Prof. Ron Marzke


Prof. Maarten Golterman


Prof. Jeffrey Greensite


Prof. Susan Lea

General Information
The department offers the Master of Science in Physics. This program serves students who seek advanced knowledge in physics: for application in physics related industries, for preparation to continue graduate work elsewhere towards the doctoral degree, for qualification for teaching credentials for which a master's degree is required. The choice of electives in the master's program may emphasize either physics, astrophysics, or astronomy. 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.

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)

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 (Note that PHYS 732, 885, 890, 891, 895, 896, 897, 898, and 899 do not count in this category.)

Group III: General electives (9 units)

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

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)
Master's Comprehensive Oral Examination

Total Units: 30


Before taking graduate courses (numbered 700 and above) you must take the Physics Major Field Test and achieve a score of 50th percentile or better.  With the approval of the graduate coordinator, you may take graduate courses during your first semester at SFSU, prior to taking the MFT.  The graduate coordinator will advise you on a program of study to remedy any deficiencies in your undergraduate preparation revealed by the MFT. If you do not score high enough on your first attempt, you must achieve a core of 55th percentile or better on subseqent attempts.

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  (Core course) Classical Mechanics Phys 713 Nuclear Physics
(not offered in recent years)
Phys 703 Electromagnetics
(not offered in recent years)
Phys 714 Low-temperature Physics
Phys 704 (Core course) Electricity & Magnetism I Phys 715 Lasers & Quantum Optics
Phys 705 Electricity & Magnetism II Phys 721 Physics of Elementary Particles
Phys 706 (Core course) Quantum Mechanics Phys 722 Astrophysics
Phys 710 Graduate laboratory Phys 723 Advanced Classical Mechanics
Phys 711 Semiconductor Materials Phys 724 Advanced QuantumTheory
Phys 712 Physics of Plasmas Phys 725 Special & General Relativity
Phys 726 Quantum Field Theory Physics730 Seminar
Phys 740 Computational Physics Phys 775 (Core course) Statistical Physics
Phys 785 (Core course) Introduction to Theoretical Physics

Astr 742
Galaxies and Cosmology
Astr 770
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:

FIRST FALL Phys 785   Phys 701 elective
FIRST SPRING Phys 704 Phys 706 Research or elective
SECOND FALL Phys 775 Phys 7xx
Research or elective
SECOND SPRING Phys 7xx 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
FIRST SPRING Phys 704  elective
SECOND FALL Phys 775 Research or elective
SECOND SPRING Phys 706 Research or elective
THIRD FALL Phys 7xx Research or elective
THIRD SPRING Phys 898 thesis elective

Someone admitted to conditionally classified status 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
FIRST PRELIMINARY SPRING Phys 360 Phys 370 Phys 430
NEXT FALL Phys 460 Phys 785 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.

d:\P&A Information\info#1.doc