Oral Exam Information

THE ORAL EXAMINATION

The purpose of the oral portion of the general exam is to test students’ broad general knowledge within their field. The student’s field is determined by that of their research supervisor. (Students with supervisors outside of the department will be examined in the research field of the co-supervisor. For the purpose of the Oral Exam, the co-Supervisor will be considered the “research supervisor” in the committee structure outlined below.) The designated Committee Chair for each field will host a meeting of examinees at the start of each term to review exam expectations. The first question will be in the student’s specific area. The student’s committee chair will provide this question at least one week prior to the examination. Under normal circumstances, the chair will ask the research supervisor to suggest a question to be used for this purpose. The oral examination will continue in the student’s general field. Discussion of a student’s research, when applicable, will comprise no more than the final quarter of the examination.

The oral exam committee consists of the chairperson and two other faculty members. Each research field (there may be several within a given division) will appoint one committee each year to examine all students within that field. If a student’s research supervisor is a member of the standing committee, he or she will be replaced by an alternate faculty member for that exam only. The research supervisor may observe the exam and provide input if solicited by committee members. The supervisor and student will be asked to leave the examination room when the final decision is discussed. The first attempt at the oral exam must be taken by the first term of the third year.. Two attempts are permitted with the second attempt, if necessary, scheduled in the subsequent term. (If the subsequent term precedes the third year, a student may postpone the second attempt until the beginning of the third year.)

Currently, oral exam committees are formed in each of the following fields:

Astrophysics
   2018-2019 chair: Scott Hughes
Nuclear and Particle Experiment
   2018-2019 chair: TBA
Atomic and Optical Physics
   2018-2019 chair: David Pritchard
Nuclear and Particle Theory
   2018-2019 chair: Barton Zwiebach
Biophysics
   2018-2019 chair: Nikta Fakhri
• Quantum Information
   2018-2019 chair: Isaac Chuang
Condensed Matter Experiment
   2018-2019 chair: Nuh Gedik
Plasma Physics
   2018-2019 chair: Miklos Porkolab
Condensed Matter Theory
   2018-2019 chair: Leonid Levitov
 

NUPAX Qualifier Exam

NUPAX students, like all students in the Physics Department, are required to pass an oral examination in their subfield.  The first attempt at the oral exam must be taken by the first term of the third year. Two attempts are permitted with the second attempt, if necessary, scheduled in the subsequent term. (If the subsequent term precedes the third year, a student may postpone the second attempt until the beginning of the third year.)  The exam is administered by three faculty members who are members of the oral exam committee.  Should the student’s research advisor be already a member of that committee, another faculty member will be substituted in place of the advisor.

The exams are scheduled at the beginning of the fall or spring term.  The NUPAX oral exam consists of three parts: (a) a question prepared in advance based on a relevant topic in nuclear and particle physics, (b) a portion focusing on the student’s current research program, and (c) a broad set of questions in nuclear and particle physics.  Passing of the exam will depend on the student’s performance in the assigned question, as well as their proficiency in nuclear physics, particle physics, and detectors and experimental techniquesThe topics and questions are drawn primarily from material covered in the NUPAX required graduate classes (8.701, 8.711, and 8.811).

The exam is a total of 90 minutes in duration and results are communicated to the student at the completion of the exam.