PhD Requirements Summary

Please refer to the Formal Requirements for Graduate Study in Physics for complete details.

PhD Students

I. COURSES: Sixteen (16) four-credit courses are required:

  • At least 10 lecture courses from the 500-850 levels, including:
    • The required 5 initial sequence theoretical courses.
    • The required Advanced Laboratory (PY581).
    • 2 distribution courses from outside the student’s field of specialization.
  • Up to 6 non-lecture courses: these include directed research, directed study (2 maximum), or seminar (2 maximum).
  • Students who have taken equivalent courses may petition for specific course waivers.
  • In addition to the courses listed above, first year students are required to take the one-credit courses GRS PY 961 and 962, Scholarly Methods in Physics. Students who serve as Teaching Fellows are required to take the two-credit course GRS PY 699, Teaching College Physics, each semester they teach.


  • Students must officially take the exam by August/September of the start of their second year in residence at Boston University.
  • A single early attempt ("free shot") may be taken by all students either in August/September or January of their first year.


  • Oral Examination should be taken within one calendar year after successful completion of the Written Comprehensive Examination, but no later than January of the third year.
  • Completion of Advanced Laboratory required before a student is eligible for the Oral Examination.
  • Four committee members selected at least 3 weeks before the examination.
  • One page abstract to the committee at least 2 weeks before the examination.


  • Student prepares three to five page description of her/his research activities.
  • Report to be read and signed by research advisor.
  • Report includes description of research activities and anticipated scope and time-scale for completion of PhD.
  • Report to be submitted to Director of Graduate Studies after passing Oral Qualifying Exam and no later than the Spring semester of the student's fourth year in physics graduate studies.


  • Seminar must occur at least 6 months before the dissertation defense.
  • Seminar to be scheduled so that entire thesis committee is present (all faculty and students are invited).
  • Thesis proposal to the committee at least 2 weeks before the seminar.
  • The committee will meet privately with student immediately after the seminar to provide guidance for completion fo PhD project.

VI. PhD DISSERTATION AND DEFENSE (approx. deadlines: mid-April for May graduation, mid-December for January graduation).

  • Approved thesis abstract received by the Graduate School at least 3 weeks prior to the defense.
  • Draft of thesis received by the thesis committee at least 2 weeks prior to the defense.

RECOMMENDED INITIAL COURSE SEQUENCE—numbered courses required for Post-Bachelor Students

1st Year 2nd Year
Semester I Semester II September Semester I Semester II May – Sept.
QM I (PY511) QM II (PY512) Comprehensive Exam Adv. Lab (PY581) distr/non-lecture Oral Qualifying Exam
Math Phy (PY501) EM I (PY521)   distr./non-lecture distr./non-lecture  
SM I (PY541) elective