Master of Science in Physics & Astronomy

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  • Course description
    The Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln offers graduate education leading to the degrees of Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy in Physics. The Department has a flexible program of graduate study to accommodate students with a wide variety of goals and backgrounds.

    After obtaining admission to the Graduate College, all students must successfully complete the following steps in order to receivea Master's degree:
    1. Pass the Elementary Qualifying Examination .
    2. Complete all course work .
    3. File a Memorandum of Courses before finishing one half of the course work for the M.S. degree (Most students should do this during the second semester of their studies);
    4. Pass the M.S. part of the Comprehensive Examination ;
    5. Apply for the M.S. degree at the Office of Records and Registration;
    6. Complete a thesis (if the thesis option described in the Graduate Studies Bulletin is chosen).
    Elementary Qualifying Examination (back)
    This examination tests the student's understanding of physics at the level of introductory undergraduate courses for physics and engineering majors, such as the courses 211, 212, and 213 offered by the Department. The examination comprises 12 problems covering Mechanics (3 problems), Electricity and Magnetism (3 problems), Modern Physics (3 problems), Optics (1 problem), Heat and Thermodynamics (1 problem), and Electric Circuits (1 problem). Students must complete any 10 of the 12 problems. Students are allowed at least 3 hours to complete the Elementary Qualifying Examination.

    All students must take this examination and receive a passing grade. The examination is offered around the middle of October and February each year. Sample exams are available online or from the main departmental office (116 Brace).

    M.S. Degree Course Work (back)
    In addition to the requirements given in the Graduate Studies Bulletin , a candidate for an M.S. degree must satisfactorily complete the following courses:
    • Physics 911: Classical Mechanics
    • Physics 913: Electromagnetic Theory I
    • Physics 916: Quantum Mechanics I
    • Physics 998: Special Topics in Current Research
    • Math 842: Methods of Applied Mathematics I
    plus one of the following courses:
    • Physics 912: Statistical Physics
    • Physics 914: Electromagnetic Theory II
    Students participating in research may register for one of the following: Physics 899 (Masters Thesis), Physics 996 (Research other than Thesis), Physics 999 (Doctoral Dissertation). Note that all beginning graduate students, both M.S. and Ph.D., must take Physics 998 ("Special Topics in Current Research"). This is a 1 credit hour course introducing students to the research activities in the Department.

    M.S. Comprehensive Examination (back)
    The Graduate Committee determines the form of the M.S. Comprehensive Examination, which is required by the Graduate College of all M.S. Degree candidates. The Committee has the option of giving an oral examination, a written examination, or both. Ordinarily the first session of the Advanced Qualifying Exam will be used as the M.S. Comprehensive Exam. This three-hour long test covers mechanics, thermodynamics, electricity and magnetism, optics, elementary quantum mechanics, and experimental physics at the level of the upper division undergraduate courses offered by our department.

    For a student selecting Option I (M.S. Thesis Option, as discussed in the Graduate Studies Bulletin), the Graduate Committee may give an oral M.S. Comprehensive Examination on the thesis research and on the graduate courses taken as part of the degree requirements.

    Advanced Qualifying Examination (back)
    Students must have passed the Elementary Qualifying Exam before attempting the Advanced Qualifying Exam. Usually, a student will take the Advanced Qualifying Exam during his or her second year as a graduate student. The student may be allowed to take it a second time.

    The Examination Committee prepares and administers the Advanced Qualifying Examination, whose purpose is to test the student's understanding of physics at the graduate level. The exam comprises both written and oral parts. The written part is given in three sessions lasting a minimum of 3 hours each. The oral part is given in one session of about 1 hour.

    The first session of the Advanced Qualifying Exam serves as the M.S. Comprehensive Exam for most students seeking an M.S. degree. A student who passed the first session needs to take only the second and third sessions for the Ph.D. degree.

    The Advanced Qualifying Exam is normally given during the second week of classes in the Spring Semester. At the beginning of the prior fall semester the Graduate Committee will review the academic progress of all students who have not yet formed a supervisory committee and, after consulting with the students, will specify which students must take the exam. A student may not withdraw from the examination without the permission of the Graduate Committee.

    Memorandum of Courses (back)
    A memorandum of courses, approved by the supervisory committee, must be filed with the Office of Graduate Studies. See Kay Haley in the main office for assistance with this.

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