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A PhD in Physics from Clarkson University gives you the training and resources to become an independent scholar in a specialized subfield. Through the program, you will apply advanced knowledge in core areas of classical mechanics, electromagnetism and quantum mechanics to uncover out-of-the-box solutions. You will gain the theoretical foundations to conduct experimental investigations with a high degree of expertise. By the time you graduate, you will be ready to lead research teams in academia or industry. 

Why Earn a PhD in Physics From Clarkson University?

The PhD in Physics offers rigorous research training and complex coursework meant to challenge your understanding of the field. You will be able to choose from different specialization areas to deepen your expertise and tackle a wider set of issues through interdisciplinary work with faculty and peers across campus.

One of the hallmarks of our department is the personalized attention we offer students. We keep our class sizes small, encouraging collaboration and solutions that require teamwork. Your research advisor will provide comprehensive guidance, and you will further benefit from a friendly and open relationship with other faculty members. We value your input and ideas and treat you as a fellow scholar.

Despite our size, we offer the resources of a much larger university. You will have access to state-of-the-art research centers and the opportunity to participate in innovative projects led by a diverse team of experts. You will also gain valuable teaching experience by working with undergrads as a teaching assistant or in other capacities. 

What You'll Learn 

The PhD in Physics consists of a minimum of 90 credit hours. At least six of those credit hours should be taken outside the department and at least six of those credit hours should be dedicated to seminars.

Within two years of full-time study, or 66 credit hours if you are a part-time student, you will take the required Comprehensive Exam. The topics covered in the exam include classical mechanics, electricity and magnetism, optics, thermal physics, quantum mechanics and modern physics (relativity, nuclear and solid-state).

As for specializations, you can develop one from the following areas:

  • Biophysics 
  • Chemical Mechanical Planarization 
  • Computational Physics 
  • Physics Education 

Credit Hours and Courses:

  • A minimum of 90 credit hours beyond BS. Minimum 3 academic years’ full-time graduate study (or the part-time equivalent); 2 years in residence at Clarkson. A four-part Physics Survey Test is used to determine initial coursework.  A maximum of 30 credits (with B or higher grade) can be transferred from an MS degree. Coursework - no less than 33 credits, including at least 6 credits taken outside the department and at least 6 credits of seminar. Each semester prior to the completion of 78 credits, full-time students in residence at Clarkson must successfully complete PH683 or PH684. Maximum credit hours per year - 30 (12 in fall, 12 in spring and 6 in summer; or, 15 in fall and 15 in spring). Only 500 and upper-level courses are accepted.
  • Full-time student status: 9 credits per semester until <9 credits remain to complete 90 credits. After completing 90 credits, students will register for 1 credit hour of project/thesis, be in residence, and be actively engaged full-time in completing the project/thesis.

Academic Standing and Other Requirements:

  • A minimum average grade of B, and at least a B grade in each of the core courses (PH661, PH663, PH664, PH670 and PH669); The requirement for PH664 and PH670 can be fulfilled any time during the study, and the student’s advisor can approve replacements of these two courses by other advanced graduate courses in the student’s chosen research field.
  • Satisfactory progress toward the degree. Academic progress is evaluated at the end of each term by the Physics Graduate Committee Chair in collaboration with the student’s advisor.
  • Students with GPA falling below 3.000 will be placed on academic warning. These students will return to academic good standing if their GPA is 3.000 or higher at the end of their next term.
  • Students must select a thesis topic and be assigned to a research advisor no later than the second semester of graduate study. The Physics Chair approves the appointment of a research advisor. Research projects primarily guided by faculty outside the physics department requires a physics co-advisor assigned by Physics Chair.
  • Satisfactory completion of the Comprehensive Exam is required within two years of full-time study after admission to the PhD program or, for part-time students, before completing 66 credits. If the comprehensive exam is failed twice, the student will be dropped.
  • The Physics Comprehensive Examination has two parts, each part four hours long, usually given during the first two weeks of each spring semester. The topical coverages are based on those of upper-level undergraduate physics courses offered at Clarkson, and include: Part I: Classical Mechanics, Electricity & Magnetism, Optics; Part II: Thermal Physics, Quantum Mechanics, Modern Physics (relativity, nuclear, solid state).
  • By the end of the third year of study, the student writes a PhD research proposal and defends a doctoral topic before a thesis committee composed of at least 5 members. The proposal must be submitted to the thesis committee at least 10 working days before the oral defense. This exam should demonstrate that the thesis topic is of doctoral quality and that the student’s background is adequate to carry out the proposed research. A unanimous decision of the committee is required for passing. The thesis committee (selected by the student’s advisor and approved by the Physics Chair and the Dean of A&S) should include no less than 4 Clarkson faculty (at least 3 from physics) of assistant professor rank or higher and possessing an earned doctoral degree. At least one member must be from a department other than physics. With the provost’s approval, the thesis committee may include an external examiner with appropriate credentials from another university or industry.
  • The final PhD examination involves an oral defense of the written doctoral dissertation before the thesis committee. The exam committee must receive thesis copies at least 10 working days before the oral defense.
  • Typical program length is 5 years. All work for the PhD degree must be completed within 7 years after passing the Physics Comprehensive Examination.
  • For additional information about University Requirements, students should consult Clarkson University’s current Graduate Regulations and Graduate Catalog.

Program Outcomes

After completing the Physics PhD Program at Clarkson University, students will be able to:

  • Make use of advanced knowledge acquired from core areas of Classical Mechanics, Electromagnetism and Quantum Mechanics.
  • Develop research plans and conduct experimental/ theoretical/ computational investigations in areas of their technical expertise.
  • Take part in collaborative projects involving diverse teams of participants.
  • Analyze, interpret and effectively communicate results of research topics both orally (e,g., in conference presentations) and in writing (e.g., in technical reports and journal publications).
  • Demonstrate familiarity with current literature and practices in their field of specialization with a general understanding of scientific and ethical responsibilities.
  • Develop investigative plans, carry out research projects and mentor students/trainees. 

Our faculty undertake innovative research in physics and interdisciplinary projects that help advance our understanding of the world. As a student, you will benefit from their mentorship and work closely with them in a collaborative and encouraging environment. Learn more about their experience and areas of specialization.

Meet Our Faculty 

The major areas of emphasis in our department include:

  • Astrophysics 
  • Bio- and Nano-technology
  • Biophysics 
  • Diffusion
  • Energy Storage 
  • Materials Physics
  • Nanoscale Systems 
  • Nanotechnology 
  • Network Theory 
  • Physics Education
  • Soft Matter and Polymer Physics 

As a student, you have access to Clarkson University centers like the Reynolds Observatory, the Physics Team Design Lab, the Laboratory for Electroanalytical Characterization of Materials and the Computational Laboratory. 

A complete application consists of the following:

  • Online Application Form.
  • Résumé.
  • Statement of purpose.
  • Three letters of recommendation.
  • Official transcripts.
  • GRE test scores.
    • General GRE is required.
  • For international applicants, an English proficiency test is required.
    • Minimum test score requirements: TOEFL (80) and TOEFL Essentials (8.5), IELTS (6.5), PTE (56) or Duolingo English Test (115).
    • The English language-testing requirement is not waived based on language of instruction, nor do we accept university certificates. English testing is waived if an applicant has a degree from a country where English is the Native Language. Click here to see the list of these countries.

Prerequisites: Applicants must have a BS or equivalent degree in physics or a closely related subject. Applicants are expected to have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher at the time of application. Furthermore, applicants should have achieved a grade of "B+" or better in all physics and math subjects taken.

For those seeking Teaching or Research Assistantships:

  • A GRE score of at least 319 is recommended (minimum verbal score of 156 and minimum quantitative score of 163).
  • GRE Physics Subject Test scores are not required but are recommended.
  • International applicants should have a minimum score of 26 in each section of the TOEFL, 7.0 on each band of the IELTS (with a minimum Speaking band of 7.5) or comparable PTE or Duolingo English Test scores.

MS students interested in pursuing the PhD will be required to sit for the placement test offered by the Department of Physics. This is offered annually in August. This score, in addition to prior academic record, publications and teaching performance, will be considered prior to formal admittance into the PhD program.

Most current graduate students are supported by Teaching Assistantships or Research Assistantships. A full appointment covers the 30 credit hours of tuition and provides a stipend that covers estimated living expenses. Discuss opportunities and how to apply with the department staff and/or program coordinator directly.

We host a variety of seminars and lectures throughout the year with visiting professors, industry leaders and other professionals widely recognized in the field.

The program is held on our main campus in Potsdam, New York. Many of our full-time, research-based master's and PhD programs are housed here, as well. You will be in close proximity to research facilities, onsite laboratories and other resources.

Potsdam Campus

Career Possibilities

The PhD program at Clarkson University provides the rigorous training and research-heavy experience required to enter the world of academia. With your degree, you can apply to professorships and positions in prestigious research centers.

You will also graduate with skills that are attractive to employers in the science and tech industries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for physicists is expected to grow faster than average in the next decade.

The degree can open doors in the following industries and facilities:

  • Academia
  • Government
  • Observatories
  • Private industry
  • Research laboratories

Recent Employers

Recent Clarkson PhD in Physics graduates have been employed by companies such as:

  • Applied Materials
  • Intel Corporation
  • Global Foundries
  • Lockheed Martin
  • Micron Technology

| STEM OPT Eligible

Contact Us

Graduate Admissions
Phone: 518-631-9831

Interested in learning more about the PhD in Physics? Contact the Office of Graduate Admissions today with your questions.

Find out more about the Physics Department.

100% Graduate Placement Rate - Program Specific

Deepen Your Expertise

Gain specialized knowledge, conduct original research and qualify for a wide range of academic and industry opportunities with a PhD in Physics from Clarkson.