Seventy-two credits beyond the bachelor’s degree or 42 credits beyond the M.S. are required, including credits for original research culminating in a formally presented thesis. A manuscript on the thesis research should be prepared for publication.
Admission to the Ph.D. program is granted only upon passing a written qualifying examination by the beginning of the third semester of Rensselaer graduate work. The advanced undergraduate-level exam is given in two parts: 1) Mechanics and Electrodynamics and 2) Quantum Mechanics, Thermodynamics, and Statistical Mechanics. The examination is given twice annually in August and January.
Doctoral requirements do not state a minimum number of course credits. However, students must take the basic core of five courses including PHYS 6210 and PHYS 6410, PHYS 6510, PHYS 6520, and PHYS 6590. Students are expected to obtain a grade of at least B in each of these courses. In addition to the above sequence of core courses, there are the following doctoral course requirements. Students should take two courses outside their research areas from the following: ASTR 4220 or 6220: Astrophysics, ASTR 4240 or 6240: Gravitation and Cosmology, ASTR 4250 or 6250: Interstellar Medium, ASTR 4510 or 6510: Origins Of Life: A Cosmic Perspective, PHYS 4620 or 6620: Particle Physics, PHYS 6530: Quantum Mechanics III, PHYS 6710: Theory of Solids I. Note: PHYS 6530 is strongly recommended for all students. (All theory students should take this course). There are special requirements for students specializing in astrophysics and biophysics.
Once students have chosen a Ph.D. project and assembled a committee, they will present a brief written thesis proposal to the committee and orally defend it. In the oral exam, members of the committee question students specifically on the planned research and more generally on the physics related to that research. This candidacy exam is normally taken at the end of the third year.
Some teaching experience is also required for the Ph.D. degree.