Application

Incoming students

Courses, credits and exams

Master's degree, exchange students, visiting students

Advancement to candidacy, research, Ph.D. defense


Application

  • What are the admission requirements?
    • A bachelorís degree in physics or a closely related field from an accredited institution;
    • A minimum grade average of B in all undergraduate coursework, and at least B in each of the science and mathematics courses;
    • Submission of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test (the Physics GRE subject test is also recommended);
    • Admission by the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Graduate School.
    In special cases, a student not meeting the first two requirements may be admitted on a provisional basis. Upon admission, the student will be informed of the requirements that must be satisfied for termination of provisional status.
  • Where should I apply?
    Only online applications are accepted. Please follow the instructions on this link:
    The first step is to create an account.
  • What should be sent with the application?
    Fill out the form online. Before filling out the online application, follow the link on the main WEB page, and read the "Application Instructions". We can access the application only if the fee is paid.
    • Three letters of recommendation which should be submitted online.
    • Please upload an electronic copy of your transcripts via the application website. Only applications for which the transcipt has been uploaded to Applyyourself will be considered. We will request two paper copies of your transcript, which should be submitted by your school(s), only after you have been admitted.
    • The general GRE test is required. The physics GRE is strongly recommended. These test results should be transmitted directly by the ETS to the graduate school.
    • Scores from the TOEFL (or IELTS) are required from international students (see details below). Also these test results should be transmitted directly by the ETS to the graduate school.
    Our institution code for electronic submission of TOEFL and GRE sores is 2548.
  • Can I apply so that I start in the Spring Semester?
    Yes, but admission for the Spring Semester is very limited. It is practically impossible to get financial support (a teaching assistant position) for Spring admission. Please contact the department before bothering to apply.
  • How long does it take to get a Ph.D.?
    The absolute shortest time is a little bit more that one year, since students must advance to candidacy at least one year before the beginning of the semester in which they plan to defend their dissertation. In reality, 3 years is considered very short. Five years is typical. Seven years is a time limit set by the Graduate School. It is possible to apply for an extension, if the student is in the advanced stage of preparing a thesis, or if there was an unforeseen circumstance causing delays. The two figures on the right show how does our student population change over time. On the first figure you can see the number of Ph.D. degrees awarded each year for the past 25 years. The other figure shows the number of students entering into the Ph.D. program, and the number of students still in the department as of April, 2005.  
  • What is the deadline for submitting applications?
    We have three deadlines: January 15, February 1 and June 1. Applications received before January 15 will be considered for Graduate Council Fellowship, Turner Fellowship and possibly other fellowships administered by the University. Students from China and Korea should apply before January 15, to allow us time to set up a personal interview, if necessary, with a Committee traveling in these countries. Applications received between January 15 and February 1 will receive full consideration in the admission process, except for the cases mentioned above. Decisions will be made about all applications received before February 1 in such a way that the applicant can respond to offers of admission before the April 15 deadline established in a resolution by the Council of Graduate Schools. Late applications are accepted from February 1 to early June. These applications will be considered only if the number of admitted students is less than the target number. (Note: For the Spring semester the applications deadline is October 1. We do not take students with financial support for the Spring).
  • Can I get financial support? How much?
    All students admitted to our Department will receive financial support during their studies. Some will have grants or scholarships, but most will be supported by the University (as a teaching assistant, TA) or by research groups (as a research assistant, RA). In the fall of 2013 the 9-month TA stipend was $20,000; $20,500 for second-year students. Assuming teaching appointments during the full summer the annual salaries are $25,000 and $25,500, respectively. In the research groups the amount of support varies; the bar graph illustrates the distribution of salaries, based on Research Foundation data. The typical salary is (minimally) sufficient for maintaining an independent life.
  • How much is the tuition?
    PhD students do not pay tuition. The Department takes care of the tuition, as long as a student is registered properly.
  • What are the language requirements?
    The language requirements has been revised several times over the last year. See links at the bottom of the page to the older versions. Here is a summary of the current policies (December, 2013), applicable to the Fall 2014 admission.
    • Three TOEFL tests are accepted: paper-based, computer-based, and internet-based (iBT). The Department set the admission cut-offs for these tests as 600 (Paper), 220 (Computer), 95 (iBT).
    • We also accept IELTS, with a minimum score of 6.5 and no sub-score below 6.0.
    • Graduate School policies allow us to consider students with lower scores, 550 (Paper), 213 (Computer), 90 (iBT), 6.0 (IELTS) under exceptional circumstances. These students, if accepted, will be most likely directed to take a summer Intensive English Language course in Stony Brook (expenses paid by the student).
    • Spoken English: All doctoral students and students with a TA/GA stipend whose native language is not English must demonstrate a sufficient level of English-speaking proficiency and may be required to take ESL courses based on these measures. Proficiency is determined from the speak subsection score.

      - For IELTS and TOEFL speak subsection scores, please see the chart below

      TOEFL iBT SpeakIELTS SpeakSBU Campus SPEAKCourse RequirementResult
      25-30 7.5 or higher 55+ none Eligible to TA
      22-24 6.5-7 50-54 ESL 598 Eligible to TA
      19-21 6 45-49 ESL 596 Eligible to run recitation and lab sessions and/or grade
      15-18 5-5.5 40-44 ESL 591 Not eligible to TA
      Our financial support offers are based on the language scores known to the Admissions Committee and we cannot support students with an iBT Speak score of 18 or less.
    • Do not take the tests if you are a native or primary speaker of English. According to the Graduate School's policies, "A native speaker of English normally learned English as a child and uses English as his or her primary language at home and in an educational setting. A primary speaker of has developed native fluency as a result of using English in most social contexts." You may only pass as a native speaker if the language of education in your institution was English. Intentional misrepresentation by a student of his/her native language is academic dishonesty, and is grounds for dismissal from the graduate school.
  • My TOEFL was low, and I was admitted with the condition that I take the Intensive English Course in the Summer. I finished the Course. Do I need to re-take the TOEFL??
    Yes you do and have to score at least 19 on the iBT Speak test with an overall total of 90.
  • What is the typical grade point average (GPA) of the admitted students?
    The University sets the minimum GPA at 3.0. Do not apply if your GPA is below this. The average GPA of the admitted students in 2013 was about 3.5. (These numbers are on a scale where the maximum GPA is 4.0.) The Admissions Committee will look at the individual grades very carefully. A student with a lower GPA may receive serious consideration, if the science and mathematics grades are high.
  • What is your institution's code for the GRE exam?
    Educational Testing Service (ETS), the organization running the GRE exams, believes that our name is "SUNY Center Stony Brook". Our code is 2548.
  • What are the typical test score results?
    Average numbers as of 2002:
    TOEFL: 625
    GRE General Test: Verbal 560 (68th percentile), Quant 760 (91st percentile), Analytical 701 (84th percentile)
    GRE Physics: 800 (72nd percentile)
    The test was changed in 2002, and these are all "old" GRE scores. The percentiles are probably comparable. (Source: Admissions Committee Report)
    Another set of data is based on the survey made by the Graduate School for a report to the National Research Council. Here the median GRE is reported (median: separating the higher half and the lower half):
    Median GRE200320042005
    Verbal595560560
    Quantitative770800800
  • Are my test results too old?
    The TOEFL or IELTS cannot be older than 2 years. There is no strict limit for the GRE, but we prefer it to be no older than 3 years.
  • I need the application papers mailed to me. Can I get it?
    No. We do not accept paper applications. Apply on-line.
  • I cannot pay the application fee. What can I do?
    First look at the Graduate School's policies about the few cases when a fee waiver can be requested (only for US students). We receive hundreds of applications every year, and it is a substantial burden for the faculty and staff of our department to read and manage them all. The application fee covers a small fraction of the University's expenses in processing admissions. Frankly, payment of the fee also helps us understand if an applicant is serious about graduate study at Stony Brook. Perhaps you have a friend or relative in the US who could pay your fee. Apply Yourself can hold your application until a separate check for the application fee arrives; just make sure that person clearly identifies you by name, birth date, and the college from which you are applying.
  • I have only one original copy of my TOEFL and/or GRE scores. Should I send them with my application?
    There is no need to send your TOEFL and GRE scores. They will be reported electronically to the graduate school. Please enter you score in the application form. Note that we will not issue a formal letter of admission without having received your score from the testing service.
  • I want to send in my application early, but I have no grades for the Fall semester. Do you really need it?
    You may send the official transcript without the Fall grades, and send a xerox copy of the Fall grades when you get it. We will review your application; however your school must send the official transcript, with the Fall grades, directly to us before we issue a letter of admission.
  • When will I receive a response to my application?
    We receive a large number of applications in December and January; it takes some time to process all. We may admit or reject applicants any time between the application deadline and April 14. Very few cases are decided late; most applicants should hear from us before April 1.
  • Can I visit Stony Brook and the Department?
    You are welcome to visit any time, and we will do our best to help planning your trip and show you around. Once you are admitted, a limited amount of support will be available for travel reimbursement; however you must be a US citizen or a permanent resident to claim this. The best time to come is during our "visiting weekend" (which is actually a Sunday-Monday, usually in March).
  • I was admitted by your Department. What is the latest time to accept the offer?
    The written note of acceptance should be here no later than April 15. If you are not sure that the mailed note arrives in time, and sending a fax is not possible, send us an email before the deadline (we will still need the written note, but it may arrive later). If you decline our offer, also send an email, please.
  • I was admitted to Stony Brook, but I am on the waiting list at another place. Can I delay my answer to you until I know the result there?
    The April 15 deadline is established in a resolution by the Council of Graduate Schools. Accordingly, all graduate schools should give you time to make a decision about the admission offer until April 15; we certainly do so. Any graduate school that strings you along past April 15th is not seriously interested in you. Our offer for admission expires on April 15th; if we do not receive a response by that date, we assume that our offer was rejected. (Note: In some years we may have a positions left open after the deadline. If you wish to be reconsidered for admission after April 15, you may contact the Graduate Program Director.)
  • I am from Europe, where applications are due in May, and I totally missed the application deadline. What should I do?
    You should contact the Graduate Program Director. If we still have open positions in our program you may submit an application any time until June 15. Notice, however, that the admission rate for these late applications is much lower than that of the regular applications.

Incoming students

  • When do I need to arrive?
    Usually classes start during the first week of September. Entering graduate students should be here about two weeks earlier. Check out the WEB page on the orientation program for more. Travel information is here. Read also the International Services' arrival information guide, and the 2011 Orientation Information by the Graduate School.
  • When is the Placement Exam? How should I prepare for it?
    This optional exam is the same exam as the Comprehensive Exam but you have to do all three problems for each of the subjects of the core courses. The best way for preparing to it is by looking at the past course WEB pages for PHY 501, 505, 511, 512, 540, reading the recommended books, solving problems from the books, and solving the homework and exam problems.
  • What do I need to do at home, before leaving for Stony Brook?
    After you accepted our offer, watch out for emails from us - if you do not get any response, try to contact us (in writing or by phone) to make sure that we have the correct email address for you. If you finished some advanced studies (like many international students did), read this memo and prepare for the Placement Exam. Read this memo for a reminder about stuff to bring with you.
  • I am applying for a student visa, and I am afraid that my application will be rejected or delayed. What can I do?
    Since 9/11 student visa applications are reviewed more carefully, and the rejection rate has increased significantly. A possible way for us to help you is to provide a letter of recommendation directly to the embassy; unfortunately, experience shows that these letters do not help much. It is important that you prepare for your visa interview, understand the concerns of the consular officials, and avoid being mistakenly considered for rejection. Follow the procedures outlined by the International Services .
  • I have no idea how to rent a place in Stony Brook. Is there housing for new students?
    We generally recommend that first-year students should live on campus (finding off-campus housing requires advanced visits and transportation may be also a problem). Graduate students may live in Chapin, Schomburg or the West Apartments. For returning students the housing is based on a year-long contract, with contract dates running from June 1-May 31; new students start paying at the time they arrive. In 2007/8 the monthly rates for a single bedroom were $550 in a 4 bedroom Chapin Apartment, $619 in a 4 bedroom Schomburg Apartment, $856 in a 6 bedroom West Apartment. One bedroom full apartments go for about $1,100. Look at this document from Campus Residences (scroll to the end to the section about graduate students). Various housing options are also listed on page 8 of this document.
  • How do I apply for on-campus housing?
    You should use the Housing Deposit Card included with the letter of admission. The deadline is May 15. Do not wait for the deadline; once you have decided that you wish to live on campus, fill out the application (pay the deposit) and return it immediately, even if you do not have your ID number. (If you change your mind before June 30, the deposit will be refunded fully, otherwise it will be applied to the first month's rent.) At the same time, also send an email to regina.lagrasta@stonybrook.edu indicating your housing preference (e.g. which apartment complex you prefer to live in). Once you received your student ID number, you should use the Solar system to enter your housing needs and preferences, even if you have already sent that information by mail and email. Please note the we (the Department of Physics and Astronomy) cannot help much in solving housing problems.
  • Can I find off-campus housing?
    This is an option if you can come here and look around no later than early August (earlier is strongly recommended), or if you already know students in the University with whom you could share an off-campus residence. Public transportation is very limited so a car is almost always necessary. Off-campus housing for individual students is difficult to find. Most single students who live off campus arrange groups to rent a house. To join such a group, one should be here, preferably during the academic year. It is then possible to get several people together for such an arrangement or join an existing group when one of its members leaves.
  • I am really determined to find a place off campus. Where should I look?
    The university is in Stony Brook, Brookhaven Township on the North Shore of Long Island. You might want to stay on the north shore and not more than 30 minutes away from the campus. Consider places east of Stony Brook for traveling purposes - all roads are congested! (Having a car is absolutely necessary.) Heading east the cities you might consider are: Stony Brook, Port Jefferson, Port Jefferson Station, East Setauket, Setauket, Mount Sinai, Sound Beach, Miller Place, Rocky Point, Shoreham. There are two cities a bit south of the university called Centereach and Selden and one a bit west is called St. James. Be aware that prices vary greatly; you must see the neighborhood before renting a place. Resources:
  • What should I bring with me?
    If you finished a serious lab course, bring the lab reports and other material, so that you can be exempted from at least a part of our course. If you had graduate courses equivalent of our breadth courses, bring the course material, and you may be able to have it accepted for satisfying the breadth requirement.
  • Will I need a car in Stony Brook? How much would it cost to buy a car?
    In the first year most students live on-campus, and they do not need a car. Later, if you move out of campus, a car makes life much easier. Some intrepid students survive here for their entire academic career, living off campus with only a bicycle for transportation, but the weather on Long Island does not always lend itself to this arrangement. A barely running used car can be purchased for $1500 or less. There are, however, additional expenses: The car will have to pass a mechanical and emission inspection, repairs have to be paid for, and there is a required insurance. For new drivers the insurance costs are high, more than $1000 for a half year period. To register a car you will also need to get a NY State driver's license.
  • There are so many different orientation programs; which one should I attend?
    Participating in the orientation is legally required for being employed by the University. The orientation starts well before the first day of classes, and it is done by two organizations: the Graduate School, and the Department. The orientation and TA training given by the Department is mandatory to Physics PhD students. Watch for other mandatory programs. If you are from the USA, you do not have to go to the "international" part. There is also a separate orientation (after the first day of classes) about health insurance issues.
  • How do I connect my computer to the network?
    There is wired internet access in the grad student computer room (D-119) and in the grad student lounge. You need to register the computer with the Department - see the instructions at the grad.physics.sunysb.edu WEB site. The AirNet wireless service, managed by the University, is available in the Library and at many other spots in the building. Follow this link to the "Client Support" WEB page for instructions about using AirNet. There are also several protected access points, managed by the various research groups. If you want to use one of those you can try to track down the owner and ask for permission.
  • Solar System? Blackboard? Lotus Notes?
    The Solar System is a WEB portal for many of the University's services. It is used for class search and registration, to access course grades and an unofficial transcript, housing requests, to manage personal information, etc. Your Solar account is created when you get your Stony Brook ID number. The Blackboard is a class management interface used mostly for undergraduate courses. Using this system, instructors can post homeworks and mid-semester grades, send emails to the students, among other functions. Although all students get a Blackboard account, graduate students are most likely to encounter Blackboard as instructors of laboratory courses. Lotus Notes is an email/time management facility used extensively by Campus administrators. Students typically do not need a Lotus Notes account. If you receive an email that has a header with broken-up lines, or looks funny in other ways, it was probably sent from Notes. (See more in the Client Support WEB page.)
  • Do I get email services in Stony Brook?
    The University's Instructional Computing Department operates a UNIX server called "Sparky". Disk space and an MySBmail account is created for all students. Log in to Solar to find out about your email account. The email address will be in the form of "NetID@ic.sunysb.edu". The MySBmail account has a WEB interface, it can be used as an IMAP or POP server, and it is equipped with advanced spam filtering. It is highly recommended for all official business.
  • How can I make sure that I receive the emails sent to me by the Department?
    We send all emails to a generic email address "Firstname.Lastname@stonybrook.edu". The University operates an Electronic Post Office (EPO) service, where this address is matched with a real email account, like the Sparky account described above. Think of it as a mail forwarding service. Forwarding is initially set up to the Sparky account, but there is a simple procedure to change the forwarding address. If you are not using the Sparky email, we ask you to make sure that you set your forwarding address to the one that you really use and read regularly. (Note: The EPO will not accept external forwarding addresses like Yahoo or gmail.)
  • Are there computational resources available to me in the Department?
    The Department operates its own UNIX server, "grad.physics.sunysb.edu". You may want to have an account on this server and use it for web browsing and computational jobs. (We do not recommend that you use your account for email, since we do not manage spam filtering there.) We also have several notebook computers that are available (for free) to grad students.
  • Does the University provide computational resources to students?
    The University has "SINC sites" with computers installed for use by the students (these sites are used mostly by undergraduates). There is free file storage space up to 500MB on the University's servers (MySBfiles). Free or deeply discounted software is available at Client Support.

Courses, credits and exams

  • What is the deadline for registration?
    You must be registered for at least one course by the first day of classes. The total number of credits is determined by your G-status. The exact dates are published each year in the academic calendar. There are several extensions.
    • Students failing to register during the advance or final registration period may still register during the first 15 days of the semester, but will be charged a late fee of $40.
    • Graduate students may add classes through day 15 of classes.
    • Graduate students may drop classes through day ten of classes without incurring a tuition liability and without a W (withdrawal) being recorded.
    • From days 11 to 15, graduate students may only drop from courses if an even number of credits are added in a single transaction (i.e., 3 credits for 3 credits). Use the "swap" feature in the Solar System to make sure that you do the change in a single transaction. You may also withdraw from a class, but a W is posted and tuition is charged based on the Tuition Liability schedule. If you withdraw, make sure your credits do not drop below the required level.
  • What will we learn in the courses offered in the Department? What are the prerequisites?
    For PHY course descriptions: look in the Graduate Bulletin. For course instructors and times: follow link from the Registrar's class listings, or search on SOLAR (note: Select the correct semester. We are on "West Campus").
  • I have taken lots of classes in Classical Mechanics. Shall I repeat the course here?
    Yes, except if you pass the corresponding part in the Placement Exam.
  • I have a pretty strong background in physics and math from college, but no significant graduate level courses. Which core courses should I take?
    Fall: PHY 501, 505, 511
    Spring: 512, 515, 540
    Start taking breadth and special courses as soon as you can.
  • I think taking three core courses at the same time is too much for me. Can I spread it out a bit?
    You have several choices. In each cases fill up the rest of the schedule with appropriate other courses (Mathematical methods, breadth, PHY 515, specialization). First, here is a three semester schedule. This is a bit strange, since Classical Mechanics is in the third semester. It is not highly recommended, but doable:
    Fall: PHY 505, 511
    Spring: PHY 512, 515
    Fall: PHY 501, 540
    Here is a better schedule, in four semesters:
    Fall: PHY 501, 505 (or 511)
    Spring: PHY 540, 512
    Fall: PHY 511 (or 505)
    Spring: PHY 512, 515
    More sample course choices are listed here.
  • I am going to be an astronomer. How can I satisfy the breadth requirement?
    For example, take all four astronomy graduate courses. One of them is offered in each semester, on a rotating schedule. You must start taking the first one when you enter, since you have to be finished by the end of fourth semester. Discuss your plans with an Astronomy professor or the Graduate Program director.
  • Something is wrong with my registration, and it is September 20th. Can I fix it now?
    This is a big problem. Retroactive add/drop petitions must have the approval of the graduate program director and the Graduate School and will not be processed by the Registrarís Office until a fee is paid.
  • I am a PhD student. Can I take a course from the Mathematics Department?
    Yes, but be careful. A few courses that are related to your specialty are OK, but they do not count for "breadth" or any other requirement. All students must have prior permission from their department/program to take any courses outside of their primary degree plan.
  • I am required to register for 9 credits. How do I take a math course?
    A student with a full-time nine-credit tuition scholarship from a primary program may take a course in a secondary program. However, it must be in addition to the nine credits applying toward the primary program during the same semester. The cost of these credits is paid by the student.
  • I am a PhD student. Can I take a French language course?
    No, except if you pay the tuition. You are the receiver of a tuition scholarship. The scholarship only apply to courses that fulfill degree requirements in the program providing the scholarship. Talk to the graduate program director before taking any course outside of the Department.
  • Can I take an "English as a Second Language" (ESL) course?
    Yes. If you are a G1 or G3 student, the credits will be covered by the tuition waiver. You may not exceed the total of 18 credits, and you must be registered for 12 credits in the Department.
  • I do most of my PhD research in a national laboratory (like Los Alamos). Do I have to register?
    All degree candidates must register for nine credits during thesis or dissertation research for the semester in which the degree is awarded. Students on approved leaves of absence do not register for those semesters for which a leave has been granted; however, they must register for the semester in which the degree is awarded. A special Summer course, PHY 800, may satisfy this requirement.
  • Is PHY... accepted as a breadth course?
    Depends on your area of specialization. Look here
  • I am taking one of the courses that are offered for 0-3 credits. What if I choose 0 credit?
    We advise students to take a course for less than 3 credits if there is no other way to stay within the allowed total number of credits. This usually happens if the student needs to take a breadth course, but she/he is also registered doing research. Students taking a course for 0, 1, 2 or 3 credits are treated and graded exactly the same way, except if there is an explicit agreement between the student and the instructor. If lesser course work is done, the course can not be counted as a breadth course.
  • I have taken a lab course that is very similar to PHY 515 or PHY 517. Do I have to repeat the course?
    In order to get exemption from PHY 515 or PHY 517 all materials associated with the course taken elsewhere should be presented: syllabus, the faculty supplied instructions or "write-ups" of the experiments done by the student, the laboratory logbook in which the student recorded the day-to-day results of each experiment, and the final written report for each experiment, together with the grades for each of those. Students seeking a waiver in PHY 515 or PHY 517 should submit all materials to faculty teaching the course soon after arrival to Stony Brook. Instead of fully waiving the course requirement, waivers are sometimes granted for individual experiments.
  • How difficult is the Comprehensive Exam? How should I prepare for it?

    The exam will be in five parts with exams on Classical Mechanics, Electrodynamics, Quantum Mechanics, Statistical Mechanics and Astrophysics. There will be three problems on each of the five core subject areas. An effort will be made to test each area separately; however, a strict separation between areas need not be maintained and material from the other core courses may be mixed in as appropriate. The problems reflect the material taught in, and the level of, the graduate core courses and astrophysics courses, and problems will be composed by the exam committee in consultation with current and past core course instructors. Students can choose 2 of the 3 problems in each area and pass each subject separately with passing scores decided by the faculty. Student have to pass the exam in four different areas.
    The figure shows how many students passed the comp after 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 or more semesters in Stony Brook, based on data collected between 2001-2006. For a student entering in the Fall the last time to pass the exam is the Fall of the second year, i.e. 4 semesters. In very exceptional situations the deadline can be extended. The best way to prepare for the exam is by looking at the old Exam problems, and reading the material of the breadth courses.
  • I am a G4 student and I am doing research. What course should I register for?
    You have a choice here: If you are doing experiment, register for PHY 580, if you are doing theory, register for PHY 585. Certainly register for the section where the instructor is your scientific advisor.
  • I am a G5 student and I am doing research. What course should I register for?
    If most of the research you do is on-campus, in Brookhaven Lab, or in Cold Spring Harbor register for PHY 699. If you are working anywhere else within the US (e.g. Argonne), register for PHY 700. If you are doing research outside of the US (e.g. at CERN) register for PHY 701.
  • My advisor's name is not listed at the research course I have to register for. What should I do?
    Talk to the Graduate Program Director. He will either tell you to register under his name, or he will appoint a Departmental co-advisor (typically the Chair of your Oral Exam Committee, if you had that exam). When the grade is due, he may ask you for short report on your activities and/or contact your real advisor for the grade.
  • I am an international student in the PhD program. Can I go back to my home country for the Summer?
    Yes, although you may be disadvantaged in two ways. First, you are not going to get paid during the summer. More importantly, you will miss the opportunity to work with a research group.

Master's degree, exchange students

Advancement to candidacy, research, Ph.D. defense

  • What are the main research areas in the Department?
    The research activities in the Department are described in our WEB pages, and in the Graduate Bulletin. The figure here represents the approximate numbers of students working in different research groups, as of April, 2005. Key: Accelerator: Accelerator and Beam Physics; AMO: Atomic Molecular and Optical Physics; Biology: Biological and Medical Physics; CM Exp: Condensed Matter Experiment, CM Meso: Condensed Matter, Mesoscale and Nanoscale Physics; CM Theory: Condensed Matter Theory; HE Exp: High Energy and Particle Physics, Experiment; ITP: C.N. Yang Institute for Theoretical Physics; Nuclear RHIC: Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider; Nuclear Structure: Nuclear Structure Lab; Nuclear Theory: Nuclear Theory, including some astrophysics; X-ray: X-ray Optics. Update, March, 2008: The Nuclear Structure Lab is closed now. Computational astrophysics is one of the new areas of research.
  • What is the composition of the oral exam committee?
    The oral exam committee typically consists of three members: Your advisor (will sign a statement indicating that he/she takes you as a student), another faculty member from the same group, and a faculty member outside of you research area. Adjunct professors are welcome to serve on the committee, but at least half of the committee, and the chair, must be full time faculty. The chair can not be your future advisor. At least one member should be an experimentalist, and at least one should be a theorist. For example, if your advisor is Prof. Weinacht (AMO, experimentalist), your committee may consist of him and Profs. Metcalf (same group, experimentalist) and Allen (condensed matter, theorist).
  • I am working closely with a post doc in my advisor's research group. Can I have him on the committee?
    A post doc can serve on the committee, but only in addition to the other members described above.
  • Who picks the members of the committee?
    The student should identify the members of the committee, after consultation with the advisor. The committee must be approved by the Graduate Program Director.
  • What are the procedure and deadlines for the Oral Exam?
    • The Oral exam, like the Comprehensive Exam, should be passed by the end of the student's fourth semester at Stony Brook. In practical terms, the latest passing date is August 20th for students who entered in the fall, and January 20 for those who entered in the spring. Since many students pass the Comprehensive Exam at the beginning of their fourth semester, the rest of that semester may be dedicated to preparation of the oral part.
    • Talk to (or email to) the Graduate Program Director at least three weeks before the exam and discuss the composition of the Committee.
    • Once the Committee is approved by the GPD, fill out the "purple form"; you can get it in the Physics Office.
    • Pick up or print out the signature sheet and the advisor's note any time before the exam. Make sure they are signed after the exam.
    • Submit the signature sheet and the advisor's note to the Physics Office.
  • I am doing research in Brookhaven Lab, and my advisor works there. What should I do?
    First check if your advisor is an adjunct faculty. If yes, follow the usual rules applied to faculty members. Otherwise you will need a Stony Brook faculty member as your co-advisor. Preferably, he/she should be from a research area closely related to yours. Your committee will have four members: your two advisors, and another two members selected according to the rules described above.
  • What should be the topic of my oral exam talk?
    You should pick it in consultation with your advisor. It can be a review of literature, an account of your research you have already completed, a thesis proposal, or something else. If you advisor is not a faculty member, the oral exam should be a thesis proposal.
  • Once the exam is over, is the Oral Exam Committee dissolved?
    No, the committee should meet with the student (and with the advisor) approximately once a year, to review the student's progress. This meeting should be iniated by the student and the announcement of the meeting should be sent the Graduate Program Director who will add it to the file of the student.
  • I see the light at the end of the tunnel! I may be graduating next semester. What should I do?
    Talk to Pat, ask her about the deadlines. Talk to the Graduate Program Director, discuss the Exam Committee and the procedures. Read the Grad School's FAQ page about graduation. http://www.grad.sunysb.edu/academics/grad_info.shtml Make sure you are registered for the semester you are graduating in. If you are an international student, and you want to stay in the USA for a year after graduation, apply for "Optional practical training". Start looking for a job - it takes some time to sort these things out, and there are certain parts of the year, when job offers are more abundant. Some of our students get job offers well before graduation, but you have to work on this in due time.
  • What are the procedures and deadlines related the Thesis Defense Examination and the graduation?
    • The Department must submit a Thesis Defense Examination Committee to the Graduate School by the second week of the Semester, or four weeks before the exam, whichever is earlier. Therefore the you should talk to the Graduate Program Director and discuss possible Committee members before the start of the semester. Once the members of the Committee agreed to serve, fill out the "purple form" you get in the Department's Office with the names, the title of the dissertation and the approximate date of the exam, so that we can submit the committee for approval. (Bring a CV for the outside member, if necessary.) No harm is done if you postpone the exam or change one or two committee members later.
    • File for graduation here . You should do this during the first week of the semester you want to graduate in. No harm is done if you postpone the exam to the next semester.
    • Once you are sure that the dissertation will be ready and the exam will happen, set up a date, and discuss it with the members of the Exam Committee. When you select the date, take into account that there is a strict deadline at the end of the semester for submitting the thesis to the Graduate school. Your graduation will be postponed to the next semester if you miss the deadline.
    • Email the "Doctoral Degree Defense Form" to the to the Graduate Program Director at least four weeks before the exam. Note: The time and place of the exam cannot change after this point.
    • Check out if your thesis defense is listed on the Graduate School's WEB site about two weeks before the exam. Exams held without being posted will be invalid and must be repeated.
    • Distribute copies of your thesis to the Committee members well in advance of the Exam. We have no strict deadlines, but two-three weeks before the exam is recommended. If you are not completely done by that time, it is very important that you talk to members of your Committee and ask if they wish to look at a slightly incomplete version of the thesis, and what is the latest time they consider acceptable for having the complete work. Committee members may refuse to participate in the exam if they do not have time to study your thesis.
    • Bring a signature page to the exam.
    • After the exam, bring a copy of the signature page to the Department's Office.
    • Submit the dissertation and the original signature page directly to the Graduate School.
    • Register for the Hooding Ceremony.
    • Optional: Email a colorful, one page description of your dissertation to the Graduate Program Director.
  • Who should be on the Thesis Defense Committee?
    The Th[esis Defense Committee has at least four members: typically the three members of the student's Oral Exam Committee, and one more member, outside of the Department. The outside member should be able to give an independent evaluation of the thesis work and cannot be a collaborator or co-author. At least three members must be Physics and Astronomy faculty (full time or adjunct). At least half of the committee, and the chair, must be full time faculty. There should be at least one experimentalist, at least one theorist, and at least one department member from a research field other than that of the thesis topic. The external member may also serve as the required theorist or experimentalist. The chair can not be your advisor.
  • Can a post doc serve on my Thesis Defense Committee?
    Yes, but only in addition to the committee members described above. In exceptional cases, with the permission of the Graduate Program Director, a post doc can be the outside member, but only if he/she had no scientific collaboration with the student.
  • How will I know if the "outside" member qualifies to be on the Committee?
    Stony Brook regular faculty in other Departments automatically qualify, except if they are affiliated to our Department. For all other cases, you should ask a CV from the outside member, and bring it to the Graduate Program Director for approval.
  • How should I prepare for the defense?
    • Prepare dissertation in accordance with the guidelines. Most students use LATEX. Ask for a template from a student who graduated currently, or use the template available here; however, it is your responsibility to make sure that the dissertation complies with the latest rules set by the Graduate School.
    • Distribute the written thesis to the committee well in advance of the defense.
    • Prepare a talk no longer than 45 minutes. Be ready to answer questions about any parts of the thesis.
    • Have a signature page ready for the Committee to sign after the exam. (See http://www.grad.sunysb.edu/pdf/academics/GUIDE-ED.pdf and http://www.grad.sunysb.edu/academics/top10mistakes.shtml.)
  • I defended the thesis. How do I collect the signatures from the Committee members?
    Any type of permanent black ink may be used for the signatures, but no other color. Committee members sign off on the signature page when the dissertation has been accepted. This happens usually right after the defense. Occasionally, the Committee may request changes in the dissertation and withhold one or more signatures until the changes are reviewed by one or more Committee members.
  • Is there anything to do after my Ph.D. defense?
    • Send a final pdf copy of your thesis to the Graduate Program Director.
    • Bring a copy of the signature sheet to the Department's Office. (You will get your degree ONLY if the Office files the "Completion Statement" to the Grad School; we cannot file the statement, if we have not received a copy of the signature sheet and the final copy your thesis.)
    • You may have to do a few changes in the text of your dissertation. Once the dissertation is final, make several CDs in the format requested by the Graduate School for electronic transmission. Keep a copy for yourself.
    • File your thesis with the Graduate School before the deadline. Do not wait until the last minute: there may be minor problems with the thesis and you may need a few days to fix them.
    • Give back your library books, keys, etc. and fill out this form: doc, pdf.
    • Finish all other paperwork with the Graduate School, make sure that you will actually get your degree.
    • Participate in the Hooding Ceremony, if you can.
    • Leave us a forwarding address, register with the Alumni Association.
    • Move on with your life, think nicely of Stony Brook.
  • I applied for graduation, but I could not submit the thesis by the deadline. How can I stay for one more semester?
    You have 90 days after the thesis defense to file the thesis at the Graduate School, but you must be a registered student when you file your thesis. Therefore, if you file the thesis after the deadline for the semester you defended in, you must register for the next semester. For example, if your defense was on May 2nd, the deadline is May 15, and you file the thesis on May 16th, you must register for the Summer, with August graduation. First, you ask the Graduate School to remove the block on your registration that was placed there when you applied for graduation. (This is done routinely if you tell them that you need the time to make corrections in your thesis.) After that you are free to register. Keep in mind that someone has to pay tuition, except for the Summer, when you register for 0 credit. You have to apply for graduation again.
  • I submitted the dissertation to the Graduate School in the middle of the semester. Can I stay on the payroll?
    Yes, you can stay on as an RA until the end of the semester, as long as your advisor is willing (able) to pay you.
  • Can I start working as a postdoc before I get the degree?
    Degrees are awarded in May, August, and December. Nevertheless, if you finished all requirements and filed the thesis with the Grad School, you can start working as a postdoc any time. Fill out the "Request for letter of completion", and bring it to us. We will check your files, sign the statement, and the Grad School will issue the proper document for your employment. (You will still remain a registered student until the end of the semester.) If this procedure does not work, the Department can issue a letter for you.
  • When will my student status expire?
    You will remain a registered student until the end of the semester, even if you file your thesis at the beginning of the semester. That is true even if you leave Stony Brook and take up a job right after your thesis defense.

Last updated 12/18/2011. Send corrections and comments about this WEB page to jv@graduate.physics.sunysb.edu. Parts of this document were edited using material written by past graduate program directors: Professors Hal Metcalf, Rod Engelmann, William Weisberger, Peter Stephens and Laszlo Mihaly. Jacobus Verbaarschot. Here are links to earlier versions, saved on 5/6/2009 | 10/2/2008 | 5/1/2008 | 3/19/2008 | 11/15/2007 | 20/8/2007 | 28/3/2007 | 1/9/2007 | 7/19/2006 | 4/15/2005 | 11/1/2004 | 5/27/2004 | 5/6/2004 | 1/27/2004