Graduate Courses

First Year

Each graduate student selects a course of study in consultation with a graduate adviser. A student with gaps in preparation may be advised to take one or more advanced undergraduate courses the first year. Otherwise, students are normally expected to take a sequence of "core courses" in classical mechanics, electrodynamics, quantum mechanics, mathematical methods, and statistical mechanics. Students with advanced preparation can often get permission to skip a core course, but this requires approval by a departmental committee.

First year students are expected to sign up for the Colloquium (PHY 290), in which outside speakers give broad overviews of topics of current research. Winter quarter, students also enroll in a course on departmental research (PHY 295), in which faculty members give introductions to their research areas. This course is especially useful for students who are trying to pick out a specialization and a Ph.D. adviser. Throughout their time at Davis, students may also sign up for a "Career Options" seminar (PHY 285) that brings in speakers from outside academia and occasionally arranges field trips to Silicon Valley.

By the second or third quarter, students are encouraged to spend a portion of their time on research, usually in the form of one or two units of Physics 299 under the direction of a faculty member. This does not commit a student to a given adviser or research area, but is often helpful in making such a choice later on. Quite often, this research has led to a thesis and has greatly accelerated its completion.

A typical first year graduate program for a Ph.D. student with a teaching assistantship and with no deficiencies in undergraduate preparation would be:

Fall Quarter Winter Quarter Spring Quarter
Physics 200A Physics 200C Cluster
Physics 200B Physics 215B Physics 215C or 230A
Physics 215A Physics 219A Research
Physics 290 Physics 290 Physics 290
Physics 371 Physics 295 (Physics 299)
Physics 390 (Physics 299) Physics 390
  Physics 390

Second Year

Graduate students normally choose an area of specialization by the end of their first year. Second year students take a sequence of specialized "cluster courses" in their fields. The present clusters are:

  • Condensed Matter Experiment: PHY 240ABC
  • Condensed Matter Theory: PHY 219B, 240ABC
  • Astrophysics: PHY 250/261, four courses from 265-269, and one course from (260, 262, 263)
  • Cosmology Theory: PHY 230AB, 250/261, 260, 262, 263, and one course from 265-269
  • Fields, Strings, and Gravity: PHY 230ABC, 260, 232, 233
  • Nuclear Physics: PHY 230A, 252B, and three courses from 224ABC, 229AB, and 252C
  • Particle Experiment: PHY 230AB, 245ABC, 252BC
  • Particle Theory: PHY 230ABC, 245ABC, 246A, 252B
  • Computational Science and Complexity: PHY 219 B, Either PHY 256A/B or PHY 255, and one more graduate course in complex systems which could be outside physics (e.g. ECS/MAE 253 or NPB 287)

  • Biophotonics Designated Emphasis (Experiment): PHY 240AB; EAD 271; BIS 101 or 102 or 104, or BIM 202
  • Biophotonics Designated Emphasis (Theory): PHY 219B, 240AB; EAD 271; BIS 101 or 102 or 104, or BIM 202

Second year students often sign up for a seminar (PHY 291, 292, 293, 294, or 296), in which outside speakers give talks in particular areas. By this time, students should also begin serious work on independent research (PHY 299).

Graduate Course Offerings

For a list of current PHY and AST courses, see the campus general catalog.