Physics Program Descriptions | Physics | SIU

Southern Illinois University



College of Agriculture, Life and Physical Sciences

Physics Program Descriptions

Physics BS

Physics MS

Physics PhD

Physics BS Program


The undergraduate major in physics leading to the Bachelor of Science degree provides for a mastery of basic principles and methods of classical and modern physics and prepares the student for a wide variety of career opportunities. The SIUC physics department offers a BS degree in general physics or the option to specialize in Computational Physics, Materials Science / Nanophysics, or Biomedical Physics. A degree in physics can lead to a challenging and interesting career. Physics as a profession has always been at the center of exciting discoveries, and much of modern science is originally based on the research done by physicists.

The Physics Department at SIUC offers a first-rate undergraduate program in physics. Individual attention is provided to physics majors. We offer laboratory courses in advanced lab methods, modern physics, lasers, and modern optics. Most importantly, the Department of Physics is research-oriented with all of its faculty active in research. Participation by advanced undergraduates in the research program of a faculty member is encouraged and can be very useful to students, providing them with technical skills not available through formal coursework and giving them a taste of real physics. Our undergraduates can participate in experimental projects in such areas as low-temperature physics, surface physics, applied physics, material physics, fluid physics, super-conductivity, magnetism, synchrotron radiation, infrared spectroscopy, and electron paramagnetic resonance. For those students who have an interest in theoretical physic, research projects are available in high-interest areas such as quantum physics, solid state physics, atomic and molecular physics, computational physics, statistical mechanics and nuclear physics.

Employment opportunities in physics are varied and abundant, from industrial research and development to teaching. Physicists are employed in all sectors of society, including corporations, government research agencies and universities. Physicists are presently enjoying unusual opportunities in the development of new concepts that are expected to have far-reaching consequences in the high technology of the future. Totally new applications are arising from understanding basic physics principles. Some of these emerging technologies include laser communications, holography, synchrotron radiation light sources, opto-electronics, high temperature superconductors and physic applications in medicine. At a time when technological developments and discoveries are creating a heavy demand for physicists, projections indicate the possibility of a critical shortage of trained physicists. Students considering a major in physics are urged to consult with the undergraduate advisor of the physics department or with the department chair.  See About SIU Physics for contact information.

Physics MS Program


The Department of Physics offers graduate work leading to the Masters of Science degree with a major in physics. The program is two years in length with a thesis requirement. SIUC Physics is a unique program in that it provides many research opportunities within the department offering students a wide choice of specific areas of study. A low student to faculty ratio allows students to work closely with faculty.

Course work requirements

In addition to the general requirements of the Graduate School, the student must complete PHYS 500a (or mathmatecis equivalent), 510, 520a,b, and 530a,b.

For specific requirements, see the physics section of the current graduate catalog.

Physics PhD Program

Program of Study

The Department of Physics offers graduate work leading to the Ph.D. in applied physics. This unique program, begun in 2005, provides many research opportunities within the department, offering students a wide choice of specific areas of study. A low student-to-faculty ratio allows students to work closely with faculty. More information, including specific degree requirements, can be found in the physics section of the current graduate catalog.

Financial Aid

Assistantships for the academic year are offered to every selected applicant. An assistantship guarantees employment and includes a waiver of tuition (except for student fees). Incoming graduate students are teaching assistants or research assistants. In addition to teaching assistantships, other sources of financial assistance include: fellowships, scholarships, loans, and work-study programs.


Candidates should have a minimum GPA of 2.7 for admission into the Master’s degree program and a minimum of 3.25 for admission into the doctoral program. The GRE is required for the Ph. D. applicants and strongly recommended for the M. S. degree applicants. See the application page for details.

Degree Requirements

In addition to completing all the requirements set by the Graduate School, the student must complete a sequence of Required Basic Core courses that includes: Classical Mechanics, Quantum Mechanics, Electromagnetic Theory, Statistical Mechanics and Solid State Physics; in addition, students are required to complete one additional course from a list that includes: Computational Physics, Scanning Electron Microscopy, Transmission Electron Microscopy, Adv. Topics in Surface Physics, Adv. Topics in Magnetism and Magnetic Materials, Adv. Topics in Quantum Computing, Adv. Topics in Applied Physics, Adv. Topics in the Spectroscopy of Materials or Adv. Topics in the Physics of Hybrid Materials.

After completing the Required Basic Core courses, doctoral students will need to complete another 9 credit hours of graduate level elective courses selected from a list approved by the Department.

Starting no later than the third semester in the doctoral program, students will be required to enroll for two consecutive semesters in a Special Projects in Physics course.

In addition to the above-described course-work, while working on their dissertation students must complete 24 credit hours of Physics 600 (Dissertation).

To be admitted into candidacy, students must pass a Qualifying Examination which must be taken no later than during the third semester in the program.

No later than six months after admission to candidacy the student must request the appointment of a dissertation committee. Within two months after its formation, the student must present the dissertation committee with a written dissertation proposal, and must also describe this proposal to the committee in an oral presentation.

Upon completion of the dissertation, the dissertation committee will administer a final oral examination, the dissertation defense.