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Graduate Program: Overview

Scattering light from particulates in a water sample The UMD physics graduate program is a two-year M.S.-only program at the #2 research university in Minnesota. Our program is limited to between twelve and fifteen students total. That means exceptional opportunities for starting research projects right away, either in a physics theory or experiment subfield or on an interdisciplinary project. We offer a common core of foundation courses and elective specialty courses.

Importantly, we also offer three methods courses emphasizing application of computation to numerical, analytical, and experimental techniques. In addition, students are required to take two courses outside the department; electrical engineering, computer science, chemistry, and math are popular choices, but there is flexibility to design a degree plan around your career goals.

Getting involved in research right away your first year (or sometimes the summer before your first year) is an advantage. It puts you a step up against otherwise similarly prepared third year Ph.D. students in physics, or gives you a chance to drive a project and build skills and experiences that are valued in industry. Both go beyond what might have been available to you as an undergraduate.

MINOS Far Detector under construction Research topics available to students include experimental neutrino physics, particle and dark matter astrophysics, theoretical cosmology, computational nuclear and particle physics, condensed matter physics, and the foundations of quantum mechanics. In addition, a trio of the physics faculty are associated with the Large Lakes Observatory and do interdisciplinary research on physics of oceans and large lakes and the environments that surround them. We have had several recent physics students do projects joint between physics and faculty in electrical engineering, biochemistry, medical physics, and math departments, which might be a path to transition with physics skills into other fun disciplines.

Our faculty have access to some unique facilities and partnerships. Two work on experimental neutrino physics experiments located at the Soudan Underground Laboratory, the NOvA Ash River experimental site, which are two hours from Duluth, and the MINERvA experiment at Fermilab in Chicago. Three faculty make extensive use of high performance computing, at the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute as well as high throughput grid computing at Fermilab. The faculty associated with the Large Lakes Observatory do observational and computational modeling work, including work on Lake Superior from the ship "Blue Heron" and are part of one of the strongest interdisciplinary teams devoted to freshwater research. In addition to students in the physics M.S., they also support students through the UM system-wide Water Resources Science program.

Links to individual research interests are available here.

Our graduate students come from a variety of backgrounds and have varied goals. Some students are U.S. citizens with bachelor's degrees in physics or related areas, sometimes from smaller undergraduate programs. Others are international students with B.S. degrees in physics or applied physics making the transition to advanced study in the U.S. Their goals include preparation for admission to Ph.D. programs in physics or other areas such as engineering fields and medical physics, teaching positions in high schools or community colleges, and technical positions in industry with an emphasis on computing or instrumentation. Our program size and individual attention helps to create an environment to helpyou achieve your goals.

Questions regarding details of UMD's Physics M.S. program can be sent to the Director of Graduate Studies:

Prof. Rik Gran, DGS
Physics Dept., 371 MWAH
University of Minnesota - Duluth
1023 University Dr.
Duluth, MN 55812 USA

Please do NOT send your application materials through the mail! All applications to the University of Minnesota Duluth's Graduate School are now done online. Application information is available here.

Graduate School deadlines for admission applications are:

  • July 15 for Fall Semester. We have a rolling admissions policy, and will start to consider applications in March.
  • November 1 for Spring Semester. Most assistanship awards are made for the usual academic year, September - May. Only occasionally are assistantship openings available beginning in spring semester.
The graduate program in physics at UMD leads to an M.S. degree. While all students participate in faculty-guided research, there are two routes to completing the degree, with different levels of research expectations. Both routes involve a common core of foundation courses and at least one course emphasizing application of computing to numerical, analytical, or experimental techniques in physics. In developing a program, students elect to satisfy degree requirements with either a thesis-based research component (Plan A) or additional course work and a smaller research project (Plan B). Students typically complete the program in two years. While our program does not offer a Ph.D. many of our students continue on to Ph.D. programs, within the University of Minnesota or at other universities. Several of our faculty may advise Ph.D. students in related programs within the University of Minnesota, particularly the Water Resources Science program and the Physics program on the Twin Cities campus.

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Last modified on 02/24/15 01:35 PM
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