Physics (PhD)

Admission Requirements

Departmental requirements for admission are as follows:

  • A baccalaureate degree with at least 24 credit hours in Physics, or the equivalent.
  • A minimum quality-point standing of 3.0 (base 4.0) in physics courses.
  • Mathematics coursework through differential equations. (MATH 405 or equivalent).
  • Submission of the (general) Graduate Record Examination (general) scores.  The Physics subject GRE is preferred, but not required.

For general information concerning admission to graduate programs at the University of Louisville consult the application directions from the Graduate School.

Program Admission Procedure

Admission into the Physics PhD program is competitive. The application procedure is as follows:

  • Submit a completed graduate application to the University of Louisville, Graduate School, together with the relevant application fee.
    1. Admitted students are most commonly accepted to begin their program of studies in the Fall semester (which starts in late August). However, programs beginning in the Spring semester (which begins in early January) can be arranged.
    2. There is no formal application deadline, but to ensure full consideration for Fall entry applications should be received no later than February 1.
  • Official transcripts from each university or college attended must be submitted to the Graduate School, Graduate Admissions.
  • Take the general section of the Graduate Record Examination and arrange for the official score to be sent to the Graduate School (the Physics subject GRE is recommended, but not required).
  • Arrange for at least two letters of recommendation to be sent to the Graduate School. Persons familiar with the applicant’s academic work should write these letters. Please use the recommendation form or complete the relevant section in the online application so that your letter writers will receive an email request to submit their recommendation electronically.
  • All applicants for whom English is a second language must also submit official TOEFL scores of 79 or higher on the internet-based test, 213 or higher on the computer-based test. English proficiency can also be met by submitting official IELTS scores of at least 6.5 overall band score from the academic module exam or official Duolingo overall score of 105.  Students holding a bachelor's or advanced degree from an accredited institution in the United States may be exempt from this requirement.

In individual cases, the department may recommend conditional admission of a student who does not satisfactorily meet the above requirements. If admission is granted, that student will be subject to those conditions specified by the Department of Physics and Astronomy, the College of Arts and Sciences and the Graduate School as being necessary to remedy the conditional admission.

Program Requirements

General requirements for the PhD degree are set forth in the Degree Requirements section of the graduate catalog. Specific requirements for the PhD degree in physics are as follows:

Course Requirements

Core Courses21
Mathematical Physics I
Theoretical Mechanics
Electromagnetic Theory I
Quantum Mechanics I
Quantum Mechanics II
Statistical Mechanics
Research Methods in Physics & Astronomy
Electives 19
Minimum Total Hours36

Each student is required to take nine (9) credit hours of elective courses. Courses outside the department are acceptable if approved by the student's thesis advisor and the department Graduate Program Director.

Qualifying Examination

In order to demonstrate proficiency in knowledge of Physics and the ability to apply that knowledge, students will be required to pass a qualifying exam. The qualifying exam will have a written and oral component.

Written Component
To satisfy the written component, the student will take a written exam composed by members of the faculty of the department.  The exam will cover basic and intermediate problems in the areas of mechanics, electricity and magnetism, quantum mechanics, thermal physics, and special topics in contemporary physics.  It will be administered twice yearly with advance notice, typically in September and January.  Students are required to pass all areas of the exam.  For full-time students, this must normally be achieved by the end of their fourth semester and in all cases by the end of their sixth semester.  Special arrangements may be made for part-time students.   A total of four attempts at the exam will be permitted.  Once a subject area part of the exam is passed, that part does not need to be retaken.  Under certain circumstances, in order to confirm their familiarity with a particular subject, a student may be extended the opportunity to take an oral examination in that subject.

Oral Component
To satisfy the oral component the student must pass an oral exam, in the form of a presentation to the PhD committee of his or her proposed research.  The student is expected to take the exam before the end of their sixth semester as a graduate student. The test may be taken at most two times and must be passed by the end of the sixth semester.


Having passed both parts of the qualifying examination the student will register for degree candidacy and continue with their dissertation research.


A doctoral dissertation is required of each student.