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University of Pittsburgh    
2023-2024 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  Jun 22, 2024
2023-2024 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog

Department of Physics and Astronomy

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The Department of Physics and Astronomy offers the MS and PhD degrees in physics. The graduate program provides a broad experimental, observational, and theoretical foundation upon which students build careers as scientists prepared for both teaching and research at major academic, government and industrial laboratories, educators at universities and colleges, and as independent scientific entrepreneurs.

Contact Information

Main Office: 100 Allen Hall
412-624-9066 or 412-624-9000
Fax: 412-624-9163


The graduate programs in the Department of Physics and Astronomy are designed primarily for students who wish to obtain the PhD degree, although the MS degree is also offered without financial support. Both the PhD and the MS programs provide high-quality training for students. A set of core courses is to be taken by all graduate students unless the core course material has been demonstrably mastered in other ways. These core courses cover dynamical systems, electromagnetic theory, quantum mechanics, and statistical physics & thermodynamics. In addition, elective courses are offered in several advanced areas of physics. PhD thesis topics may be chosen from a variety of research fields, including astrophysics/cosmology, condensed matter physics, particle physics, biophysics, and physics education research. Topics in astrophysics/cosmology include: observational, numerical, and theoretical cosmology; dark matter and dark energy; galaxy formation and evolution; active galactic nuclei and quasars; galactic and intergalactic medium; stellar atmospheres; massive stars; supernovae; and physics of the early universe. Topics in condensed matter physics include: nanoscience; quantum information; quantum kinetics; quantum optics; quantum states of matter; semiconductor physics; statistical physics; superconductivity; and ultrafast optics. Topics in particle physics include: the origin of mass and flavor; the search for new symmetries of nature; neutrino physics; CP violation; heavy quarks; baryogenesis; precision test of the Standard Model; effective field theory; and strong interaction field theory. Topics in biophysics include: bacteria dynamics, scaling laws of epigenetic expression, turbulence and stochastic fluctuations, theoretical statistical physics of cell sensing and behavior. Topics in physics education research include: cognitive issues in learning physics; and development and evaluation of research-based curricula for introductory and advance physics courses. Multidisciplinary thesis research may also be carried out in, for example, particle astrophysics, biophysics, chemical physics, laser physics, materials science, nanoscience, and surface science. This research may be done in cooperation with faculty from other departments of the University.


To be considered for admission, a student must have earned a baccalaureate degree; one of the physical sciences, mathematics, astronomy/astrophysics or engineering with relevant physics courses is required.  Research experience is recommended but not required. Must have an impressive undergraduate record; and must submit a complete application. The application also serves as an application for financial aid from the department, if the candidate so desires. A complete application consists of the following. Application details are provided on our website under “How to Apply”.

  • • An online application
    • Transcripts (clear downloads) from all college-level institutions attended (unofficial until admitted)
    • Proof of degree(s) either posted on the transcript or in another form
    • Minimum GPA for admission with full status is 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
    • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General and Advanced Physics test scores are optional, consult department’s FAQ.
    • Brief statement of purpose, including rank ordered list of research preferences; in addition to list of textbooks used for intermediate/advanced level physics classes.
    • Evidence of any research experience (recommended but not required)
    • Curriculum Vitae
    • Three letters of recommendation
    • International applicants only: TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), IELTS or Duolingo English test scores and completed Certification of Financial Responsibility and International Graduate Student Supplemental Form for the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences (Refer to department’s graduate application details website for minimum score information)

Financial Aid

Financial aid is normally provided to doctoral students through teaching or research assistantships. In addition, numerous competitive fellowships are available for students. All qualified applicants are entered into a pool for these fellowships. The department endeavors to support all students throughout their entire graduate career, provided good academic standing is maintained and progress is being made toward the degree.


Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences Faculty  





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