A typical graduate student seeking a PhD in physics or in physics and astronomy would follow a path such as this:

  • Learn about the fundamentals of physics and astronomy in formal courses such as PHY 407 Quantum Mechanics, PHY 415 Electromagnetic Theory, PHY 403 Modern Statistics and Exploration of Large Data Sets and PHY 418 Statistical Mechanics.
  • Explore current research activities in seminar, colloquia and through personal contact with faculty throughout th efirst year of the program - aiming to find the right research group match for a trial summer after the first year of coursework is completed. Our admissions process handlies general admission into the program, not into specific research groups at the outset. Research group placements are up to the enrolled students and the faculty advisors to sort out during the first year of the program, with the goal of joining a group for a trial summer after the first year coursework is completed.
  • Learn to teach physics and/or astronomy by serving as a teaching assistant, fulfilling the two semester teaching assistant requirement for our program. The vast majority of our graduate students complete the teaching requirement in the first two semester of the program.
  • Demonstrate proficiency in the fundamentals of physics in the preliminary assessment, based on the first year of coursework along with the first research experience.
  • Join a research group; demonstrate proficiency in a specialty area, and a capability for performing research, by passing the qualifying examination before the completion of the fourth year of study. The goal of the qualifying exam in physics and astronomy is to show that you can do independent research, it is not designed as a thesis proposal in our department. Whether or not the qualifying exam subject/brief material end up as a part of your thesis is a choice for you and your advisor to make at a later time.
  • Conduct research, write and publish articles describing the work, and identify a specific thesis subject requiring independent and original work that could be included in a dissertation.
  • Write and defend a dissertation, a substantial and original contribution to knowledge in physics or astronomy.

It usually takes five to seven years to complete the PhD program. The length of the program is entirely dependent upon your progress through coursework and research, and is different for each student. Along the way, students develop the skills to create and conduct innovative research, advancing the frontiers of physics or astronomy.

Please visit the AS&E Graduate Student Handbook.

Please contact Linda Cassidy at grad@pas.rochester.edu with any questions.

Interested in applying? Visit our application page for instructions and a link to our online application.

Support and Fellowships

Students receive support in the form of either teaching or research assistantship stipends. The physics and astronomy assistantship stipend rate covers most reasonable living expenses here in Rochester. The majority of students will complete the two semester teaching assistantship requirement in the first year of study and it is this teaching assistantship that pays the stipend in the first year. After the first year, the majority of students will join a research group and will have their stipend paid by their research advisor for the remainder of the PhD program. All students admitted into our PhD program receive a full tuition wavier from AS&E. 

There are also many fellowships, that may be awarded through the department or through outside agencies, to supplement the base teaching or research stipends. See the financial support page for more details. 

Incoming Students

Welcome to our incoming class! Check out our incoming students page for information on important dates, and to see our pre- and post-arrival checklists.


Have questions? Contact Linda Case at grad@pas.rochester.edu or fill out our inquiry form.