Department of Physics & Astronomy

Recommended Graduate Program

 

General Information

The department offers the Master of Science in Physics and the MS in Physics with a concentration in Astronomy. These programs serve students who seek advanced knowledge in physics or astronomy: for application in physics/astronomy related industries, for preparation to continue graduate work elsewhere towards the doctoral degree, for service as museum/planetarium docent or technical staff at a research institute, and for work leading to teaching credentials which require a master's degree. Before beginning course work toward the M.S., the candidate must prepare a plan of study in consultation with the Graduate Advisor.

Admission to Program

Applicants for admission to the master's program should have a bachelor's degree in physics or related subject with a 3.0 grade point average in physics and mathematics courses. Those with undergraduate degrees in other subjects, or requiring remedial work may also be admitted.  Such applicants should contact the Graduate Coordinator or Department Chair to discuss possible admission to conditionally classified status. Check the main admission page for application procedures.



MASTER of SCIENCE in PHYSICS:
Course Requirements:

Group I: Core courses (15 units)

PHYS 701 Classical Mechanics (3)
PHYS 704 Electricity & Magnetism I (3)
PHYS 706 Quantum Mechanics (3)
PHYS 775 Statistical Physics (3)
PHYS 785 Theoretical Physics (3)

  • It is not possible to take a core course as a 800-level supervision course.

  • Group II: Graduate physics electives (6 units)

    Elective graduate physics or astronomy courses with numbers in the range from PHYS 700 to 785 or ASTR 700-799 only. (Note that PHYS 732, 885, 890, 891, 895, 896, 897, 898, and 899 do not count in this category.) See our course pages for a list of electives.

    Group III: General electives (9 units)

    Advanced upper-division (numbered 400 and above) or graduate courses in physics or appropriately related subjects, selected after advisement and approved by the Graduate Coordinator. (Note that up to 6 units of PHYS 897, 898, and 899 count in this category.)

    Group IV: Thesis and/or oral examination

    PHYS 898: Master's Thesis (3) and Oral Defense of Thesis
    (units will be included in Group III)
    or
    Master's Comprehensive Oral Examination

    Total Units: 30

    MASTER of SCIENCE in PHYSICS: Concentration in ASTRONOMY
    Course Requirements:

    Group I: Core courses (12 units)

    PHYS 701 Classical Mechanics (3)
    ASTR 742 Galaxies and Cosmology (3)
    ASTR 770 Observational Techniques in Astronomy (3)
    ASTR 722 Radiative Processes and Gas Dynamics in Astrophysics(3)

  • It is not possible to take a core course as a 800-level supervision course.

  • Group II: Graduate physics electives (9 units)

    Elective graduate physics or astronomy courses with numbers in the range from PHYS 700 to 790 or ASTR 700-798 only. (Note that PHYS 800-899 do not count in this category.) PHYS 712, 725, 740, 775, 785, and ASTR 700, 798 are recommended.

    Group III: General electives (9 units)

    Advanced upper-division (numbered 400 and above) or graduate courses in physics or appropriately related subjects, selected after advisement and approved by the Graduate Coordinator. (Note that up to 6 units of PHYS 800-899 count in this category.)

    Group IV: Thesis and/or oral examination

    PHYS 898: Master's Thesis (3) and Oral Defense of Thesis
    (units will be included in Group III)
    or
    Master's Comprehensive Oral Examination

    Total Units: 30

    Examinations:

    During their residence at SF State, M.S. students must demonstrate competence in undergraduate-level material by taking a number of examinations. Based on the results of these tests, students may be advised to take appropriate undergraduate courses in order to remedy any gaps in knowledge revealed by these tests.

  • 1. All M.S. students must take a written placement test in physics. This test will not be graded; it will be used by the chair and the graduate coordinators to determine the optimum entry course for the student, which could include beginning or mid-level undergraduate courses.
  • 2. All M.S. Physics with Concentration in Astronomy students must also take a written placement test in undergraduate-level astronomy. This test will not be graded; it will be used by the chair and the graduate coordinators to determine the optimum entry course for the student, which could include beginning or mid-level undergraduate courses. Students must complete this test prior to taking Astronomy courses numbered 700-799.
  • 3. Prior to taking any graduate course numbered 700-799, all M.S. students must achieve a satisfactory score on the Physics Major Field Test. While new graduate students may take graduate physics courses during their first semester with the department (in consultation with the graduate coordinator), they must pass this test before taking graduate courses in subsequent semesters. Tests taken more than six months prior to enrollment as a graduate student in the department do not fulfill this requirement.

    The Oral Defense of Thesis is delivered to the Advisory Student's Committee and emphasizes questions from the committee on subjects related to the thesis topic. The Master's Comprehensive Oral Examination is delivered to the Student's Advisory Committee and covers all areas of theoretical and experimental physics deemed appropriate by the committee. The Oral Defense of Thesis or Master's Comprehensive Oral Examination may be repeated once, at the discretion of the committee, upon petition by the student.


    Writing proficiency:

    Level one proficiency is satisfied by one of the following: (a) a score of 4 or higher on the analytical writing portion of the GRE; (b) a PASS on the Graduate Essay Test (GET, administered by the Testing Center); (c) a passing grade in SCI 614 taken no later than the first semester of enrollment in core graduate courses; or (d) presentation of a satisfactory writing sample to the graduate coordinator. Students are allowed to take the GET once, preferably prior to their first semester of enrollment.
    Level two proficiency. Each student must demonstrate writing skills which exemplify scholarly style in physics. This is demonstrated by the master's thesis, or a paper submitted to a professional journal or written for a graduate course in the department.

    List of Graduate Courses ( Link to graduate course descriptions):

    Course Number Course Title Course Number Course Title
    PHYS 701 Classical Mechanics PHYS 725 Special & General Relativity
    PHYS 704 Electricity & Magnetism I PHYS 726 Quantum Field Theory
    PHYS 706 Quantum Mechanics PHYS 730 Seminar
    PHYS 710 Graduate laboratory PHYS 740 Computational Physics
    PHYS 711 Semiconductor Materials PHYS 775 Statistical Physics
    PHYS 712 Physics of Plasmas PHYS 785 Introduction to Theoretical Physics
    PHYS 714 Low-temperature Physics ASTR700 Stellar Astrophysics
    PHYS 715 Lasers & Quantum Optics ASTR742 Galaxies and Cosmology
    ASTR 722 Astrophysics ASTR770 Graduate Observational Astronomy


    Typical graduate student programs In truth, there is no such thing as a "typical" graduate student program. Diversity is the rule. So every graduate student takes a placement test upon arrival and must see the graduate coordinator before beginning his or her studies in order to work out a suitable program. Also, you should come by for repeat visits every semester, and whenever considering any major shifts in your planned program. The programs below, or samples, are intended to give you some idea how yours might look.

    An idealized graduate program for someone who does not need any remedial work before beginning graduate level courses and whose financial situation permits a 9-unit load might be:


    MS PHYSICS MS ASTRO
    FIRST FALL PHYS 785, PHYS 701, Elective PHYS 701, A 700 or A742,elective
    FIRST SPRING PHYS 704,PHYS 706,Research or elective A770 or A 722,Research or elective
    SECOND FALL PHYS 775, Elective, Research A 742 and/or Electives, Research
    SECOND SPRING PHYS 898 thesis or elective PHYS 898 thesis or elective

    For someone who has the same preparation but who can take only 6 units:

    FIRST FALL PHYS 785,PHYS 701 PHYS 701, A700 or A742
    FIRST SPRING PHYS 704, elective A 770 or A722, elective
    SECOND FALL PHYS 775,Research or elective A742 and/or Research or elective
    SECOND SPRING PHYS 706,Research or elective A 770 or A722, elective
    THIRD FALL PHYS 7xx,Research or elective PHYS 7xx,Research or elective
    THIRD SPRING PHYS 898 thesis,elective PHYS 898 thesis,elective

    Someone who essentially needs all of upper-division physics before beginning graduate study might precede the above program by:

    FIRST PRELIMINARY FALL PHYS 330, PHYS 385, MATH 376 PHYS 330, PHYS 385, MATH 376
    FIRST PRELIMINARY SPRING PHYS 360,PHYS 370,PHYS 430 PHYS 360,PHYS 370,PHYS 430
    NEXT FALL PHYS 460,PHYS 785,PHYS 701 PHYS 460, ASTR 700, PHYS 701

    Some (very successful) graduate students enter our program having had almost no college physics work previously. Their programs will necessarily involve more preliminary work before beginning even the "preliminary" semesters above.

    Students are expected to make steady progress toward their degree.  Students who are not making sufficient academic progress are subject to dismissal from the MS program. Satisfactory progress requires meeting all university requirements such as minimum grade point average (3.0), and either (a) passing at least two courses per year which are applicable toward MS course requirements or which the graduate advisor has prescribed, or (b) receiving a statement from the thesis advisor that satisfactory progress toward thesis completion is being made.



     

     

     

     

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