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Graduate studies, commencement 2019.

The Harvard Department of Physics offers students innovative educational and research opportunities with renowned faculty in state-of-the-art facilities, exploring fundamental problems involving physics at all scales. Our primary areas of experimental and theoretical research are atomic and molecular physics, astrophysics and cosmology, biophysics, chemical physics, computational physics, condensed-matter physics, materials science, mathematical physics, particle physics, quantum optics, quantum field theory, quantum information, string theory, and relativity.

Our talented and hardworking students participate in exciting discoveries and cutting-edge inventions such as the ATLAS experiment, which discovered the Higgs boson; building the first 51-cubit quantum computer; measuring entanglement entropy; discovering new phases of matter; and peering into the ‘soft hair’ of black holes.

Our students come from all over the world and from varied educational backgrounds. We are committed to fostering an inclusive environment and attracting the widest possible range of talents.

We have a flexible and highly responsive advising structure for our PhD students that shepherds them through every stage of their education, providing assistance and counseling along the way, helping resolve problems and academic impasses, and making sure that everyone has the most enriching experience possible.The graduate advising team also sponsors alumni talks, panels, and advice sessions to help students along their academic and career paths in physics and beyond, such as “Getting Started in Research,” “Applying to Fellowships,” “Preparing for Qualifying Exams,” “Securing a Post-Doc Position,” and other career events (both academic and industry-related).

We offer many resources, services, and on-site facilities to the physics community, including our electronic instrument design lab and our fabrication machine shop. Our historic Jefferson Laboratory, the first physics laboratory of its kind in the nation and the heart of the physics department, has been redesigned and renovated to facilitate study and collaboration among our students.

Members of the Harvard Physics community participate in initiatives that bring together scientists from institutions across the world and from different fields of inquiry. For example, the Harvard-MIT Center for Ultracold Atoms unites a community of scientists from both institutions to pursue research in the new fields opened up by the creation of ultracold atoms and quantum gases. The Center for Integrated Quantum Materials , a collaboration between Harvard University, Howard University, MIT, and the Museum of Science, Boston, is dedicated to the study of extraordinary new quantum materials that hold promise for transforming signal processing and computation. The Harvard Materials Science and Engineering Center is home to an interdisciplinary group of physicists, chemists, and researchers from the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences working on fundamental questions in materials science and applications such as soft robotics and 3D printing.  The Black Hole Initiative , the first center worldwide to focus on the study of black holes, is an interdisciplinary collaboration between principal investigators from the fields of astronomy, physics, mathematics, and philosophy. The quantitative biology initiative https://quantbio.harvard.edu/  aims to bring together physicists, biologists, engineers, and applied mathematicians to understand life itself. And, most recently, the new program in  Quantum Science and Engineering (QSE) , which lies at the interface of physics, chemistry, and engineering, will admit its first cohort of PhD students in Fall 2022.

We support and encourage interdisciplinary research and simultaneous applications to two departments is permissible. Prospective students may thus wish to apply to the following departments and programs in addition to Physics:

  • Department of Astronomy
  • Department of Chemistry
  • Department of Mathematics
  • John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS)
  • Biophysics Program
  • Molecules, Cells and Organisms Program (MCO)

If you are a prospective graduate student and have questions for us, or if you’re interested in visiting our department, please contact  [email protected] .

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DPhil in Theoretical Physics

  • Entry requirements
  • Funding and Costs

College preference

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About the course

The DPhil in Theoretical Physics is a research-based course of three to four years in duration. Students working towards their DPhil in Theoretical Physics can choose from topics ranging from astrophysics and plasma physics to condensed matter theory to particle theory and we collaborate with experimentalists in other sub-departments and worldwide. There are also theoretical projects available in other sub-departments.

You will be assigned to a research group: work on your original research project will start immediately and continue for the duration of your DPhil. Your research project will be your main focus throughout your DPhil, but to increase your basic and specialist physics knowledge you will be required to attend lectures and courses in your first year.  This includes courses from the MMathPhys programme, as well as the seminars and colloquia that are regularly held in the department. 

During your Dphil you are encouraged to attend conferences and summer schools inside or outside the UK and the department supports such attendance financially.


The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Department of Physics and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. Under exceptional circumstances, a supervisor may be found outside the Department of Physics. 

The frequency of student supervisor meetings varies depending on the nature of the project; students should expect to interact with supervisors regularly, eg weekly or, in some cases, monthly. You are welcome to contact potential supervisors for further information.

At the end of the first year you are expected to submit a report on your research and to defend it in an interview with the Graduate Studies Panel and a specialist reader. The panel will determine whether you can transfer status from Probationer Research Student (PRS) status to DPhil student status. 

You will be expected to submit a substantial original thesis after three or, at most, four years from the date of admission. To be successfully awarded a DPhil you will need to defend your thesis orally ( viva voce ) in front of two appointed examiners.

Graduate destinations

The DPhil in Theoretical Physics at Oxford is ideally suited to those students who would like to pursue a career in research; either in academia or industry all over the world. The majority of alumni go on to take up postdoctoral research posts after graduation. 

However, a very wide range of career paths is possible, with recent graduates taking up positions in investment banking, business analysis and consulting.

Changes to this course and your supervision

The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic, epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.

Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information please see our page on changes to courses and the provisions of the student contract regarding changes to courses.

Entry requirements for entry in 2023-24

Proven and potential academic excellence, degree-level qualifications.

As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the following UK qualifications or their equivalent:

  • a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in physics, mathematics or another relevant science. The equivalent of a UK four-year integrated MPhys or MSci degree is typically required. Bachelor's degrees with a minimum four years' standard duration may satisfy the entry requirements.

Entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent. In exceptional cases, the requirement for a first-class or strong upper-second class undergraduate degree with honours can be alternatively demonstrated by a graduate master’s degree or substantial directly-related professional or research experience.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the typical minimum GPA sought is 3.3 out of 4.0. However, selection of candidates also depends on other factors in your application and most successful applicants have achieved higher GPA scores. 

If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.

GRE General Test scores

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

It is helpful to include details of any of the following applicable attributes, which may strengthen your application:

  • Details of any publications.  Many candidates with no peer-reviewed publications receive offers each year.
  • Research or professional experience in areas aligned with the proposed supervisors' research interests.
  • Depending on the project, evidence of training in scientific computer programming or related numerical techniques.
  • Previous experience in a scientific or technical research environment.

English language proficiency

This course requires proficiency in English at the University's  standard level . If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University's standard level are detailed in the table below.

*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) † Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)

Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides further information about the English language test requirement .

Declaring extenuating circumstances

If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.

You will need to register three referees who can give an informed view of your academic ability and suitability for the course. The  How to apply  section of this page provides details of the types of reference that are required in support of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including an official transcript and a CV/résumé. The  How to apply  section of this page provides details of the supporting documents that are required as part of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview

Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process.

Shortlists are agreed by Admissions Panels based on applications and references. Invitations for interview are usually agreed between February and March. The majority of interviews are held in person, but can also be held via Skype. Interviews are held with a minimum of two academics. We typically interview 10% of applicants.

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements published under that heading.

References  and  supporting documents  submitted as part of your application, and your performance at interview (if interviews are held) will be considered as part of the assessment process. Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

An overview of the shortlisting and selection process is provided below. Our ' After you apply ' pages provide  more information about how applications are assessed . 

Shortlisting and selection

Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:

  • socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of  the University’s pilot selection procedure  and for  scholarships aimed at under-represented groups ;
  • country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
  • protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.

Processing your data for shortlisting and selection

Information about  processing special category data for the purposes of positive action  and  using your data to assess your eligibility for funding , can be found in our Postgraduate Applicant Privacy Policy.

Admissions panels and assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

Other factors governing whether places can be offered

The following factors will also govern whether candidates can be offered places:

  • the ability of the University to provide the appropriate supervision for your studies, as outlined under the 'Supervision' heading in the  About  section of this page;
  • the ability of the University to provide appropriate support for your studies (eg through the provision of facilities, resources, teaching and/or research opportunities); and
  • minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to the University's taught and research programmes.

Offer conditions for successful applications

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer will outline any conditions that you need to satisfy and any actions you need to take, together with any associated deadlines. These may include academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions will usually depend on your individual academic circumstances and may vary between applicants. Our ' After you apply ' pages provide more information about offers and conditions . 

In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will also be required to meet the following requirements:

Financial Declaration

If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a  Financial Declaration  in order to meet your financial condition of admission.

Disclosure of criminal convictions

In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any  relevant, unspent criminal convictions  before you can take up a place at Oxford.

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

Some postgraduate research students in science, engineering and technology subjects will need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate prior to applying for a  Student visa (under the Student Route) . For some courses, the requirement to apply for an ATAS certificate may depend on your research area.

As a DPhil student of Theoretical Physics, you will have access to a 2,344 CPU core HPC computing cluster and appropriate computing support. You will be provided with a personal desktop computer in your office in the department, at the department's expense.

The University has extensive library support through the Bodleian and Radcliffe Science Libraries as well as online access to major journals.

You will be provided with personal office space in the Rudolf Peierls Centre for Theoretical Physics alongside staff members, with whom you will share a variety of meeting rooms and an on-site canteen(s) which doubles as a social space for the group.

You will be expected (and usually supported financially) to travel during your DPhil, both to meet and work with collaborators and to share your work.

The six sub-departments at Oxford Physics are Astrophysics, Atomic and Laser Physics, Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics, Condensed Matter Physics, Particle Physics and Theoretical Physics. Each of these sub-departments is autonomous, although many of the research projects available are interdisciplinary.

All of the DPhil degrees at Oxford Physics are research-based courses that normally take three to four years of study. You will be expected to carry out your own research in areas drawn from the broad range of research across the department, and will be allocated at least one supervisor who will be your primary contact for guidance throughout your research degree. In parallel with your project, you will be expected to attend a taught course in the first year, comprising lectures, seminars and discussion classes at graduate level.

Whilst working on your research project you will engage in a thorough skills training programme which includes a range of workshops and seminars in transferable skills, generic research skills and specific research techniques. There are also numerous seminars and lectures held in the department by local and visiting physicists, and you will be provided with many opportunities to meet experts in various fields. There will also be opportunity for you to present your work at both formal and informal conferences, seminars and colloquia.

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The University expects to be able to offer over 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2024-25. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships , if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant December or January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. 

For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources.

Please ensure that you visit individual college websites for details of any college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages or below:

Please note that not all the colleges listed above may accept students on this course. For details of those which do, please refer to the College preference section of this page.

Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the department's website.

Annual fees for entry in 2023-24

Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.

Information about course fees

Course fees are payable each year, for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on changes to fees and charges .

Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.

Continuation charges

Following the period of fee liability , you may also be required to pay a University continuation charge and a college continuation charge. The University and college continuation charges are shown on the Continuation charges page.

Where can I find further information about fees?

The Fees and Funding  section of this website provides further information about course fees , including information about fee status and eligibility  and your length of fee liability .

Additional information

You will be expected to travel during your DPhil, both to meet and work with collaborators and to share your work. The sub department of Theoretical Physics funds a minimum of one summer/winter school per student per year which includes accommodation and travel costs. These funds are available to all students.

Living costs

In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2024-25 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,345 and £1,955 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our living costs page. The current economic climate and high national rate of inflation make it very hard to estimate potential changes to the cost of living over the next few years. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2024-25, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of around 5% each year – although this rate may vary depending on the national economic situation. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.

Students enrolled on this course will belong to both a department/faculty and a college. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 43 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as societies and permanent private halls (PPHs). 

If you apply for a place on this course you will have the option to express a preference for one of the colleges listed below, or you can ask us to find a college for you. Before deciding, we suggest that you read our brief  introduction to the college system at Oxford  and our  advice about expressing a college preference . For some courses, the department may have provided some additional advice below to help you decide.

The following colleges accept students on the DPhil in Theoretical Physics:

  • Balliol College
  • Brasenose College
  • Christ Church
  • Corpus Christi College
  • Exeter College
  • Hertford College
  • Jesus College
  • Keble College
  • Lady Margaret Hall
  • Linacre College
  • Lincoln College
  • Magdalen College
  • Mansfield College
  • Merton College
  • New College
  • Oriel College
  • Pembroke College
  • St Anne's College
  • St Catherine's College
  • St Cross College
  • St Edmund Hall
  • St Hilda's College
  • St Hugh's College
  • St John's College
  • St Peter's College
  • Somerville College
  • Trinity College
  • University College
  • Wadham College
  • Wolfson College
  • Worcester College
  • Wycliffe Hall

Before you apply

Our  guide to getting started  provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines  in our Application Guide. If it's important for you to have your application considered under a particular deadline – eg under a December or January deadline in order to be considered for Oxford scholarships – we recommend that you aim to complete and submit your application at least two weeks in advance .

Application fee waivers

An application fee of £75 is payable per course application. Application fee waivers are available for the following applicants who meet the eligibility criteria:

  • applicants from low-income countries;
  • refugees and displaced persons; 
  • UK applicants from low-income backgrounds; and 
  • applicants who applied for our Graduate Access Programmes in the past two years and met the eligibility criteria.

You are encouraged to  check whether you're eligible for an application fee waiver  before you apply.

Readmission for current Oxford graduate taught students

If you're currently studying for an Oxford graduate taught course and apply to this course with no break in your studies, you may be eligible to apply to this course as a readmission applicant. The application fee will be waived for an eligible application of this type. Check whether you're eligible to apply for readmission .

Applying to more than one physics DPhil course

You can indicate whether your application should be considered for other physics DPhil courses by following the  instructions for stating the ‘Proposed field and title of research project' . If you decide to do this, you will only need to submit a single application and pay the application fee once.

Application fee waivers for eligible associated courses

If you apply to this course and up to two eligible associated courses from our predefined list during the same cycle, you can request an application fee waiver so that you only need to pay one application fee.

Do I need to contact anyone before I apply?

You do not need to make contact with the department before you apply but you are encouraged to visit the relevant departmental webpages to read any further information about your chosen course.

Research areas may overlap across the different physics DPhil courses. If you are in any doubt about which course(s) to apply to, you are advised to read each of the physics course pages carefully before starting an application. If you have any course-related questions, please refer to the 'Further information and enquiries' section on each page for the relevant contact details.

Completing your application

You should refer to the information below when completing the application form, paying attention to the specific requirements for the supporting documents . 

If any document does not meet the specification, including the stipulated word count, your application may be considered incomplete and not assessed by the academic department. Expand each section to show further details.

Proposed field and title of research project

You should use this field of the application form to indicate whether you would like your application to be considered for other physics DPhil courses. To do this, insert the relevant acronym from the list below for each additional course that you would like your application to be considered for:

  • DPhil in Astrophysics : ASTRO
  • DPhil in Atomic and Laser Physics : ALP
  • DPhil in Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics : AOPP
  • DPhil in Condensed Matter Physics : CMP
  • DPhil in Particle Physics : PP
  • DPhil in Theoretical Physics : TP

Your application will be considered for each additional course that you indicate - you should not apply for these courses separately or pay an additional application fee. Please ensure that your research proposal (which you will be asked to upload in a later section of the application form) meets the assessment criteria described on each relevant course page.

If would like your application to be considered for only this course, you do not need to enter an acronym from the list above.

Proposed supervisor

If known, under 'Proposed supervisor name' enter the name of the academic(s) who you would like to supervise your research. Otherwise, leave this field blank.

Referees: Three overall, academic and/or professional

Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement together with  motivation for research and ability to work in a group. Both academic and professional references are acceptable.

Official transcript(s)

Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.

More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.

A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.

Research proposal: A maximum of 500 words

A research proposal outlining your research interests and experience should be submitted.

The proposal should outline your reasons for wishing to study for a DPhil in Theoretical Physics and the type of research project that you wish to undertake. It is not necessary to be very specific about your choice of project, but if you do have a clear preference for a particular research area or supervisor please indicate and explain this. You should describe previous research experience.

The proposal should be written in English and the overall word count should include any bibliography. 

If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.

This will be assessed for evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study, the ability to present a reasoned case in English, and commitment to the subject.

Start or continue your application

You can start or return to an application using the relevant link below. As you complete the form, please  refer to the requirements above  and  consult our Application Guide for advice . You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.

Application Guide   Apply


Open to applications for entry in 2024-25

12:00 midday UK time on:

Friday 5 January 2024 Latest deadline for most Oxford scholarships

Friday 1 March 2024 Final application deadline for entry in 2024-25

*Three-year average (applications for entry in 2021-22 to 2023-24)

Further information and enquiries

This course is offered by the Department of Physics

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Course-related enquiries

Advice about contacting the department can be found in the How to apply section of this page

✉  [email protected] ☎ +44 (0)1865 282284

Application-process enquiries

See the application guide

Other courses to consider

You may also wish to consider applying to other courses that are similar or related to this course:

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Many PhD students in the MIT Physics Department incorporate probability, statistics, computation, and data analysis into their research. These techniques are becoming increasingly important for both experimental and theoretical Physics research, with ever-growing datasets, more sophisticated physics simulations, and the development of cutting-edge machine learning tools. The Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in Statistics (IDPS)  is designed to provide students with the highest level of competency in 21st century statistics, enabling doctoral students across MIT to better integrate computation and data analysis into their PhD thesis research.

Admission to this program is restricted to students currently enrolled in the Physics doctoral program or another participating MIT doctoral program. In addition to satisfying all of the requirements of the Physics PhD, students take one subject each in probability, statistics, computation and statistics, and data analysis, as well as the Doctoral Seminar in Statistics, and they write a dissertation in Physics utilizing statistical methods. Graduates of the program will receive their doctoral degree in the field of “Physics, Statistics, and Data Science.”

Doctoral students in Physics may submit an Interdisciplinary PhD in Statistics Form between the end of their second semester and penultimate semester in their Physics program. The application must include an endorsement from the student’s advisor, an up-to-date CV, current transcript, and a 1-2 page statement of interest in Statistics and Data Science.

The statement of interest can be based on the student’s thesis proposal for the Physics Department, but it must demonstrate that statistical methods will be used in a substantial way in the proposed research. In their statement, applicants are encouraged to explain how specific statistical techniques would be applied in their research. Applicants should further highlight ways that their proposed research might advance the use of statistics and data science, both in their physics subfield and potentially in other disciplines. If the work is part of a larger collaborative effort, the applicant should focus on their personal contributions.

For access to the selection form or for further information, please contact the IDSS Academic Office at  [email protected] .

Required Courses

Courses in this list that satisfy the Physics PhD degree requirements can count for both programs. Other similar or more advanced courses can count towards the “Computation & Statistics” and “Data Analysis” requirements, with permission from the program co-chairs. The IDS.190 requirement may be satisfied instead by IDS.955 Practical Experience in Data, Systems, and Society, if that experience exposes the student to a diverse set of topics in statistics and data science. Making this substitution requires permission from the program co-chairs prior to doing the practical experience.

  • IDS.190 – Doctoral Seminar in Statistics and Data Science ( may be substituted by IDS.955 Practical Experience in Data, Systems and Society )
  • 6.7700[J] Fundamentals of Probability or
  • 18.675 – Theory of Probability
  • 18.655 – Mathematical Statistics or
  • 18.6501 – Fundamentals of Statistics or
  • IDS.160[J] – Mathematical Statistics: A Non-Asymptotic Approach
  • 6.C01/6.C51 – Modeling with Machine Learning: From Algorithms to Applications or
  • 6.7810 Algorithms for Inference or
  • 6.8610 (6.864) Advanced Natural Language Processing or
  • 6.7900 (6.867) Machine Learning or
  • 6.8710 (6.874) Computational Systems Biology: Deep Learning in the Life Sciences or
  • 9.520[J] – Statistical Learning Theory and Applications or
  • 16.940 – Numerical Methods for Stochastic Modeling and Inference or
  • 18.337 – Numerical Computing and Interactive Software
  • 6.8300 (6.869) Advances in Computer Vision or
  • 8.334 – Statistical Mechanics II or
  • 8.371[J] – Quantum Information Science or
  • 8.591[J] – Systems Biology or
  • 8.592[J] – Statistical Physics in Biology or
  • 8.942 – Cosmology or
  • 9.583 – Functional MRI: Data Acquisition and Analysis or
  • 16.456[J] – Biomedical Signal and Image Processing or
  • 18.367 – Waves and Imaging or
  • IDS.131[J] – Statistics, Computation, and Applications

Grade Policy

C, D, F, and O grades are unacceptable. Students should not earn more B grades than A grades, reflected by a PhysSDS GPA of ≥ 4.5. Students may be required to retake subjects graded B or lower, although generally one B grade will be tolerated.

Unless approved by the PhysSDS co-chairs, a minimum grade of B+ is required in all 12 unit courses, except IDS.190 (3 units) which requires a P grade.

Though not required, it is strongly encouraged for a member of the MIT  Statistics and Data Science Center (SDSC)  to serve on a student’s doctoral committee. This could be an SDSC member from the Physics department or from another field relevant to the proposed thesis research.

Thesis Proposal

All students must submit a thesis proposal using the standard Physics format. Dissertation research must involve the utilization of statistical methods in a substantial way.

PhysSDS Committee

  • Jesse Thaler (co-chair)
  • Mike Williams (co-chair)
  • Isaac Chuang
  • Janet Conrad
  • William Detmold
  • Philip Harris
  • Jacqueline Hewitt
  • Kiyoshi Masui
  • Leonid Mirny
  • Christoph Paus
  • Phiala Shanahan
  • Marin Soljačić
  • Washington Taylor
  • Max Tegmark

Can I satisfy the requirements with courses taken at Harvard?

Harvard CompSci 181 will count as the equivalent of MIT’s 6.867.  For the status of other courses, please contact the program co-chairs.

Can a course count both for the Physics degree requirements and the PhysSDS requirements?

Yes, this is possible, as long as the courses are already on the approved list of requirements. E.g. 8.592 can count as a breadth requirement for a NUPAX student as well as a Data Analysis requirement for the PhysSDS degree.

If I have previous experience in Probability and/or Statistics, can I test out of these requirements?

These courses are required by all of the IDPS degrees. They are meant to ensure that all students obtaining an IDPS degree share the same solid grounding in these fundamentals, and to help build a community of IDPS students across the various disciplines. Only in exceptional cases might it be possible to substitute more advanced courses in these areas.

Can I substitute a similar or more advanced course for the PhysSDS requirements?

Yes, this is possible for the “computation and statistics” and “data analysis” requirements, with permission of program co-chairs. Substitutions for the “probability” and “statistics” requirements will only be granted in exceptional cases.

For Spring 2021, the following course has been approved as a substitution for the “computation and statistics” requirement:   18.408 (Theoretical Foundations for Deep Learning) .

The following course has been approved as a substitution for the “data analysis” requirement:   6.481 (Introduction to Statistical Data Analysis) .

Can I apply for the PhysSDS degree in my last semester at MIT?

No, you must apply no later than your penultimate semester.

What does it mean to use statistical methods in a “substantial way” in one’s thesis?

The ideal case is that one’s thesis advances statistics research independent of the Physics applications. Advancing the use of statistical methods in one’s subfield of Physics would also qualify. Applying well-established statistical methods in one’s thesis could qualify, if the application is central to the Physics result. In all cases, we expect the student to demonstrate mastery of statistics and data science.

Physics, PHD

On this page:, program description.

Degree Awarded: PHD Physics

The PhD program in physics is intended for highly capable students who have the interest and ability to follow a career in independent research.

The recent advent of the graduate faculty initiative at ASU extends the spectrum of potential physics doctoral topics and advisors to include highly transdisciplinary projects that draw upon:

  • biochemistry
  • electrical engineering
  • materials science
  • other related fields

Consequently, students and doctoral advisors can craft novel doctoral projects that transcend the classical palette of physics subjects. Transdisciplinary expertise of this nature is increasingly vital to modern science and technology.

Current areas of particular emphasis within the department include:

  • biological physics
  • electron diffraction and imaging
  • nanoscale and materials physics
  • particle physics and astrophysics

The department has more than 90 doctoral students and more than 40 faculty members.

At a Glance: program details

  • Location: Tempe campus
  • Second Language Requirement: No

Degree Requirements

Required Core (18 credit hours) PHY 500 Research Methods (6) PHY 521 Classical and Continuum Mechanics (3) PHY 531 Electrodynamics (3) PHY 541 Statistical Physics (3) PHY 576 Quantum Theory (3)

Electives or Research (54 credit hours)

Culminating Experience (12 credit hours) PHY 799 Dissertation (12)

Additional Curriculum Information Of particular note within the core courses are the PHY 500 Research Rotations, which are specifically designed to engage doctoral students in genuine, faculty-guided research starting in their first semester at ASU. Students take PHY 500 during the fall and spring of their first year.

Coursework beyond the core courses is established by the student's doctoral advisor and supervisory committee, working in partnership with the student. The intent is to tailor the doctoral training to the specific research interests and aptitudes of the student while ensuring that each graduating student emerges with the expertise, core knowledge and problem-solving skills that define a successful doctoral degree in physics.

When approved by the student's supervisory committee and the Graduate College, this program allows 30 credit hours from a previously awarded master's degree to be used for this degree. If students do not have a previously awarded master's degree, the 30 credit hours of coursework are made up of electives to reach the required 84 credit hours.

84 credit hours, a written comprehensive exam, an oral comprehensive exam, a prospectus and a dissertation

Admission Requirements

Applicants must fulfill the requirements of both the Graduate College and The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Applicants are eligible to apply to the program if they have earned a bachelor's or master's degree in physics or a closely related area, from a regionally accredited institution. Applicants must have had adequate undergraduate preparation equivalent to an undergraduate major of 30 credit hours in physics and 20 credit hours in mathematics. Courses in analytic mechanics, electromagnetism and modern physics, including quantum mechanics, are particularly important.

Applicants must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in the last 60 hours of their first bachelor's degree program, or applicants must have a minimum GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in an applicable master's degree program.

All applicants must submit:

  • graduate admission application and application fee
  • official transcripts
  • personal statement
  • three letters of recommendation
  • proof of English proficiency

Additional Application Information An applicant whose native language is not English must provide proof of English proficiency regardless of their current residency.

Applicants requesting credit for prior graduate courses, taken either at ASU or elsewhere, must demonstrate mastery of the relevant course material to the graduate-level standards of the Department of Physics.

Next Steps to attend ASU

Learn about our programs, apply to a program, visit our campus, career opportunities.

As a professional physicist, graduates can advance the frontiers of physics by generating new knowledge in their subfield while working on the most challenging scientific problems at the forefront of human understanding. Graduates find positions in a variety of settings, such as academic faculty, administration, government labs, industrial labs and management.

Physicists are valued for their analytical, technical and mathematical skills and find employment in a vast array of employment sectors, including:

  • engineering

Program Contact Information

If you have questions related to admission, please click here to request information and an admission specialist will reach out to you directly. For questions regarding faculty or courses, please use the contact information below.

Graduate Admissions

The selection of the Ph.D. students admitted to the Department of Physics is based on an individualized, holistic review of each application, including (but not limited to) the student's academic record, the letters of recommendation, the statement of purpose, past accomplishments, and talent for research in physics. Applicants should keep in mind that attributes such as persistence, enthusiasm, and intellectual creativity can play a significant role in the evaluation of the aptitude of a candidate to graduate school. 

For the 2024-25 application cycle, the General GRE or Physics GRE scores will be accepted but are not a required part of a complete application.  

Applications must be submitted by the middle of December to be considered for the following Autumn Quarter. In January and February of each year, the Physics Department Graduate Admission Committee reviews each application. All applicants will be notified of their admission status by March 1st.

The Physics Department recognizes that the Supreme Court issued a ruling in June 2023 about the consideration of certain types of demographic information as part of an admission review. All applications submitted during upcoming application cycles will be reviewed in conformance with that decision. The Department does not offer a separate program for the M.S. degree, but this degree may be awarded for a portion of the Ph.D. degree work with approval from the Department. Graduate students have opportunities for research in theoretical physics, AMO physics, ultra-fast lasers, particle and nuclear physics, condensed matter physics, quantum information and control, cosmology, astrophysics, and gravitation. Opportunities for research are also available with the faculty at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in the areas of theoretical and experimental particle physics, cosmology and astrophysics, accelerator design, and photon science. In Applied Physics there are opportunities in the areas of theoretical and experimental condensed matter physics, materials research, quantum electronics, and novel imaging technology.

The application deadline for this academic year 2023-24 (2024-25 admissions cycle) is  11:59pm Pacific Standard Time, Friday, December 15, 2023 . The application submission deadline is a hard deadline and no late applications are accepted, no exceptions. We strongly suggest you do not wait until the last day to submit in case you encounter any difficulties.

  • Three letters of recommendation, preferably including at least one from a research group.
  • Upload one scanned version of your official transcript(s) in the online application (see File Upload Requirements ).   Official transcripts are preferred, however, if obtaining official transcripts is financially burdensome, we will accept unofficial transcripts at the time of application.  For those that are offered admission to our program, we will require submission of official transcripts for accepted students before matriculation.
  • The TOEFL exam is required for applicants whose first language is not English. It must be taken within the last two years. The TOEFL is waived for applicants who have recently completed or will complete a Bachelor's degree, or a 2-year Master's program, in the U.S. or in another English-speaking country.  See the  Graduate Admissions GRE/TOEFL FAQ  for detailed information.
  • The GRE General and Physics exam scores will be accepted but are not required in the 2024-25 application cycle (2023-24 academic year).

The Department of Physics welcomes graduate applications from individuals with a broad range of life experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds who would contribute to our community of scholars. Review of applications is holistic and individualized, considering each applicant’s academic record and accomplishments, letters of recommendation, and admissions essays in order to understand how an applicant’s life experiences have shaped their past and potential contributions to their field.

The department is interested in understanding and mitigating barriers to access to all of our programs, including barriers based on citizenship status, accessibility, or financial or logistical challenges.  If you are interested in our graduate program but there are barriers that limit your ability to apply given our current procedures, we would appreciate hearing from you.  Please fill out this brief form .  

Not all students have equal access to information on the graduate admission process. The department is interested in helping those who may need additional guidance in applying to graduate programs in Physics. If you are interested in attending a Q&A panel to hear from current graduate students about applying to graduate programs please fill out this form .




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  1. Graduate Studies

    Our primary areas of experimental and theoretical research are atomic and molecular physics, astrophysics and cosmology, biophysics, chemical physics, computational physics, condensed-matter physics, materials science, mathematical physics, particle physics, quantum optics, quantum field theory, quantum information, string theory, and relativity.

  2. DPhil in Theoretical Physics

    The DPhil in Theoretical Physics is a research-based course of three to four years in duration. Students working towards their DPhil in Theoretical Physics can choose from topics ranging from astrophysics and plasma physics to condensed matter theory to particle theory and we collaborate with experimentalists in other sub-departments and worldwide.

  3. Physics, PHD

    Program Contact Information. If you have questions related to admission, please click here to request information and an admission specialist will reach out to you directly. For questions regarding faculty or courses, please use the contact information below. [email protected]. 480/965-3561.

  4. Graduate Admissions

    The GRE General and Physics exam scores will be accepted but are not required in the 2024-25 application cycle (2023-24 academic year). The Department of Physics welcomes graduate applications from individuals with a broad range of life experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds who would contribute to our community of scholars.