Welcome to the University of Minnesota Duluth Physics Department's Graduate Program Home Page. The Department offers a Master of Science degree in Physics with a curriculum that provides a grounding in the fundamentals and research opportunities in theoretical, computational, and experimental areas. There are eight faculty members in the graduate program, with research interests in the areas of experimental high energy physics, computational particle physics, physical oceanography/limnology, experimental condensed matter physics, environmental optics/remote sensing, and fundamental aspects of quantum mechanics. Research opportunities and specialty courses provide students with substantial exposure to computational and instrumentation techniques. The work in physical limnology (the study of lakes) is carried out by faculty jointly associated with physics and the University's Large Lakes Observatory, an interdisciplinary research center with an emphasis on the physical characteristics and processes of large lakes, including the adjacent Lake Superior.
Information is available on the Department, its graduate program, and the UMD campus. You can follow links to individual faculty members and learn more about their work. Take a look around! If you're interested in applying to our M.S. program, additional information on admission and support can be found below, as well as a link to an on-line form for requesting application materials.
Graduate program information:
Additional general information on the Physics Department, other programs, the campus, and the Duluth area is available through the following links.
Please note that the physics program at UMD does not offer a physics Ph.D., although many of our students continue on in Ph.D. programs on the Twin Cities campus of the University of Minnesota (UMTC) and elsewhere. Opportunities for physics-related Ph.D. work also are possible through LLO-Physics faculty participating in the University-wide Water Resources Science graduate program. Some students find it advantageous to begin their graduate studies in a smaller program, with ready opportunities for personal interactions. If you are interested in pursuing a physics Ph.D. directly, you may want to visit the WWW page of the School of Physics and Astronomy on the Twin Cities campus of the University of Minnesota.
The graduate program in physics at UMD leads to an M.S. degree. Students typically complete the program in two years. In developing a program, students elect to satisfy degree requirements with either a "Plan A" or a "Plan B" program. All students participate in research, with levels of participation determined by the program. Plan A involves the preparation of a thesis based on original research carried out under the supervision of a faculty member. Most of the research and writing for this is done during the second year. Plan B programs incorporate a smaller research project and more course work.
The primary areas of student participation in research in recent years have been in experimental neutrino physics, light scattering for interpretation of remote sensing data, and experimental condensed matter physics (scanning probe microscopy).
With our faculty associated with the Large Lakes Observatory, opportunities in physical limnology (the study of lakes) and oceanography, including both observational and computational modeling work, are available. The LLO faculty are also associated with the university-wide Water Resources Science program, which offers Ph.D. opportunities for students wishing to continue work in this direction.
Most students in the physics program receive financial support through half-time teaching assistanships.
Our graduate students come from a variety of backgrounds and have varied goals. Some students are U.S. citizens with B.S. degrees in physics or related areas from smaller undergraduate programs. Others are international students with B.S. degrees in physics or applied physics. 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 recent M.S. graduates who have pursued further graduate studies have been successful in being admitted to PhD programs.
The Physics Department serves this diverse group by basing its program on three components. The first component is advanced coursework in the fundamental areas of physics, the second is research experience, and the third, specialized courses in computational physics and instrumentation. The specialized courses build on the fundamentals and provide many of the tools used in the students' research projects; the skills they develop are also useful in later work, whether that be Ph.D. thesis research, teaching, or industrial research and development. The hands-on experience, usually available to all of our students, is very important to the development of these skills, and yet can be rare for a Master's-level student in a typical Ph.D. program. Several students have published work jointly with faculty advisors in refereed journals such as The Physical Review.
The faculty consider research involvement to be essential for graduate students. All students participate in on-going faculty research through thesis or project work. The research component of the program is central to developing the ability to do physics instead of just studying it. Participation in research builds the skills to take on challenging problems and questions, ranging from computational methods in problems of particle physics, to fundamental questions in quantum mechanics, to development and application of new measurement techniques in the lab. Graduate students engaged in the research component of their programs work on a particular problem under the guidance a faculty member, making use of specialized equipment in the laboratory of the supervising faculty, and of the various general resources in the department and on the campus.
Because of the importance the department attaches to the research aspect
of the graduate program, every effort is made to see that students have the
opportunity to pursue their research work full-time during at least one
summer. To receive summer support, students first discuss research topics
with the various faculty members. After identifying a faculty advisor and
topic for thesis or project work, students prepare a brief proposal for
summer support of their work. Funds available
within the College of Science and Engineering, from
the Graduate School, and from research grants are used to
support as many deserving proposals as
possible. Students completing their first year are usually given highest
priority. Most of the summer work becomes
the content of projects required for the Plan B (non-thesis) M.S.;
Plan A students begin thesis work at this time and
continue through the second year with some course work and more
research. In recent years we have been able to provide summer support
for all participating first-year students as well as at least
partial support for a number of second-year students.
Beginning September 1999 the University of Minnesota adopted a
semester-based academic calendar. Students now entering the program
follow semester-based requirements above. Students who began
study prior to September 1999 may elect to satisfy quarter-based or
semester-based requirements as may be most efficient. Prior quarter-based degree requirements are available here. Further information on the quarter-to-semester transition is available here.
The department is located in Marshall W. Alworth Hall, which it shares with Information Services and the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. The total space available to the department is approximately 15,000 square feet. The general-purpose facilities available within the department include a machine shop staffed by the department's Laboratory Services Coordinator, a student shop, and a variety of computing tools. The machine shop serves instructional and research construction needs and is equipped with several mills and lathes and various smaller machines including saws, drill presses, and grinders.
The general computing resources include a computational physics room with well-equipped personal computers (running Linux and Windows) connected to the campus network, to central computing services and off-campus computing resources including the Minnesota Supercomputer Institute. This room also houses the departmental Linux-based servers. All can support students engaged in computational physics research work (Hiller). The electronics laboratory houses personal computers equipped with data acquisition hardware (analog-to-digital, digital-to-analog converters and IEEE-488 interfaces) and software for lab work.
Experimental/observational research activities are in the areas of physical oceanography/limnology (the study of lakes), high energy physics, and condensed matter.
Work in high energy physics experiments (Habig, Gran) is carried out in Japan (Super-K) and in the MINOS collaboration using neutrinos beamed from Fermilab and detected in the Soudan mine in northern Minnesota.
The oceanography/limnology work (Austin) makes use of the resources of the Large Lakes Observatory. These include an 87-foot research vessel (R/V Blue Heron) equipped with multibeam sonar and acoustic Doppler current profilers for Great Lakes research.
Light scattering from suspended particles is used to interpret remote sensing satellite data of coastal waters and lakes. (Sydor)
Other condensed matter experimental work uses scanning probe
microscopy and cryogenic techniques (Maps).
The prerequisite for admission is a four-year undergraduate degree in physics or its equivalent. Students with degrees in closely related fields with significant physics and mathematics background and a keen interest in further physics training are routinely considered. In making admissions decisions, several measures are taken into account. Among these measures are undergraduate grade point average (the Graduate School prefers an undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 on a 4 point scale), undergraduate course selections, and performance on Graduate Record Exams when available. While the GRE general and subject results are not required, their submission is strongly encouraged for students seeking financial support.
For international students, performance on the TOEFL exam is also considered. The Graduate School regards 550 (paper-based)or 213 (computer-based) as the minimum TOEFL score for admission. For the new TOEFL available September 2005, an overall minimum score of 79 will be required with minimum scores of 21 and 19 in the writing and reading sections respectively. International applicants seeking financial support through assistantships are normally expected to achieve significantly higher scores -- above 590 (paper-based) or 243 (computer-based) -- and are also strongly encouraged to provide GRE general and/or subject test results. The results of IELTS (International English Language Testing System) are accepted as an alternative to the TOEFL. The University of Minnesota has established 6.5 as the minimum score for admission. MELAB is also an accepted alternative to TOEFL, with a minimum score of 80 required for admission. More details on these requirements can be found here.
Deadlines for application for admission are:
July 15 for Fall Semester (however, note the March 1 deadline for assistantship applications)
November 1 for Spring Semester
Decisions on financial support through teaching or research assistantships are separate from admissions decisions. A separate application form and the required supporting documents, including three letters of recommendation, are submitted to the Department's Director of Graduate Studies. Most decisions about assistantship awards are made in early spring of each year. For full consideration, complete application materials (admission and assistantship) should arrive no later than March 1 for entry in September. Consideration of applications completed after March 1 will be based on support available at that time. Occasionally positions become available in the middle of the school-year.
Support is usually in the form of a 50%-time (20 hours per week) appointment. Half-time appointments carry a tuition waiver up to the normal full-time Graduate School tuition, as well as health insurance benefits. Duties of teaching assistants are typically a mixture of directing and grading introductory physics laboratory sections, leading problem-solving help sessions for introductory physics courses, and homework and exam grading. Duties of research assistants are determined by the sponsoring faculty member. These appointments are most often made for the academic year (September through May). Support for a second year is contingent upon satisfactory progress in the graduate program and satisfactory performance of assigned duties.
The department can often provide a stipend for summer research support to students the summer following their first year to enable a solid start in research. Support for a second summer is less common, since students can typically satisfy program requirements within that timeframe when supported by an assistantship, although at least partial support has occasionally been provided to allow final completion of project or thesis work.
NOTE: The Application process is now online rather than paper-based. Here are some details of what the UMD Physics department needs.
Prospective students intent on pursuing a Ph.D. degree directly should investigate the graduate program in physics on the University of Minnesota's Twin Cities campus.
Questions regarding details of UMD's Physics M.S. program can be sent to the Director of Graduate Studies:
Prof. Alec Habig, DGS
Physics Dept., 371 MWAH
University of Minnesota - Duluth
1023 University Dr.
Duluth, MN 55812 USA