Ph.D. Degree

The Physics Department has a strong tradition of graduate study and the research that is essential to the PhD. Degree. There are many facilities for doing world-class research, and the Ph.D. research program involves leading-edge activities in Madison and at research facilities around the world.

The first Wisconsin Ph.D. in physics was awarded, in 1899, for research on "An Interferometer Study of Radiation in a Magnetic Field." Over 1,200 individual Ph.D. research projects have been completed since. A broad range of research is carried out in the department with experimental and theoretical programs in astrophysics and space physics; atomic, molecular and optical physics; elementary-particle and high-energy physics; nuclear physics; plasma physics; condensed matter physics; and in other applied areas. We also maintain close interdepartmental relationships with Medical Physics, Materials Science, and other science and engineering disciplines. Graduate students in Physics may work with faculty in these areas.


The Ph.D. is the highest degree conferred by the University.
It is a research degree, with the following general requirements:

  • minimum of 51 graduate level credits.  These credits may include research (Physics 990); they must include the five core courses (Physics 711, 715, 721, 731, and 732) and a minor program
  • pass Qualifying ("Qualifier") and Preliminary ("Prelim") Examinations at the Ph.D. level
  • thesis on original research topic and thesis defense to the student's doctoral thesis committee

The completion of a program of original research is the critical component of each student's Ph.D. Program. An early start in selecting a research area and a doctoral advisor is encouraged and expected. The department is open and informal, and professors are always eager to talk with possible recruits to their areas. An important goal of a first-year graduate student is to secure a research assistantship for the summer following the first academic year. 

Further details about the Ph.D. degree can be found at the Graduate Guide.  


Qualifying Exam Dates 2019-20

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019

Friday, January 17th, 2020

©2013 Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System