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Graduate Program

Program Overview

A typical graduate student seeking a PhD in physics or in physics and astronomy would follow a path such as this:

  • Learn about the fundamentals of physics and astronomy in formal courses such as PHY 407 Quantum Mechanics, PHY 415 Electromagnetic Theory, PHY 403 Modern Statistics and Exploration of Large Data Sets and PHY 418 Statistical Mechanics.
  • Explore current research activities in seminar, colloquia and through personal contact with faculty
  • Learn to teach physics and/or astronomy by serving as a teaching assistant, fulfilling the two semester teaching assistant requirement for our program
  • Demonstrate proficiency in the fundamentals of physics in the preliminary assessment, based on the first year of coursework along with the first research experience
  • Join a research group; demonstrate proficiency in a specialty area, and a capability for performing research, by passing the qualifying examination
  • Conduct research, write and publish articles describing the work, and identify a specific thesis subject requiring independent and original work that could be included in a dissertation
  • Write and defend a dissertation, a substantial and original contribution to knowledge in physics or astronomy

It usually takes five to seven years to complete the PhD program. Along the way, students develop the skills to create and conduct innovative research, advancing the frontiers of physics or astronomy.

Please contact Laura Blumkin, Graduate Program Coordinator (, with any questions.

Interested in applying? Visit our application page for instructions and a link to our online application.

Support and Fellowships

Students receive support in the form of either teaching or research assistantship stipends. The physics and astronomy assistantship stipend rate covers most reasonable living expenses here in Rochester. The majority of students will complete the two semester teaching assistantship requirement in the first year of study. After the first year, the majority of students will join a research group and will have their stipend paid by their research advisor for the remainder of the PhD program. All students admitted into our PhD program receive a full tuition scholarship. 

There are also many fellowships, that may be awarded through the department or through outside agencies, to supplement the base teaching or research stipends. See the financial support page for more details. 

Incoming Students

Welcome to our incoming class! Check out our incoming students page for information on important dates, and to see our pre- and post-arrival checklists.


Have questions? Contact Laura Blumkin, Graduate Program Coordinator, or fill out our inquiry form.