PhD in Physics


Program Description

Lehigh University Physics Graduate Students

The department offers an M.S. and a Ph.D. in physics, with specializations in astrophysics, atomic and molecular physics, biophysics & soft condensed matter, computational physics, condensed matter, nonlinear optics and photonics, particle physics, string theory, and statistical physics.

Program Highlights

  • Graduate students in physics at Lehigh are involved in major national and international research collaborations. These include the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory; the XSEDE national supercomputing network; collaboration with Oak Ridge and Berkeley National Lab; the NERSC and RACF computing facilities; and astrophysical facilities like the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope and the NASA TESS mission.
  • The physics department has a wide range of state-of-the-art equipment and experimental facilities. These include the Physics Laser Spectroscopy Laboratory, several laser sources, providing everything from precise low-bandwidth coherent radiation to wavelength-tunable femtosecond and picosecond short pulses, and advanced spectroscopy equipment from the visible to the infrared. Other equipment includes atomic force microscopes, a Raman microscope, a near field UV optical microscope, optical tweezers, a Fourier transform spectrometer, and several other confocal optical microscopes.
  • Lehigh physics research uses additional university facilities including the Lehigh High-Performance Computing Center, the Center for Photonics and Nanotechnology, several Interdisciplinary Research Institutes, and diverse material analysis, fabrication, and characterization facilities. 

The department offers a program of coursework and research leading to the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in physics. Approximately 40 graduate students are enrolled in the Physics department, supported by research and teaching assistantships and fellowships.

Active research areas in the department include Astronomy and Astrophysics, Atomic, Molecular, & Optical Physics Experiment, Biophysics, Computational Physics, Condensed Matter Physics, High Energy Nuclear/Particle Experiment, High Energy Theory and Cosmology, Nonlinear Optics and Photonics Experiment, Plasma Physics Experiment, Soft Condensed Matter Physics, and Complex Fluids, Statistical & Thermal Physics, and Physics Education.  See the Research Page for a more detailed list of research activities. Experimental, theoretical, and computational projects are underway in most areas. Active collaborations also exist with faculty in other departments and programs at Lehigh, such as Electrical Engineering, Bioengineering, and Materials Science and Engineering.

Candidates for advanced degrees normally will have completed, before beginning their graduate studies, the requirements for a bachelor’s degree with a major in physics, including advanced mathematics beyond differential and integral calculus. Students lacking the equivalent of this preparation will make up deficiencies in addition to taking the specified work for the degree sought.

At least eight semester hours of general college physics using calculus are required for admission to all 200- and 300-level courses. Additional prerequisites for individual courses are noted in the course descriptions. Admission to 400-level courses generally is predicated on satisfactory completion of corresponding courses in the 200- and 300-level groups or their equivalent.

Lehigh University Physics Graduate Program Volkmar Dierolf

Ph.D. Degree 

The Ph.D. program includes a set of core courses, including some at the advanced graduate level that provides a broad background in physics that is so important in the long run, specialized courses relevant to the research area of the student, and the research for the Ph.D. dissertation. Students entering with graduate-level work at other institutions may include relevant courses taken at the other institutions in their proposal for candidacy, which includes all their course preparation as well as the research proposal for the dissertation.

Typical Time-Line

Year 1
Take core courses in Mechanics (Phy 420), Mathematical Methods of Physics (Phy 428), Atomic and Molecular Structure (Phy 362), Quantum Mechanics I (Phy 369), Electricity and Magnetism (Phy 421), and Statistical Mechanics (Phy 442).

Summer 1
Research project (Phy 491) June-August.

Year 2
Fall Semester: Electricity and Magnetism (Phy 422), Quantum Mechanics II (424), and one elective course. Many students go to group meetings in the research area they are considering for their dissertation work.

At the beginning of the Spring Semester, students take the Qualifier Exam.

Spring Semester: Nuclear and Elementary Particle Physics (Phy 364), breadth and elective courses, formally choose a research advisor, start research if there is time, and attend group meetings, as appropriate.

Year 3
Take specialized courses, as appropriate, do preliminary research, and put together a Proposal for Candidacy, which includes a research proposal and general exam.

Year 4
Take specialized courses, as appropriate, and concentrate on research. An annual meeting with your dissertation committee is required.

Year 5
Complete the research, publish papers, complete and defend the dissertation.

Students who enter with a Master's Degree, or equivalent course work, take the Qualifying Exam after the first semester, and choose a research advisor the next semester and start on research next summer.


Organization Information

The Lehigh Physics Department offers a Ph.D. in physics with specializations in astrophysics, atomic and molecular physics, biophysics, computational physics, condensed matter physics, high energy nuclear experimental physics, high energy theory, nonlinear optics, and photonics, soft condensed matter and complex fluids, string theory, and statistical physics.

Admissions Open: Fall/Spring

Fall Deadline for Application Review: January 15

Spring Deadline for Application Review: September 15

Contact Information

Marina Long, Graduate Coordinator
Phone Number: (610) 758-3931

Admission Requirements

  • 2 Letters of Recommendation Required.
  • GRE general test scores Required.
  • GRE Subject Test (Physics) scores Recommended.

International Applicants

International Applicants are required to demonstrate English language skills needed to take courses at Lehigh, conduct scientific research, communicate with colleagues, and teach. All international applicants must take either the TOEFL test or the IELTS and submit scores. International applicants whose native language is English or who attended a degree-granting institution in the US or other English-speaking countries may contact the Physics Department for a waiver of that requirement.

Last updated Jun 2020

About the School

As Lehigh’s largest and most diverse college, we are home to the social sciences, arts, humanities, and natural sciences. With 1,894 undergraduate students, 342 graduate students, 270 full-time facult ... Read More

As Lehigh’s largest and most diverse college, we are home to the social sciences, arts, humanities, and natural sciences. With 1,894 undergraduate students, 342 graduate students, 270 full-time faculty and 90 professional staff, we are comparable in size and offer the intimacy of a liberal arts college, yet benefit from the resources of a research university. Our faculty are accomplished scholars, artists, and writers, recognized nationally and internationally as leaders in their fields, who share a commitment to the integration of teaching and scholarship into innovative, dynamic curricula set in an intellectually stimulating environment. Read less