Physics - Doctoral Study

Doctoral Study in Applied Physics

The Department of Physics at the Naval Postgraduate School offers 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 Ph.D. degree in Applied Physics are as follows:

  1. A student intending to pursue doctoral studies in applied physics should prepare to take the Departmental Qualifying Examination as early as possible, but ideally within the first year after the student arrives at NPS, subject to completion of required courses. The exam will consist of a written component and an oral component, and is administered by the Ph.D. Committee of the Department of Physics. Upon arrival, students should initiate discussions with potential Dissertation Supervisors.
  2. Dissertation Committee. After the student has identified a Dissertation Supervisor, the Ph.D. Committee 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 in physics or related field will be allowed. The Departmental Ph.D. Committee shall designate one or more members of the Dissertation Committee to be the Dissertation Committee Chair (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 Ph.D. in Applied Physics requires the student to earn a grade of “B” or better in a minimum of 40 credit hours of physics courses at the 3000 and 4000 level. Note that laboratory hours count as half of lecture hours. These 40 credit hours must include the following courses, or their equivalents:
    • PH3152 Analytical Mechanics
    • PH3352 Electromagnetic Waves
    • PH3782 Thermodynamics and Statistical Physics
    • PH3991 Theoretical Physics
    • PH4656 Quantum Mechanics

    Physics courses making up the remainder of the required 40 credit hours must be approved by the department Ph.D. Committee, and should be selected in consultation with the Dissertation Committee to prepare the student for dissertation research.  

    Pending approval of the Ph.D. Committee, it is also possible to apply as many as two 3000 or 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 courses is determined on a case-by-case basis by the Ph.D. 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 Qualifying Examination requires a unanimous vote of the Department Ph.D. Committee. The Qualifying Exam must be successfully completed within 18 months of the student’s arrival at NPS.
  5. Advancement to Candidacy. The Ph.D. Committee will recommend the student for advancement to candidacy after: 
    • The Dissertation Committee and Dissertation Supervisor are approved by the Academic Council,
    • The proposed dissertation topic is approved by the Dissertation Committee,
    • The written and oral portions of the Qualifying Examination are successfully completed, and
    • 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.

  6. Dissertation Research. A distinct requirement for the Ph.D. degree in Applied Physics is the successful completion of a scholarly investigation leading to an original and significant contribution to knowledge. To fulfill this;requirement, the student is expected to begin his or her dissertation research upon creation of the Dissertation Committee and while coursework is underway. During the dissertation research, the candidate is required to submit at least two peer reviewed journal publications.
  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 dissertation defense and invite the Academic Council and members of the Department of Physics to attend. The examination will consist of a presentation and defense of the dissertation, and will include questioning in the field of specialization.