The Physics Department exhibits exceptional strength in several areas. We invite applications from able students interested in experimental and theoretical condensed matter physics; in structural biophysics and protein dynamics and function; and in cosmology, relativistic astrophysics, and gravitational-wave/multimessenger astronomy. The primary goal of our graduate education is the training of creative research scientists.

Our research in gravitational physics is in several areas: In gravitational-wave astronomy, we play a leading role in LIGO, extracting signals of gravitational-waves from the coalescence of binary neutron stars and black holes, as well as searching for electromagnetic counterparts, and in the use of pulsars to measure gravitation waves from supermassive black holes. In relativistic astrophysics we have established limits on the spin and mass of rotating neutron stars, and develop computational techniques to model merging stars.  Astronomy efforts include studying early galaxy formation and evolution, and the phenomenology of neutron stars and white dwarfs.

Experimental and theoretical work in condensed matter physics is focused on quantum materials, including quantum transport phenomena, superconductivity, magnetism, and novel states of matter.

Experimental work in biophysics includes advanced optical and electrical methods for probing protein-protein interactions and protein complex structure and dynamics in vivo. Other efforts are in structural biophysics, static and time-resolved macromolecular crystallography, and XFEL-based femtosecond crystallography.  Molecular biophysics studies include protein mechano-chemistry and single-molecule force spectroscopy.

Theoretical and computational work in biophysics includes advanced algorithms for signal extraction in the presence of extreme noise and timing uncertainty (XFEL and cryo-electron microscopy data) for protein crystallography, biostructure, dynamics, and function.

Graduate Minor in Physics

A doctoral student in another department wishing to minor in Physics must choose a minor professor from among the Physics Graduate Faculty. The student and the minor professor plan a program of study consisting of 9 to 12 graduate credits in Physics and complete a Graduate Minor Program Plan for the Physics Department files.

Admission Requirements 

Application Deadlines

Application deadlines vary by program, please review the application deadline chart for specific programs. Other important dates and deadlines can be found by using the One Stop calendars.


Applicant must meet Graduate School requirements plus departmental requirements as given for admission to the master’s program. A master’s degree is not a prerequisite for this PhD program.


A student who receives the master’s degree must formally reapply for admission to the Graduate School before continuing studies toward the PhD.

Credits and Courses

Minimum degree requirement is 54 graduate credits beyond the bachelor’s degree, at least 27 of which must be earned in residence at UWM. The student plans an individual program of studies in consultation with the major professor.

Physics core courses
PHYSICS 501GSpecial Topics: Mathematical Models of Physical Problems I3
PHYSICS 515GStatistical Mechanics3
PHYSICS 531GPrinciples of Quantum Mechanics I3
PHYSICS 532GPrinciples of Quantum Mechanics II3
PHYSICS 711Theoretical Physics-Dynamics3
PHYSICS 722Advanced Classical Theoretical Physics3
Additional credits in Physics courses numbered 700-999 *6
Other courses and PHYSICS 99030
Total Credits54

Not including courses PHYSICS 711, PHYSICS 720, or PHYSICS 990. PHYSICS 651 is included. Independent studies, such as PHYSICS 999, requires approval by the Physics Graduate Academic Committee.

A student may elect to complete one of the following minor programs: a minor of 9 to 12 credits in a single department; a minor of 12 credits in two or more departments. Traditional fields for the minor are mathematics, other natural sciences, computer sciences and engineering. In planning a minor in a single department, the student is advised by the minor professor; in planning a minor in two or more departments, the student is advised by the major professor. The program of study is to be chosen with the major professor and the departmental academic graduate committee.

Additional Requirements


The student must meet minimum Graduate School residence requirements.

Written Placement Test

At the beginning of the first semester of the doctoral program the student must take a written placement test. The test is designed to assess a student’s physics problem solving capabilities assuming a knowledge of physics equivalent to an advanced undergraduate student at a premier institution. The results of the test will be used in advising the student to take either graduate core courses at the 500G/700-level directly or to take the 400G level courses corresponding to those before proceeding to the core courses.

Doctoral Preliminary Examination

The student must pass an oral examination to qualify for formal admission to candidacy for the degree. The oral preliminary examination seeks to determine the student’s preparation for independent research. This examination must be taken before the fifth semester of enrollment into the physics doctoral program and passed within five semesters of enrollment into the physics doctoral program.

Doctoral Proposal Hearing

The student must prepare a written proposal and pass an oral examination on the proposal to qualify for formal admission to candidacy for the degree. This oral examination seeks to determine the student’s preparation for independent research and the suitability of the proposed dissertation program. This examination must be passed within four years of enrollment into the physics doctoral program.


The candidate must present a dissertation reporting the results of an original and independent research investigation representing substantive creative contribution.

Dissertation Defense

The candidate must, as the final step toward the degree, pass an oral examination in defense of the dissertation.

Time Limit

All degree requirements must be completed within ten years from the date of initial enrollment in the doctoral program.

Physics PhD Learning Outcomes

Students graduating from the Physics, PhD program will be able to: 

  • Demonstrate comprehensive and advanced knowledge of physics topics in the core areas of classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics, and electromagnetism. 
  • Demonstrate expertise in a specific field of physics or related area. 
  • Apply computational, experimental, observational and/or theoretical methods to conduct independent, original research in a chosen field of specialization. 
  • Effectively communicate their research findings to academics in their subfield and to the broader Physics community in both oral and written form. 
  • Make original contributions that demonstrably advances knowledge within their subfield.