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Ph.D. Astronomy Track


The normal prerequisite for admission to the graduate program is the successful completion of a BS degree with a major in physics, astronomy or a closely related field with a GPA of at least 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale). The undergraduate course work is expected to include junior/senior level physics courses in mechanics, thermal physics, electricity and magnetism, quantum mechanics; mathematics courses through differential equations; and a course or experience in computer programming. Additional courses in mathematics including advanced calculus and linear algebra, and senior level physics courses such as modern optics, atomic and nuclear physics, or solid state physics are desirable. Students who do not have the equivalents of the above may take the courses at TCU prior to entering the graduate core courses.

Advising and Orientation 

The graduate advisor meets with each entering graduate student to plan the first semester courses. In order to select a research area, students are encouraged to discuss current research interests with each faculty member during the fall semester. As soon as the student has chosen a dissertation research area an advisory committee is appointed, which is chaired by the student’s major professor directing the student’s research.


Completion of the following courses (normally during the first two years of graduate study) with an average grade of 2.75 or better:
PHYS 60743, Astrophysics
PHYS 60303, Quantum Mechanics I
PHYS 60403, Electrodynamics I

Plus three from the following:
PHYS 60203 Classical Mechanics
PHYS 60313, Quantum Mechanic II
PHYS 60413, Electrodynamics II
PHYS 60603, Statistical Physics

Completion of a minimum of 9 hours of research with an average grade of 2.75 or better: PHYS 60870, Research Problems in Astronomy.

PHYS 70743, Advanced Topics in Astrophysics, may also be required as preparation for dissertation research.

Additional course work may be required to ensure adequate preparation for the specified core courses. The course requirements for any course other than Research Problems, PHYS 60970 or 60870 may also be met by satisfactory performance on a written examination or by transfer of credit in an equivalent course from another institution.

Each fulltime student is required to participate in graduate seminars. There is no language requirement for the Ph.D. degree.

Teaching Requirement

Each fulltime graduate student pursuing a degree in physics is required to participate in the undergraduate teaching function of the department. Faculty are committed to effective teaching and believe that experience in the teaching of physics is an integral part of graduate education. This requirement is met by assisting in undergraduate labs, giving laboratory instructions, grading papers, conducting problems sessions, or offering tutorial help. The assignment varies depending on the interest and experience of the student and the degree of involvement in thesis or dissertation research, and usually amounts to no more than 10 hours per week.

Predissertation qualifying exam 

This exam, which is normally taken during the fourth semester of graduate study, consists of three parts:

  • An acceptable written report concerning either research completed at TCU or a proposal for the dissertation research including a description of any research already completed. The written report must be submitted to the graduate faculty of the department at least two weeks prior to the oral exam. Details on the required format for the report are available from the department.
  • An oral presentation at a physics and astronomy department colloquium, usually on the subject of the written report
  • A comprehensive oral exam administered by the graduate faculty of the department to assess a student’s preparation in basic physics and readiness to carry out the dissertation research.

If the graduate faculty of the department attach a condition to passing the predissertation exam, (e.g. revision of the predissertation report or submission of additional material), the additional work must be completed by a specified deadline. The removal of the condition is subject to the approval of the graduate faculty.

The predissertation qualifying exam, in whole or in part, may be repeated once. Students who do not pass the exam are encouraged to complete the requirements for a MS degree if they have not already done so.


Completion of a dissertation consisting of an original research project directed by a faculty member at TCU. Six hours of each of PHYS 90980 and 90990, are required. A final oral exam in defense of the dissertation is required and a paper based on the dissertation research must be submitted for publication in an appropriate scientific journal.