Physics - Doctoral Study

Doctoral Study in Applied Physics

The Department of Physics at the Naval Postgraduate School offers to qualified students a program of studies leading to the degree Doctor of Philosophy with major in Applied Physics. This program includes course work, written and oral examinations, and research. A student wishing to embark on this program of study must present evidence of suitable undergraduate preparation in physics, and of having excelled in previous academic endeavors. Completion of a doctoral program can be expected to require a minimum of three years of full time graduate study.

Specific requirements for pursuing studies towards the PhD degree in Applied Physics are as follows:

  1. Preliminary Examination. A student intending to pursue doctoral studies in applied physics should begin by taking the Departmental Preliminary Assessment Examination which is used to identify possible weaknesses in the student’s knowledge of classical and modern physics at the undergraduate level. The examination is prepared, administered and read by the PhD Committee of the Department of Physics and must be taken within the first quarter after the student arrives at NPS.
  2. Dissertation Committee. Sometime early in the second quarter, the PhD committee of the Department of Physics will appoint a Dissertation Committee for the student. The Dissertation Committee will consist of five or more members. Four of the committee members must be full-time NPS faculty. At least one of the NPS faculty members shall be from outside the Physics Department. One or more members of this committee may be from another university or appropriate institution. No more than one member of the committee without an earned doctorate degree will be allowed. The Departmental Ph.D. Committee shall designate one or more members of the Dissertation Committee to be the Dissertation Supervisor (who must be a member of the Department of Physics with an earned doctorate degree). The Academic Council must approve the Dissertation Committee.
  3. Course Work. Study for the PhD in Applied Physics requires the student to earn a grade of “B” or better in a minimum of 32 credit hours of physics courses at the 4000 level. These 32 credit hours must include the following courses, or their equivalents:
    • PH4153 Classical Mechanics (4-1, Spring)
    • PH4353 Topics in Advanced Electricity & Magnetism (4-0, Spring)
    • PH4771 Statistical Physics (4-0, Winter)
    • PH4984 Quantum Mechanics (4-0, Summer)
    • PH4992 Theoretical Physics II (4-0, Winter)

    Physics courses making up the remainder of the required 32 credit hours must be approved by the department PhD Committee, and should be selected in consultation with the Dissertation Committee to prepare the student for his dissertation research. The current (2012) list of approved courses is:

    • PH4171 Physics of Explosives (4-1, Summer)
    • PH4271 Lasers, Optoelectronics, and Electro-Optics I (4-1, Fall)
    • PH4272 Lasers, Optoelectronics, and Electro-Optics II (4-1, Summer)
    • PH4273 Physics of Advanced Imaging Systems (4-2, Fall)
    • PH4280 MEMs Design II (2-4, Spring)
    • PH4454 Sonar Transducer Theory and Design (4-2, Winter)
    • PH4455 Sound Propagation in the Ocean (4-0, Spring)
    • PH4459 Nonlinear Oscillations and Waves (4-0, Spring)
    • PH4760 Solid State Physics (4-0, Summer)
    • PH4857 Physics of Directed Energy and Conventional Weapons (4-1, Summer)
    • PH4858 Electric Ship Weapons Systems (4-0, Fall)
    • PH4911 Simulation of Physics and Weapons Systems (3-2, Winter)
    • PH4973 Relativistic Quantum Mechanics (4-0, Winter)
    • PH4991 General Relativity and Cosmology (4-0, Spring)


    Pending approval of the PhD Committee, it is also possible to apply as many as two appropriate 4000 level courses taken outside the Physics department toward the course requirements for a PhD. All coursework transferred must have been successfully completed with a minimum grade of “B” within the three years prior to admission into the graduate program at NPS. Validation of approved 4000 level courses is possible on a case-by-case basis determined by the PhD Committee.

  4. Qualifying Examination. After the student’s formal studies are essentially complete, the student will take a comprehensive examination covering the course work outlined in Section 3, above. This examination will be given in two parts, written and oral. Successful completion of the entire Qualifying Examination (written and oral) requires a unanimous vote of the Department PhD Committee.
Physics - Coursework

The written portion of the Qualifying Examination requires one full day, and is prepared and administered by the Physics Department PhD Committee, augmented by members of the student’s Dissertation Committee.  The written examination is offered twice per year (during the June and December breaks) and will be read by the augmented PhD Committee.  This examining committee will act upon the written examination in one of the following ways:

a).  Recommend the student for oral examination

b). Require re-examination (written) (Upon failing this exam a second time, the student is denied advancement to candidacy.)

As soon as practical (normally within a month) after successful completion of the written portion of the Qualifying Examination, the Department PhD Committee will hold an open oral examination and will invite the Academic Council and all members of the Department of Physics to attend.

The Qualifying Exam (both the written and oral portions) must be successfully completed within 18 months of the student’s arrival at NPS.  It is the responsibility of the student to arrange his schedule so that this requirement can be met.

Physics - PhD - items 5 & 6

5. Advancement to Candidacy. After:

  1. the Dissertation Committee and Dissertation Supervisor are approved by the Academic Council,
  2. the proposed dissertation topic is approved by the Dissertation Committee,
  3. the written and oral portions of the Qualifying Examination are successfully completed, and
  4. the Department PhD Committee has assessed the student’s rank-standing in the courses he has taken, as well as the progress made in the student’s dissertation research,

the PhD Committee will notify the Academic Council that these steps have been completed and recommend the student for advancement to candidacy for the doctorate.

6. Dissertation Research.

The distinct requirement for the PhD degree in Applied Physics is the successful completion of a scholarly investigation leading to an original and significant contribution to knowledge in the corresponding discipline. In order to fulfill this requirement, the student is expected to begin his dissertation research upon creation of the Dissertation Committee (and while his coursework is underway).

7. Final Examination.

At least six months after advancement to candidacy and as soon as practical after acceptance of a draft of the student’s dissertation by the Dissertation Committee, this committee will schedule a final oral examination and invite the Academic Council and members of the Department of Physics (as well as any others the Dissertation Committee may select) to attend. The examination will consist of a presentation and defense of the dissertation, and will necessarily include questioning in the field of specialization.