Guide to Graduate Studies

This Guide is intended to provide a concise overview of the requirements and procedures of our graduate program in Physics and Astronomy. It is not intended to supplant in any way the regulations or requirements that are spelled out in LSU's General Catalog and Graduate Bulletin. Graduate students are expected to know and comply with the regulations of the Graduate School. In any instance where this Guide is in conflict with the Catalog or Bulletin, the Catalog or Bulletin information takes precedence. The Catalog and the Bulletin are available online at the web site of the LSU Graduate School.

The graduate program is designed to provide a general post-graduate education in Physics and/or Astronomy. At the PhD level, the goal of the program is to develop a professional-level competence in creative research. At the Master's level, the program is intended to provide a general competence in Physics and/or Astronomy suitable either for teaching or for technical employment in a related field. The department also offers a Masters Degree in Medical Physics and Health Physics, as well as a Medical Physics concentration for the PhD Degree, described in Appendix B and in much more detail on the Medical and Health Physics web pages.

PhD Program Overview

The program has three phases. In the first phase, the emphasis is on coursework and the comprehensive Qualifying Examination. During this first phase, students are encouraged to participate in research, but are at the same time cautioned to observe the time limitations imposed by other requirements, including especially examination preparation.

Passing the Qualifying Examination allows the student to move into the second phase of their Ph.D. and focus more intensively on research under the direction of a major professor (also know as research advisor) who will be chosen by mutual consent, not assigned by the department. Typically, some advanced courses are still being taken at this point. The end of the second phase is marked by the passing of the General Examination, which includes an examination in the student's chosen field of study as well as the defense of a dissertation proposal. Coursework has usually been completed by the time of the General Examination. In the final phase, a student focuses their efforts on scholarly research leading to the thesis. A student concludes his degree program with a final defense in which the student defends their dissertation--the dissertation being the formal, written culmination of the student's research effort.

Most students receive support in the form of teaching assistantships, service assistantships, research assistantships, or fellowships. The purpose of these is to allow students to pursue full time studies in Physics and Astronomy without the distraction of seeking outside support, and to provide research and teaching experience. In the later stages of a student's career, a research assistantship or fellowship is intended to allow the student to devote full time to thesis research. Assistantships should not serve as impediments to the progress of a graduate student toward their degree. Likewise, graduate students should not think of assistantships as providing semi-permanent employment.

It is expected that students will gain support through a research assistantship as soon as possible. Graduate students in good standing are automatically eligible to hold teaching or service assistantships in the Department of Physics and Astronomy only during their first two years. After this time, such appointments can only be made after the student's major professor petitions the Assistantship Committee and are subject to availability. These appointments are intended to cover temporary shortfalls in funding, not long term support. It is ultimately the student’s responsibility to find a research group that has sufficient funding to support them.

The procedures, regulations, and required standards of performance are described below under the headings of course-work, examinations, and research. Students interested in astronomy should read Appendix A of this guide, which describes the requirements of the astronomy program. Students interested in medical physics should read Appendix B of this guide but should also consult the Medical and Health Physics Trainee Handbook which takes precedence over this document in many respects.

Undergraduate Preparation

Students seeking admission into the department should have at least thirty hours of fundamental undergraduate courses in physics including General Physics, Mechanics, Electricity and Magnetism, Optics, and more advanced topics such as Quantum Mechanics (two semesters), Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics, Atomic Physics, and Nuclear Physics. Courses in mathematics through differential equations and linear algebra are also required. Students with gaps in their physics or mathematics preparation should take undergraduate courses as necessary to fill in these gaps before proceeding to the corresponding graduate level courses.


To be considered full-time, a student must be registered for at least 9 credit hours, of which at least 6 must be at the "graduate level", numbered 4000 or higher. Students on academic probation may be subject to stricter requirements.

No student on an assistantship or fellowship from Physics and Astronomy may register for more than one course per semester (2 per year) outside the department without special approval from the major professor and Departmental Graduate Advisor (not including required English courses for foreign students). At any point in the student's career, the cumulative number of courses outside the department will always be expected to be less than the number of courses the students have taken in Physics and Astronomy.

The primary graduate coursework comprises of 22 hour set of core courses detailed in Appendix C (PHYS 7221: Classical Mechanics, PHYS 7225: Statistical Mechanics, PHYS 7231/7232: Electrodynamics, PHYS 7241/7242: Quantum Mechanics, PHYS 7398: Graduate Laboratory or an approved substitute, and PHYS 7857: Graduate Seminar). This is supplemented by at least 9 hours of 7000-level advanced elective courses. Additional 4000-level courses intended for both undergraduate and graduate students can be taken if appropriate to the student's research interests.

The remainder of a student's time should be research hours, either PHYS 8000 for Master's students, or 9000 for Ph.D. students.

Students who enter our program after successfully completing graduate courses in Physics at another US university with an A or B grade may petition to have such courses used to partially fulfill our department's course requirements, provided the courses have substantially the same content. The student must provide a full description of the course and the textbook used. Such petitions will be handled on a case-by-case basis and will be decided by the Graduate Student Advisor and the Department Associate Chair. 

Appendix C: Course Offerings

There is a set of basic Physics courses (Core courses) that students are required to take. These courses constitute a general introduction to graduate-level physics. Students are urged to take them at their earliest opportunity:

Course Number
Course Name Course Description
PHYS 7221
Classical Mechanics Study of particle mechanics and rigid body mechanics using the methods of Lagrange's equations, Hamilton's equations, canonical transformations, and Hamilton-Jacobi theory.
PHYS 7225
Statistical Mechanics  Principles of classical and quantum statistics, with application to special problems.
PHYS 7231
Electrodynamics I  PHYS 7231 is prerequisite for 7232. Problems in electrostatics and magnetostatics; Maxwell's equations, electromagnetic waves, wave guides, and antennas; relativistic electrodynamics and radiation from moving charges.
PHYS 7232
Electrodynamics II  PHYS 7231 is prerequisite for 7232. Problems in electrostatics and magnetostatics; Maxwell's equations, electromagnetic waves, wave guides, and antennas; relativistic electrodynamics and radiation from moving charges.
PHYS 7241
Quantum Mechanics I Prereq.: PHYS 4142 or equivalent. PHYS 7241 is prerequisite for 7242. Basic concepts of nonrelativistic quantum mechanics, operators and matrices, Intrinsic and orbital angular momenta, perturbation theory, atomic structure, second quantization, and scattering theory. 
PHYS 7242
Quantum Mechanics II  Prereq.: PHYS 4142 or equivalent. PHYS 7241 is prerequisite for 7242. Basic concepts of nonrelativistic quantum mechanics, operators and matrices, Intrinsic and orbital angular momenta, perturbation theory, atomic structure, second quantization, and scattering theory.
PHYS 7398*
Graduate Laboratory  1 hr. lecture; 6 hrs. lab. Practical experience in modern experimental physics laboratory techniques.
PHYS 7857
Graduate Seminar Pass-fail grading. May be repeated for credit. Introduction to research areas in the department; training for presentation of scientific talks; preparation of research proposals. 

*PHYS 7398, Graduate Laboratory, may be substituted by either ASTR 7361 Astrophysics Laboratory or MEDP 4351+4352 Radiation Detection and Instrumentation with the consent of the student’s research advisor.

In addition to the Core Courses, various elective courses are offered regularly. These are survey or topical courses at the graduate level in major areas of physics:

Course Number
Course Name Course Description
PHYS 4112
Intermediate Mathematical Methods Prereq.: consent of instructor and department chair. May be repeated for a max. of 6 hrs. of credit. Individual reading in current areas of physics, topics in professional development and presentation of undergraduate research.
PHYS 4261
Introductory Condensed Matter Prereq.: PHYS 2203 or 4141 or CHEM 4492. Properties of the crystalline state and the free-electron; band theories of metals, insulators, and semiconductors.
PHYS 4271
Subatomic Physics  

Prereq.: PHYS 2203 or 4141. Nuclear and particle properties, abundance and stability of nuclei, strong, weak, and electromagnetic forces, nuclear instrumentation, particle accelerators and detectors, nuclear reactions, and particle and nuclear astrophysics.

MEDP 4351
Radiation Detection and Instrumentation (MEDP 4351) Prereq.: PHYS 3098 or equivalent, credit for or registration in MEDP 4331; or equivalent; consent of instructor. Introduction to the physics of detection, instrumentation, and data analysis used to measure ionizing radiation (gamma rays, x-rays, neutrons, and charged particles) using scintillation crystal, solid state, film, and gas detectors. Provides understanding of underlying principles of detection systems used in radiation therapy, radiological imaging and health physics.  
MEDP 4352
Radiation Detection Laboratory
(MEDP 4352)
Prereq.: credit or registration in MEDP 4351. 3 hrs. lab. laboratory exercises covering fundamental principles of radiation detection systems and data analysis techniques used for radiation measurements in radiation therapy, radiological imaging and medical health physics.
PHYS 7336
General Relativity  General tensor analysis; postulates of general relativity, field equations, equations of motion, interior and exterior Schwarzchild solutions; cosmology.
PHYS 7343
Advanced Quantum Mechanics Prereq.: PHYS 7242. The Lorentz group, relativistic wave equations, introduction to quantum field theory.
ASTR 7361
Astrophysics Laboratory
(ASTR 7361)
Practical experience in modern observational techniques in astronomy, instruments, detectors, data analysis, and statistical methods. 
PHYS 7363
Condensed Matter I  Prereq.: PHYS 7225 and 7242. PHYS 7363 is prerequisite for 7364. Application of quantum mechanics and statistical mechanics to condensed matter; lattice vibrations, energy bands in crystals, transport properties, collective excitations, ferromagnetism and superconductivity; theory of Fermi and Bose quantum fluids, phase transitions, and critical phenomena.
PHYS 7373
Nuclear Physics I  

Prereq.: PHYS 4271 and 7241. PHYS 7373 is prerequisite for 7374. Applications of quantum mechanics to the two-nucleon system, to a system of many nucleons, and to nuclear reactions, with comparisons between theory and experimental results.

PHYS 7383
High Energy Physics I  Prereq.: PHYS 7231 and 7242. Strong electromagnetic and weak interactions of hadrons and leptons, including symmetries and selection rules; quantum chromodynamics and electroweak theory; accelerator and nonaccelerator experiments including cosmic rays and high energy astrophysics.
PHYS 7411
Computational Physics I  

Prereq.: PHYS 7211. PHYS 7411 is prerequisite for PHYS 7412. Basic numerical techniques for solution of mathematical equations, including coupled linear algebraic and differential equations, and numerical simulation techniques; emphasis on application to physical problems.

MEDP 7537
Radiation Transport Prereq.: PHYS 2203 or equivalent, CSC 2262, or equivalent. Same as MEDP 7537. 
MEDP 7538
Monte Carlo Methods  

Prereq.: MEDP 7537 or consent of instructor, CSC 2262 or equivalent experience in computer programming. Same as MEDP 7538.

ASTR 7777
Advanced Seminar  May be taken for a max. of 6 sem. hrs. of credit. See ASTR 7777.
ASTR 7741
Stellar Astrophysics I  Fundamental of stellar structure and evolution.
ASTR 7742
Stellar Astrophysics II Advanced applications in stellar astrophysics such as binary evolution and accretion. Formally ASTR 7741 is a prereq. but this is recommended not required.
ASTR 7751
Galactic Astrophysics I Fundamentals of galactic and extragalactic astronomy and cosmology.
ASTR 7752
Galactic Astrophysics II Advanced applications in galactic astrophysics such as galactic dynamics. Formally ASTR 7751 is a prereq. But this is recommended not required.


Finally, a group of advanced courses are offered occasionally, subject to faculty availability and student demand:

Course Number
Course Name Course Description
ASTR 4750
Special Topics in Astronomy Most recently offered as computational astrophysics.
PHYS 7211,7212
Mathematical Methods I, II Prereq.: PHYS 4112 or equivalent. PHYS 7211 is prerequisite for 7212. Advanced topics in mathematical methods of theoretical physics; mathematical foundations in quantum mechanics.
PHYS 7347
Quantum Information Theory Classical and quantum methods for data compression and communication over channels; measurement theory and entropy. 
PHYS 7348
Quantum Computation Turing machines, classical and quantum models of computation, NP-completeness, theorems and algorithms for quantum computation.
PHYS 7353,7354
Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics I, II  Prereq.: PHYS 7242; PHYS 7353 is prerequisite for 7354. Applications of quantum mechanics to atomic systems and their interaction with radiation; spectral levels, photo absorption and collisions with charged particles.
PHYS 7360
Low Temperature Physics Properties of matter at temperatures near absolute zero; methods of producing low temperatures; superfluidity of liquid helium, superconductivity, magnetic effects, and adiabatic demagnetization. 
PHYS 7364
Condensed Matter II  Prereq.: PHYS 7225 and 7242. PHYS 7363 is prerequisite for 7364. Application of quantum mechanics and statistical mechanics to condensed matter; lattice vibrations, energy bands in crystals, transport properties, collective excitations, ferromagnetism and superconductivity; theory of Fermi and Bose quantum fluids, phase transitions, and critical phenomena.
PHYS 7412
Computational Physics II  Prereq.: PHYS 7211. PHYS 7411 is prerequisite for PHYS 7412. Basic numerical techniques for solution of mathematical equations, including coupled linear algebraic and differential equations, and numerical simulation techniques; emphasis on application to physical problems.
PHYS 7463,7464
Advanced Condensed Matter I, II  Prereq.: PHYS 7242. PHYS 7463 is prerequisite for PHYS 7464. Density functional theory of electronic structure, mean field, and renormalization group theory of phase transitions; linear response theory; quantum transport, Landau theory of Fermi liquids; systems of strongly interacting electrons, superconductivity.
PHYS 7745
Quantum Field Theory May be taken for a max. of 9 hrs. of credit.
ASTR 7783
Topics in Astronomy/Astrophysics May be taken for a max. of 6 hrs. of credit when topics vary.
PHYS 7893
Many-Body Theory Prereq.: PHYS 7242. Pass-fail grading. May be taken for a max. of 6 hrs. of credit. Diagrammatic techniques, thermal Green's functions, transport theory, Fermi liquids, collective excitations, phase transitions.
PHYS 7895
Selected Topics in Advanced Physics  May be repeated for credit. Pass-fail grading.  Often taken one-on-one as an independent study course.
PHYS 7896
Current Development in Physics  May be repeated for credit. Pass-fail grading. Often taken one-on-one as an independent study course.

Requirements for the Advanced Degrees

For the PhD degree in physics, the department requires that a student pass the Qualifying Examination, General Examination, and Final Defense.  The student must take the Qualifying Exam (described in the next section below) at least once in the first year of graduate study.  They must pass the Qualifying Exam by the end of the fourth semester completed at LSU with a 60% or higher grade. They also must fulfill these course requirements: (1) 22 hours of core courses that carry numbers greater than 7000. Exceptionally, courses from outside the department (for example chemistry or engineering) may be substituted for the advanced course requirement.

A summer research project may count as one of these advanced courses provided that a substantial project is carried out, a written report is submitted and approved by the research advisor and the chairman of the department, and a short oral report on the work is given to and accepted by a committee of at least three faculty members. Registration in "Independent Research in Physics", (3 credit hours of PHYS 7996), will be required as a means of obtaining the credit.

Students may also elect to obtain a minor in another department, such as Mathematics or Electrical Engineering. The corresponding department sets requirements for an external minor.

Students may also elect to obtain a minor in another department, such as Mathematics or Electrical Engineering. The corresponding department sets requirements for an external minor.


The master's degree in physics follows the guidelines set forth in the LSU catalog under "Requirements for Advanced Degrees," so you should read that in addition to this guide. Except for students in the Medical and Health Physics program (discussed below in Appendix B), students in our department are admitted with the expectation that they will pursue a PhD in Physics. The MS degree can be obtained in addition to the PhD or as a "terminal" degree for those who leave the program before completing a PhD

There are two paths to completing the MS Degree in physics. The thesis option requires 30 hours of coursework (4000 level or above), of which at most 6 hours can come from thesis research (PHYS 8000 or 9000), and the successful completion of a master's thesis. The non-thesis option requires a total of 36 hours of coursework (not including PHYS 8000 or 9000). Any student pursuing either master's degree option must complete the graduate Core Courses listed in the table Appendix C. In either option, the student must take the Qualifying Exam (described in the next section below) at least once in the first year of graduate study. They must pass the Qualifying Exam by the end of the fourth semester completed at LSU. Passing at the MS level requires a grade of 50% or better. A full-time graduate student taking a full graduate course load (9 hours each semester and 6 hours in the summer) can finish the MS coursework requirement by the end of the 4th semester.

A Ph. D. candidate who is unable to pass the departmental Qualifying Exam at the Ph.D. level may obtain a terminal Master's degree by passing the Qualifying Exam at the master's level by their fourth try and then passing the MS Comprehensive Final examination in the semester immediately following their final unsuccessful attempt on the Qualifying Exam. A student who fails to achieve a Ph.D. pass on the fourth try at the Qualifying exam at the end of the spring semester must then take the Master's examination in the summer.

Students who wish to pursue a dual Master's Degree with Physics as the second department must apply and be admitted to our department under normal criteria. They must also have a faculty advisor in our department when starting, in order to tailor their selection of courses. The degree requirements are the same as above, except that a maximum of six credit hours from the student's home department may be used concurrently to satisfy our department's credit hour requirement.

Physics and Astronomy students who opt to take a Master's Degree in a second discipline must conform to the other department's guidelines for such a program, as well as satisfying all of our requirements for their Physics degree.

Graduate Students in other departments may obtain a minor in Physics by taking at least 12 credit hours of graduate-level courses in our department, of which at least 3 credit hours must be at the 7000 level. A Physics and Astronomy faculty member must agree to serve on the student's advisory committee.


Grades are assigned to describe student performance in courses. Grades of A, B, and C are considered satisfactory for credit. Our department adheres to a standard of interpretation and assignment of specific grades, which is commonly used in American graduate programs in Physics. The grade of A indicates a good understanding of the material; a B represents acceptable work, but if obtained in advanced courses (i.e., non-core courses), it is not adequate for recommending the student's entry into a research area for which the course provides an essential basis. A grade of C is acceptable for obtaining credit but indicates a poor understanding of the material. Grades of D and F are uncommon in graduate courses and identify unacceptably poor work.

Only graduate students with acceptable academic records may be appointed to graduate assistantships. No student admitted on probation may be appointed to a graduate assistantship until the student has achieved good standing. A student, originally in good standing, whose cumulative grade point average drops below a B (3.0) will be placed on probation. Note that a B- corresponds to 2.7 grade points, so may pull the grade point average below 3.0. A graduate assistant who is placed on academic probation during an appointment period may be permitted to retain the assistantship only if the student's department can justify the retention to the Dean of the Graduate School. Probation is removed by returning the cumulative GPA to above 3.0 within the next semester.

A student whose semester GPA falls below 3.0 while maintaining a satisfactory cumulative GPA will still be placed on academic probation but remains eligible to hold an assistantship without petition. Probation is removed by achieving a semester GPA above 3.0 in the next semester.


As part of the requirements for the PhD degree, the Graduate School calls for a General Examination, which every student must pass. As stated in the Graduate Bulletin, "The examination must be comprehensive enough to demonstrate expert competence over broad segments of the major field...".

To satisfy the above requirements, the Department of Physics and Astronomy has a two-part sequence of examinations. All students must, within two years of entry, pass a written "Departmental Qualifying Examination". After passing this examination, and after working in a research group for approximately a year, the student must pass an oral examination with a committee that includes the major professor and several other Physics and Astronomy faculty, as well as a representative appointed by the Graduate Dean. This latter examination will formally be designated our department's General Examination.

The committee will usually comprise the major professor, 2-4 other Physics and Astronomy faculty, and a Dean's Representative appointed by the Graduate School. The 2-4 additional members of the committee should be decided by agreement between the student and major professor and should provide broad expertise with at least one member from outside the student's research area and both experimental/observational and theoretical backgrounds. The committee composition must be approved by the Department Graduate Advisor, and students are encouraged to discuss their proposed committee members with them in advance. For multidisciplinary research projects, one or more physics committee members can instead be substituted from other departments, but at least two must still be from Physics and Astronomy. In addition, at least two committee members (excluding the Dean's Representative) must be full members of the graduate faculty. 'Full member' usually means associate or full professors and excludes assistant professors, research professors, and adjuncts. If a student is pursuing a graduate minor, then the committee must also include a member from the department awarding the minor.

Qualifying Examination

The Departmental Qualifying Examination (QE) is administered twice a year, in January and in August. The full QE is a written examination, given in two parts, each of length 2 hours and 30 minutes. Students should attempt the exam at least once during their first year, typically at the end of their first year. The QE must be passed within the first two years that the student is in the program. That allows a maximum of four tries if the student takes the exam every time it is offered during their first two years. The exam covers classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, electricity and magnetism, and thermodynamics and statistical mechanics at an advanced undergraduate level. For thermodynamics and statistical mechanics one problem is chosen from thermodynamics and two from statistical mechanics. There are 3 questions from each subject area and students will be graded on only 2 out of these 3 questions. The student shall only submit 2 of the 3 questions in every subject for evaluation. The questions for the QE are chosen by the Qualifying Exam Committee from a test bank, which is available to the students. The test bank evolves over time but does not change during the semester. This means that all of the potential questions for any given exam are known ahead of time. A pass at the PhD level is 60%, averaged across the entire test, 50% at the MS level.

Partial QE:
In the event a student is unable to pass the full QE, as described above, but has scored 60% each in at least two of the subjects, the QE committee in consultation with the student decides the next appropriate step – whether to retake the full QE or allow a partial QE in each of the lower scoring subjects. The subjects where the student scores more than 60% in the full QE shall be excluded in the partial QE. The partial QE must be attempted on the next available date of exam. The amount of time available for each problem is the same as for the full QE but a pass requires 70% in each of the subjects attempted. Though the questions in the QE are at an advanced undergraduate level, it is recommended that before attempting a partial QE in a specific area, the student has completed a graduate level course offered by the department in that area.

Alternative assessment:
If a student has made two good faith efforts at the written QE (defined as scoring 40% or more in the full QE, or 40% or more in one full QE and 50% or more in a partial QE), but has not yet passed, the exam committee in consultation with the student and student’s advisor can recommend an alternative assessment, which is an oral exam. This option of alternative assessment is available only when two good faith efforts as defined have been made and requires constituting a special 4 -member committee from the faculty in the department. The student’s faculty mentor can serve as an ex-officio non-voting observer of the committee but cannot take part in the decision process.

The oral exam is based on a presentation which has two distinct parts: one on the research topic in which the student wishes to pursue their PhD, and the other based on an article at the level of the American Journal of Physics, in the area where the student needs most improvement. As in the case of partial QE, it is recommended that the student has completed a graduate level course offered by the department in the area where most improvement is needed before taking alternative assessment in that area. The paper for presentation in this area is decided by the special committee. The student is given 3 weeks to prepare for the oral exam. The oral exam will consist of questions on the presentation but can also include more general questions, allowing the faculty to judge the knowledge and understanding of all core subjects in QE. This is a pass/fail exam as judged by the committee.

General Examination

The second tier of the exam system is the General Exam. This is an oral examination administered by the student's Dissertation Committee and is usually should be completed by the end of the student's fourth year, though it is greatly to the student's advantage to complete it sooner. Note that some travel awards are only available after the General Exam is completed. The General Exam can occur only after the student passes the Qualifying Exam, and should occur approximately one year later.

The General Exam consists of two parts:

  1. An oral assessment of general knowledge in the student's area of study. This comes in the form of questions from the committee answered by the student.
  2. An oral presentation and defense of a written thesis proposal.

The results of the General Exam are reported to the graduate college.

Doctoral Final Examination / Oral Dissertation Defense

The Doctoral Final Examination for the Ph.D. (a.k.a. "defense") comprises written and oral components. A comprehensive dissertation will be written on the student's original research work and submitted to the student's dissertation committee several weeks before the oral exam.  The latter is confined for the most part to areas pertaining closely to the student's dissertation. However, some questions of the general character may be asked and, as a tradition, any question whatsoever is allowed. Further information is provided below under "Research".

Masters Final Examinations

In the final semester of study, a student pursuing a terminal MS degree using the non-thesis option must pass the MS Comprehensive Final Exam administered according to the guidelines in the LSU General Catalog. For a student obtaining a thesis master's degree, this oral exam will be replaced by the thesis defense. A student will be allowed to take the MS Comprehensive Final Exam only if they have passed the Qualifying Exam at the master's level.

The format of the MS comprehensive Final Exam should be discussed with the Department Graduate Advisor and the chair of the student's examining committee. Commonly the student will give a presentation of a journal article approved by the committee. The examining committee will ask the student questions about this article as well as about the physics relevant to it. In some cases, a student may present research work done at LSU while in graduate school instead of the journal article, provided this alternative has been approved beforehand by the head of the examining committee. The MS Comprehensive Final Exam must be scheduled during the spring, summer or fall semesters; it cannot be scheduled between semesters.

Students who seek the MS degree enroute to their Ph.D. degree can use their General Examination as a substitute for the MS Comprehensive Final Exam. It is necessary to submit a separate request for each on two different forms (with the same date and time). If they wish to obtain the MS degree before this point, they must follow all the procedures outlined above for the non-thesis option, including specifically the requirement of 36 hours of coursework (not including PHYS 8000 or 9000) and the MS Comprehensive Final Exam.


By the time of passing the General Examination, a student should have begun a concentrated research effort under the supervision of a selected major professor who has agreed to serve as the student's research director and faculty advisor. The student is responsible for producing a meaningful, original contribution to the field of his/her research.

Within one year after passing the General Examination, the student should meet with their Thesis Committee to review progress in courses and in research. After that, during the time a student is involved with their dissertation research, they and their major professor will assess the progress of the student's work at the end of each academic year. If it is decided by a student's committee that they are not making satisfactory progress in their research, the committee will present the student with a formal written notice to this effect, and financial aid may be terminated. The committee will make recommendations to the student and to the department head concerning the resolution of the problem. (A possible recommendation is that the student should be dropped from the PhD program).

It is a departmental degree requirement that a major part of the results of the dissertation research must have been accepted for publication in an appropriate refereed professional journal. The student must also produce a PhD dissertation that clearly describes their research work in a manner that complies with the instructions of the Graduate School and with high scholastic and professional standards (See the A.P.S. Style Manual and the Graduate School's instructions for dissertation preparation). The dissertation must be submitted to the student's committee at least two weeks prior to the final dissertation oral examination (which the department will arrange upon request). After the examination, the committee may accept or reject the dissertation, or may require modifications of it. Except for minor ones, modifications may require resubmission of the dissertation and/or a retake of the oral exam. In any case, it is a degree requirement that the dissertation that is defended by the student in the oral examination be in essentially its final form. It must be approved by the student's committee (with no more than one dissension). Committee dissatisfaction with one's dissertation usually may be avoided by sufficient consultation with the committee members during the preparation of the dissertation.

Once the dissertation has been approved by the student's committee, it may be submitted to the Graduate School in partial fulfillment of degree requirements. Students who wish to graduate at the end of a given term must take responsibility for meeting the corresponding deadlines specified in the academic calendar. Note in particular that the format of the dissertation must be approved by the dissertation editor in the Graduate School, and that this could require significant modification.


This is an entirely optional LaTeX style file plus template for Physics and Astronomy dissertations at LSU. You are welcome to use other templates.

The goals are i) to predefine settings that comply with LSU's dissertation formatting guide, and ii)
incorporate some accessibility features.

Using this template should make it easier to satisfy the graduate school's regulations, but does not substitute for reading them
yourself. You should be familiar with the processes and requirements at:

Theses & Dissertations

and in particular the "Formatting Guidelines for Theses and Dissertations" document linked there.

The template package can be downloaded here template file. It includes a README file with further documentation.

Please direct any questions to Robert Hynes (

Appendix A

A Guide to Graduate Studies in Astronomy and Astrophysics (Leading to the PhD in Physics)

Students wishing to pursue their graduate studies in the areas of Astronomy and Astrophysics may do so within the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Upon successful completion of their program of study, the student will receive a PhD in Physics. Such students are required to satisfy the requirements given above in this document.

No formal background in undergraduate astronomy is required. However, a new student should have a working knowledge of the basic facts and terminology of astronomy such as that found in most elementary textbooks.

Students are expected to master material covered in the basic graduate-level astronomy and astrophysics courses. Among the advanced elective courses required of all graduate students, astronomy and astrophysics students are expected to take these four courses:

  • ASTR 7741, 7742 - Stellar Astrophysics I, II,
  • ASTR 7751, 7752 - Galactic Astrophysics I, II.

Additionally, they should substitute ASTR 7361 Astrophysics Laboratory for the Graduate Laboratory and are strongly recommended to participate in ASTR 777 Astrophysics Seminar. Selected other courses are offered when the opportunity arises such as ASTR 4750 Computational Astrophysics.

Appendix B

A Guide to Graduate Studies in Medical and Health Physics (Leading to the Masters Degree in Physics)

To meet the demand of hospitals and industry for trained medical physicists and health physicists, the LSU Department of Physics and Astronomy offers graduate degrees in Medical Physics and Health Physics. The Master of Science in Medical Physics and Health Physics degree program is oriented toward professional training, and students graduating from the program are well prepared to enter a medical physics residency program or health physics employment, respectively, and for future board certification exams. For those interested in academic research and teaching in medical physics, the Department also offers a Medical Physics concentration within the PhD degree. Those receiving a PhD (Medical Physics concentration) are well prepared for a post-doctoral position and/or medical physics residency program, as well as future board certification exams.

Masters degree students spend one year in the classroom learning the fundamentals of medical and health physics, radiation biology, and human anatomy. Next, they learn to apply the knowledge gained in the classroom. Medical physics students take additional courses in medical physics and receive clinical training and experience in radiation therapy physics by working side-by-side with medical physicists, medical dosimetrists, and radiation oncologists at Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center. Students in the health physics concentration take additional courses in applied nuclear science to prepare them for careers at hospitals, industrial companies, national laboratories, and government agencies that use or regulate radiation sources.

PhD students complete advanced coursework and research training to prepare them for a career in academic research and teaching, as well as clinical physics.

Masters degree students in both the medical physics and health physics concentrations are required to complete a thesis based on hypothesis-driven research. Thesis research typically begins at the end of the first year and should be completed by the Spring semester of the third year, in time for the common July 1 residency start dates. The thesis is expected to be of appropriate quality for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.  PhD students complete a research project for their doctoral dissertation, as well as other metrics such as the medical physics PhD Qualifying Exam, General Exam, and Final Defense.  The dissertation must be of appropriate quality for publication in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Details of the program can be found in the Medical Physics website. The website includes information for prospective students regarding admissions and for current students regarding policies and procedures.

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