Physics Graduate Programs

Graduate students enjoying a barbecue
Graduate students enjoying a barbecue

Graduate students in physics are actively engaged in research at the forefront of physics, in collaboration with faculty who are acknowledged leaders in their respective fields. Learning takes place in both formal and informal settings with a broad spectrum of colleagues, including faculty members, postdoctoral fellows, research scientists, and graduate student peers.

Most graduate students are interested in one or a few sub-fields in physics at the time they arrive at MIT. Students may narrow their focus, or change their sub-field, as they begin their research. The Department encourages this student flexibility with modest course requirements and ample faculty advising resources.

The first year or so of graduate study is usually filled with course work in basic subject areas, including quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics, and electricity and magnetism. Formal requirements include courses for breadth distribution, but most students find that solid course coverage is to their advantage. Basic courses may be followed by more specialized and advanced theoretical courses, as well as by courses in other departments. Formal Ph.D. degree requirements include two written examinations and one oral comprehensive examination. The most important step in the doctoral pursuit, however, is finding a thesis supervisor; students are advised to begin this search early in their graduate career.

A large number of seminars at MIT and neighboring institutions provide an intellectual backdrop throughout the stay at MIT. A number of activities such as faculty-student roundtable discussions on issues of concern to graduate students, the women in physics program, and the graduate-student poster session on research activities round out graduate student life. Other activities for graduate students include social hours and barbeques.