Physics and Astronomy, PhD

The University of Pennsylvania Department of Physics and Astronomy is a world-leading institution that generally is regarded as among the very best places for graduate students to obtain a PhD. Graduate students at Penn combine a short term of coursework with independent, original research that forms the basis of their dissertation and typically their first publications. A rich program of seminars and colloquia by invited speakers from across the world supplements what students learn in classes and during their research activities. 

Primary research areas include outstanding theoretical and experimental work in both hard and soft condensed matter physics, often done in conjunction with other schools and departments at Penn, with some laboratories located in Penn's Singh Center for Nanotechnology and the Laboratory for Research into the Structure of Matter. Biophysics at Penn is also divided amongst advanced theoretical work and hands-on laboratory work, and encompasses both complex networking theories and some of the exotic optics of biological systems.

Our Astrophysics and Cosmology groups explore the structure and evolution of the Universe, perform searches for exoplanets, and study galaxy formation. Efforts in cosmology include theoretical models for the acceleration of the Universe and the properties of dark matter, observations of the structure of the Universe and studies of dark matter using gravitational lensing with the Dark Energy Survey and eventually the Large-aperture Synoptic Survey Telescope, and studies of the cosmic microwave background with telescopes in places like the Chilean Andes and the South Pole. Our effort in nuclear and particle physics also spans both fundamental theoretical work such as string theory, as well as experimental work at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and various neutrino experiments across the world. Collider efforts include studies of the recently-discovered Higgs boson as well as searches for supersymmetry, and our neutrino work includes searches for Majorana neutrinos and CP violation in neutrino oscillations.

Our experimental nuclear and particle physics effort makes extensive use of Penn's world-class instrumentation group, giving students the ability to explore creative new ideas in both hardware and in their data analysis work.

View the University’s Academic Rules for PhD Programs.

Required Courses

The total course units required for graduation is 20.

Core Requirements
PHYS 5500Mathematical Methods of Physics1
PHYS 5516Electromagnetic Phenomena1
PHYS 5531Quantum Mechanics I1
PHYS 5532Quantum Mechanics II1
PHYS 6611Statistical Mechanics1
Select an additional 15 course units 115
Total Course Units20

One course must be outside the student's field of specialization.

Up to 11 course units can come from independent research or reading courses.

The degree and major requirements displayed are intended as a guide for students entering in the Fall of 2024 and later. Students should consult with their academic program regarding final certifications and requirements for graduation.