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Doctoral Program

Doctor of Philosophy Degree Program

The Department offers the following Ph.D. degree:

Ph.D. Degree in Physics

  • General
  • Aerospace Sciences Option
  • Energy Engineering Option (collaboration with Dept. of Chemical Engineering)
  • Medical Physics Option
  • Radiological Science Option 

All Ph.D. Degree require, at the minimum

  • 60 credit hours beyond the bachelors' degree, including
  • at least 15 and at most 24 credit hours of Ph.D. dissertation research (PHYS.7560)
  • at least 36 credit hours of non-research and non-project courses
  • at most 3 credit hours can be from colloquium or seminar courses

Academic Advising Committee and Research Supervisor

All students in the Physics graduate program will be have assigned an Academic Committee that consists of the student’s Research Supervisor and at least two other faculty members selected by mutual agreement between the student and Research Supervisor. One of these members should be outside the direct research area of the research supervisor. Until one is officially assigned, the relevant Graduate Coordinator will play the role of the Academic Advisor. Students meet with the Academic Advising Committee at least once per semester prior to course registration decisions. The Committee reviews students’ adequate progress towards their Graduate Degree and reports to the Graduate Coordinator.  Committee members external to the department or institution could be chosen, especially in cases where the research extends beyond the department, but they would have to be in addition to the three members from the department.
The Research Supervisor is responsible for research guidance, and his/her approval is required to register for Dissertation, Thesis, or Project Research credits.

Comprehensive Examination

Ph.D. candidates for all Physics and Applied Physics programs shall keep a minimum 3.000 GPA in the option-specific core courses and pass the Comprehensive Exam. These core courses shall be taken by the end of their third semester in the Ph.D. program. 

For Physics program:

For Medical Physics option:

For Aerospace Sciences option:

For Radiological Science option:

Where available, advanced 6xxxx courses may be used instead of their 5xxxx counterparts on the list above.

Students must take the Physics Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination. Students are required to take the exam by the beginning of their second Fall semester at UML (e.g. students entering in a Fall semester must take the exam by the beginning of the following Fall semester). Those who do not take the exam at the proper time will be considered to fail their first Comprehensive Examination and may lose their TA support.

The Department will form several specialty-based Oral Committees. Each specialty committee should have representation from outside the specialty. The Physics Graduate Committee will announce "starting points of discussion" to each student. These could be either specific problems, topics of importance for Physics, or scientific publications, based on the topics approved by the Department Graduate Committee. Each student will be examined by two Oral Committees for approximately one hour each. 

Exam Pass/Fail:

Oral examination committees will submit reports to the Physics Graduate Committee, which, after deliberation, will submit a recommendation to the entire Physics Faculty on whether a student passes or fails the exam. The final decisions shall be made at the Physics Faculty meeting.

Students who fail the Comprehensive Exam may take the exam a second time in the following semester. A student who fails the Comprehensive Exam twice may be eligible for an M.S. degree if they satisfy the requirements for that degree.

Graduate Research Admission 

Each doctoral candidate must demonstrate the ability to carry out graduate-level research before embarking on Ph.D. dissertation research. This requirement can be satisfied by: 

1. completing an M.S. Thesis at UML 

2. passing two semesters of Advanced Projects in Physics 

3. a waiver of the above requirements for a student who has completed a master's thesis to earn an M.S. in physics or a related discipline (e.g. at another university) to their Academic Advising Committee   

The M.S. Thesis defense, or Advanced Project oral defense, or oral presentation of previous M.S. work, constitutes the “Graduate Research Admission Examination”, and must be completed before the student may register for Ph.D. Dissertation Research.  

To receive a satisfactory grade in Advanced Projects, a student must: 

1. Submit a written Progress Report to the Academic Advising Committee the end of the first semester of work in Advanced Projects I (PHYS.7310). 

2. Submit a final written Advanced Project Report to the Academic Advising Committee on completion of the Project. 

3. Make an oral presentation of the Advanced Project before the Academic Advising Committee. 


When ready to engage in M.S. thesis or Ph.D. dissertation research, a student must first choose a research supervisor (a member of the Physics Department), obtain an SIS permission number to enroll in either PHYS.7460 or PHYS.7560, respectively, and form the Academic Advising Committee. The Academic Advising Committee that shall track student’s progress towards their degree.  In the semester in which they FIRST register for PHYS.7460/7560, the student must prepare and defend a dissertation proposal to the Academic Advising Committee (see section IX, p.18 for the format of a proposal). Students who did not successfully defend their proposal have an option of revising and re-defending the proposal at a later time, with an approval of the Academic Advising Committee. Upon completion of the research, the student must prepare a thesis or dissertation following the guidelines and regulations of the University of Massachusetts Lowell Dissertation and Thesis Guide. For the accepted style specifically of a physics dissertation, thesis or project report, the the AIP Style Manual is to be followed. In the few cases where the two are in disagreement, the latter document takes precedence.  Once the written thesis or dissertation is sufficiently complete the Academic Advising Committee will schedule a defense/oral examination. This oral examination will be based on, but not necessarily restricted to, the subject of student’s research.  Upon completion of the oral examination, the Committee will recommend whether the thesis or dissertation is acceptable or not.  If it is not acceptable the Committee may make recommendations on how to amend it to make it acceptable. After these recommendations have been carried out, an amended thesis or dissertation may be prepared and, if so stipulated, a new oral examination will be scheduled. The student must order printed copies of the thesis/dissertation for the Department and Advisor in addition to online submission to the library.   

Course requirements for the Physics Ph.D.

At least one elective at 6xxx level

Course Requirements for Aerospace Sciences Option

Every student in an Applied Physics Ph.D. Option must satisfy the core requirements for the Ph.D. in Physics in addition to 7 elective courses from "Space Environment" track or "Systems Engineering for Aerospace Sciences" track in list below (21 credits).

Space Environment only courses:

Systems Engineering for Aerospace Science electives;

Electives to satisfy both the Space Environment and/or the Systems Engineering for Aerospace Sciences track:

*courses that are not currently in the catalog; these courses are planned to be introduced in the near future. Note that students are able to complete the program with courses that already exist at UML.

Other requirements:

Physics Colloquium and Graduate Seminar Courses (0-3 credits) **

**Full-time candidates are required to register for Physics Colloquium (PHYS 7010/7020) and at least one Physics Seminar every semester. After attending general Graduate Seminar (PHYS 7010/7020) for one year, students may elect to take one of the specialized seminars instead. Up to a total of 3 credits for colloquia/seminars can be counted towards a graduate degree.

Core Courses Required = 8, 36 credits

Elective courses required from option = 7, 21 credits

Total number of courses required for the degree = 15

Total credit hours required for the degree = 60

Course Requirements for Applied Physics Options

Every student in an Applied Physics Ph.D. Option must satisfy the following course requirements:

1. Common course requirement for all options:
  • PHYS.5530 Electromagnetism I (3)
  • PHYS.5540 Electromagnetism II (3)
  • PHYS.6070 Mathematical Methods of Physics (3)
  • PHYS.5130 Classical Mechanics (3)
  • PHYS.5350 Intro Quantum Mechanics I (3)
  • PHYS.7310 Advanced Projects in Physics I (3)
  • PHYS.7320 Advanced Project in Physics (3)*
  • PHYS.7560 Doctoral Dissertation in Physics (15, max 24)
  • Total core credits required = 36
*This may be waived for students who have completed a master's thesis
2. Six electives as appropriate for each area of concentration

Physics/Energy Engineering Option

In addition to the general requirements, students in this option must take

At least eight additional courses from among the Physics, Energy Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering offerings at the graduate level. These eight courses should include required courses appropriate to the field of study.
**Colloquia and Seminars

All full-time candidates are required to register for Physics Colloquium, PHYS.7010/7020,  and at least one Physics Seminar every semester. After attending the general Graduate Seminar, PHYS.7110/7120,  for one year, students may elect to take one of the specialized seminars instead.

Up to a total of 3 credits for colloquia/ seminars can be counted towards a graduate degree.
Updated 5/31/24