Ph.D. Candidacy


Achieving candidacy for the Ph.D. implies that a graduate student has (a) completed required coursework, (b) passed required exams to demonstrate his/her comprehensive grasp of the subject area, (c) demonstrated the ability for clear oral and written communication, and (d) shown the ability to carry on scholarly work in his/her subject area.

The requirements for candidacy in the Physics and Astronomy Department are:

  • The student must complete with acceptable grades all required courses, or demonstrate equivalent accomplishment elsewhere. An average grade of B or better will be expected in the student's graduate level physics and astronomy courses, excluding research.
  • The student must complete four nominal 5-hour per week teaching practicum assignments.
  • The student must be enrolled in Graduate Research (PHYS 800) and be progressing satisfactorily toward completion of the Ph.D. thesis.
  • The student must complete a Research Progress and Proposal (RPP) report (see below for report requirements) and an oral research presentation of that report to the satisfaction of the examining committee (the advisory committee plus one additional outside-area member assigned by the Graduate Program Committee).
  • The student must pass an Oral Candidacy Exam, and the examining committee (the advisory committee plus one additional outside-area member assigned by the Graduate Program Committee) must certify the student as an acceptable candidate for the Ph.D. in the research area covered by the RPP. If the student later changes research direction, the candidacy exam should be re-administered in the research area in which the doctoral research will take place.

The research presentation and the first attempt at the candidacy exam must be completed by early in the student’s fifth semester (no later than the end of the fifth week of the fifth semester). If needed, a second attempt at the candidacy exam must be completed by the end of the student’s fifth semester. If the student does not pass the second time, then the student will be asked to leave the doctoral program.

Research Progress and Proposal Report (RPP)
The report serves three valuable purposes: (1) To demonstrate that the student is conducting research at an appropriate level; (2) to give students practice at writing about their work; and (3) to provide essential context and background so that the outside-area members and peers can understand the research plan. The report should be carefully written with properly cited references. The RPP should contain:

  • An introduction sufficient to explain the context of the research area and project(s) to the outside members.
  • A summary of what research the student has been doing so far. This could include preliminary results, or a discussion of a particular project, even if that project is unlikely to be the direct doctoral thesis topic.
  • A brief discussion of the expected doctoral thesis topic (or possible topics) — what they would entail and how they fit in with the context provided.
  • Properly formatted references for cited works or use of figures from the literature.

Again, while this does not have to be polished like a publication, it is strongly encouraged that the adviser should read this document and provide feedback to the student prior to the document being given to the committee. The RPP should be no longer than 20 double-spaced pages including figures and references (no longer than about 5 journal pages). The RPP should be given to the committee at least two weeks prior to the presentation. The document will be retained in the student’s internal departmental record. 

The oral presentation should be no longer than about 30 minutes, and touch on the three main elements above. The research presentation can be public at the discretion of the adviser.