Physics PhD

Major: Physics
Degree Awarded: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Calendar Type: Quarter
Minimum Required Credits: 90.0 
Co-op Option: None
Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code: 40.0801
Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code:
 19-2010; 19-2012; 11-9121; 25-1054; 25-2031

About the Program

The Department of Physics offers opportunities for students to study with leading researchers in astrophysics, biophysics, condensed matter, particle physics, and physics education research, as well as to participate in international collaborations. Coursework includes advanced training in core areas of physics and in topics of current research. PhD students begin research early in the program, commencing thesis work in their second year of study.

Additional Information

To learn more about the graduate program, visit the Department of Physics webpage.

Admission Requirements

For admission to the graduate programs, a bachelor's degree in an approved program is required with a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0/4.0.

Although recommended, the GRE general exam is not required. The GRE physics exam is recommended, but not required, and no minimum score is used in evaluations.

TOEFL scores are required for international applicants or applicants who earned a degree outside the US (minimum score 100). IELTS scores may be submitted in lieu of TOEFL scores. The minimum IELTS band score is 7.0. TOEFL or IELTS scores below these levels may be considered, but may require an interview.

Additional Information

Visit the Graduate Admissions website for more information about requirements and deadlines, as well as instructions for applying online.

Degree Requirements 

90.0 quarter credits

The Department of Physics offers opportunities for students to study with leading researchers in astrophysics, biophysics, condensed matter, particle physics, and physics education research, as well as to participate in international collaborations. Coursework for the PhD degree includes advanced training in core areas of physics and topics of current research. PhD students begin research early in the program, commencing thesis work in their second year of study.

The usual schedule for physics graduate students consists of two years of coursework, candidacy exam, and research training, followed by dissertation research. All PhD students follow a common set of eight core courses during their first two years of study. In addition to these core courses, students also take at least four topics courses.

Note: Students who complete both PHYS 554 and PHYS 558 in addition to the Core Courses will earn the Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Quantum Technology and Quantum Information.

PhD Students Admitted with Post-master's Status

Students who are admitted for PhD study with “post-master's” status must take 15.0 credits of graduate coursework with a minimum GPA of 3.0 to become doctoral candidates. Courses are to be chosen in consultation with the Graduate Academic Committee. Post-masters students are expected to pass the oral candidacy exam by the end of the spring quarter of their first year of study. To be prepared for the oral exam, post-master's students should begin research as soon as possible.

Program Requirements

Doctoral candidates are required to complete a minimum of 45.0 credits of coursework and research work beyond the master’s requirement of 45.0 credits while maintaining a minimum of 3.0 GPA. Advancement to doctoral candidacy requires a minimum GPA in core courses of 3.0 with no more than two grades below B-.

Core Courses
PHYS 501Mathematical Physics I3.0
PHYS 506Dynamics I3.0
PHYS 511Electromagnetic Theory I3.0
PHYS 512Electromagnetic Theory II3.0
PHYS 516Quantum Mechanics I3.0
PHYS 517Quantum Mechanics II3.0
PHYS 521Statistical Mechanics I3.0
PHYS 522Statistical Mechanics II3.0
PHYS 997Research9.0
Topics Courses
Select four including a minimum of two outside research specialty:12.0
Mathematical Physics II
Quantum Mechanics III
Galactic Astrophysics
Big Data Physics
Quantum Technology
Quantum Information
Computational Biophysics
Introduction to Particle Physics
Solid State Physics I
Solid State Physics II
Relativity Theory I
Special Topics in Physics
Total Credits45.0

Research Training

Students begin research in the spring and summer terms of their first year. The spring project culminates in a poster presented to the department. A two-page proposal for their summer research is also due at the end of the spring term. At the end of the summer, students are required to submit an in-depth written report and give an oral presentation of their summer project. Research during the second year is toward the candidacy exam as described below.

Candidacy Examination

The candidacy exam is based on original research performed by the student, which consists of an oral presentation and a written report of no less than 15 pages, submitted to the examination committee and the Associate Department Head for Graduate Studies at least one week prior to the exam. Immediately after the public presentation, the Examination Committee will privately conduct an oral examination. This exam must be passed by the end of the second year of study.

Dissertation Defense

This dissertation defense includes a final public presentation and defense of the dissertation. The dissertation must be submitted to the Examination Committee at least two weeks prior to the oral defense. The oral presentation involves a public 45-60 minute presentation by the candidate followed by an unspecified period during which the Examination Committee will ask questions. All doctoral dissertations, in addition to originality and scholarly content, must conform to University format requirements.

Sample Plan of Study

The sample plan of study below lists required courses and electives for the first two years of the full-time PhD program, for a minimum of 45.0 credits. During the third year and thereafter, PhD program students must take a minimum of 45.0 additional credits of research (PHYS 998  Dissertation Research).


The following is a sample plan of study that includes all required courses for the first two academic years for full-time PhD students entering without a previous Master’s degree. Post-master's students should consult the Graduate Academic Committee. Summer terms may be subject to change.

The following is a sample plan of study that includes all required courses for the first two academic years for full-time PhD students entering without a previous Master’s degree. Post-master's students should consult the Graduate Academic Committee. Summer terms may be subject to change.

First Year
PHYS 5013.0PHYS 5163.0PHYS 5173.0PHYS 9971.0-9.0
PHYS 5063.0PHYS 511 or 521*3.0PHYS 512 or 522*3.0 
Topics Course**3.0Topics Course**3.0PHYS 997***3.0 
 9 9 9 1-9
Second Year
Topics Course**3.0PHYS 521 or 5113.0PHYS 522 or 512*3.0PHYS 9981.0-9.0
PHYS 9976.0Topics Course**3.0PHYS 9976.0 
 PHYS 9973.0  
 9 9 9 1-9
Total Credits 56-72

Core Course sequences PHYS 511 / PHYS 512 and PHYS 521 / PHYS 522 are offered in alternate years.


Topics courses are an introduction to current topics of experimental and theoretical interest. They are offered in alternate years.


 3.0 credits of PHYS 997: Research must be taken by Spring of the first year.

Additional Information

More information for graduate students is available at the Department of Physics.


Astrophysics Facilities:

  • The Numerical Astrophysics Facility emphasizes theoretical and numerical studies of stars, star formation, planetary systems, star clusters, galaxy distributions, cosmological modeling, gravitational lensing, and the early universe. The facility employs a high-performance Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) compute cluster, each node containing two 6-core, 2.7 GHz Intel Xeon CPUs and 96 Gbytes of RAM, accelerated by 4–6 Nvidia Fermi/Titan GPUs, and connected by QDR infiniband, affording computational speeds of up to 50 trillion floating point operations per second.
  • The Joseph R. Lynch Observatory houses a 16-inch Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope equipped with an SBIG CCD camera. 
  • Drexel is an institutional member of the Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) that will be conducted with the Simonyi Survey Telescope at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, currently under construction in Chile as a joint project of the National Science Foundation and Department of Energy.  Faculty and students are developing LSST-related machine learning tools and analyzing simulated LSST data to prepare for "first light" in 2022.

Biophysics Facilities:

  • Bio-manipulation and microscopy laboratories. Four optical tables and six research grade microscopes are configured to perform microscopic spectroscopy and manipulation on solutions and individual cells. A spatial light modulator allows spatial patterns to be encoded on samples and explored; all microscopes are temperature controlled with state of the art cameras, including a 2,000 frame per second high speed system. Each optical table is also equipped with high power lasers for photolysis or fluorescence spectroscopy.
  • Wet lab for studies of proteins and biomimetic lipids, and protein purification and characterization. The laboratory has a variety of chromatographic equipment, large and small centrifuges, fume hood, a spectrophotometer and a spectrofluorimeter. In addition, the laboratory houses a small microfluidic fabrication facility.
  • The Computational Biophysics facility also includes: (i) a Beowulf cluster with 46 dual Quad-core hyperthreaded Xeon CPU (736 cores) and 12Gb of RAM nodes plus a master with 1Tb of storage and 24Gb of RAM, (ii) a Beowulf cluster with 44 dual-core Xeon CPU (344 cores),(iii) a dual Quad-core hyperthreaded Xeon CPU workstation with 24Gb RAM and 3Tb disk with two Tesla C2050 GPU CUDA-accelerated graphics card, (iv) a dual Quad-core hyperthreaded Xeon CPU workstation with 8Gb RAM and 4Tb disk with an NVIDIA N280 GPU CUDA-accelerated graphics card, (v) a quad 8-core hyperthreaded Xeon CPU workstation with 128Gb RAM and 16Tb total disk, (vi) a 72Tb file server with 12Gb RAM, (vii) a 96Tb quad 6-core file server with 64Gb RAM, (viii) and several Linux workstations connected through a gigabit network.

Condensed Matter Physics Research Facilities:

  • The Energy Materials Research Laboratory includes a Variable Temperature UHV Scanning Probe Microscope for studies of 2D correlated electron materials and quantum systems.
  • Ultrafast Structural Dynamics Laboratory includes a transient electron diffraction setup with sub-picosecond temporal resolution used in studies of quantum materials.
  • Single crystal growth laboratory utilizes different techniques for growing high quality single crystals of strongly correlated materials including dichalcogenides.
  • The Magnetic Material Laboratory conducts research on amorphous magnetic thin films and fiber optical sensors.
  • The Surface Science Laboratory has several scanning probe microscopy setups to study surface structure interfaces at the atomic level.
  • The Ultra-Low Temperature Laboratory has a cryogenic dilution refrigerator and microwave sources and detectors to study quantum phenomena in nano- and microscale devices, superconducting qubits, nanostructures, and quantum fluids and solids.
  • The Mesoscale Materials Laboratory investigates light-matter interactions and the extent and effects of ordering of lattice, charge and spin degrees of freedom on electronic phases and functional properties in solids, with an emphasis on bulk and epitaxial film complex oxides. Facilities include instrumentation for pulsed laser deposition of epitaxial complex oxide films, atomic layer deposition, variable-temperature characterization of carrier transport (DC to 20 GHz), and a laser spectroscopy lab enabling high-resolution Raman scattering spectroscopy at temperatures to 1.5 K and under magnetic field to 7 T.
  • Condensed Matter Physics group has active collaborations with DOE Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago (visiting faculty Dr. Valentyn Novosad) with numerous experimental capabilities available at the Materials Science Division and Center for Nanoscale Materials. Graduates students in experimental condensed matter physics have an opportunity to conduct part or all of their thesis research at Argonne as part of collaborative projects with the research groups there.
  • Local high performance computing facility.
  • The Experimental Condensed Matter group is actively utilizing local user facilities at Drexel (Core Research Facilities (, University of Pennsylvania (Singh Center for Nanotechnology (, and Temple University (Science and Education and Research Center (  to access top of the line instrumentation for nanoscale fabrication and characterization of materials.
  • Faculty in Condensed Matter Physics thrust participate in several large-scale collaborations such as Energy Frontier Research Center (DOE EFRC--CCM), detector development for South Pole Telescope Collaboration and others.

Particle Physics Facilities:

  • The Drexel Particle Physics Group researches fundamental neutrino properties with the DUNE long baseline experiment hosted by Fermilab and the PROSPECT short baseline reactor experiment, as well as the planned nEXO neutrinoless double beta decay experiment.
  • We are also active in the IceCube neutrino telescope located at the geographic South Pole.
  • The Bubble Chamber Laboratory develops superheated-liquid detectors for rare-interaction searches, including the PICO dark matter experiment located at SNOLAB in Canada.

Laboratory for High-Performance Computational Physics:

  • In addition to the department computing cluster (15 Linux workstations), high-performance computing resources include a dual-processor server with two Xeon E5-2650 processors (16 cores), 128 GB of RAM, and two Xeon Phi P5110 co-processor cards (480 cores). Department researchers also have access to a cluster of 18 Dell PowerEdge C6145  servers (AMD Opteron 6378 Piledriver CPU's, 64 cores/server, 256 GB RAM/server) with a total of 1152 cores and 4.5TB RAM.

Physics Faculty

Eric Brewe, PhD (Arizona State University). Associate Professor. Physics Education Research, introductory course reform, network analysis in learning, neuromechanisms of learning.
Luis R. Cruz Cruz, PhD (MIT). Associate Professor. Computational studies of confinement effects on the folding of amyloidogenic proteins, spatial correlations of neurons in the brain, firing dynamics of neuronal networks, fluid flow through porous media.
N. John DiNardo, PhD (University of Pennsylvania). Professor. Physics education research, surface physics, condensed matter physics, materials science.
Michelle Dolinski, PhD (University of California, Berkeley) Associate Dean of Graduate Education. Associate Professor. Neutrino physics, rare nuclear decays, cryogenic detector technologies.
Frank A. Ferrone, PhD (Princeton University). Professor. Experimental and theoretical protein dynamics, kinetics of biological self-assembly, including sickle cell and Alzheimer's disease, sickle cell testing and diagnostic devices.
David M. Goldberg, PhD (Princeton University) Associate Department Head for Undergraduate Studies. Professor. Theoretical and computational cosmology, extragalactic astrophysics, gravitational lensing.
Goran Karapetrov, PhD (Oregon State University). Professor. Experimental solid state physics, scanning probe microscopy, nanoscale catalysis, mesoscopic superconductivity.
Rachael M. Kratzer, PhD (Drexel University). Associate Teaching Professor. Quasars, active galactic nuclei
Charles Lane, PhD (California Institute of Technology). Professor. Experimental tests of invariance principles and conservation laws, neutrino oscillations and properties.
Christina Love, PhD (Temple University). Associate Teaching Professor. Educational methods and technology, STEM education, science literacy and outreach, particle physics, astrophysics.
Stephen L. W. McMillan, PhD (Harvard University) Department Head. Professor. Stellar dynamics, star cluster formation, large-scale computations of stellar systems, high-performance special-purpose computers
Naoko Kurahashi Neilson, PhD (Stanford University). Associate Professor. Neutrino physics, high energy astro-particle physics.
Russell Neilson, PhD (Stanford University). Associate Professor. Dark matter, neutrino physics.
Gordon T. Richards, PhD (University of Chicago). Professor. Quasars, active galactic nuclei, supermassive black holes, galaxy evolution, sky surveys, infrared/X-ray/radio astronomy
Jonathan E. Spanier, PhD (Columbia University) Department Head, Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics. Professor. Light-matter interactions in electronic materials, including ferroelectric semiconductors, complex oxide thin film science; laser spectroscopy, including Raman scattering.
Somdev Tyagi, PhD (Brigham Young University). Professor. Nanobiophysics, Raman spectroscopy, magnetic materials.
Brigita Urbanc, PhD (University of Ljubljana, Slovenia) Associate Department Head for Graduate Studies. Professor. Computational and experimental biophysics of protein folding and assembly, relevant to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease; discrete molecular dynamics of coarse-grained protein and lipid models.
Jörn Venderbos, PhD (Leiden University). Assistant Professor. Theory of quantum materials: topological Insulators, topological semimetals, materials prediction and design, strongly correlated electron materials, complex electronic ordering phenomena, unconventional superconductors
Michael Vogeley, PhD (Harvard University). Professor. Cosmology; galaxy formation and evolution; statistical analysis of large data sets; active galactic nuclei.

Emeritus Faculty

Shyamalendu Bose, PhD (University of Maryland). Professor Emeritus.
Leonard D. Cohen, PhD (University of Pennsylvania). Professor Emeritus.
Leonard X. Finegold, PhD (University of London). Professor Emeritus.
Robert Gilmore, PhD (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Professor Emeritus.
Richard D. Haracz, PhD (Wayne State University). Professor Emeritus.
Frederick House, PhD (University of Wisconsin). Professor Emeritus.
Arthur P. Joblin, PhD (Drexel University). Professor Emeritus.
Donald C. Larson, PhD (Harvard University). Professor Emeritus.
Teck-Kah Lim, PhD (University of Adelaide). Professor Emeritus.
Arthur E. Lord, PhD (Columbia University). Professor Emeritus.
Richard I Steinberg, PhD (Yale University). Professor Emeritus.
T. S. Venkataraman, PhD (Worcester Polytechnic Institute). Professor Emeritus.
Jian-Min Yuan, PhD (University of Chicago). Professor Emeritus.
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