Graduate Study

The Department of Physics and Astronomy offers two advanced degrees.  The Ph.D. Program includes a thorough academic training ased on a core curriculum and a set of electives, followed by original research work.  The Professinal Masters Program provides students with an extensive education in physics without requiring reserach.  More details are given below.


Ph.D. Program

Our department conducts research in several areas, including astrophysics, atomic and optical physics, biophysics, complex systems, condensed matter physics, nuclear physics, and particle physics.  Students entering our graduate program can often begin their research before the Fall quarter of their first year, by joining a research group at or shortly after the time they are admitted.  With rare exceptions, all first-year students are supported by 12-month Fellowships which give them great flexibility in choosing their research specialilty.  Our department is particularly strong in multi-disciplinary research, with joint faculty in Materials Science, Chemistry, and Electrical Engineering, and strong ties to both Argonne National Laboratory and the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.  It is not unusual for students to conduct the bulk of their research with physicists outside the department, and in some cases outside the nation.  Students in certain areas (particularly astrophysics and particle and nuclear physics) may have the opportunity to spend significant amounts of time at off-campus facilities such as the CERN accelerator laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland, or the Mauna Kea Observatory in Hawaii.

 All students must pass a set of three qualifier exams to demonstrate a good knowledge of basic graduate-level physics as covered in the first year of courses.  One or two years later, students stand for a candidacy exam, in which he or she demonstrates understanding of a likely Ph.D. topic and is able to defend a plan for research toward the Ph.D.

Most of our students earn the Ph.D. although occasionally students choose to leave with a Master's degree. 


Professional Masters Program

This program is geared toward students who need a solid basis in the fundamentals of physics and a working knowledge of a specialized area of or related to physics.  The goal is to keep the time spent earning the Masters degree as short as possible, and the selection of courses as flexible as possible.  Northwestern University offers an unusually wide and rich range of areas closely related to physics.  Masters students are invited to take courses in other departments as suits their needs and matches their interests.  Students who are enrolled in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences should inquire about a joint Bachelors/Masters program.   For details, see the side bar.



Contact Information for the Chair of Graduate Admissions

Chair of Graduate Admissions

Professor Mayda Velasco

Phone number: 847-467-7099

Office: Technological Institute F119


Contact Information for the Director of Graduate Studies

Director of Graduate Studies

Professor Michael Schmitt

Phone number: 847-467-6593

Office: Technological Institute F113


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January 31, 2014