Rutgers University Department of Physics and Astronomy

2010-11 Handbook for Physics and Astronomy Graduate Students

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Doctor of Philosophy Degree (Ph.D.) in Physics and Astronomy

Financial Support

The department attempts to provide full financial support to all students who maintain satisfactory academic progress through teaching assistantships, graduate research assistantships, or fellowships, if such support is needed (a few exceptions are students employed outside the university). Support from departmental sources is generally guaranteed for the first three years of study.

Teaching Assistants are appointed annually. The teaching assistantships are for 10 months (the 9-month academic year plus one month vacation); the rate of pay is at least $24,961 plus full tuition remission. Teaching and Graduate Assistants and their dependents are eligible for complete health plan benefits. A full-time teaching assistant normally teaches three 180-minute lab sections, four 55-minute recitation sections, or four 80-minute workshops in a general physics course, or the assistant will have three grading assignments per semester. Homework solutions for first time graders in graduate and some undergraduate courses are normally provided by the instructor. The total work load should not be more than 15 hours per week, averaged over the semester. Any student who feels that this average is being exceeded should immediately meet with the instructor and/or the Graduate Director to discuss the situation.

Teaching assistants will be chosen for reappointment based upon their previous performance as students and teaching assistants. Minimum requirements are:

  • They must remain students in good standing in the graduate program. Students who maintain a 3.2 or better grade point average are generally automatically approved by the Graduate School.
  • They must have performed their duties as teaching assistants adequately. This includes, as appropriate, depending on the particular assignment:
    • Appearing punctually for labs, recitations, workshops, tutoring sessions, course meetings and other assignments.
    • Completing grading assignments in a timely manner.
    • Interacting effectively with the undergraduate students in their labs, recitations, workshops, and tutoring sessions.
    • Generally performing to the satisfaction of the faculty member under whom they are working. (By the same token, faculty members are expected to be sensitive to the workload of their assistants and to organize activities so that the work of the assistants can be completed within the allotted time.)

Decisions concerning initial appointments are made by the Graduate Director or Admissions Committee, as appropriate. In this case students will be appointed who can reasonably be expected to meet the above requirements based upon the information available. Students with undergraduate grade point averages of at least 3.2, scores of better than the 80th percentile on the Graduate Record General examinations, and TOEFL scores above 600 (for foreign students) are generally automatically approved by the Graduate School.

Appointments and re-appointments will of course be contingent on the availability of positions and funding. If these are inadequate to support all qualified students who desire appointment as TA's, the Graduate Director, with the advice of other faculty, shall choose those who have the best course grades and the best previous or potential performance as teaching assistants. In the case of advanced students, grades on the qualifying examinations and research accomplishments (as judged primarily by the students' research committees) will also be taken into account. Completion of ESL exams for students for whom English is not their native language will also be considered as a condition for re-appointment.

Many advanced students are supported by Graduate (research) Assistantships funded by the research grants of various faculty members. In this case, the individual faculty members themselves decide whom to support.

The department also has a limited number of Graduate (research) Assistantships funded by Rutgers University; these positions are awarded annually by the departmental Graduate Studies Committee. All Graduate Assistants are appointed to a 12-month term (11-months and 1 month vacation); the annual rate of pay is at least $19,366. There are no specific duties attached to these appointments, except to carry out the normal research activities required of all Ph.D. candidates. These assistantships include eligibility for complete health benefits. The Departmental GA's are awarded to the students, rather than to the faculty advisors; this provides some additional flexibility on the part of the students to choose their own research project. They are awarded primarily on the basis of excellence, usually in the last (or next to last) year of graduate studies. In no case will an individual student be awarded a Departmental GA appointment for more than 2 years. An annual competition for these GA awards will be held, with applications due in the Graduate office on or before April 1. Candidates should submit a statement about their research project, a proposal for the next year's work, and a copy of the most recent report from the thesis committee. They should also ask their research advisor to submit a letter of recommendation for the award.

Graduate Fellowships, which require no specific duties, are awarded on a competitive basis, normally to entering students. These awards are usually made for two years. The stipend is at least $22,000 for the academic year. The Department may also have Department of Education Fellowships which are used to recruit outstanding new students. These fellowships are available only to US citizens and permanent residents.

There are typically some summer teaching assistantships available and also some summer grant-supported research internships to encourage the students' active involvement in the research programs of the department. The department will make every effort to find suitable employment for qualified students during the summer. Finally, coadjutant appointments are often available during the school year. These positions, generally for teaching in the elementary courses, can provide additional support for students for whom the usual stipend is inadequate. These coadjutant positions also provide a way for students supported by fellowships or research assistantships to obtain teaching experience.


All necessary forms for admission to the Graduate School and admission to our program can be obtained by sending email to

or by writing to

or by writing to

Graduate Director
Department of Physics and Astronomy
Rutgers University
136 Frelinghuysen Road
Piscataway, New Jersey 08854-8019

All applicants must take the General Test and the Subject Test in Physics of the Graduate Record Examination. Information about these tests may be obtained from Graduate Record Examinations, Educational Testing Service, Box 6000, Princeton, New Jersey 08541-6000. There is no rigidly observed minimum score required, but in recent years the average percentile of the entering class on the GRE Subject Test in Physics has risen to over 70%, with the average score considerably higher for foreign students.

Applicants whose native language is not English are also required by the Graduate School to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). A score of 560 or better is usually required for admission; a score of at least 600 is expected for candidates for a TA appointment.

A grade point average of 3.0 or better in undergraduate courses is normally required for admission. Admissions decisions are based on the undergraduate record, GRE examination scores, personal statement, and letters of recommendation.

Decisions are made before April 15 on all completed applications received by January 1. While late applications may be considered, admission and financial support depend on availability of positions.

Seminars and Colloquia

The departmental colloquia are held every Wednesday afternoon at 4:45 p.m. (after tea, coffee and cookies). All graduate students are expected to attend as part of their regular graduate program. Normally, an outside speaker is invited to talk about new developments in a particular area of physics, at a level intelligible to non-specialists. There are also specialized weekly seminars in astrophysics, condensed matter physics, surface science, nuclear physics, and elementary particle physics, as well as the Seminar in Physics course, required of all first-year students.

Student Academic Appeals

a) Students may appeal actions of one or several faculty members to the Graduate Director. After consultation with the affected parties, the Graduate Director will propose a solution. If this is not agreeable to all parties, the matter will be referred to the Graduate Studies Committee, which will decide the matter. In special circumstances, a student may then appeal to the entire faculty.

b) Students may appeal actions of the entire faculty to the Graduate Studies Committee through the Graduate Director. The Committee will decide whether special circumstances warrant reconsideration of the matter by the entire faculty.

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Revised June, 2010