Rutgers University Department of Physics and Astronomy

2009-10 Handbook for Physics and Astronomy Graduate Students

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M.S. Degrees in Physics and Astronomy

Master of Science Degree in Physics and Astronomy

There are two options for the Master of Science degree: with essay and with thesis. For both options up to 12 credits can
be at the upper level (300 or 400 level) undergraduate courses taken at Rutgers while in the graduate program.  Up to 12 credits
may be transferred from another institution.  Transfer credits must be at the graduate level.  For transfer of graduate courses taken as an undergraduate, a letter is required from the registrar of the institution involved stating that the course or courses were not used toward an undergraduate degree. No more than 9 credits with grades of C or C+ may be used toward the degree.

MS with Essay

The MS with essay is a course based Master's degree. Course selection should be chosen in consultation with the Graduate Program Director.  30 credits of course work is required for the degree.  Non course-work based credits, such as the seminar in physics, and research credits, cannot be counted toward the degree. Generally no fewer than 24 credits in physics, astronomy or closely related fields, of which no more than 12 credits may be at the advanced undergraduate level, are required.  The essay may be based on material from a regular physics course, Physics 699, or a research project.

MS with Thesis

The MS with thesis requires a minimum of 30 credits, including a minimum of six credits in research and a minimum of 24 course credits.  In addition, no fewer than 18 course credits must be in physics, astronomy or closely related fields. No more than 6 credits may be at the advanced undergraduate level. Non course-work based credits, such as the seminar in physics, cannot be counted toward the degree.

MS Examination

The M.S. examination is an oral comprehensive examination covering the fundamentals of the courses taken by the student in the program and, in the case when a thesis is submitted, over the thesis material. No M.S. exam is required for students who have been advanced to
candidacy for the Ph.D. or have passed the oral component of the qualifying examination, and do not submit a thesis. Students failing the examination on the first attempt will be permitted one more attempt. The examination is to be administered by the student's M.S. committee. This consists of three faculty members appointed by the Graduate Program Director, one of whom is normally the M.S. coordinator. When courses have been taken outside of physics, the committee should contain a faculty member from the appropriate discipline.

Financial Support

The general policy of financial support is as described for the Ph.D. program. However, the department rarely has resources to provide financial support to Masters students.

Master of Philosophy (M.Phil.) Degree in Physics and Astronomy

The Graduate Studies Committee will consider requests from Physics graduate students for the Master of Philosophy degree. The committee will generally observe the following guidelines:

  • The M.Phil. degree is intended for students who have been advanced to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree, and who have achieved records of distinction during the pre-dissertation phase of the program.
  • To qualify for the M.Phil. degree, a student must have completed at least 48 course credits, of which at least 33 must be in 500- and 600-level courses. All of the course requirements for the Ph.D. must have been satisfied and the student's grade point average must be at least 3.5 in regular classroom courses.
  • The student must have achieved a score of at least 65% on the written Ph.D. Qualifying Exam, and an outstanding performance on the oral exams.
  • The student must meet the writing requirement for the Master of Science (M.S.) degree, i.e. either a Master's thesis or an essay normally based on material from a graduate course. A thesis or essay that has been submitted for the M.S. degree may also be used for the M.Phil. degree.
  • No oral comprehensive examination beyond that included in the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination will be required.

Master of Science for Teachers (MST) Degree in Physics and Astronomy

The M.S.T. degree is primarily for practicing teachers, although others may be accepted. The requirements for the M.S.T. degree in physics consist of 30 credits, a comprehensive examination, and an essay or thesis.

The courses are chosen in consultation with the departmental advisor to fit the needs of the individual student, with the aim of giving each candidate the opportunity to learn more physics. Both undergraduate and graduate courses may be used, depending on the person's previous experience.

Each candidate must demonstrate competence in the basic subjects of mechanics, electromagnetism, thermodynamics, atomic and nuclear structure, and calculus at a comprehensive M.S.T. examination. The examination is normally oral, and is administered by a committee of three members of the faculty appointed by the Graduate Program Director.

To the extent that a student has satisfied the basic physics requirements as preparation for the comprehensive examination, he or she may select courses in physics, other sciences, mathematics, or in education.

No more than nine credits with grades of C may be accepted toward the M.S.T. degree. Up to twelve credits may be transferred from other institutions with approval of the department and the Graduate School.

The M.S.T. critical essay is generally a review of a particular area of physics, resulting from specialized study. It may also describe the results of a candidate's development of a novel teaching unit, including perhaps a laboratory experiment. An M.S.T. candidate may elect to submit a regular M.S.T. thesis for which six credits may be earned through research rather than in courses. The research may be in theoretical or experimental physics, or it may be primarily pedagogical in nature. The research must be supervised by a member of the faculty with the advice of the candidate's committee and a final defense of the thesis work will be held before the candidate's committee.

Non-Matriculated Students

A student may take any of the regular courses offered by the physics department or any of the special evening courses upon admission to the graduate school as a non-matriculated student. Such courses may later be applied toward any of the regular degree programs if the student is admitted as a candidate for such a degree. Students applying for non-matriculated status should submit a transcript of their undergraduate grades and one letter of recommendation along with their application; GRE tests are not required.

Another possibility is to apply through the Office of Non-degree Graduate Study, but students are not allowed to accumulate more than 12 credits in non-degree study prior to matriculation in a graduate program.

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Revised September, 2009