open search form

About physics graduate studies

The physics option offers a program leading to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. This program prepares students for careers in scientific research or research combined with teaching, and so its most important part is independent research. Courses are offered that give a broad treatment of both fundamental physics and specialized physics research topics. These are intended both to help a beginning graduate student prepare for research and to broaden an advanced student's knowledge of physics. Caltech research opportunities include elementary particle physics, nuclear physics, cosmic-ray, gamma-ray, and X-ray astronomy, submillimeter astronomy, condensed-matter physics, atomic/molecular/ optical physics, quantum information, applied physics, gravitational physics, cosmology, astrophysics, mathematical physics, biophysics, and theoretical physics. A Master of Science degree may be awarded upon completion of a program of courses. Students are not normally admitted to work toward the M.S. in physics unless they are also working toward a Ph.D.

An advanced degree in physics at Caltech is contingent upon an extensive research achievement. Students in the program are expected to join a research group, carry out independent research, write publications for peer-reviewed journals as well as a thesis. The thesis work is then presented and evaluated by a Caltech thesis committee in a public defense. Initially, students are required to consolidate their knowledge by taking advanced courses in at least three subfields of physics. Students must also pass a written candidacy exam in both classical physics and quantum mechanics in order to progress into the research phase of the degree.

Graduates of our program are expected to have extensive experience with modern research methods, a broad knowledge of contemporary physics, and the ability to perform as independent researchers at the highest intellectual and technical levels.