Guide to Graduate Studies in Physics and Astronomy

In this guide we describe the requirements for the various degrees we are offering, as well as some useful information on Services offered by the Department. See also our "Frequently Asked Questions" page. If you can not find the answers to your questions, Jacobus Verbaarschot, Graduate Program Director, at

Table of Contents

The Graduate Program in Physics resides in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. The program offers three graduate degrees, the Ph.D. degree in Physics, The M.A. degree in Physics and the M.S degree in Physics

  • Students in the Ph.D. program gain a solid background in the breadth of physics and astronomy, and demonstrate their ability to carry out research and overcome new challenges in a specific area of interest. These students often go on to traditional research positions at universities and national labsas well as to industrial labs, and to other careers including medical physics, and analysis in technological and financial settings.

    We offer a degree in four different concentrations:

    • The default track
    • PhD Degree in Physics with Concentration in Astronomy
    • PhD Degree in Physics with Concentration in Physical Biology
    • PhD Degree in Physics with Concentration in Chemical Physics
    Each concentration has different requirements which will be discussed in detail below.
  • A Master of Science program in Instrumentation (MSI) prepares students with undergraduate degrees in physical science, mathematics, or engineering to enter modern technological enterprises such as research labs, industries, hospitals, etc. as professional physicists with expertise in instrumentation. The program offers both coursework and an original instrumentation project in one of our cutting-edge research labs. With questions related to this program, contact Professor Harold Metcalf
  • The Master of Arts in Physics (M.A.) degree. This degree may also be awarded both as a terminal degree and as a degree for students enrolled to the Ph.D. program en route to the Ph.D. degree.
The Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) is formally offered by the School of Professional Development and is not part of the Physics Graduate Program. This degree prepares students with a BA degree in a physical science or engineering for the New York State certification as a secondary school teacher. This program addresses the widely known shortage of well trained high school physics teachers. Students should apply directly to the School of Professional Development. Students with a physics background generally take special physics course for teachers and work closely with Professor Robert McCarthy to prepare a program of study.

The Ph.D. Degree

Completing a Ph.D. in physics or astronomy is a difficult job, not only because of the large amount of intellectual and emotional effort, but also because of the many requirements. The learning goals for the PhD degree are as follows:

  • Should have mastered core physics and should be familiar with areas of physics outside their research specialty.
  • Should be able to think independently and have acquired critical reasoning skills.
  • Should be an expert in their research specialty and have demonstrated the ability to conduct original research.
  • Should be able to communicate research results to an audience of physicists.


We first discuss the requirements for the Default track.

Requirements for the Default Track

The requirements are neither all sequential nor all parallel; they are presented in their proper relationship in the flow chart below. Each box represents a step that must be achieved and those connected by lines are necessarily sequential. The discussion below is divided into three major sections: 1) required courses, 2) exams, and 3) thesis research. Only the courses with a grade B or better are counted towards the Ph.D. degree.

Core courses

One of the requirements for advancement to candidacy is demonstration of command of four core areas of physics: Classical Mechanics (PHY 501), Electricity and Magnetism (PHY 505), Quantum Mechanics (PHY 511/512) and Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics (PHY 540). If a student already successfully passed similar courses elsewhere a student can fulfill the course requirments of one or more of these core courses by taking advanced graduate courses (subject to approval by an Advising Committee appointed by the Graduate Program Director). If that is not the case you can still skip these courses by a sufficiently good performance in the corresponding parts of a placement examination given during the beginning of the Fall semester. (2nd year students and beyond need permission from the Graduate Program Director). Most students take the core courses during their first year.

PHY 598 and 599 are required of all Ph.D., M.S.I. and M.A. students. Almost everybody should take them during their first two semesters at Stony Brook as they provide a good way to get acquainted with the department. The two courses cover different areas of physics, and they can be taken in any order.

Students in the M.A. or Ph.D. programs who have taken a strong undergraduate program in physics at an American university take the following program during the first year. Select the courses in consultation with your advisor; more sample course choices are listed here.

PHY 501 - Classical Mechanics
PHY 505 - Classical Electrodynamics
PHY 511 - Quantum Mechanics I
PHY 598 or 599 - Graduate Seminars
PHY 600 - Teaching
PHY 698 - Colloquium
PHY 540 - Statistical Mechanics
PHY 515 - Graduate Laboratory
PHY 512 - Quantum Mechanics II
PHY 600 - Teaching
PHY 598 or 599 - Graduate Seminars
PHY 698 - Colloquium

It is assumed that entering students who have a sufficiently strong background in mathematical physics, through a formal course or selection of courses, take the regular first-year program. A text, such as Methods of Mathematical Physics by Arfken provides a suitable preparation. Students looking for more preparation should consider PHY 503, 504 (if it is offered), which presents topics that complement traditional material and enable students to fill in gaps in their background.

Other Required Courses for the Ph.D.

  • PHY 515 or PHY 517 -- Both laboratory courses provide an introduction to the special problems of experimental physics and astronomy. Students perform a number of classical and instructive experiments to learn why and how we acquire the knowledge upon which physics is based.
  • PHY 600 Teaching (two semesters) -- Because teaching and research are inextricably intertwined in a scientist's career, all Ph.D. students are required to teach (be a TA) for two semesters. Many do this for a second year. The first introduction to teaching begins during the orientation week: entering students participate in a TA training, required for all new TA's. Usually graduate students will conduct laboratory sections associated with undergraduate courses. Senior faculty members closely supervise this effort. Students normally do their teaching concurrently with their own first year courses, and earn 0-3 academic credits per semester in PHY 600.
  • PHY 598 and PHY 599 -- Teaching skills are also honed in PHY 598 and PHY 599 where students gain experience presenting research topics to an audience of their peers. This requires very different skills because in PHY 598 and PHY 599 the level of knowledge of speaker and listeners is nearly on a par and because the motivation for the activity is also quite different. Thus, the graduate students are prepared for the time they will present research at seminars or at scientific meetings, as well as for their own thesis defense.
  • Breadth Requirement -- All Ph.D. students must take at least three advanced courses in three different areas of physics and astronomy or a related area chosen from a list of courses and areas approved for this purpose (see table below) or courses approved by the graduate program director. No more than one course from the 680 or 690 series or outside the Department of Physics and Astronomy can be used to fulfill this requirement

    Areas and Courses eligible for the Breadth requirement (all course numbers refer to Physics courses.)

    Astronomy 521, 522, 523, 524, 683, 688
    Atomic and Molecular Physics 565, 566. 690
    Accelerator Physics 543, 554, 564
    Solid State Physics 555, 556, 681
    Nuclear Physics 551, 552, 684
    Particle Physics 557, 612, 686
    Physical Biology 558, 559, 687
    Theoretical Physics 541, 610, 611, 620, 621, 622, 623, 680, 681, 685

    Students in the Astronomy track have the option to take three or four astronomy courses (PHY 521-524). In the first option they have to take only one breadth course, and in the second case the breadth requirement is waived.

    Ph.D. Exams

    Comprehensive and Placement Exam. 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.

    Students taking this exam as a placement exam in the physics core courses (CM, EM, QM and SM) will have to do all three problems in an area with a passing grade that is substantially higher than students who passed the core courses.

    Oral Exam. The oral exam consists of a presentation of some approved and interesting topic in physics or astronomy to a committee of at least three faculty members and should be prepared under the guidance of one of them. The committee members must be approved in advance by both the Graduate Program Director. The committee should contain at least one experimentalist and one theorist, and at least one member whose research specialty is different from the student's field of research. At least half of the committee, and the chair, must be full time faculty.

    The faculty advisor for the oral exam will generally become the student's thesis advisor. This exam is a demonstration that the student is capable of beginning Ph.D. level research. The student should show that he/she is conversant with the basic phenomenology of the chosen research field, but it is not necessary to show a completed research project.  

    Exam deadlines and auxiliary procedures

    Examinations for the last few years can be accessed here.

    The Comprehensive Exam is prepared by the Graduate Examinations Committee. The Department's faculty meets to discuss the results of the Comprehensive exam about one week after each exam. After that meeting, the answer books are available in the Department office for inspection by the students for grading errors, or for removal by the appropriate student. No grade changes are allowed to an exam book after it has left the office. It is a student's responsibility to ask a professor to regrade a particular question, and this must be done in the office. A large number of small grade changes is not an acceptable way to make a significant change in a total score. Unclaimed books may be discarded after four weeks.

    Ph.D. students are generally required to pass the Comprehensive by the end of the student's fourth semester in the PhD program in Physics at Stony Brook; admission to the fifth semester of graduate study is contingent upon passing the comprehensive and oral exams or by explicit approval of the Graduate Program Director. We encourage all first-year students to take the Comprehensive exam for practice. There is no expectation by the Department that such students will pass, although some do. There is absolutely no disgrace in an unsuccessful attempt.

    Most students with an American bachelor degree and no additional advanced studies have passed the Comprehensive by the beginning of the fourth semester; many pass earlier. Students with more advanced background often pass in the first year. In some cases, students pass the comprehensive exam at the beginning of the fifth semester, but such long a delay is not encouraged. In such cases, the Oral exam should be completed beforehand so that a student's status in the department is clear immediately after the written exam results are available.

    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.

    Before the exam, the student, with the help of the graduate program director, identifies the Committee members. A sign-off sheet should be picked up in the Department's Office. One of the Committee members should be the de-facto or potential Ph.D. advisor to the student.

    In some cases a student may pass the Oral Exam on time, but a thesis advisor will not be identified before the beginning of the fifth semester. In this case, students will be provisionally readmitted for the fifth semester (but not for later semesters, except if an advisor is identified). The Department can not guarantee financial support to students readmitted this way.

    Foreign students are urged to be especially careful to avoid problems with their visas that could arise if they fail to complete any part of their advancement to candidacy on time.


    Required courses. On the basis of work done at other universities waivers may be granted for required courses such as breadth requirements, teaching experience, PHY 515, etc. (For the courses in the core areas mentioned above the student should take the Placement Exam or make an appointment with the Advising Committee during the orientation week.) Waivers have to be requested during the first semester of study in Stony Brook and all such requests must be directed to the instructor of the relevant Stony Brook course who may then provide a written approval of the waiver to the Graduate Program Director. In general, it is not sufficient to have the transcript. The student must also bring to Stony Brook, and be prepared to show, other supporting documentation, for example a detailed course syllabus, printouts of the course WEB pages, homework assignments, etc.

    In the case of the Graduate Laboratory course (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.

    Written Comprehensive Examination. A transfer student who has been admitted into the Ph.D. program in Physics at Stony Brook and who has passed a written comprehensive examination as a matriculated student in the doctoral program of the physics or astronomy department at another university may request a waiver of the written comprehensive examination. To request such a waiver a student should:

    • First, discuss the situation with the Graduate Program Director.
    • Submit to the Graduate Examination Committee a copy (in English or in the original language with an English translation) of the examination which the student passed.
    • Supply a signed statement by a the Chair or Graduate Program Director of the student's previous university certifying the maximum possible grade on the examination, the minimum grade for a pass at the Ph.D. level, and the grade obtained by the student.
    The Graduate Examinations Committee will consider both the level of the test and the quality of the student's performance in deciding whether to recommend to the faculty that the student be exempted from taking the written comprehensive exam at Stony Brook.

    Failed exams, courses

    Placement Exams. These exams are optional. Failing a Placement Exams has no consequence (the student is directed to take the core course).

    Core courses. Students are required to take the core courses, except if they passed the relevant Placement Exam. If a student does not pass (or take) the Placement Exam, and does not pass the course with a grade B or better, he/she can

    • take the course again,
    • petition for an oral examination.
    The "make-up" oral exam may be set up to test the student's knowledge in the particular area. For example, if a student got a B- in PHY 505 then the exam will cover "Electricity and Magnetism". The time of the exam, and the three member exam committee will be chosen by the Graduate Program Director.

Comprehensive exam. If a student does not pass the Comprehensive exam by the beginning of the fifth semester in the Physics PhD program, the case will be discussed at the faculty meeting. The faculty may recommend setting up a special oral exam for the student. In general, this recommendation is contingent upon two factors: the student should be in good standing in terms of the core courses (see above) and the student should have made contact with a research group, and should have a potential advisor.

Oral Exam. This exam can be repeated as long as the student is within the deadlines outlined above.

Financial Support and Ph.D. Thesis Research

Most students receive Department support as TA's for the first year. Those who remain in good standing are renewed for a second year, but TA appointments are not generally extended beyond a student's second year in the Physics Ph.D. program at Stony Brook.

Students are urged to seek research projects and financial support from faculty members who have research grants. Joining a research group early has several benefits.

  • First, contact with the faculty/research group may lead to a summer job. Department support ends in June, and TA appointments for the next year begin in September.
  • Second, it provides the opportunity to begin work on a topic that may become the subject for the Oral Exam. By the beginning of the second year, many students have passed the comprehensive exam; others will pass soon thereafter. It is certainly not necessary to complete the written comprehensive exam before doing the oral exam, and in some cases, when the student finds an interesting research project, and a willing advisor, it may be beneficial to set up an oral exam before the comprehensive exam is passed.
  • Third, it provides an early connection with the research activity that may form the major part of a graduate career. On the other hand, students who try one research field and are unhappy have the opportunity to change without losing too much time.
Once a student has passed his/her oral examination and begins to concentrate on thesis research, he/she should meet with a thesis committee at least once each year. This committee is made up of the people who served on the student's oral exam committee, and will generally continue to be active until the student defends the thesis. Accordingly, the committee should contain at least one experimentalist and one theorist, and at least one member whose research specialty is different from the student's field of research. Scheduling of the annual meetings of the thesis committee is the responsibility of the student. One member of that committee should provide a written report to the Graduate Program Director, briefly stating whether the student is making satisfactory progress towards a suitable doctoral thesis.

Thesis defense

This is the last exam taken by a Ph.D. student at Stony Brook; It is the defense of the thesis in the form of an oral presentation before the Thesis Defense Committte. This 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. At most one committee membe can attend by Skype, and the defending student, the Chair and the Advisor have to be physical present. All defense committees are subject to approval by the Graduate Program Director. faculty members and an external representative. Usually, the student's Oral Exam committee serves as the core of the Defense Committee. The committee must have at least three members (adjunct or full time) from the Department, and one external member - a scientist from another Department at Stony Brook, or another institution. 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 thesis supervisor is an ex officio member of the committee, and can not serve as the chairperson.

The committee must be approved at least 28 days in advance by both the Graduate Program Director and the Graduate School. The Doctoral Degree Defense form should be also sent to the Graduate Program Director at least four weeks before the scheduled date of the defense.

The written Ph.D. thesis should be distributed two or three weeks before the exam, so that committee members can read the work carefully.

PhD Degree with Concentration in Astronomy

Students whose emphasis will be in astronomy constitute the main exception to this plan. During their first two years, they should take three of the four core astronomy courses, PHY 521, 522, 523, 524, which are offered one each semester. Therefore a possible astronomy sequence looks like this:

PHY 524 - Cosmology
PHY 501 - Mechanics
PHY 505 - Electrodynamics
PHY 598 or 599
PHY 600 - Teaching
PHY 698 - Colloquium
PHY 522 - Interstellar medium
PHY 540 - Stat. Mech.
PHY 517 - Astronomical Techniques
PHY 598 or 599
PHY 600 - Teaching
PHY 698 - Colloquium
PHY 521 - Stars
PHY 511 - Quantum I
PHY 585 - Research
PHY 523 - Galaxies
PHY 511 - Quantum II
PHY 585 - Research

The particular order of the astronomy courses is determined by the actual course offering in those semesters. PHY 505 can be interchanged with PHY 511. PHY 515 or PHY 517 (discussed above) can be taken in any semester during the first two years.

PhD Degree with Concentration in Physical Biology

This is an interdisceplenary concentration in connection with the Laufer Center for quantitative biology. Students usually declare their interest in this concentration not later than the end of the first semester. Postponing this decision will result in a loss of time. The main difference with the default physics concentration is a reduction of core courses by one course while several physical biology courses are required. Instead of the graduate lab students do rotations with faculty associated with the Laufer center. Also the Graduate Seminar is substituted by the Laufer Center Journal Club. The Requirements fo a Ph.D. Degree in Physics with Concentration in Physical Biology are as follows:

  • Four Physics core course: Electrodynamics (PHY 505), Quantum Mechanics I (PHY 511), Statistical Mechanics (PHY 540) and either Classical Mechanics (PHY 501) or Quantum Mechanics II (PHY 512).
  • Two Core Courses in Physical Biology: Physical Biology (PHY 558) and Biological Dynamics and Network (PHY 559)
  • Biology For Physical Scientists (PHY 561)
  • Two semesters of Teaching (PHY 600)
  • Two semesters of Lab Rotations (PHY 584 / AMS 532)
  • Two semester of the Laufer Center Journal Club (PHY 665 / AMS 532)
  • Two Life Science courses form an approved list. Currently, the following courses have been approved: Biomolecular Structure and Analysis (CHE 541), Molecular Genetics (MCB 503 ), Structural Biology and Spectroscopy (MCB 512), Graduate Biochemistry I ( MCB 520) and Cell Biology (MCB 656)
  • Passing of the Comprehensive Exam. The exam will have 4 questions in Physical Biology and students have the option to pass this exam based on these problems.
  • An oral exam on a topic in Physical Biology
  • Student shoud find an advisor working on the topic of Physical Biology
  • All courses have to be passed with a grade of B or better.

A typical course sequence for students in the Physical Biology concentration looks like:


PHY 501 - Mechanics
PHY 505 - Electrodynamics
PHY 511 - Quantum Mechanics
PHY 598 - Graduate Seminar
PHY 600 - Teaching

PHY 540 - Statistical Mechanics
PHY 559 - Biological Dynamics and Networks
PHY 584 - Lab Rotations (AMS 532)
PHY 561 - Biology for Physical Scientists
PHY 600 - Teaching
PHY 665 - Journal Club (AMS 532)

PHY 558 - Physical Biology
CHE 541 - Biomolecular Structure and Analysis
PHY 584 - Lab Rotations (AMS 532)
PHY 665 - Journal Club (AMS 532)

MCB 515 - Structural Biology and Spectroscopy
PHY 585 - Research
PHY 665 - Journal Club
Note that the Lab Rotations and the Jounral Club are taught as AMS 532. Additional information on the Concentration in Physical Biology can be found on the webpage of the Laufer Center which also has a list of course requirements.

Master of Arts (M.A.) Degree

This degree gives students the opportunity to earn an MA Degree in Physics in one year (two semesters and one Summer). Many students in this program move on to a PhD program at Stony Brook or elsewhere. It is also used by exchange students, or is awarded as a milestone along the way to completion of a Ph.D., or as a terminal degree for students leaving the program. The learning outcomes of the Master of Arts degree are as follows:

    Should be proficient in several areas of physics or should have demonstrated the ability to conduct research.
The degree requires 30 graduate credits, 24 of which must be taken at Stony Brook. The requirements for the Master degree can be satisfied in two ways. Requirements for the "No thesis" option:
  • Having a B or better grade in a program of graduate courses approved by the Graduate Program Director. Such program usually includes two semesters of the graduate seminar (PHY598 and PHY599).
  • Passing the written Comprehensive exam at the Masters level.
  • The total number of credits with grade B or better should be at least 30.
Requirements for the "Thesis" option:
  • Writing a Masters thesis.
  • Passing a program of courses approved by the Graduate Program Director. Normally such program includes two approved graduate courses and two semesters of the graduate seminar (PHY598 and PHY 599).
  • The total number of credits with grade B or better including the Master Thesis should be at least 30.
If a thesis is submitted, it must be prepared in accordance with the guidelines presented in the university's "Guide to the Preparation of Theses and Dissertations." The thesis should be based on a major project which is the main focus for a year of the student's work. Multiple authorship of a thesis is not allowed.

Credits transferred from another university must be for courses comparable to our own graduate courses. Transfer eligibility must first be approved in writing by the professor teaching the comparable course at Stony Brook and then by the Graduate Program Director, who will authorize departmental approval. Such credit transfers should be requested in the student's first semester at Stony Brook.

Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT)

The requirements for this degree can be found on the website of the School for Professional Developent by clicking on the title of this section.

Master of Science with concentration in Instrumentation (MSI)

The requirements for this degree can be found on the website of the MSI Program by clicking on the title of this section.

Completing a Degree

Degrees are awarded three times each year (May, August, December), although a student can submit a thesis and/or vacate the university to begin employment at any time.

A student must be registered in the semester in which the degree is awarded (the special summer course PHY 800, Summer Research, also satisfies this requirement).

You must file for graduation to get the degree. The application must be completed by a specific deadline well in advance of receiving the degree. There is no charge for applying, and no difficulty created by (optimistically) filing a degree card and then not finishing a thesis by the deadline. It is the responsibility of the student to fulfill all the degree requirements before submitting the application, accepting a job, or undergoing a change of visa status (e.g., practical training).

If the degree requires a thesis, it is important to consult the rules for thesis format, be aware of the deadlines for submission and of applicable fees, etc. Failure to complete all the requirements may result in delayed or denied degree approvals.

Academic and scholarly misconduct

Science relies on the honesty of scientists. Neither academic dishonesty (e.g. cheating on an exam) nor scholarly misconduct (e.g. falsifying data) will be tolerated. For the principles of dealing with these issues refer to the Graduate School's policies, and to statements issued by professional societies, like the American Physical Society.

In the context of written examinations "academic dishonesty" includes (i) the use of notes, books or other material (except when explicit permission has been given by the responsible faculty member) and (ii) the exchange of information between students during an examination. Giving information is as serious an offense as receiving information.

The penalties for academic dishonesty in all written examinations are severe. Any such act will result in automatic failure of the examination in question. More serious penalties will be sought as appropriate. These can include suspension or dismissal from the University.

Given the importance of the Comprehensive Examinations, incidents of academic dishonesty connected with this examination will be viewed with the utmost severity. In such cases, the Department will consider the most serious penalties (i.e., suspension or dismissal).

In physics, as in any other sciences, we are often inspired by other people's ideas. It is absolutely essential to give credit where it is due. Using ideas and words from others, without clearly acknowledging the source, is plagiarism. The most blatant form of this practice is cutting and pasting other's written text into a document that is supposed to be an original work. For more on this subject just type "plagiarism" in any WEB search engine. There are well developed methods to detect plagiarism and the minimum penalty for this practice is an F grade for the project involved. (Note: The best protection against being accused of plagiarism is to mark every quote, and to indicate, clearly and unambiguously, the original source.)

Many great results in physics were the results of collaborations. Correspondingly, there are many cases when collaboration between students is necessary and encouraged. Examples in our Department may include some of the work in the PHY 515 laboratory, or certain homework assignments. In each case clear rules are laid out by the faculty teaching the course. If there is any doubt, here is a simple rule: ask first, and collaborate later.

Libraries, computers

The Math/Physics Library is housed on level C of our building, but is administered by the university library system. Its policies, schedule, and procedures are determined centrally. It is usually open during weekends and study breaks. The Chemistry Department also maintains a Library, and some Journals and books that are not in the Physics Library may be available there. The Ward Melville Library, located on the Academic Mall, offers a wide selection of books, CD's and videotapes.

The library system contains extensive on-line resources, such as electronic journals, databases such as the Science Citation Index, etc. These are generally available only from computers on campus. To access this information from computers elsewhere set up a proxy server (on Unix based systems such as Mac OS X login to a Stony Brook computer with ssh -l username -D 9501 and set up your browser as a proxy server with port number 9501. Alternatively, you can access the Stony Brook computer with a VNC server (built in the Safari browser of Mac OS X, or via "Chicken of the VNC" for Linux users.

The physics building is wired with a 100MB/s network. The WI-FI network, WolfieNet, managed by the University, is available in most spots of the building. All graduate students have direct access to the computers in Room D-119 and in the Graduate Student Lounge. Note: Stealing passwords, breaking into computer systems, falsifying E-mail communications, etc. are not mischiefs but crimes, and will be dealt with accordingly.

Department Services

Like all large universities, Stony Brook is a complicated place with many departments and offices. Rules developed by these organizations must be observed, and we make every effort to help our students deal with the administration.

The Department office is staffed by assistants who are available to help. Over the years, these devoted people have earned the respect of all the graduate students (as well as others in the Department). They have various special functions, but are often flexible and knowledgeable enough to overlap one another's areas of expertise.

  • For Photocopy machine help, ask in the Main Office.
  • For parking information and paychecks, see Socoro Delquaglio.
  • For doors, locks, building security, air conditioning or heating concerns, offices, and other physical plant matters, see Frank Chin (Director, Physical Laboratories) or Rich Berscak.
  • For keys, photocopy machine cards, and other fee-related items, see Socoro Delquaglio.
  • For all interfaces to the administration, including tuition, visa status, degree requirements, registration, and other academic matters, see Donald Sheehan, Assistant Director of the Graduate Program.
  • For departmental administrative matters, such as TA assignments, course requirements, etc., also see Donald. Also, see Sara for the processing of application materials and the processing of oral and Ph.D. committee written departmental approvals.
  • For reserving a seminar room, acquiring a mailbox, mail distribution, aid in FAX sending and receiving, see Donald Sheehan.
  • For undergraduate information of any kind, see Diane Diaferia.


We generally recommend that first-year students should live on campus. Graduate students may live in the Chapin Apartment Complex, the Graduate Student Housing Complex, called Schomberg, and in certain dormitories. These are not the nicest places in the world to live, but most students regard them as adequate, and much more convenient for a newcomer than trying to find off-campus housing.

Those who wish to live on campus should use Solar to apply. The on-campus facilities are occasionally overbooked, and it is important to reserve a spot promptly.

Off-campus housing for individual students is hard to find. It is not advisable to try to get off-campus housing during the first semester unless you can come here and look for it 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. Furthermore, public transportation is very limited so a car is almost necessary. (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.) 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.


The tuition rates are published at the University's WEB site. If properly handled, the tuition is not paid by you, instead it is either waived, or paid by a research grant. However, serious problems can arise for those who fail to follow instructions, respond to notices, or submit forms on time. Sometimes such failures result in large, irretrievable financial losses.

The first step is based on the campus requirement that all those eligible to become residents of the State of New York do so. The two main conditions for residency are one year of stay in NY state and an appropriate "visa" status (either US citizen, or permanent resident).

The second step is based on the fact that tuition depends on the number of credits taken, and there are limits on this, given in the chart below. The limit is not the same for all students, so find your status from your registration papers and consult the chart to determine the appropriate limit. Students who register for more than the limit will be liable for the difference.

Master's G1 First year graduate student who will have completed less than 24 graduate credit hours regardless of where earned by the start of the semester. 12-18 credits
G2 Advanced graduate student who will have completed 24 or more graduate credits regardless of where earned by the st art of the semester. 9 credits
G3 First year graduate student who will have completed less than 24 graduate credit hours regardless of where earned by the start of the semester. 12-18 credits
Ph.D. G4 Advanced graduate student who will have completed 24 or more graduate credits regardless of where earned by the start of the semester. 9 credits
G5 Advanced graduate student enrolled in a doctoral degree program that has been advanced to candidacy for the doctoral degree by the first day of classes of a semester or term. 9 credits

Tuition waivers for students classified as G1 and G3 will cover any number of credits up to 18, including remedial ESL if there are at least 12 graduate credits. However, the tuition waivers for G2 and G4 will cover only 9 credits. If G2 or G4 students need to take English as a Second Language (ESL) courses, additional tuition support can be requested - please contact the Department's Office. This request is granted as a matter of routine. G2 and G4 students must register for "exactly" 9 credits for full time status.  Note that many courses are offered for a variable number of credits, providing some flexibility to the students to satisfy these requirements. Sometimes a course may be taken for zero credit; nevertheless, in order to satisfy a Department requirement, full effort is expected from the student.

Tuition costs for 6 credits at the in-state rate will be charged to the research grants as students move on to research appointments (G5 status). For details, see the Provost's memo.

Financial Aid

The Department offers financial support in the form of teaching assistantships or fellowships to most members of the entering class, and all applicants are considered for such support. Awards are renewable on maintaining good academic standing. Support from research grants is available for all full-time students in the doctoral program.

Teaching assistants and fellows receive full tuition scholarships.

Correspondence and information

For application information and more detailed descriptions of programs contact Professor Jacobus Verbaarschot, phone: (631) 632-8279, fax: (631) 632-8176, email:, Mailing address:
Jacobus Verbaarschot
Graduate Program Director
Dept. of Physics and Astronomy
Stony Brook University
Stony Brook
NY 11794-3800, USA
The University at Stony Brook is an affirmative action/equal opportunity educator and employer. Persons requiring special accommodations should contact the Department of Physics & Astronomy at (631) 632-8100.

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Earlier versions of this document were drafted by past Graduate Program Directors (Professors Laszlo Mihaly, Hal Metcalf, Rod Engelman, William Weisberger, and Peter Stephens). Last updated 06/10/2014 by Jacobus Verbaarschot. Here are links to versions saved on 6/10/2014 , 8/7/2013 , 9/9/2012 , 10/25/2008 , 5/1/2008 , 3/12/2008 , 8/29/2007 , 3/27/2007 , 6/12/2006 , 7/25/2005 , 12/14/2004 , 10/14/2004 , 9/27/2004 , 7/30/2004 , 5/6/2004 and 5/26/2003 .