All students admitted to graduate studies in Physics and Astronomy at Rice enter the Ph.D. program. The department also participates in the Professional Masters Program through its Space Studies option, the Applied Physics PhD Program, and the Master of Science Teaching programs. The requirements for these degrees are summarized on their respective websites.
To obtain a Ph.D. in the Physics and Astronomy Department at Rice, students complete certain course work, demonstrate their ability to engage in advanced research and demonstrate their knowledge of the discipline. Each student must complete at least eight approved graduate courses, an oral Ph.D. candidacy exam, write and defend a research proposal, and complete the teaching practicum. The degree is conferred upon successful public defense of a Ph.D. research thesis. Unlike many similar programs around the country, our graduate program offers a great deal of flexibility. Students may choose from a wide variety of research topics and take courses that are most suited to their interests, while still obtaining the fundamentals needed by any scientist in their chosen subdiscipline. Our graduate students become involved in research as soon as possible, always by the end of their first year in the program. There is no foreign language requirement, and no comprehensive written qualifying exam on coursework.
REQUIREMENTS FOR CANDIDACY AND DEGREES
Note: Requirements are updated on occasion. Students may choose to follow the requirements given below or they may follow the requirements in place when they matriculated.
Please Note: The following summarizes the Ph.D. and M.S. degree requirements and Department policy regarding admission to candidacy for these degrees. These requirements are given here as a convenience for prospective and enrolled graduate students in our program. While we make every effort to keep the following current and accurate, this web page is not the official document that governs policy. The official Rice University advanced degree requirements are those described in the General Announcements. Thesis requirements are summarized in the Graduate Students area of the Rice pages. It is Rice policy that if requirements change while a student is enrolled, the student may choose to graduate under the rules in effect when they were admitted to the program, or under those in effect when the student graduates. Related documents of potential use to students are the course requirements for the Applied Physics Ph.D. and M.S. degrees and the listing of courses by area for the different groups within the Department.
Advice and Support for Graduate Students
Further details on the program, especially on advising, is given in the Department's Graduate Student Handbook. The handbook is meant as a resource for P&A graduate students, providing a handy, concise guide to essential information about the graduate degree program, but it is only one source of information. If you cannot find the answers to your departmental programmatic questions here, please do not hesitate to contact the departmental staff (including the graduate program coordinator, Ms. Rosa Almendarez), the Chairs of the Graduate Program Committee (currently Prof. Han Pu), the Associate Chair for Administration (Prof. Stan Dodds), or the Departmental Ombudsperson (currently Prof. David Alexander). All faculty and staff serve as part of the support network for graduate students, but the ombudsman in particular is a good person to contact for confidential discussion and advice on a wide range of topics.
For current students, faculty are specifically assigned as graduate student advisors to answer academic questions. We are available to guide you through the process. That being said, graduate students are adults, and there is a presumption that students will take responsibility and initiative – these are certainly necessary for a successful doctoral degree! Please ask questions and keep on top of deadlines and requirements. We look forward to working with you.