Skip to main content

Graduate Program

Joint Ph.D. Programs with Other Fields

College Rules for Joint or Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Degrees

The following are the College rules for a joint PhD degree (from the Regulations Section of the College Graduate Bulletin)

"Departments/programs authorized to offer work leading to the Ph.D. degree also may cooperate to offer work toward the degree on an interdepartmental basis. Joint work is supervised by an ad hoc committee for a single student (one member of the ad hoc committee must be from outside the two programs of study). Each ad hoc committee is appointed by the University dean of graduate studies upon nomination by the Graduate Committee of the college or colleges in which the departments/programs are located. A proposal outlining how degree requirements will be fulfilled along with supporting documentation (including program of study, proposed plan for qualifying examination(s), up-to-date advising record, proposed thesis topic) must be submitted for approval before the student is admitted to candidacy."

"For a continuing formalized interdisciplinary program (i.e., Visual and Cultural Studies, Neuroscience), a standing committee acts as a "department" and supervises the program requirements for its students."

Joint Ph.D. Program in Physics and Another Field

The Department of Physics and Astronomy has participated in several joint Ph.D. degrees with other Departments in the past. In the years 1997-2003 the Department of Physics and Astronomy has awarded two joint Ph.D. degrees, one in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Physics (Zhou, 2003, advisors Feldman and Howell), and one in the Physics and Philosophy of Science (Kirakakis, 1997, advisors Watson and Kyburg). Our Department's own Prof. Emeritus R. S. Knox was awarded the University's first joint Ph.D. in Physics and Optics in 1958. A program for a joint M.D. and Ph.D. degree in Physics is also available.

In 2003, two students from Physics and Astronomy were enrolled in joint Ph.D. programs in the Physics and History of Science. Also in 2003, two students from Physics and Astronomy and two students from the Optics Institute have expressed interest in a joint Ph.D. in Physics and Optics, and one student from Physics and Astronomy is planning a joint Ph.D. in Physics and Brain and Cognitive Science.

Qualifying Examination for Joint Ph.D. Program in Physics and Another Field

There will be one joint qualifying examination. The qualifying exam committee will consist of two members from Physics and Astronomy and two members from the other department. The student's primary advisor may be a member of either department, and there should be a secondary advisor from the other department. In the rare cases where the primary advisor is from a third department (e.g. under theCross Disciplinary Physics Program) there will be five members of the committee, including two secondary internal advisors (one from Physics and one from the other department).

Thesis Defense for Joint Ph.D. Program in Physics and Another Field

There will be members from both departments on the Ph.D. defense. These include the student's primary Ph.D. advisor, the student's secondary internal Ph.D. advisor, and one outside reader from another department. An additional member from another department is appointed by the Dean of Graduate Studies to be the Chair of the committee.

Additional information on joint Ph.D. Programs in the College can be obtained from Deans Bruce Jacobs (, Wendi Heinzelman (, and Pat McLane ( at the University Graduate Office.

Futher information about Joint Ph.D. Programs with Physics and Astronomy may be obtained from our Administrative Assistant for Graduate Affairs (, the Graduate Advisor, Prof. Eric Blackman ( and the Department Chair, Prof. Nick Bigelow (

Students should additionally contact the graduate advisor in the other department in which the student wishes to do the joint Ph.D. degree. Examples have been, Prof. Theodore Brown in History (, Prof. James Fienup in Optics (, and Prof. Thomas Foster in Radiology and Physics ( for the joint MD/PhD program.