quantum Computation
                Ph229 Advanced Mathematical Methods of Physics
                Ph250 Intro to String Theory (offered every other year)