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Graduate Program

Graduate Program

Fall Admissions: The deadline for the Fall 2018 semester is May 31, 2018.

Apply online at Cal State Apply. No separate application to the Department is required. In your application to Cal State Apply, include a short statement of purpose (1/2 - 1 page) in which you a) explain your goals beyond the Master's degree (what do you plan to do with the degree), and b) What Physics research you would like to pursue in the Department if admitted.

Have three (3) letters of recommendation sent directly by your references to the graduate advisor, Dr. Jaikumar ( Letters should be on official letterhead, dated, bear the writer's signature and be sent from an official work address. Letters of recommendation should not be uploaded to Cal State Apply.

Minimal admission requirements:

  • BS or BA
  • GPA > 2.5
  • No GRE required
  • TOEFL > 550 or >80 (iBT) (for international students)

If you have a Bachelor in a field different from physics please contact the graduate advisor to determine the course of action.
If you are interested in the APS Bridge Program, please have a look at the Bridge Program webpage of the department and contact the Bridge Site Advisor

Contact the graduate advisor, Prashanth Jaikumar, for more information.

There are three components to the program:

    1. Core classes that every student has to take (19 units),
    2. Electives (a minimum of 5 or 6 units) chosen in accordance with one of the four options: Applied Physics, Computational Physics, General Physics, or Proferssional Physics
    3. Research performed with one of the faculty (a minimum of 6 units) resulting in a Master's thesis.

The minimum number of units required for the Master's degree is 31 units. Students may take more units depending on interest and research foci. Students should first contact the graduate advisor if they intend to take classes not directly related to the Masterís degree.

The possibility to do a comprehensive exam instead of the Master's thesis is offered. Students should express their interest early by contacting the graduate advisor.

A description of each option and a list of faculty doing research in these options can be found at the end of this page.

1. Core classes & Thesis units:

Core classes are mandatory for every Master's student and should preferably be taken in the order presented in the following table:

Class Course Units
Semester 1 PHYS-510 Mechanics 3
560A Mathematical Methods in Physics 3
Semester 2 545/546/576,580 or 562 Experimental Physics or Computational Physics* 3
540A Electrodynamics 3
Semester 3 550A Quantum Mechanics I 3
698 or 699 Thesis or Professional Project** 3 or 4
Semester 4 522 Statistical Physics 3
698 Thesis 3
Any 695 Colloquium 1

** The Professional Project is for students who choose the Masterís of Science in Professional Physics and will be available starting Fall 2016.

Although only one unit of Colloquium (PHYS-695) is required for one of the above semesters, it is expected that students attend the colloquium regularly during the entire time they are at the department, unless there is a conflict with class and teaching schedules.

*All students have to choose one experimental physics class listed above as a core class. If a student decides to do a thesis in theoretical physics, he/she is expected to take Advanced Computational Physics (PHYS-562) in semester 2 and an experimental physics class in any of the other semesters. For a student doing a thesis in experimental physics, he/she is expected to take the experimental physics class available in semester 2 and further experimental classes in other semesters.

2. Required classes for each option and electives:

Students will specialize their knowledge in one of four options: Applied Physics, Computational Physics, General Physics, or Professional Physics. Students aiming at a teaching career can choose any of these options and will be involved in the PhysTEC program. Students who choose the Professional Physics path will do a Masterís professional project instead of a thesis.

The table below indicates the additional required classes a student has to take for each option.

Applied Computational General Professional**
3 or 4
One additional experimental class among PHYS-545, 546, 575, 576 or 580
(minimum 3 units)
PHYS-550 B
Quantum Mechanics II
(3 units)
PHYS-550 B
Quantum Mechanics II
(3 units)
One 500-level (or above) physics class
(3 units)
Any 500-level (or above) physics class useful for the Master's thesis
(minimum 2 units)
Computational Physics
(3 units)
Any 500-level (or above) physics class useful for the Master's thesis
(minimum 2 units)
Three of NSCI-501,Ö, 505, PHYS-692
(9 units)

* The classes for the Professional Physics path are Project Management for Scientists (NSCI-501), Leadership and Management for Scientists (502), Accounting and Finance for Scientists (503), Introduction to Regulatory Science (504), and Professional Ethics (NSCI-505), as well as Internship (PHYS-692. Each class is a 3 units class.

3. Research:

We highly recommend Master's students to perform research in close supervision with one or several faculty members during the academic year and/or the summer. This activity offers the opportunity to expand the knowledge acquired in class and to apply this knowledge on an actual scientific problem. The publication of research results in peer reviewed journals is often an achievable goal.

The research topics are listed for each option:

A. Applied Physics

A student choosing Applied Physics will acquire skills in state-of-the-art experimental techniques used primarily in Condensed Matter, Materials Science and Chemical Physics. Theoretical work in these areas is also possible.

Faculty working in areas related to Experimental Condensed Matter & Materials Science are: T. Gredig(Organic semiconductors, solar cells), J.Y. Gu (Magnetism & superconductivity), C. Kwon (superconductivity, nanoparticles), C. Ojeda-Aristizabal (Quantum Coherence, low dimensional systems, graphene).

Faculty working in areas related to Condensed Matter & Materials Theory are: A. Bill (Superconductivity, magnetism, crystallization), M. Peterson (strongly correlated systems, quantum topological phases), G.T. Pickett (polymer physics, origami).

More information on this option can be found on the Applied Physics Option homepage.

B. Computational Physics

Computers are one of the essential modern tools used to solve a physical problem or simulate or model a real system. A student choosing Computational Physics will acquire practical skills on how to solve differential and integral equations how to model a system and write a program that allows calculating quantities that can be compared with experimental data or predict the outcome of an experiment. The skills are universal in the sense that they may be applied to any field of Physics.

Faculty working in areas involving Computational Physics are: A. Bill and M. Peterson (Condensed Matter & Materials Theory), P. Jaikumar (Astrophysics), Z. Papp (Few Body Systems, Quantum Mechanics), G.T. Pickett (Condensed Matter & Materials Theory).

More information on this option can be found on the Computational Physics Option homepage.

C. General Physics

Students interested in any topic not covered by the above options, such as Particle Physics, will choose this path to acquire in depth knowledge in a chosen subject. Faculty working in these fields are: Z. Hlousek and S. Rajpoot (Particle Physics), or any other faculty of the department for other topics.

D. Physics Education & Teaching

Students interested in doing physics education research or improving student learning may choose this path. The research will be supervised by physics and science education faculty

Faculty working in areas related to physics education online should contact Z. Hlousek, and/or T. Gredig, C. Kwon. Students interested in aspects of teaching and learning of physics should contact C. Kwon.

More information on this option can be found on the General Physics Option homepage.

E. Professional Physics

This program is especially suited for students who either come from industry, or aim at working in industry after the Masterís may choose that path or another one. The particularity about Professional Physics is that it provides some knowledge and skills in fields not usually covered in the a traditional Physics program but that are encountered and used in industry. The list of specific classes taught for that career path are given in section 2 above. In addition, students following that track may not want or have time to devote for a Masterís thesis that involves research at the graduate level and requires time in the laboratory. Instead, the Professional Physics path requires students to do an internship in a company and write a project document. Students interested in that career path should contact the graduate advisor.