Search button

UCF - Graduate Program Handbooks 2017-2018

Program Info

Last Updated 2017-04-28

Physics PhD

Together, the Graduate Student Handbook and your graduate program handbook should serve as your main guide throughout your graduate career. The Graduate Student Handbook includes university information, policies, requirements and guidance for all graduate students. Your program handbook describes the details about graduate study and requirements in your specific program. While both of these handbooks are wonderful resources, know that you are always welcome to talk with faculty and staff in your program and in the Graduate College.

The central activities and missions of a university rest upon the fundamental assumption that all members of the university community conduct themselves in accordance with a strict adherence to academic and scholarly integrity. As a graduate student and member of the university community, you are expected to display the highest standards of academic and personal integrity.

Here are some resources to help you better understand your responsibilities:


The University of Central Florida Physics Department offers degrees at the masters and doctoral level. Our department places a strong emphasis on research. Research opportunities are available in condensed matter physics, nanostructure devices, surface science, optical physics, complex systems, biophysics, atomic and molecular physics, physics education, and planetary and space sciences. Intra-campus partnerships with other schools, departments, and centers provide additional academic and research benefits for Physics graduate students, as well as outstanding post-graduate employment opportunities in industry.

Mission Statement

The Doctor of Philosophy degree in Physics intends to provide a broad base in experimental and theoretical Physics. A series of core courses and a variety of elective courses offers a basis for attaining the knowledge necessary for a successful career. Students will obtain distinction in their field of study with research opportunities in condensed matter physics, nanostructure devices, surface science, optical physics, complex systems, biophysics, atomic and molecular physics, physics education, and planetary/space science. The department is characterized by rapid growth and dynamic partnerships. This activity, fueled by the university’s focus on industrial partnerships and research, strengthens the department and provides research and employment opportunities for our students.

Advising and Mentoring

All graduate students will be advised by the Graduate Program Director and the Graduate Program Assistant upon entering the program. Full-time, regular faculty member of the Department of Physics serve as the student's advisors for students admitted with a Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA). The student’s advisor will help the student in creating a Program of Study besides offering research opportunities. For formal matters, such as course waivers, credit transfers, and petitions, the student must always consult the Graduate Program Director.  Students with a Graduate Teaching Assistantship will be advised by the Graduate Program Director on academic issues, tuition, petitions, etc. For advice on their teaching duties, students will be advised by the program director for their teaching assignments.

The Dissertation Advisor supervises the student's research work and should be defined shortly before the student takes the candidacy exam. Dissertation advising requires the mutual consent of the student and the faculty member. The Graduate Program Director does not assign Dissertation Advisors.  A Dissertation Advisor is also responsible for academic advising, but the Graduate Program Director will still be available for students seeking advice. All regular Physics faculty members, as well as joint and secondary joint faculty members affiliated to the Physics Department can supervise doctoral dissertations.

It is the student's responsibility to identify a Dissertation Advisor. The Graduate Program Director will help the student in that task. However, it is expected that students will actively search for a Dissertation Advisor before taking the candidacy exam and prior to completing core courses. Students are encouraged to contact faculty members of the Department of Physics to learn about their research projects and find out about research opportunities. Students can receive credit for research performed before taking the candidacy exam by registering for Directed Research hours.

All PhD students must have a Dissertation Advisor and a Dissertation Committee in place after passing the written component of the candidacy exam or completing 30 credit-hours, whichever comes first. If the student has not chosen an advisor, College of Sciences and College of Graduate Studies will place a hold on your account and registration in subsequent terms will be forcibly blocked. As a result, students who have not identified a Dissertation Advisor will be removed from the program.

It is possible to change a Dissertation advisor. Permission must be requested from the Graduate Program Director. A new advisor must be identified by the student before the end of the term during which the change will take place.

It is the advisor's role to supervise the research work performed by the student. In most cases the advisor will provide a theme or a research project that can be developed within a reasonable timeframe and using available resources. It is the student's responsibility to perform the research and follow the guidance provided by the advisor as well as the recommendations of the dissertation committee.

Degree Plan of Study

Once the student enters the doctoral program, it is of surmount importance to develop a plan of study. Initially, the plan should comprise a sequence of courses, including core and electives that fit the student’s interests. It should also be sufficiently flexible to accommodate some contact with research (through Directed Research) without delaying the completion of the core courses. Typically, students begin defining their interests and field of specialization in the second year. Thus, completing the maximum number of core courses during the first year gives the student more time to register into electives that are closer to his or her interests.

The plan of study should be developed in consultation with the student’s academic adviser, as well as with the Graduate Program Director when necessary. Sometimes the adviser or the Graduate Program Director may suggest that the student take an undergraduate course in order to overcome certain deficiencies in his or her background. A limit of 6 credit-hours of undergraduate courses (4000 level, usually) can be incorporated into the doctoral program of study. They require the consent of the Graduate Coordinator and cannot be counted towards the total of 72 required credit-hours.

General Policies

Student Rights and Responsibilities 
The Golden Rule is provided to answer any questions a student may have about the university rules and regulations, as well as outlines a student’s rights and responsibilities. The Golden Rule can be found online at In addition, graduate students can find additional information about their responsibilities and graduate policies in the Graduate Catalog, found online at > General Policies. 

Satisfactory Academic Performance 

Satisfactory performance involves maintaining the standards of academic progress and professional integrity expected in a particular discipline or program. Failure to maintain these standards may result in termination of the student from the program.
Students are required to maintain a 3.00 GPA in all coursework included in the program of study. Be aware that a B- (2.75) does negatively impact a GPA. While students are allowed to have six hours C+ (2.33) grades or lower (including U and I) in their program of study, this is the limit. Grades of D+ and lower will count against a graduate GPA but cannot be used toward completion of a degree requirement.
A program GPA below 3.00 at the end of any semester will result in a student being placed on “academic provisional” status. In this status, a student is not eligible for tuition waiver support or employment as graduate assistant (teaching or research). The students are given the next nine hours of their program coursework to improve their GPA to 3.00 or better. Further, exceeding 6 hours of C or lower grades or a program GPA of 2.00 or lower will result in removal from the program.
4000-Level coursework is acceptable in a graduate program of study if taken while a graduate student, but is limited to 6 hours and the grade has to be that of a B- or higher. An approved 4000-level course is not counted toward completion of the program requirement, but it is calculated in the graduate GPA. 

Satisfactory Academic Progress 

Doctoral students must be enrolled in full-time status for at least two semesters following admission into the degree program. Students who do not comply with this rule are removed from the program and will need to file a petition to be reinstated.
For completion of the degree, courses older than seven years cannot be applied toward a graduate program of study. In order to allow courses older than seven years to be applied toward the program of study, the student must file a petition. 

Full Time and Continuous Enrollment 

Full-time graduate status is nine (9) hours during the Fall and Spring Semesters and six (6) hours during the summer semesters, until regular graduate course work is completed. There are two exceptions to this requirement: 
  1. Students in their last semester who need less than 9 hours to complete their program, unless they are receiving federal loans. These students are considered full-time for fellowships, employment, and tuition waiver purposes if they enroll into the hours required for program completion and file an intent-to-graduate.
  2. Doctoral students who have finished all of their coursework and passed their candidacy exam. These students are considered full-time for fellowships, employment and tuition waiver purposes if they enroll in 3 hours of Dissertation or Doctoral Research (PHY 7980 and PHY 7919, respectively) for each term until degree requirements are completed, unless they are receiving federal loans. 
Once a student has begun work on their dissertation, he or she must be continuously enrolled in dissertation course work for a minimum of three hours each term.
A student may be held to other enrollment requirements, as defined by financial awards, veteran status, employment, or other outside agencies. 

Transfer Coursework 

All transferred coursework must be approved by the program’s Graduate Program Director. Transfer coursework is limited to 30 hours from a completed Master’s degree. Students whose Master’s degree was obtained abroad must have it officially evaluated to be equivalent to a Master’s degree in the USA. The 7-year rule is not applied if the coursework is transferred in from a completed Master’s degree. If a Master’s degree is not received, then the student is limited to 9 hours of transfer coursework. 

Incomplete Grades 

Students who received an incomplete (I) in a course are encouraged to resolve this incomplete as soon as possible; however, it must be resolved within one calendar year or prior to graduation certification, whichever comes first. Incompletes left unresolved will be changed to F (or a U in thesis, dissertation or research report) if not resolved in the allowed time period. Incomplete grades cannot be used towards completion of the program of study.
Incomplete grades are not counted as satisfactorily completed courses and are not recognized as such neither by Graduate Studies for fellowship purposes nor by Financial Aid. Students on financial assistance must check with the Financial Aid office to see if the receipt of an incomplete grade will affect their financial award. 

Withdrawal Policy 

If a student decides to withdraw from a course, they must do so by the semester’s withdrawal deadline. In doing so, the student is still liable for tuition and fees for the course. For a semester’s withdrawal deadline, refer to the Academic Calendar:

Petitions and Grievances 

It is the student’s responsibility to be informed of graduate policies and procedures; however, should a student wish to request an exception to a university or program policy, he or she must file a petition that outlines the nature of their request. Normally, petitions are presented to the graduate program’s coordinator and/or committee, the college’s Director of Graduate Services and the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, and the Graduate Council for consideration.
Should a student wish to file a grievance, he or she should first review UCF’s Golden Rule ( and the Academic Grievance Procedures in the Graduate Catalog ( > General Graduate Policies > Academic Grievance Procedure)


The Physics PhD program requires a total of 72 credit hours for completion. A specific set of six required core courses (18 credit hours), thirteen elective courses (39 credit hours), and a minimum of 15 credit hours of dissertation are part of the 72 hours.

Of the 39 credit hours, 9 credit hours must be formal courses and 3 credit hours must be in a methods course selected from a list approved by the Physics department (see below). The remaining 27 credit hours need to be a combination of directed research, other electives, and/or dissertation. Courses must be selected so that at least one-half of the required 72 hours are taken at the 6000 level.

Required Core Courses—18 Credit Hours

All students are required to take the following core courses. For all core courses there will be weekly recitations.

  • PHY 5606 Quantum Mechanics I (3 credit hours)
  • PHY 6624 Quantum Mechanics II (3 credit hours)
  • PHY 5346 Electrodynamics I (3 credit hours)
  • PHY 6347 Electrodynamics II (3 credit hours)
  • PHY 5524 Statistical Physics (3 credit hours)
  • PHY 6246 Classical Mechanics (3 credit hours)

Elective Courses—39 Credit Hours

Elective and research courses are determined by the student's chosen specialization as listed below. Of the 39 credit hours, 9 credit hours must be from formal courses and 3 credit hours must be in a methods course approved by the department. The remaining 27 credit hours can consist of any combination of courses.  

Formal Courses—9 Credit Hours

Students must complete three formal courses (9 credit hours) from the specialization coursework listed below.

Methods Course—3 Credit Hours

Students must complete one methods course (3 credit hours) from the following list:

  • PHZ 5156 Computational Physics (3 credit hours)
  • AST 5765C Advanced Astronomical Data Analysis (3 credit hours)
  • PHY 5937 Nano-Electronics (3 credit hours)

Remaining Electives—27 Credit Hours

Students must complete 27 credit hours of unrestricted electives, which may consist of formal courses, research, and/or dissertation hours. Students should consult with their adviser about selections for the remaining unrestricted electives.

General Physics Specialization

The General Physics Specialization emphasizes strong preparation in physics fundamentals. It is intended to prepare students for careers in theoretical physics teaching at the college level. A number of active research programs exist in the department to accommodate such students.

Recommended Courses

  • PHY 6673 Advanced Quantum Mechanics (3 credit hours)
  • PHY 5933 Selected Topics in Biophysics and Macromolecules
  • PHZ 5156 Computational Physics (3 credit hours)
  • PHY 5846C Methods of Experimental Physics (3 credit hours)
  • PHZ 5405 Introduction to Condensed Matter Physics (3 credit hours)
  • PHZ 6426 Condensed Matter Physics I (3 credit hours)
  • PHZ 6428 Condensed Matter Physics II (3 credit hours)
  • PHY 6667 Quantum Field Theory I (3 credit hours)
  • PHY 7669 Quantum Field Theory II (3 credit hours)
  • PHZ 5505 Plasma Physics (3 credit hours)
  • COT 6600 Quantum Computing (3 credit hours)
  • PHZ 5304 Nuclear and Particle Physics (3 credit hours)
  • PHZ 6234 Atomic Physics (3 credit hours)
  • PHZ 6420 First Principles Computational Methods in Condensed Matter Physics and Materials Science (3 credit hours)
  • PHY 6600C Theory and Computation of Molecular Wave Functions (3 credit hours)
  • PHY 6938 Selected Topics in Scattering Theory (3 credit hours)
  • OSE 5312 Fundamentals of Optical Science (3 credit hours)
  • OSE 6347 Quantum Optics (3 credit hours)
  • PHY 7919 Directed Research
  • Other courses from Physics, Math, Optics, Materials Science, Engineering require approval by the student's adviser and the graduate program director.

Condensed Matter Physics Specialization

The Condensed Matter Physics Specialization is intended to prepare students for careers in materials physics, nanoscale science and technology, semiconductors, and soft condensed matter physics. It emphasizes strong experimental preparation with hands-on courses in advanced materials characterization and processing instrumentation. Related research programs at UCF include magnetic nanostructures, soft condensed matter, electronic and optoelectronic devices, and nanoscale characterization.

Recommended Courses
  • PHZ 5405 Introduction to Condensed Matter Physics (3 credit hours)
  • PHZ 6426 Condensed Matter Physics I (3 credit hours)
  • PHZ 6428 Condensed Matter Physics II (3 credit hours)
  • PHZ 5156 Computational Physics (3 credit hours)
  • PHY 5846C Methods of Experimental Physics (3 credit hours)
  • PHZ 6420 First Principles Computational Methods in Condensed Matter Physics and Materials Science (3 credit hours)
  • PHZ 5437 Nanoscale Surface Physics (3 credit hours)
  • PHZ 5432 Introduction to Soft Condensed Matter Physics (3 credit hours)
  • PHY 5933 Selected Topics in Biophysics of Macromolecules (3 credit hours)
  • PHY 6667 Quantum Field Theory I (3 credit hours)
  • PHY 7669 Quantum Field Theory II (3 credit hours)
  • COT 6600 Quantum Computing (3 credit hours)
  • PHY 6938 Theory and Computation of Molecular Wave Functions (3 credit hours)
  • PHY 6938 Selected Topics in Scattering Theory (3 credit hours)
  • Two "studio lab" courses: PHY 5140C Ion-solid interactions (3 credit hours) and PHZ 5425C Electron Solid Interactions (3 credit hours)
  • Other courses from Materials Science, Physics, Optical Science and Engineering, Electrical Engineering, or Industrial Chemistry require approval of the student's adviser and the graduate program director

Optical Physics Specialization

The Optics Specialization coordinator is David Hagan, PhD, College of Optics and Photonics. Students are recommended to take at least one of the following courses.

  • OSE 6111 Optical Wave propagation (3 credit hours)
  • OSE 5115 Interference and Diffraction (3 credit hours)

Select at least one of the following laboratory courses.

  • OSE 6526C Laser Engineering Laboratory (3 credit hours)
  • OSE 6455C Photonics Laboratory (3 credit hours)

The remaining courses (up to three) may be selected from other graduate courses in Optics (see

Dissertation—15 Credit Hours Minimum

  • PHY 7980 Dissertation Research (15 credit hours minimum)

All students must complete a minimum of 15 credit hours of dissertation prepared in consultation with a dissertation adviser. A fifteen-page written proposal is presented orally to the student’s dissertation committee within one year after the written candidacy exam. The final oral defense of the dissertation is administered by the student’s dissertation committee following completion of a written dissertation describing the student’s research.

Seminar Attendance

Students in their fourth semester and beyond will be required to attend a major fraction of seminars and colloquia hosted by the Physics Department, as well as to make an annual presentation of their research work or independent study.


Placement Exam—All incoming PhD students in Physics will be required to take a placement exam covering topics in Quantum Mechanics, Classical Mechanics, Electromagnetism, and Thermodynamics at the undergraduate level.

Candidacy Exam—The candidacy exam consists of two parts.

Part 1 is a written exam covering the material of the core courses. It should be taken immediately after the core courses have been completed.  After passing the written exam, the student should identify a research supervisor and a dissertation committee must be put in place with the approval of the graduate program director. Students are only allowed two attempts at passing the written part of the candidacy exam.

Part 2 is an oral exam that combines an examination of the student's command of Physics and a written dissertation proposal. The oral exam should be taken no later than one year after the written exam has been satisfied.

Admission to Candidacy

The following are required to obtain candidacy status and enroll in dissertation hours:

  • Completion of 51 credit hours to include all required core courses, formal course work and at least 21 credit hours of remaining electives. (Dissertation hours are not included)
  • Successful completion of both part I (written exam) and part II (oral exam) of the candidacy exam.
  • The dissertation advisory committee is formed, consisting of a chair, approved graduate faculty and graduate faculty scholars.
  • Submittal of an approved program of study.
  • Completion of CITI and RCR Workshops

Track Curriculum: Planetary Sciences

The Planetary Sciences track in the Physics PhD program requires a minimum of 72 credit hours beyond the bachelor’s degree or 42 hours beyond the master’s degree.

This includes completion of 6 required courses (18 credit hours), 5 elective courses (15 credit hours) of regular course work selected in consultation with the student’s dissertation advisory committee, a minimum of 15 credit hours of dissertation, and the remaining 24 credit hours of appropriately selected research, dissertation, and elective courses. Courses must be selected so that at least 36 of the 72 hours are at 6000 level or higher. No more than 12 hours of independent study may be credited toward the PhD degree. The PhD includes a Candidacy Exam to be taken after the completion of the core courses, a written dissertation, and a dissertation defense before the student’s dissertation advisory committee.

Required Courses—18 Credit Hours

The core is designed to give students a broad foundation in the planetary sciences and a rapid training in the data analysis techniques that will be necessary for a successful research and publications.  

  • PHY 5524 Statistical Physics (3 credit hours)
  • PHY 6246 Classical Mechanics (3 credit hours)
  • PHZ 5156 Computational Physics (3 credit hours) or AST 5765C Advanced Astronomical Data Analysis (3 credit hours)
  • AST 5154 Advanced Planetary Geophysics (3 credit hours)
  • AST 5263 Advanced Observational Astronomy (3 credit hours)
  • AST 5165 Planetary Atmospheres (3 credit hours)

Elective Courses—15 Credit Hours

  • AST 6938 Planetary Astronomy Seminar (3 credit hours)
  • AST 6112 Origins of Solar Systems (3 credit hours)
  • AST 5334 Extrasolar Planets and Brown Dwarfs (3 credit hours)
  • PHY 5937 Astrobiology (3 credit hours)
  • AST 5145 Advanced Asteroids, Comets, and Meteorites (3 credit hours)

Other Electives—24 Credit Hours

Please see your adviser. This may include elective courses, dissertation hours, or selected research courses. 

  • PHZ 5505 Plasma Physics (3 credit hours)
  • PHY 5346 Electrodynamics I (3 credit hours)
  • PHY 6347 Electrodynamics II (3 credit hours)
  • PHY 5606 Quantum Mechanics I (3 credit hours)
  • PHY 6624 Quantum Mechanics II (3 credit hours)
  • OSE 5041 Introduction to Wave Optics (3 credit hours)
  • EEL 5820 Image Processing (3 credit hours)
  • OSE 5312 Fundamentals of Optical Science (3 credit hours)

Dissertation—15 Credit Hours

  • PHY 7980 Dissertation (15 credit hours)

Dissertation Advisory Committee

Within the first half-semester of admission to the planetary sciences graduate track, each student must select, by mutual agreement, a faculty adviser and two other faculty members to serve on his or her Dissertation Advisory Committee. One of the faculty members who is not the adviser must be from an area in the department other than Planetary Sciences. UCF graduate faculty and self-funded research scientists who are graduate faculty scholars are eligible to serve on these committees. Changes in the membership of a Advisory Committee must be approved by the Planetary Sciences Graduate Committee. The adviser is expected to meet regularly with the student. The full committee shall meet with the student at least once per semester to review and make recommendations regarding the student's academic progress. At the time of the Candidacy Exam, a non-UCF Planetary Sciences scientist shall be added to the Advisory Committee.

Candidacy Exam

The Planetary Sciences Track requires a candidacy exam to be taken after the completion of the core courses. This exam is composed of a written component and an oral exam. The written component is a journal-level research paper. The oral component is a two parts: (1) A public presentation of the research contained in the paper including the traditional question-and-answer period of a scientific presentation; and (2) private questioning on the detail of the presented research as well as the topics covered in the student’s preparation and course work.

Dissertation Proposal

The dissertation proposal may be presented simultaneously with the candidacy exam or in a separate meeting not more than one semester thereafter. Before substantial work is done on the dissertation, the Supervisory Committee must approve the proposal and must also assess whether additional course work is necessary to begin the dissertation. Such course work should be completed at the earliest opportunity and before substantial work is done on the dissertation.

Admission to Candidacy

The following are required to be admitted to candidacy and enroll in dissertation hours:

  • Completion of all required and formal elective course work, except for research hours.
  • Successful completion of the candidacy examination.
  • The dissertation advisory committee is formed, consisting of approved graduate faculty and graduate faculty scholars.
  • Submittal of an approved program of study.
  • Completion of CITI and RCR Workshops

Dissertation Defense

The dissertation defense is the final requirement for the PhD. It consists of a public presentation of the dissertation typically lasting 45-60 minutes including the traditional question-and-answer period of a scientific presentation, followed by private questioning by the Dissertation Advisory Committee. Procedures are similar to the candidacy exam.

Timeline for Completion

The following applies to the regular Physics PhD program, and not to the Planetary Science track.

Steps to Completion

There is a natural sequence of events that occur during the doctoral program. For a typical student they involve the following milestones, in chronological order:

  • Create a Program of Study during the first semester by the second week of classes.
  • Complete core courses and take written component of the candidacy exam by the end of the 2nd semester. Only two attempts are allowed.
  • Identify a Dissertation Advisor and select a Dissertation Committee no later than 2 weeks after successfully passing the written component of the candidacy exam.
  • Register for research hours and begin work on Dissertation Proposal.
  • Complete required electives by the end of the 2nd year/6th semester
  • Once a Dissertation Advisor and Dissertation Committee have been selected and approved, submit and present a Dissertation Proposal no later than one year (or earlier) after passing the written component of the candidacy exam. Only two attempts are allowed.
  • Obtain Candidacy Status after passing both written and oral component of Candidacy Exam (the oral component is a part of the Dissertation proposal).
  • Register for Doctoral Dissertation Hours and earn at least 15 dissertation credit-hours.
  • Apply for graduation after completing all department graduation requirements, obtaining 69 credit-hours and register for the last 3 credit-hours.
  • Defend and graduate at the end of the fourth or fifth year, assuming student has obtained a total of 72 credit-hours required by the program for all PhD’s.

Assuming a student has attended continuously for the first two years, the student will have accumulated 48 credit-hours. This will leave only 24 credit-hours in order to complete the required total of 72 credit-hours. The 24 credit-hours can be completed within a period of 2 or 3 years, assuming students are enrolled full time and have continuous attendance. This will allow students to complete 15 credit-hours of Doctoral Dissertation, focus on their research work, prepare their Dissertation Defense and complete all remaining requirements for graduation.

Graduate students are expected to engage in research as early as possible. Registering for Directed Research during the first two years, preferably during the summer semesters, is the best way to do that. Students interested in Directed Research need to identify a faculty member who is willing to supervise a research project or plan that can be executed during the semester. At the end of the semester, the student has to present a report and have his or her performance evaluated by the supervisor. This experience helps students to find the field they want to concentrate their studies and facilitates the identification of a dissertation adviser. In several cases the work carried out during a Directed Research course has led to publications and even presentations in professional meetings by students.

Below is a typical course sequence that a student entering the program in the fall term should follow.

Year 1

  • PHY 5606 Quantum Mechanics I (3)
  • PHY 5346 Electrodynamics I (3)
  • PHY 6246 Classical Mechanics (3)
  • PHY 6624 Quantum Mechanics II (3)
  • PHY 6347 Electrodynamics II (3)
  • PHY 5524 Statistical Physics (3)
  • PHY 6938 Graduate Seminar
  • PHY 6918 Directed Research (3)
Semester Total: 9 Credit HoursSemester Total: 9 Credit HoursSemester Total: 6 Credit Hours

 Year 2

  • PHZ Computational Physics (3) or PHY 5846C Methods of Experimental Physics (3)
  • Electives (6) or Phys 6918 Directed Research (6)
  • Electives (3)
  • PHY 6918 Directed Research (6)
  • PHY 6918 Directed Research (6)
Semester Total: 9 Credit HoursSemester Total: 9 Credit HoursSemester Total: 6 Credit Hours

Year 3

  • PHY 7919 Doctoral Research (3)
  • PHY 7919 Doctoral Research (3)
  • PHY 7919 Doctoral Research (3)
Semester Total: 3 Credit HoursSemester Total: 3 Credit HoursSemester Total: 3 Credit Hours

Year 4

  • PHY 7980 Doctoral Dissertation (3)
  • PHY 7980 Doctoral Dissertation (3)
  • PHY 7980 Doctoral Dissertation (3)
Semester Total: 3 Credit HoursSemester Total: 3 Credit HoursSemester Total: 3 Credit Hours

Year 5

  • PHY 7980 Doctoral Dissertation (3)
  • PHY 7980 Doctoral Dissertation (3)
Semester Total: 3 Credit HoursSemester Total: 3 Credit Hours

Physics Graduate Program Staff

Dr. Eduardo Mucciolo
Dr. Joshua Colwell
Dr. Abdelkader Kara
Dr. Dan Britt
Dr. Elena Flitsiyan
Ms. Elizabeth Rivera
Ms. Esperanza Sota

Examination Requirements


One or two exams are required upon entering into the Physics doctoral program, depending on the student’s background. Students who have not obtained a degree from an institution where the official language of instruction was English must take the SPEAK test in order to be employed as graduate teaching assistants. This test is offered by UCF before the beginning of the Fall and Spring terms. The score obtained in the test will dictate the type of teaching assistantship that the student will be permitted to take and possibly the stipend. A low score bars the student from having contact with undergraduate students, participate in laboratory instruction as an assistant, and hold office hours. The test can be retaken and is offered about two times per term. Students who do not pass the speak test may not receive teaching assistantships for the second and following years.

The second exam is taken by all incoming students and is a diagnostic test similar to the Physics subject GRE. This test has placement purposes only, allowing the Graduate Program Director and academic adviser to identify possible weaknesses in the students’ background and help devise a suitable plan of study. There is no passing or failure.

Doctoral Candidacy

The doctoral candidacy exam is divided into written and oral parts. The written part is broken down into four main sections: Classical Mechanics, Quantum Mechanics, Statistical Mechanics, and Electrodynamics. Each section contains a set of questions and/or problems on fundamental and applied aspects of the corresponding subject. The topics covered in the written exam are those listed in the Graduate Catalog for the courses PHY 5606 (Quantum Mechanics I), PHY 6624 (Quantum Mechanics II), PHY 5346 (Electrodynamics I), PHY 6347 (Electrodynamics II), PHY 5524 (Statistical Physics), and PHY 6246 (Classical Mechanics). Students are required to master these subjects at the same level that there are taught in the graduate program.

The oral part usually covers the students’ physics knowledge at the undergraduate level, in conjunction with his or her ability to expose ideas clearly and concisely. Conceptual understanding is favored over analytical skills in this part of the candidacy exam. The student may also be asked basic questions on topics related to his or her field of specialization. The oral examination is carried out by a committee of three to five regular faculty members from the Department of Physics. The students’ academic or research supervisors cannot participate in this committee and typically lasts one hour. The composition of each oral committee is determined by the candidacy exam committee chair.

The doctoral candidacy exam is offered twice a year, usually in early June and in December. The written exam takes two days, followed by the oral part to be completed within one (1) year from the date the student passed the written exam. The oral part is included in the Dissertation proposal.

Although the candidacy exam has two independent parts, passing is only allowed if the student performs at the 50% level or better in both written and oral parts. Only two attempts to the candidacy exam are allowed. In cases of failing the exam for a second time, the Graduate Program Director may suggest to the student to pursue a terminal, non-thesis option master’s degree. The student usually satisfies the course work for a MS degree with accumulated hours.

Dissertation Requirements

University Dissertation Requirements

The College of Graduate Studies Thesis and Dissertation page contains information on the university’s requirements for dissertation formatting, format review, defenses, final submission, and more. A step-by-step completion guide is also available at Completing Your Thesis or Dissertation.

All university deadlines are listed in the Academic Calendar. Your program or college may have other earlier deadlines; please check with your program and college staff for additional deadlines.

The following requirements must be met by dissertation students in their final term:

  • Submit a properly formatted file for initial format review by the format review deadline
  • Submit the Thesis and Dissertation Release Option form well before the defense
  • Defend by the defense deadline
  • Receive format approval (if not granted upon initial review)
  • Submit signed approval form by final submission deadline
  • Submit final dissertation document by final submission deadline

Students must format their dissertation according to the standards outlined at Formatting the ETD. Formatting questions or issues can be submitted to the Format Help page in the Thesis and Dissertation Services site. Format reviews and final submission must be completed in the Thesis and Dissertation Services site. The Dissertation Approval Form is also available in the Thesis and Dissertation Services site.

The College of Graduate Studies offers several thesis and dissertation Workshops each term. Students are highly encouraged to attend these workshops early in the dissertation process to fully understand the above policies and procedures.

The College of Graduate Studies thesis and dissertation office is best reached by email at

Dissertation Committee

A doctoral student’s dissertation committee must consist of at least four members and be approved by the Program Director, Department Chair, and the College’s Associate Dean of Graduate Studies. Of the four members, three of these must be qualified regular faculty members in the Department of Physics. That includes affiliated faculty members with joint and secondary joint appointments but excludes courtesy appointments. One member of the committee must serve as the chair, typically the research supervisor. When the research supervisor is not a regular faculty member of the Department of Physics, it is recommended that a co-chair with that qualification be appointed. The fourth member must be from either outside the program (cannot be affiliated to the Department of Physics in any capacity) or outside the university.

Further, only one adjunct or visiting faculty member may serve as a member of a dissertation committee. An adjunct or visiting faculty may not serve as the chair, but may serve as a co-chair. One of the co-chairs must satisfy faculty qualifications for serving as a chair of a dissertation committee. The other co-chair must satisfy the minimum requirements for serving as a member of a dissertation committee. Qualifications of additional members must be equivalent to that expected of UCF faculty members. UCF faculty members must form the majority of any given committee.

For more details about the Dissertation Committee, please refer to the UCF Graduate Catalog: > Policies > Doctoral Program Policies > Dissertation Requirements > Dissertation Advisory Committee Membership

The dissertation committee must be identified by the time the student passes the candidacy exam.

Post-Candidacy Enrollment

Prior to enrollment into PHY 7980 Doctoral Dissertation or PHY 7919 (Doctoral) Directed Research, the student must have passed the candidacy exam and have a dissertation committee reviewed and approved by the College of Graduate Studies. This form can be obtained from the program assistant.

Doctoral students engaging in dissertation research must be continuously enrolled in at least three (3) hours of PHY 7919 or PHY 7980 every semester, including summers, until they successfully defend and submit their dissertation to the University Thesis Editor. The three hours of dissertation enrollment each semester reflects the expenditure of university resources, particularly if more than the minimum number of hours is required for completion of the dissertation.

Graduate Research

Research is a fundamental part of the Physics Doctoral Program. Starting with Directed Research hours and then continuing with Doctoral Research and Doctoral Dissertation courses, students gain a solid experience in how to carry competitive research programs in their fields of specialization. It is expected that they will adhere to the highest standards of conduct and act responsibly. Academic dishonesty and plagiarism are sufficient for the dismissal of the student from the Program.

The UCF  College of Graduate Studies frequently organizes workshops for dissertation formatting, library research, and writing essentials through their Pathways to Success program. Students are encouraged to enlist in these activities. Students should also be aware that any laboratory or experimental work must comply with certain regulations and safety standards set by UCF. Students should discuss this subject with their research supervisor before starting any laboratory research activity.

It is expected that the research carried out during a doctoral program results in publications in specialized, peer-reviewed journals and in technical communications during professional meetings and conferences. While there is no publication requirement for the dissertation defense, it is expected that at least one major paper about the subject of the dissertation should appear in a reputable journal or in a peer-reviewed conference proceedings within a short period after graduation. The dissertation committee may delay the defense until it is clear that the candidate is ready to submit his or her work to publication. Therefore, it is important that students try to publish not just major results, but also partial ones that are sufficiently novel and valuable contributions to the area of study.

The student is also expected to participate in professional conferences in his or her field of specialization. These events are important not just for communicating results, but also for making contacts that may help open future employment opportunities. Funding for participating in conferences, summer schools, and workshops is usually the supervisor’s research grants. There are also some in-house sources as well as assistance from the College of Graduate Studies (see financial support section) and the Student Government Association (contact 407-823-5648 for more information).

For a listing of areas of research specific to the Physics program including related facilities, publications, funding and partnerships, visit the Research webpage on the Physics program website.

Human Subjects

If the student chooses to conduct research that involves human subjects (i.e. surveys, interviews, etc.), he or she must gain Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval prior to beginning the study. For access to the IRB submission form and sample consent forms, please visit the Office of Research website:>Compliance > UCF IRB Webpage > UCF-IRB Principal Investigator’s Manual

Animal Subjects

If the student chooses to conduct research that involves animal subjects, he or she must gain Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) approval prior to beginning the study. For access to the IACUC submission forms, please visit the Office or Research website: > Compliance > UCF IACUC Webpage > Animal Use Approval Form

Ethics in Research

Researchers in every discipline have a responsibility for ethical awareness as the status of the profession rests with each individual researcher. It is important to be honest and ethical in conducting research as well as in taking classes. The ethical collection and use of information includes, but is by no means limited to, the following: confidentiality, accuracy, relevance, self-responsibility, honesty, and awareness of conflict of interest. The University of Arizona’s Code of Research Ethics provides our students with guidelines for responsible practice in research. This code of ethics can be found here:

UCF’s Patent and Invention Policy

In most cases, UCF owns the intellectual property developed using university resources. The graduate student as inventor will according to this policy share in the proceeds of the invention. Please see the current UCF Graduate Catalog for details: > Policies > General Graduate Policies.

Financial Support

The Department of Physics offers financial support to incoming doctoral students in the form of Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTAs). They are guaranteed in the Fall and Spring terms during the first year provided the student maintains a good academic standing. They may also be offered during Summer terms depending on the availability of positions and departmental funds. All Graduate Teaching Assistants are required to be full-time students and that means enrolling in at least 9 credit-hours during Fall and Spring terms and 6 credit-hours in the Summer if they have not yet passed the candidacy exam. After being one year in the program, the GTA positions are not guaranteed, but typically second year students who did not receive a Research Assistantship receive a GTA position.

The maximum FTE (Full Time Employment) a GTA can take is 0.50, corresponding to 20 hours/week. Stipends range between US$ 15 to 20 per hour. All GTAs receive a full tuition waiver for matriculation fees up to 9 credit-hours per term (when pre-candidacy) and up to 3 credit-hours (post-candidacy). Non-matriculation fees are not included in the waiver. All graduate students with an assistantship and full-time status are considered in-state students. If a student does not maintain full-time status out of state fees will not be waived.

UCF established a cap to the number of terms a doctoral student that can receive a tuition waiver. Currently it is 12 terms for students with a MS degree and 21 for those without a MS (Summer is included in this counting).

All prospective students who complete an application to the program before the target deadline of January 15th are automatically considered candidates for UCF-sponsored fellowship opportunities. The Graduate Admissions Committee along with the Graduate Program Director will submit their fellowship nominations of selected and eligible candidates to the College of Graduate Studies for consideration.

It is important that all students communicate their interest in renewing their GTA to the Graduate Program Director at least one month before the beginning of the next term. They must also pre-register for all courses they plan to attend in order to facilitate the assignments of laboratory sections and cause the minimal schedule conflict with their classes.

Regular and affiliated faculty members of the Department of Physics often pay graduate research assistants to work in their projects. These positions go by the name of Graduate Research Assistantships (GRAs) and carry an hourly rate similar to a GTA. Students are required to be in good academic standing to take GRAs. UCF may also provide full tuition waiver for matriculation fees for the GRAs and the rules are similar to those mentioned above for the case of GTAs. GRA positions can be renewed indefinitely, depending upon mutual interest and the supervisor’s funds availability.

Students are expected to make a transition from GTA to GRA by the time they pass the candidacy exam. In several cases this transition happens sooner, when the student begins working with faculty member in a Directed Research course.

Students with qualifying assistantships or university-wide fellowships will receive financial packages that include an assistantship or fellowship stipend, tuition remission, and health insurance. Qualifying fellowships are accompanied by tuition waivers. Qualifying assistantships include single appointments of at least .50 FTE (20 hrs/week) or two appointments of at least .25 FTE (10 hrs/week). Tuition remission is in the form of either tuition waivers or tuition payments that cover in-state (resident) tuition. Non-resident students with financial packages are not charged out-of-state tuition or the non-resident financial aid fee.

For additional information about funding for graduate school, please visit the Funding section of the College of Graduate Studies website.  

If you are interested in applying for loans or externally funded need-based awards, visit the Office of Student Financial Assistance website at and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is available January 1st each year.

Financial Support Requirements

Graduate students must meet certain requirements each term that they receive fellowships or assistantships. In brief, to receive and maintain these types of financial support packages, a student must:

  • maintain good academic standing
  • be enrolled full time

A more detailed description of the financial support requirements can be found in the Financial Information > Financial Support requirements of the current Graduate Catalog at

University Fellowships

Most university fellowships are reserved for incoming degree-seeking graduate students who plan to enroll full time. For a listing of merit-based fellowships that are offered through the UCF College of Graduate Studies, as well as a listing of various general graduate funding opportunities, see Funding

Graduate Presentation Fellowships

The College of Graduate Studies provides Presentation Fellowships for students to present their research or comparable creative activity at a professional meeting or conference. To review the award requirements and apply online, see

Graduate Assistantships

Graduate assistantship appointments offer opportunities for students to engage in research, teaching, and other projects during their graduate study. These are paid appointments that promote the missions of the University. For eligibility, students must be accepted as a graduate student in a degree program and be enrolled full-time.

For more information concerning graduate assistantships, see the Financial Information > Graduate Assistantships section of the current Graduate Catalog at or talk to the Graduate Program Director to learn about specific eligibility and application guidelines.

For information on graduate assistantship opportunities specifically for graduate students in the Physics program visit the Graduate Assistantship Information webpage on the Physics program website.

Graduate Teaching

Graduate students may be appointed as graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) to carry out responsibilities as classroom teachers (instructors of record), co-teachers or classroom assistants, graders, lab assistants, or other roles directly related to classroom instruction. Mandatory training requirements must be met for a student to be hired in the position of Graduate Teaching Associate, Assistant or Grader. The training, offered by UCF’s Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning, covers course design, learning theories, ethics, and other topics relevant to preparing GTAs for their responsibilities. See for training requirements and registration instructions.

Students who are non-native speakers of English and do not have a degree from a U.S. institution must pass the SPEAK test before they will be permitted to teach as Graduate Teaching Associates (position code 9183) or Graduate Teaching Assistants (position code 9184). The SPEAK test is not required for students who will be appointed as a Graduate Teaching Grader (position code 9187). Additional information including how to register for the test can be accessed through the GTA Training Requirements section of the College of Graduate Studies student website.

GTA Performance Assessments

At the completion of each semester in which a student is employed as a GTA, the student’s faculty GTA supervisor will meet with the student and complete the GTA Performance Assessment Form. These assessments are intended to facilitate and document the mentoring of graduate student teachers, promoting a review and discussion of the strengths and weaknesses in the student’s performance in preparation for future employment.

Vacation and Leave Expectations

Expectations concerning vacations, days off and leave vary greatly depending upon the assistantship type and the details of the individual circumstances. Please speak to your supervisor at the beginning of your appointment to clarify what these expectations are.

International Students

For information about the types of employment available to international students, and the requirements and restrictions based on visa type, see the International Affairs and Global Strategies' website: > Students > Employment.

Instructor Training and Development

The Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning (FCTL) promotes excellence in all levels of teaching at the University of Central Florida. To that end, they offer several programs for the professional development of Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) at UCF. 

  • GTA Training (mandatory for employment as a GTA) This training provides information and resources for students who will be instructors in a two-day workshop. The seminars cover a variety of topics, including course development, learning theories, lecturing, and academic freedom. Those interested in additional training can also attend an optional training session that normally follows the mandatory training.
  • GTA Teaching Certificate This certificate program (12-weeks for domestic students, 16-weeks for international students) consists of group and individualized instruction by Faculty Center staff and experienced UCF professors. Textbooks and materials are provided, and a stipend is offered to current UCF students who complete the certificate. International students are provided the same training as well as information regarding language immersion and tricks and cultural awareness as a way of knowing what to expect from American students. 

For more information, go to > Events > GTA Programs or call 407/823-3544.

Graduate Student Associations

The Graduate Student Association (GSA) is UCF's graduate organization committed to enrich graduate students' personal, educational and professional experience. To learn more or get involved, please visit For individual department or graduate program organizations, please see program advisor.

Graduate Society of Physics Students (GSPS) has a mission to help UCF Physics students achieve their goals in their studies.  They represent the students' interests in committees and help inform new graduate students about the Department of Physics.  They inform the students about UCF events, policies, conferences, etc. They serve as peer mentors, assist students in preparing for the qualifying exams and finding an advisor.  Additional information can be found online at

Physics Women Society (PWS) has a mission to promote the interest of women in the Department of Physics by providing a platform for networking, guidance, mentoring, and counseling.  The organization hosts many events, including talks by female professionals, mentoring of female undergraduates, and outreach to encourage a passion for science in young girls.  While the focus of the organization is on women, the purpose is to improve the atmosphere and relations throughout the Department of Physics now and for the future.  Additional information can be found online at

Professional Development

Students may take advantage of several professional developments opportunities on campus, such as grant-proposal writing workshops, graduate research fair, and others. Also every year the Office of Graduate Studies sponsors several graduate Award Recognitions. Nominates typically happen in January. The Department of Physics also presents annually an award to the best Graduate Teaching Assistants named the Jack Noon prize. Nominations are sought during the Spring term.

Pathways to Success

Coordinated by the College of Graduate Studies, the Pathways to Success program offers free development opportunities for graduate students including workshops in Academic Integrity, Graduate Grantsmanship, Graduate Teaching, Personal Development, Professional Development, and Research. For more information and how to register, please visit

Instructional Strategies and Resources

The Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning provides classes and programs designed to assist graduate students with the educational issues they face in the classroom as teaching assistant or as instructors. These resources include assistance in course design and syllabi development, learning theories, and the use of different technologies in the classroom or on the internet. Further information on these resources is available at

Graduate Research Forum

The Research Forum will feature poster displays representing UCF’s diverse colleges and disciplines.

The Research Forum is an opportunity for students to showcase their research and creative projects and to receive valuable feedback from faculty judges. Awards for best poster presentation in each category will be given and all participants will receive recognition.

The College of Graduate Studies and the Graduate Student Association invite all UCF students, community, and employers to attend the Graduate Research Forum. For more information, contact  

Graduate Excellence Awards

Each year, the College of Graduate Studies offers graduate students who strive for academic and professional excellence the opportunity to be recognized for their work. The award categories include the following:  

Award for Excellence by a Graduate Teaching Assistant – This award is for students who provide teaching support and assistance under the direction of a lead teacher. This award focuses on the extent and quality of the assistance provided by the student to the lead instructor and the students in the class. (Not intended for students who are instructor of record)

Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching – This award is for students who serve as instructors of record and have independent classroom responsibilities. The focus of this award is on the quality of the student’s teaching and the academic contributions of those activities.

Award for the Outstanding Dissertation – It recognizes doctoral students for excellence in the dissertation. The focus of this award is on the quality and contribution of the student's dissertation. Excellence of the dissertation may be demonstrated by evidence such as, but not limited to: publications in refereed journals, awards and recognitions from professional organizations, and praise from faculty members and other colleagues in the field.

For the nomination process and eligibility criteria, see  


For information about the Council of Southern Graduate Schools (CSGS) thesis and dissertation awards, see their website: > Awards.

For grant-proposal writing resources:

To explore professional development opportunities for graduate students in the discipline, visit the Physics Department Outreach webpage which includes links to the Florida High Tech Corridor, the High School Science program, the Robinson Observatory and other resources to support graduate students.  Also visit the Department of Physics colloquium schedule and events calendar  for a listing of scheduled speakers and professional events for the academic year.

Job Search

UCF’s Career Services department offers a wide range of programs and services designed to assist graduate students. These services include evaluation and exploration of career goals, preparation for the job search and job search resources. To learn more, visit their website at

For specific services or resources provided by the academic program, please contact the graduate program director or academic advisor.


  • College of Graduate Studies Forms
    This web link provides a listing of forms and files for the College of Graduate Studies.
  • Graduate Petition Form
    When unusual situations arise, petitions for exceptions to policy may be requested by the student. Depending on the type of appeal, the student should contact his/her program adviser to begin the petition process.
  • Traveling Scholar Form
    If a student would like to take advantage of special resources available on another campus but not available on the home campus; for example, special course offerings, research opportunities, unique laboratories and library collections, this form must be completed and approved.


Plagiarism is the act of taking someone else’s work and presenting it as your own. Any ideas, data, text, media or materials taken from another source (either written or verbal) must be fully acknowledged.a) A student must not adopt or reproduce ideas, opinions, theories, formulas, graphics, or pictures of another person without acknowledgment.b) A student must give credit to the originality of others whenever:

  1. Directly quoting another person's actual words, whether oral or written;
  2. Using another person's ideas, opinions, or theories;
  3. Paraphrasing the words, ideas, opinions, or theories of others, whether oral or written;
  4. Borrowing facts, statistics, or illustrative material; or
  5. Offering materials assembled or collected by others in the form of projects or collections without acknowledgment.

When using the ideas, opinions, theories, formulas, graphics, or pictures of another, students must give credit to the original source at the location or place in the document where that source's material is found as well as provide bibliographic information at the end of the document. When students are verbally discussing the ideas, opinions, theories, formulas, graphics, or pictures of another, they must give credit to the original source at the time they speak about that source. In this manner, students must make clear (so there is no doubt) within their written or verbal materials, which parts are gained from other sources, and which are their own original ideas, theories, formulas, graphics, and pictures.The Office of Student Conduct has a set of criteria that determines if students are in violation of plagiarism. This set of criteria may be set to a higher standard in graduate programs. Therefore, a student may not be found in violation of plagiarism by the Office of Student Conduct, but a professor or program requiring higher standards of attribution and citation may find a student in violation of plagiarism and administer program level sanctions. The standard in doctoral programs should be the highest as students earning these degrees are expected to be experts in their fields and producing independent work that contributes knowledge to their discipline.

Example of Material that has been appropriately cited:

Paraphrased Material

Source: Osborne, Richard, ed. How to Grow Annuals. 2nd ed. Menlo Park: Lane, 1974. Print. Page 24: As a recent authority has pointed out, for a dependable long-blooming swatch of soft blue in your garden, ageratum is a fine choice. From early summer until frost, ageratum is continuously covered with clustered heads of fine, silky, fringed flowers in dusty shades of lavender-blue, lavender-pink or white. The popular dwarf varieties grow in mounds six to twelve inches high and twelve inches across; they make fine container plants. Larger types grow up to three feet tall. Ageratum makes an excellent edging.

Use and Adaptation of the Material:

You can depend on ageratum if you want some soft blue in your garden. It blooms through the summer and the flowers, soft, small, and fringed, come in various shades of lavender. The small varieties which grow in mounds are very popular, especially when planted in containers. There are also larger varieties. Ageratum is good as a border plant (Osborne 24).


The writer has done a good job of paraphrasing what could be considered common knowledge (available in a number of sources), but because the structure and progression of detail is someone else’s, the writer has acknowledged the source. This the writer can do at the end of the paragraph since he or she has not used the author’s words.

The above example was provided by Northwestern University.

Northwestern University, Sept. 2016. “Academic Integrity: A Basic Guide.” Accessed 20 September 2017.

For more information about Academic Honesty, Click here.

Useful Links