Physics

Physics—MS, PhD

Prepare yourself for a career in academia, industry, or research and development with an MS or PhD in physics from Michigan Tech. We are seeking highly motivated, inquisitive students with undergraduate majors in physics, materials science, mathematics, or engineering, who possess a strong interest in research.

Beyond Michigan Tech

Tyler Capek

Tyler Capek, 2018, Physics PhD
Awarded a research fellowship funded by the Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) Program.

Chad Brisbois

Chad Brisbois, 2018, Physics PhD 
Member of the Michigan Tech Gamma-ray Group, an institutional member of the HAWC collaboration in Mexico

Opportunities for Original Research

The National Science Foundation ranks the Department of Physics at Michigan Tech in the top 25 percent of PhD expenditures nationally. Current projects being conducted in the department include:

  • Chemical and biological sensors
  • Gamma-ray observations
  • Nonlinear Raman Spectroscopy
  • Parity-time symmetry in optics
  • Theory and modeling of single-electron transport devices
  • Nonreciprocal phenomena
  • Instrument development and environmental optics
  • Dielectric response of molecules under external electrostatic fields
  • Modeling molecular electronic devices
  • Modeling of materials
  • Time-resolved laser spectroscopy and nanofabrications
  • Controlled synthesis of 0-D, 1-D, and 2-D materials
  • Cloud physics

State-Of-The-Art Laboratory Facilities

The physics department boasts exceptional research labs and facilities. A recent $2.5 million renovation provided major upgrades in physics classroom technology, and a new $700,000 gift is enabling a major upgrade to physics research facilities. Physics hosts seven labs, ranging from computer labs with state-of-the-art software packages to atomic and molecular laser spectroscopy labs. Researchers also have access to other departments’ research labs, including scanning electron microscopy labs and other advanced characterization and fabrication facilities. 

PhD Versus MS

The PhD program (regarded as the terminal degree within the field) consists of substantial graduate-level coursework combined with original research leading to significant contributions to the field of physics through publications in peer-reviewed journals. An MS in physics may be obtained while in pursuit of the PhD.

Both the MS and PhD programs build on a foundational set of six core courses plus additional electives. Well-prepared students will need a minimum of 12 months to complete their MS degree requirements while PhD students typically spend five years.

Degree Requirements

Credit requirements, degree options, time limits, examinations, and other requirements vary by degree:

Qualifying Exam

Students accepted into the Physics PhD program must take a written Qualifying (Comprehensive) Examination. The exam will be authored and administered by the physics department's qualifying exam committee and will cover four areas:

  • Classical mechanics (including introductory special relativity)
  • Electricity and magnetism
  • Quantum mechanics
  • General physics

Core Courses

Certain courses are considered foundational for all students seeking MS or PhD degrees in physics, irrespective of intended research specialty. The following required courses have been selected to provide a general physics education to act as a foundation for future study and a career in physics:

PH 5010 - Graduate Journal Club

Presentation and discussion of current issues in physics and recent research by departmental faculty and others. One credit in journal club is required for all graduate degrees in physics. Attendance is required in the physics department colloquium series.
Credits: 1.0; Graded Pass/Fail Only
Lec-Rec-Lab: (0-1-0)
Semesters Offered: Spring
Restrictions: Must be enrolled in one of the following Level(s): Graduate

PH 5110 - Classical Mechanics

Lagrangian methods, symmetries and conservation laws, variational formulation, small oscillations, Hamilton's equations, contact transformations, Poisson brackets, Hamilton-Jacobi theory, Lorentz-invariant formulation.
Credits: 2.0
Lec-Rec-Lab: (2-0-0)
Semesters Offered: Fall, Spring - Offered alternate years beginning with the 2002-2003 academic year
Restrictions: Must be enrolled in one of the following Level(s): Graduate

PH 5210 - Electrodynamics I

Electrostatics and magnetostatics, boundary value problems, multipoles, Maxwell's equations, time-dependent fields, propagating wave solutions, radiation.
Credits: 3.0
Lec-Rec-Lab: (3-0-0)
Semesters Offered: Fall
Restrictions: Must be enrolled in one of the following Level(s): Graduate
Pre-Requisite(s): PH 5320

PH 5310 - Statistical Mechanics

Ensembles, partition functions and distributions, thermodynamic potentials, quantum statistics, ideal and nonideal gases, interacting systems. Applications may include classical and quantum liquids, phase transitions and critical phenomena, correlation functions, linear response and transport theory, or other topics.
Credits: 3.0
Lec-Rec-Lab: (3-0-0)
Semesters Offered: Spring - Offered alternate years beginning with the 2007-2008 academic year
Restrictions: Must be enrolled in one of the following Level(s): Graduate

PH 5320 - Mathematical Physics

Partial differential equations of physics, separation of variables, boundary value problems, Sturm-Liouville theory, Legendre and Bessel functions, inhomogeneous partial differential equations, Green's functions. Fourier series, Fourier and Laplace transforms, complex variables, evaluation of integrals by contour integration, linear algebra, matrix methods with emphasis on numerical applications.
Credits: 3.0
Lec-Rec-Lab: (3-0-0)
Semesters Offered: Fall
Restrictions: Must be enrolled in one of the following Level(s): Graduate

PH 5410 - Quantum Mechanics I

Study of the postulates of quantum mechanics framed in Dirac notation, the Heisenberg uncertainty relations, simple problems in one dimension, the harmonic oscillator, the principles of quantum dynamics, rotational invariance and angular momentum, spherically symmetric potentials including the hydrogen atom, and spin.
Credits: 3.0
Lec-Rec-Lab: (3-0-0)
Semesters Offered: Fall
Restrictions: Must be enrolled in one of the following Level(s): Graduate

Electives

In addition to core courses, at least two of the following courses are required for students seeking MS or PhD degrees in physics:

PH 4395 - Computer Simulation in Physics

Role of computer simulation in physics with emphasis on methodologies, data and error analysis, approximations, and potential pitfalls. Methodologies may include Monte Carlo simulation, molecular dynamics, and first-principles calculations for materials, astrophysics simulation, and biophysics simulations.
Credits: 3.0
Lec-Rec-Lab: (2-0-3)
Semesters Offered: Spring
Pre-Requisite(s): PH 3300 and PH 4390 and (PH 2400 or PH 3410)

PH 4610 - Stellar Astrophysics

Topics include an overview of observational astrophysics, stellar atmospheres, stellar structure, atomic properties of matter, radiation and energy transport in stellar interiors, and stellar evolution to and from the main sequence. Course offered every third year beginning 2008-09.
Credits: 3.0
Lec-Rec-Lab: (3-0-0)
Semesters Offered: Spring - Offered alternate years beginning with the 2008-2009 academic year
Pre-Requisite(s): PH 1600 and PH 2400 and (MA 3520 or MA 3521 or MA 3530 or MA 3560)

PH 4620 - Galactic Astrophysics

Topics include the composition and dynamics of our galaxy, dynamics of stellar encounters, spiral density wave theory, clusters of galaxies, theoretical cosmology, physics of the early universe, and observational cosmology. Course offered every third year beginning 2009-10.
Credits: 3.0
Lec-Rec-Lab: (3-0-0)
Semesters Offered: Spring - Offered alternate years beginning with the 2009-2010 academic year
Pre-Requisite(s): PH 1600 and PH 2400 and (MA 3520 or MA 3521 or MA 3530 or MA 3560)

PH 4630 - Particle Astrophysics

Introduction to the twin fields of elementary particle physics and high energy astrophysics. Topics include an overview of particles and interactions, the expanding universe, conservation laws, dark matter and dark energy, large scale structure, and cosmic particles. Course offered every third year beginning 2007-08.
Credits: 3.0
Lec-Rec-Lab: (3-0-0)
Semesters Offered: Spring - Offered alternate years beginning with the 2007-2008 academic year
Pre-Requisite(s): PH 2400 and (MA 3520 or MA 3521 or MA 3530 or MA 3560)

PH 5211 - Electrodynamics II

Scattering and diffraction, special relativity, relativistic particle dynamics, Lorenz transformation, 4-vectors, transformation of fields, charges and currents, Thomas precession, retarded potentials, radiation from moving charges.
Credits: 2.0
Lec-Rec-Lab: (2-0-0)
Semesters Offered: On Demand - Offered alternate years beginning with the 2008-2009 academic year
Restrictions: Must be enrolled in one of the following Level(s): Graduate
Pre-Requisite(s): PH 5210

PH 5411 - Quantum Mechanics II

Continuation of PH5410. Includes the study of symmetries and their consequences, the variational method, identical particles, the Hartree-Fock approximation time-independent perturbation theory, time-dependent perturbation theory, diatomic molecules with applications to H2+, many-body perturbation theory, and the Dirac equation.
Credits: 3.0
Lec-Rec-Lab: (3-0-0)
Semesters Offered: On Demand
Restrictions: Must be enrolled in one of the following Level(s): Graduate
Pre-Requisite(s): PH 5410

PH 5510 - Theory of Solids

Free electron theory, Bloch's theorem, electronic band structure theory, Fermi surfaces, electron transport in metals and semiconductors. Lattice vibrations and phonons, other topics as time permits.
Credits: 3.0
Lec-Rec-Lab: (3-0-0)
Semesters Offered: Spring - Offered alternate years beginning with the 2000-2001 academic year
Restrictions: Must be enrolled in one of the following Level(s): Graduate
Pre-Requisite(s): PH 5320 and PH 5410

PH 5520 - Materials Physics

Materials classification and structures; phase diagrams; lattice imperfections; quasiparticles; boundaries and interfaces; mechanical, electronic, optical, magnetic and superconducting properties of materials.
Credits: 3.0
Lec-Rec-Lab: (3-0-0)
Semesters Offered: Spring - Offered alternate years beginning with the 2001-2002 academic year
Restrictions: Must be enrolled in one of the following Level(s): Graduate

PH 5640 - Atmospheric Physics

Essential elements of atmospheric physics, including thermodynamics (e.g. adiabatic processes, phase transformations, stratification), aerosol and cloud physics (e.g. nucleation, Kohler theory, growth by condensation and collection), and radiative transfer (e.g. Beer's law, transfer equations with and without scattering.
Credits: 3.0
Lec-Rec-Lab: (3-0-0)
Semesters Offered: Fall - Offered alternate years beginning with the 2008-2009 academic year
Restrictions: Must be enrolled in one of the following Level(s): Graduate
Pre-Requisite(s): PH 2300 and (MA 3520 or MA 3521 or MA 3530 or MA 3560)

PH 5680 - Geophysical Fluid Dynamics

Fundamental forces and conservation laws that govern fluid flow; applications to the atmosphere and ocean, including balanced flow (pressure gradient and Coriolis force), vorticity dynamics, turbulence, waves, and boundary layers.
Credits: 3.0
Lec-Rec-Lab: (3-0-0)
Semesters Offered: Fall - Offered alternate years beginning with the 2017-2018 academic year
Restrictions: May not be enrolled in one of the following Class(es): Freshman, Sophomore, Junior
Pre-Requisite(s): PH 2300 and (MA 3520 or MA 3521 or MA 3530 or MA 3560)

EE 5410 - Engineering Electromagnetics

A mathematically rigorous study of dynamic electromagnetic fields, beginning with Maxwell's equations. Topics include scalar and vector potentials, waves, and radiation.
Credits: 3.0
Lec-Rec-Lab: (3-0-0)
Semesters Offered: Fall
Restrictions: Must be enrolled in one of the following Level(s): Graduate; Must be enrolled in one of the following Major(s): Electrical Engineering, Electrical Engineering
Pre-Requisite(s): EE 3140

EE 5430 - Electronic Materials

A study of the physical principles, operational characteristics, models, and basic applications of selected solid-state devices.
Credits: 3.0
Lec-Rec-Lab: (3-0-0)
Semesters Offered: Fall
Restrictions: Must be enrolled in one of the following Level(s): Graduate

EE 5460 - Solid State Devices

A study of the physical principles, operational characteristics and models and basic applications of solid state devices such as p-n junctions, metal- semiconductor junctions and transistors.
Credits: 3.0
Lec-Rec-Lab: (3-0-0)
Semesters Offered: Spring
Restrictions: May not be enrolled in one of the following Class(es): Freshman, Sophomore, Junior

EE 5520 - Fourier Optics

Analysis and modeling of diffraction effects on optical systems, emphasizing frequency-domain analytic and computational approaches. Presents wave propagation, imaging, and optical information processing applications.
Credits: 3.0
Lec-Rec-Lab: (3-0-0)
Semesters Offered: Fall
Restrictions: Must be enrolled in one of the following Level(s): Graduate; Must be enrolled in one of the following Major(s): Electrical Engineering, Electrical Engineering
Pre-Requisite(s): EE 3190

Careers in Physics

Graduates with an advanced degree in physics work in academia, industry, and at government laboratories. Past students and their employers include:

  • Jiang Lu, artificial intelligence/deep learning expert at FutureWei Technology in Seattle, WA
  • Michael Larsen, associate professor of physics at the College of Charleston in Charleston, SC
  • Teresa Wilson, research scientist at the United States Naval Observatory, Washington DC.