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Ph.D. program

The Applied Physics Department offers a Ph.D. degree program; see Admissions Overview for how to apply.  

The number of graduate students admitted to Applied Physics is limited. Applications to the Master of Science and Ph.D. programs should be received by December 14, 2021. M.S. and PhD. students normally enter the department the following Autumn Quarter. Joint applicants for the Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program must submit their Knight-Hennessy Scholars application by October 6, 2021 by 1:00pm Pacific Time and Applied Physics application by December 14, 2021. The general and subject GREs are optional for both the Ph.D. and master's programs. Applicants may submit scores, but they are not required. The decision on whether to submit GRE scores is completely up to the applicant. The admissions committee will make evaluations based only on the information provided. Adverse inferences will not be drawn from an applicant’s choosing not to submit GRE scores.

The Ph.D. is conferred upon candidates who have demonstrated substantial scholarship and the ability to conduct independent research and analysis in applied physics. Through completion of advanced coursework and rigorous skills training, the doctoral program prepares students to make original contributions to the knowledge of applied physics and to interpret and present the results of such research.  The specific departmental requirements for the Ph.D. degree include the following, which are also discussed in the Stanford Bulletin:

1. Courses. Current listings of Applied Physics (and Physics) courses are available via Explore Courses. Courses are available in Physics and Mathematics to overcome deficiencies, if any, in undergraduate preparation. It is expected the specific course requirements are completed by the end of the 3rd year at Stanford.

Required Basic Graduate Courses.  39 units (quarter hours) including:

  1. Basic graduate courses in advanced mechanics, statistical physics, electrodynamics, quantum mechanics, and an advanced laboratory course. In cases where students feel they have already covered the materials in one of the required basic graduate courses, a petition for waiver of the course may be submitted and is subject to approval by a faculty committee.
  2. 18 units of advanced coursework in science and/or engineering to fit the particular interests of the individual student. Such courses typically are in Applied Physics, Physics, or Electrical Engineering, but courses may also be taken in other departments, e.g., Biology, Materials Science and Engineering, Mathematics, Chemistry. The purpose of this requirement is to provide training in a specialized field of research and to encourage students to cover material beyond their own special research interests.​

Required Additional Courses.  Additional courses needed to meet the minimum residency requirement of 135 units of completed course work. Directed study and research units as well as 1-unit seminar courses can be included. Courses are sometimes given on special topics, and there are several seminars that meet weekly to discuss current research activities at Stanford and elsewhere. All graduate students are encouraged to participate in the special topics courses and seminars. A limited number of courses are offered during the Summer Quarter. Most students stay in residence during the summer and engage in independent study or research programs.

The list of the PhD degree core coursework is listed in the bulletin here:

2. Ph.D. Candidacy Review.  This is required by the end of the 6th quarter of registration at Stanford, excluding summer quarters. The review consists of a seminar given by the candidate on a suitable physics or technical topic as well as questioning by a departmental faculty committee on that topic and related material. The purpose of the examination is to demonstrate a broad competence in physics. The candidate’s academic and research performance at Stanford is also reviewed.

3. Dissertation Research.  Research is frequently supervised by an Applied Physics faculty member, but an approved program of research may be supervised by a faculty member from another department.

4. Research Progress Report.  Students give an oral research progress report to their dissertation reading committee during the winter quarter of the 4th year.

5. Dissertation.

6. University Oral Examination.  The examination includes a public seminar in defense of the dissertation and questioning by a faculty committee on the research and related fields.

Most students continue their studies and research during the summer quarter, principally in independent study projects or dissertation research. The length of time required for the completion of the dissertation depends upon the student and upon the dissertation advisor. In addition, the University residency requirement of 135 graded units must be met.

Rotation Program

We offer an optional rotation program for 1st-year graduate students.  Entering graduate students may choose to rotate in a research group for a quarter, rather than join the group outright.  Up to three rotations in the first year are permitted.  Rotations are funded 50/50 by the department and research group hosting the student.  While a rotation is not necessary and a student may join a group without rotating anywhere else, the goal of rotations are to gain some experience for the purpose of aiding their Ph.D. research area and group choice.  Students are expected to have found a research group for their Ph.D. research by the end of the spring quarter of their first year. 

Application process

View Admissions Overview

View the Required Online Ph.D. Program Application

Contact the Applied Physics Department Office at if additional information on any of the above is needed.