The Department of Physics is dedicated to advancing the forefronts of knowledge in both pure and applied physics, thus providing an exciting intellectual climate for our graduate students. The research activities or our over 40 research faculty members include astrophysics (particle astrophysics, gravitation and cosmology), condensed matter and materials physics (experimental, theoretical and computational), low temperature physics, elementary particle physics (experimental and theoretical) and biological physics. With such diversity in research offerings all of our 120+ graduate students will have an opportunity to pursue research in many areas of contemporary physics. We are committed to designing a program of graduate study that is tailored to your experience and interests. Our Graduate Coordinator sees that all of our graduate students receives personal attention and advice as they progress toward their advanced degree.

The following table displays the ‘standard’ schedule for a graduate student in our program. This schedule assumes the student enters our program with a bachelor of science in physics and continues to make satisfactory progress towards his degree. Many of our students do not follow this standard path anymore and enter with a masters or diploma or transfer from a different university. Some students might encounter problems along the way. In all these cases, the graduate coordinator will work with the student and adjust the schedule as long as the overall progress continues to be satisfactory.

Year Required Activity Required
Year 1 Preliminary exam
Core Courses
Explore research opportunities
Pass latest early Spring of second year GPA > 3.3 (B+ average)
Year 2 Additional course work
Find research group
Meet distribution requirements Form supervisory committee
Year 3 Qualifying Exam Two attempts allowed Pass latest in Year 4
Year 4+ Annual meetings with supervisory committee Satisfactory progress
Final year Final exam Two attempts allowed


A set of minimal rules and regulations are defined by the graduate school and supersede college and department rules and regulations. Additional rules and regulations are defined by the college and supersede department rules and regulations. Furthermore, the department is allowed to impose additional requirements for their graduate program. The following text is for information purposes only and we do our best to update the text as rules and regulations at the upper levels change. Unfortunately we can not guarantee that this text is always up to date. If in doubt, contact our program assistant or the graduate coordinator if you any questions. See frequently asked questions for more information.

PRELIMINARY EXAM (Department requirement)

The purpose of the Preliminary Examination is to assess the student's preparation for working toward an advanced degree. This Examination covers material typical of an undergraduate physics major curriculum. The performance needed to pass the Examination is intended to correspond to a mature command of such a curriculum. The preliminary exam committee currently chaired by Prof. Obhukov is responsible for the exam.

The Preliminary Examination is given in mid-August and early January every year. The exact dates are arranged to be at or near the start of classes and are advertised on the Departments webpages.

Each student, including all the incoming students, are expected to take this exam every time it is offered unless a passing grade has already been achieved. The Ph.D. and M.S. degrees require that this exam is passed before the end of the second year in our graduate program. This page contains information on the Preliminary Exam Bibliography and Requirements for Graduate Degrees in the Department of Physics.

Previous Preliminary Exams


This listing is to provide a bibliography that might be reviewed prior to taking the Preliminary Examination. The advanced courses required for UF majors are listed, along with present (or recent) textbooks that have been used during the courses. In many cases, numerous textbooks are available at the same level of presentation. This listing is only to provide a guide. The textbook for our introductory course is Physics 1 & 2, 4th Edition, Resnick, Halliday, Krane, and it is assumed that you have a comprehensive knowledge of the material present in this textbook (or its equivalent).

Reminder: The Preliminary Examination contains 12 questions/problems that will consist, in general terms, of 2 in classical mechanics, 2 in statistical mechanics and thermodynamics, 3 in quantum mechanics, and 3 in electromagnetism. The remaining 2 problems may be generated from any area of physics that is studied in a typical undergraduate program. In addition, the problems might not be specifically described as related to one area of physics, but they may be a synthesis of several subjects.

Classical Mechanics (PHY3221 and PHY4222)
Classical Dynamics of Particles and Systems, 5th Edition, Thornton and Marion
Classical Mechanics: A Modern Perspective, 2nd Edition, Barger and Olsson

Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics (PHY3521 and PHY4523)
Introductory Statistical Mechanics, Bowley and Sanchez
Fundamentals of Statistical and Thermal Physics, Reif
Thermodynamics and An Introduction to Thermostatistics, 2nd Edition, Callen
Thermal Physics, Kittel and Kroemer
Heat and Thermodynamics, Zemansky and Dittman

Electromagnetism (PHY3323 and PHY4324)
Introduction to Electrodynamics, 3rd Edition, Griffiths

Quantum Mechanics (PHY4604 and PHY4605)
Quantum Mechanics, Vol 1 and 2, Cohen-Tannoudji
Quantum Physics, Gasiorowicz

Optics (PHY4422)
Optics, Hecht
Optics, Klein and Furtak

Modern Physics (PHY3101)
Modern Physics, 4th Edition, Tipler and Llewellyn
Modern Physics, Ohanian
Concepts of Modern Physics, 4th Edition, Beiser

Laboratory Physics (PHY4802L and PHY4803L)
The Art of Electronics, Horowitz and Hill
Experimental Physics: Modern Methods, Dunlap

CORE COURSES (Department requirement)

The following courses are core courses:

Fall Courses Spring Courses
PHY 6246 Classical Mechanics PHY 6347 Electromagnetic Theory II
PHY 6346 Electromagnetic Theory I PHY 6536 Statistical Mechanics
PHY 6645 Quantum Mechanics I PHY 6646 Quantum Mechanics II

All students have to pass each core course unless it is waived by the graduate coordinator (see exceptions below). The student has to achieve a GPA in these courses of 3.33 (B+ average) or higher by the end of the second year.

Note that graduate school requires that each graduate student maintains a >3.0 GPA throughout his/her career.

Some Exceptions regarding the core courses

  • Some T.A.’s need to take ENS 5502 (English class) in order to teach. These students cannot obtain a “fee-waiver” for more than 9 credits, and cannot register for all 3 core courses. They will typically take PHY 6346 (EM I) and PHY 6645 (QM I) in the first year and should plan to take PHY 6246 (CM) in the fall of their second year. However, if the students GPA after the spring semester is high enough, the graduate coordinator might waive the requirement for PHY 6246.
  • Three core courses require a lot of work and some students might not feel prepared enough to take all three courses in one semester. They should discuss this with the graduate coordinator and consider taking only two core courses and a third less demanding course.
  • Some students transfer from other universities where they have taken similar courses before. The graduate coordinator might waive a subset of the core courses for these students if they fulfill certain conditions. These conditions will be set by the coordinator after a discussion with the student.

Additional course work (Department requirement)

The student is required to take at least three advanced level courses (3 credit courses at 6000-level or higher). Two of these courses have to cover two different subfields of physics as defined by the first four columns in table 1; note that not all courses are listed in the table. A third course can be from a third subfield, from a different relevant discipline, or from an already covered subfield but it has to address a different aspect of that subfield. As always exceptions can be made but require prior approval from the graduate coordinator.

Distribution requirements/subfields

Fundamental and Particle Physics Condensed Matter Physics Gravitation Special Topics (Examples)   Courses in related fields (Examples)
6648 QFT I 6426 Solid State I 6607 Special and General Relativity 6555C Cryogenics   MAP 6506 Mathematical Methods for Physics and Engineering
7669 QFT II 7427 Solid State II 7608 Special and General Relativity II 7097 Quantum Optics   EEE6397 Semiconductor Device Theory I
6355 Elementary Particle Physics I 7428 Modern Condensed Matter 7097 Inflationary Cosmology 7097 Introduction to Biological Physics   STA 5325 Fundamentals of Probability
6358 Standard Model I 7429 Phases of Condensed Matter   6156 Computer Methods in Physics   STA 5328 Fundamentals in Statistical Theory
7357 Elementary Particle Physics II 7097 Advanced Topic in Condensed Matter   6247 Chemical Physics    
7359 Standard Model II 7097 Optical effects in Solids   6166 Qualitative Methods of Theoretical Physics    


In general, as the years go by, students register for fewer lecture courses. Their 9 credit hours are then filled either by seminar courses or by “advanced research” type courses. First year students who have no advisor are recommended to fill any holes in their schedules the first two semesters with three, 1-credit seminar or colloquium courses. Once students have advisors, students need to register for one of the following course numbers:
  • PHY 6905 Individual Work (Max. 4 credits per semester) letter grade awarded
  • PHY 6910 Supervised Research (Max. 5 credits)
  • PHY 6971 Master’s Research. This is for students moving to an M.S. with thesis
  • PHY 7979 Advanced Research (no limit on credits). This is the standard “research” course for students before they pass the qualifying exam.
  • PHY 7980 Doctoral Research. This is the standard “research” course for students after they pass the qualifying exam.


The student should explore research opportunities within the Department as early as possible. This is the responsibility of the student and requires that the student is pro-active but there are several ways to explore all options:
  • The department plans to establish a student seminar where all senior graduate students will give roughly one presentation per year. The audience for these talks are our more senior graduate students and the speaker is expected to start with background material understandable to all students. Following each talk, all students have the opportunity to ask questions as well.
  • The student should talk to faculty members about their research and also talk with the more senior graduate students about their experience.
  • The department will provide a webpage with open research positions which will help you with your search. Note that not all opportunities will be listed on the website; not all groups will always report all open positions and some opportunities might evolve out of a discussion between the student and the advisor.
During year two, the main point of contact for the student should slowly shift from the graduate coordinator to her/his research supervisor. Once a relationship between the student and the supervisor has been established, the student should start forming the supervisory committee.

SUPERVISORY COMMITTEE (SC) (Graduate school requirement)

The SC is chaired by the research supervisor of the student. The SC has to have four members. Two of these members have to be members of the Department of Physics. One of the other two members has to be external to the department which excludes all affiliated members as well. The forth member can be from physics or any other department of the university. However, the graduate coordinator has to approve the composition of the committee.

The student meets with the SC at least on an annual basis. Typically, the first meeting is the qualifying exam where the student presents his research proposal and his initial results. The last meeting will be the final exam. The other meetings should be used to discuss the progress, develop plans and set milestones to guide the student towards the PhD.

Qualifying exam: Although the specific requirements vary for each sub-field, the general requirements are a written part and an oral part. The written part is typically 10 to 15 double spaced pages of text and figures that describe the student's knowledge of the field, progress to date, and proposed thesis topic. The written part should be submitted to the supervising committee at least ten days before the oral examination is scheduled. For the oral examination the student and the chair have to be present. All other members of the committee can participate remotely. The Chair and the external member can not be substituted. The oral part has to include a 15 to 30 minute description of what the student proposes for a thesis topic. The Supervisory Committee may ask a variety of questions to explore the student's preparation for advanced research and to evaluate the appropriateness of the proposed project.

The qualifying meeting has to be announced via email to the entire department and should also appear at least a week in advance on the department website. Forms for the qualifying exam are available from Pam Marlin.

Dissertation and final exam:

The submission of a dissertation is a fairly complex process which include several deadlines imposed by graduate school and the editorial office of the University. Let the graduate student assistant know at the beginning of the semester if you plan to graduate this semester. Note that this is not binding. Pam Marlin will let you know what process you have to follow. It is your responsibility to follow these instructions.

Final exam: The final meeting has to be announced via email to the entire department and should also appear at least a week in advance on the department website. Forms for the qualifying exam are available from Pam Marlin. For the final meeting the student and the chair have to be present. All other members of the committee can participate remotely. The Chair and the external member can not be substituted.

Annual meetings: Consistent with the goals of the annual meeting, while all members of the committee should be invited in a timely manner, only the student, the chair and at least two more members of the committee have to be present. The chair of the committee will write a report of the meeting which includes a summary, evaluation of the students progress, and recommendations from the committee. The evaluation will act as the formal justification for the research grades (7979, 7980) given by the students advisor during the regular semester. The report has to be signed by the entire committee (including the members who were not present), the graduate coordinator, and the student himself. Download Annual Committee Meeting form (doc).