UMass Boston

Applied Physics PhD

Pursue the highest level of academic expertise in applied physics.

UMass Boston's Applied Physics PhD program is for current UMass Boston Applied Physics master's students who want to earn a PhD. Since the early 1980s, long before it became fashionable, UMass Boston's Physics Department has offered a terminal master's degree in applied physics. Because of the match between the skills taught in that program and the needs of employers in the technology sector of the economy, the MS program has grown to become one of the largest and most successful terminal master's programs in the country. Over the last couple of decades, the research profile of the UMass Boston Physics Department has developed to the point where it became desirable to include the option of continuing on to a PhD for some of our master's students.

Because of this history, the Applied Physics PhD has a structure that is distinct from other programs. All students must apply to the Applied Physics MS program, even if they already have a master's degree. Students who already hold a master's degree may receive transfer credits for some of their previous coursework.

Where it makes sense to extend from a master's thesis into a doctoral dissertation, students in the master's program who develop a research relationship with a faculty member are transferred into the PhD upon successful completion of a portion of the Qualifying Exam. In rare cases, where a student enters with an existing relationship with a faculty member, and where they have sufficiently strong preparation to pass qualifiers upon entrance into the master's program, those students will be advanced into the PhD after their first semester.

Plan Your Education

How to Apply

Students who enroll in the Applied Physics MS program may, upon completion of MS degree requirements, potentially transition to the PhD program upon successful completion of PhD qualifying exams. External applicants who already hold an equivalent MS degree and are interested in applying directly to the PhD program are encouraged to contact the program.

Deadlines & Cost

All students must apply to the Applied Physics MS program, even if they already have a master's degree. Students who already hold a master's degree may receive transfer credits for some of their previous coursework.


Course Requirements

Core Courses (16 Credits)

Complete the courses below if not already taken as part of the MS degree.

Courses may be waived if the student passes the corresponding examination section prior to enrolling in the course.

  • PHYSIC 611 - Theory of Classical Mechanics and Fluid Mechanics 4 Credit(s)
  • PHYSIC 612 - Electromagnetic Theory 4 Credit(s)
  • PHYSIC 613 - Quantum Mechanics, Atomic, and Molecular Physics 4 Credit(s)
  • PHYSIC 614 - Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics 4 Credit(s)

Electives (32 Credits)

Complete eight from below.

Courses already completed for the MS may be applied toward this requirement.

  • PHYSIC 600 - Electronic Instrumentation I: Analog 4 Credit(s)
  • PHYSIC 601 - Electronic Instrumentation II: Digital 4 Credit(s)
  • PHYSIC 602 - Laser Optics Laboratory 4 Credit(s)
  • PHYSIC 607 - Experiments in Squishy Physics 4 Credit(s)
  • PHYSIC 610 - Topics in Medical Imaging 4 Credit(s)
  • PHYSIC 616 - Mathematical Methods for Physicists 4 Credit(s)
  • PHYSIC 623 - Quantum Mechanics: Scattering and Many-Body Physics 4 Credit(s)
  • PHYSIC 632 - Advanced Laser Optics (with Lab) 4 Credit(s)
  • PHYSIC 635 - Physics on the Back of an Envelope (Estimation in Physics) 4 Credit(s)
  • PHYSIC 638 - Quantum Measurement Theory 4 Credit(s)
  • PHYSIC 645 - Cancer Biophysics 4 Credit(s)
  • PHYSIC 662 - Computational Science 4 Credit(s)
  • PHYSIC 680 - Readings in Physics 3-6 Credit(s)
  • PHYSIC 690 - Projects in Physics 3-6 Credit(s)
  • PHYSIC 697 - Special Topics in Applied Physics 1-8 Credit(s)

Dissertation (24 Credits)

  • PHYSIC 899 - Doctoral Dissertation Research 1-15 Credit(s)

Graduation Criteria

Complete 72 credits from 18 courses, including four core courses, eight electives, and 24 credits of dissertation courses.

Doctoral candidacy: Completion of the foundational and lab courses of the MS program and passage of written comprehensive examinations and an oral candidacy examination.
Dissertation: Compose and defend a dissertation based on independent experimental or theoretical research. For students who have already published at least one peer reviewed article in a high impact journal, their published work may be used in place of a dissertation at the discretion of the committee and graduate program director, though an oral defense is still required.

Statute of limitations: Eight years.


Graduate Program Director Jonathan Celli
jonathan.celli [at]
(617) 287-5715

Administrative Manager Moriah Roache
moriah.roache [at]
(617) 287-6092

2 students work with a long tube in lab.

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