Graduate Student Advising Handbook

Department of Physics, Colorado School of Mines

July 2020

This resource is intended to serve as a guide, for graduate students and faculty alike, on how to navigate the procedures and requirements established for graduate students by the Mines Physics Department. Links to Mines Graduate School information, throughout and on the last tab, are also provided for convenience.

Whether you are a new Mines M.S. or Ph.D student in physics, an M.S. student in one of our combined programs, or a graduate student within the Materials Science, Nuclear Engineering, or Quantum Engineering graduate program working in our department, we welcome you to Graduate School at the Colorado School of Mines!

The School has a number of resources for new graduate students, including

No matter what your role in our Department, the following are useful guidelines:

Establishing Residency

Due to the large difference in tuition charged Colorado residents vs. others, it is mandatory that incoming graduate students establish residency in Colorado as quickly as possible. The procedures for becoming a Colorado resident can be found at Residency Guidelines. Because it takes a full year to establish residency, you must begin the process before the first day of classes to be eligible for in-state tuition at the beginning of the second year. If tuition support through the department has been granted, it is assumed students will become residents, so this support will be based on in-state tuition after the first year. International students are exempt from this rule; they should organize their visa status through International Admissions.

Student identification card and computer account

Immediately upon arriving on campus, a new graduate student needs to

  • obtain a student Blaster Card (an identification card, named after the Mines mascot Blaster, an irritable-looking burro with a stick of dynamite clenched in his teeth). This is needed to enter the building after normal business hours.
  • establish a campus computer account and campus email address via Mines MultiPass Account Claim
  • fill out a form (available from the Physics Department administrative assistant Barbara Shellenberger, CoorsTek 382F, to start an account on the Physics Department network, which provides access to many physics-specific tools.
  • notify the student’s academic advisor (named in the admission letter) and Barbara Shellenberger of your new campus email address as soon as possible in order for you to be included in the distribution list for important notifications from the Department.

Additional useful links concerning campus-wide graduate school deadlines can be found at Graduation Deadlines .

Transfer credit

University policy generally allows for up to 24 credit hours of courses to be transferred (i.e., to be applied toward your graduate degree requirements). If a student enters the Ph.D. Program with a thesis-based M.S. (or international equivalent) a total of up to 36 credit hours for combined courses and research can be transferred. Courses transferred must not have been used as (required for) credit toward your undergraduate degree. This information is used in the Admission to Candidacy form available at Admission to Candidacy, which should be consulted for restrictions of transfer credit.

Obtaining transfer credit is not simply a way of saving yourself time. The Graduate Bulletin states

Students enrolled in thesis-based degree programs who have completed the minimum course and research requirements for their degree are eligible to continue to pursue their graduate program full time at a reduced registration [tuition] level.

The sooner you have your Admission to Candidacy form approved the sooner you (and your thesis advisor’s grant) qualify for reduced tuition.  Please see Eligibility for Reduced Registration in the catalog on the Registration and Tuition Classification page.

The Physics Department’s Graduate Student Advisory Committee (GSAC) reviews applications for transfer credit. See the form entitled Transfer of Course Credit in the Forms section on this page. You should apply to the GSAC in the first week of your first semester at Mines. This process can actually begin when you are admitted into the program so you can confirm, before accepting admission, how much transfer credit you will probably be granted. Inmaking decisions, the GSAC (or sometimes faculty who have recently taught a particular graduate orundergraduate course) will evaluate degrees, theses, transcripts, and course materials (text, syllabus, and assignments) from courses the applicant has taken, so please be prepared to bring in this material.

The GSAC also decides which courses taken elsewhere can be used in fulfillment of the requirements for the quality control process (used in lieu of a qualifying examination) in our department. To be considered for this purpose, these courses must have (i) been passed with a course grade of B (or better) or (ii) the contents of these courses must have been subject to a comprehensive examination (with a grade of B or better) for a graduate degree at your previous graduate institution. Foreign grading scales will be evaluated by the committee as needed.

Deficiency courses

Deficiencies in your academic preparation are usually identified and communicated to you during the admissions process. Depending on the nature of the deficiencies your admission can in fact be probationary. Courses which must be taken to make up deficiencies, generally undergraduate courses in the physics program, are identified to the student. Progress will be monitored by the student’s academic advisor. If additional deficiencies become obvious, the student should immediately consult with the academic advisor. If a satisfactory agreement between student and advisor on a course of action cannot be found, the Graduate Student Advisory Committee will mediate and set benchmarks for the student to fulfill.

Department's recommended degree timetable - M.S.

TaskWhen
Identify deficiency coursesBefore start of first semester of classes
Apply for transfer credit First week of first semester
Identify research advisorDuring first semester
Form thesis committee; use the The Advisor/Thesis Committee Request Form available at Advisor/Thesis CommitteeBy end of first semester
Complete core courses and electives Before graduation
Complete thesis proposalAt least one semester before thesis defense
Thesis Defense Request FormDuring last semester
Apply for graduation. See How to Apply to Graduate and Apply for graduation.
Check out and graduation. See Thesis Writer's Guide and FormsBefore departure
Please also see Steps to Graduation and Graduation Deadlines for both Thesis and Non-Thesis options.

Remarks for Mines students in Combined Programs

A Mines Combined Program results (under ideal circumstances) in an M.S. one year after completion of an undergraduate degree in Engineering Physics, our Department’s baccalaureate program. This requires a compressed schedule. We suggest that

  • Submit the graduate admissions application during your junior year.
  • The Thesis Committee be formed by the end of the first month of graduate school.
  • Most research be completed by the end of the first semester of graduate study.
  • The thesis proposal, consisting of a 5-page proposal and a 10-minute oral defense, be completed by October in order to graduate in May.
  • The M.S. thesis be defended well before the end of the second (Spring) semester.

Course Requirements

Please refer to the Major and Courses tabs on this Mines Academic Catalog page.

Thesis Proposal

Shortly after forming a thesis committee and at least one semester before the thesis defense, the M.S. candidate will prepare a thesis proposal and present it to the committee, which will approve the proposed program of research. While the advisor and committee provide overall guidance on the style and content of the thesis proposal, in general, it should:

  • Include adequate background to allow the committee to understand the importance of the proposed research.
  • Discuss the project within the framework of prior research and place it in context within the relevant field of study. Include an adequate bibliography to demonstrate that you have a complete grasp of the relevant literature.
  • Present and justify the techniques and approaches that will be used to achieve the proposed goals. While not always necessary, preliminary results are often included to help justify the direction and approach.
  • Include a time table for completion of the thesis, and a list of courses that have been taken (or will be taken) to meet the degree course requirements.

Thesis preparation and defense

M.S. students in Physics must prepare and defend a thesis. The thesis is prepared by the student, based on the student’s original research. While a thesis tends to include more detail than a journal article, it is expected that the technical quality of the thesis, and the writing itself, are of journal quality. See Thesis Writer’s Guide and Writing Center. In general a physics thesis discusses an application of the scientific method to a substantive research issue and demonstrates mastery of a research topic by the student. In preparing the thesis, the student coordinates the writing with the thesis advisor. The advisor provides guidance on the content of the thesis, writing style, and time frame for its submission. Once the advisor has approved the thesis, the student arranges a meeting of the thesis committee to defend the thesis. In addition to the rules and procedures in Thesis Defense Rules and Thesis Defense Request, the departmental guidelines for thesis defense given below must be followed.
  • Final copies of the thesis must be given to the committee members at least a week before the defense date.
  • A copy of the thesis should be left with the department administrative assistant at the same time it is distributed to the committee to allow non-committee members, who might wish to attend the defense to review the thesis in advance.
  • An email announcement which includes the student’s name, thesis title, location, and time of defense should be sent to physics department faculty, staff, and graduate students at least one week before the defense.
  • An advertisement for the thesis defense should be printed and given to the department administrative assistant at least one week in advance of the defense.
  • The defense should be scheduled for two hours. This includes an oral presentation by the student of a summary of the thesis, followed by questions from the committee and guests. The length and style of presentation is determined by the committee chair in conjunction with the student although talks are typically 30-40 minutes long.
  • After a successful defense, and completion of any corrections to the thesis, the thesis is formally submitted. Note: the possibility of strictly electronic submission is currently being considered. The Statement of Work Completion form is submitted to the Graduate School office. A copy must go to the department administrative assistant and to the thesis advisor.

The check-out procedure for graduation is discussed in the Graduate Bulletin.

Department's recommended degree timetable - Ph.D.

TaskWhen
Identify deficiency coursesBefore start of first semester of classes
Apply for transfer credit First week of first semester
Identify research advisorTypically during second semester
Form thesis committee; use the The Advisor/Thesis Committee Request Form available at Advisor/Thesis CommitteeBy end of third semester
Complete core courses and quality control processBetween end of first and end of second year
Complete electives requirement Before admission to candidacy
Apply for Admission to CandidacyRecommended by end of second calendar year
Thesis proposal defense End of third year Must be completed a year before the defense
Thesis Defense Request FormDuring last semester
Apply for graduation
Check out and graduation. See Thesis Writer's Guide and FormsBefore departure
Please also see Steps to Graduation and Graduation Deadlines.

Course Requirements

Please refer to the Major and Courses tabs on this Mines Academic Catalog page.

Quality control process and admission to candidacy

All Ph.D. programs must include a quality control process. According to the current Mines Catalog Graduate Bulletin

To demonstrate adequate preparation for the Ph.D. degree in Physics, each student must achieve a grade of 3.0 or better in each core course. Students not meeting this standard must pass oral examinations covering the relevant core courses or retake the courses with a grade of 3.0 or better within one year. This process is part of the requirement for admission to candidacy, which full time Ph.D. students must complete within two calendar years of admission, as described in the campus-wide graduate degree requirements section of this bulletin. Other degree requirements, time limits, and procedural details can be found in the Physics Department Graduate Student Advising Brochure.

The Graduate Student Advising Committee (GSAC), described above and selected by the physics faculty, administers this policy. The GSAC guides the progress of the incoming physics graduate students, organizes the necessary oral examinations, and makes recommendations of graduate students to the Physics faculty for admission to Ph.D candidacy. Each student passing the core courses identified above with a grade point average of 3.0 or better will be eligible to apply for Ph.D. Candidacy. See the form entitled Quality Control Completion available from the Forms section on this page.

Students who do not meet this standard will be required to take an oral examination in areas of weakness as determined by the GSAC, typically in those core courses were the student received a grade lower than B (3.0). Members of the physics faculty will administer the necessary oral examinations during as scheduled, generally as soon as possible after the student has completed the core sequence. The GSAC may grant students postponements in emergency circumstances. If the student fails the oral examination, the student may either (a) repeat the subject course or courses or (b) retake the oral examination at the next regularly scheduled opportunity. Students electing to repeat courses who fail to attain a grade point average of 3.0 or better in the physics graduate core with the new grade substituting for the previous may not become Ph.D. candidates. Likewise, students who fail the oral examinations twice may not become Ph.D. candidates.

Students with previous graduate training may request the GSAC to consider substitution of earlier courses for core courses within one month of initiating graduate studies at CSM. Students admitted to the physics graduate program with a M.S. degree or a foreign equivalent, will have their previous course work, thesis, and other academic materials evaluated by the GSAC which will determine which courses, if any, can be substituted for core courses. Please see Transfer Credit in the Arrival at Mines section on this page for more information on transfer credit.

Thesis proposal

Typically within the first year at CSM (and definitely before the end of the second year) the student will consult with the GSAC to identify a potential area of thesis research and a thesis advisor. The student and advisor will identify a thesis committee. Pay careful attention to campus guidelines for committee membership.

The Ph.D. candidate will, after finishing the above outlined course requirements, prepare a thesis proposal, which should be defended no later than one year after admission to Ph.D. candidacy and must be completed at least one year before the thesis defense. While the advisor and committee provide overall guidance on the style and content of the thesis proposal, in general it should:

  • Include adequate background to allow the committee to understand the importance of the proposed research.
  • Discuss the project within the framework of prior research and place it in context within the relevant field of study. Include a comprehensive bibliography to demonstrate that you have a complete grasp of the relevant literature.
  • Present and justify the techniques and approaches that will be used to achieve the proposed goals. While not always necessary, preliminary results are often included to help justify the direction and approach.
  • Include a time table for completion of the thesis and a list of courses that have been taken (or will be taken) to meet the degree course requirements.

The thesis proposal should not, however, be a mini-thesis; it needs to be a proposal. It need not be a long document. Something less than 30 pages with less than 20 pages of actual written discussion is more than adequate.

The format of the thesis proposal defense is set by the committee but typically is scheduled for two hours with a short presentation followed by questions from the audience and committee. Upon successful completion, the committee and advisor will complete the form entitled Proposal Defense, available from the Forms section on this page.

Ph.D. candidates have two attempts to defend their thesis proposal. If necessary, the second thesis proposal defense must occur within six months of the first attempt. A student who fails to successfully defend his or her thesis proposal after two attempts will be removed as a physics Ph.D. candidate but may petition the GSAC for permission to pursue a M.S. degree.

Thesis preparation and defense

Ph.D. students in Physics must prepare and defend a thesis. The thesis is prepared by the student, based on the student’s original research. While a thesis tends to include more detail than a journal article, it is expected that the technical quality of the thesis, and the writing itself, are of journal quality and that the central results of the thesis will be published. See Thesis Writer’s Guide and Writing Center. In general a physics thesis discusses an application of the scientific method to a substantive research issue and demonstrates mastery of a research area by the student.In preparing the thesis, the student coordinates the writing with the thesis advisor. The advisor provides guidance on the content of the thesis, writing style, and the time frame for its submission. Once the advisor has approved the thesis, the student arranges a meeting of the thesis committee to defend the thesis. In addition to the rules and procedures in Thesis Defense Rules and Thesis Defense Request, the departmental guidelines for thesis defense given below must be followed.

  • Copies of the thesis must be given to the committee members at least a week before the defensedate.
  • A copy of the thesis should be left with the department administrative assistant at the same time it is distributed to the committee to allow non-committee members who might wish to attend the defense to review the thesis in advance.
  • An email announcement which includes the student’s name, thesis title, location, and time of defense should be sent to physics department faculty, staff, and graduate students at least one week before the defense.
  • An advertisement for the thesis defense, using the form given in the forms section of the brochure, should be printed and given to the department administrative assistant at least one week before the defense.
  • The defense should be scheduled for two hours. This includes oral presentation by the student of a summary of the thesis. This is followed by questions from the committee and guests. The length and style of presentation is determined by the committee chair in conjunction with the student although talks are typically 30-40 minutes long. Possible outcomes of the defense are discussed in the Graduate Bulletin.
  • After a successful defense, and completion of any corrections to the thesis, the thesis is formally submitted. The Statement of Work Completion form is submitted to the Graduate School office. A copy must go to the department administrative assistant and to the thesis advisor.
  • The check-out procedure for graduation is discussed in the university Graduate Bulletin.

Physics colloquium

An important activity in the physics department is the weekly colloquium. The colloquium organizer tries to bring speakers covering interesting and important topics from all fields of physics. It is important and enriching for graduate students to be exposed to problems from different areas; thus they are required to register for and attend the colloquium.

During fall and spring term students in the M.S.Program register for PHGN501 and 502, respectively. Ph.D. students register for PHGN601 and 602. Each semester students are awarded either a PRG (satisfactory progress) or a PRU (unsatisfactory progress). Credit is not awarded each term, but credit and a letter grade are given at the time of graduation. M.S. Students receive a total of 1 credit hours and Ph.D. students are awarded 1.

Note that this series also generally includes

  • in the Fall semester, a mandatory refresher version of the Environmental Health and Safety safety training for faculty, staff, postdocs, continuing grad students, and undergraduates working in laboratories, and
  • in the Spring semester, administration of the Department’s policy on responsible conduct of research (RCR) .

Other training for graduate students required by the Graduate School

Please carefully examine regulations generally posted at the Office of Graduate Studies. These include the full Environmental Health and Safety training course during their first semester and sexual harassment prevention training.

Obtaining financial support

Graduate students in the physics department are usually supported via full or partial teaching and research assistantships. Before admission, support is negotiated with the chair of the departmental graduate student admissions committee for the first year. After this year support should be arranged through the student’s academic advisor and is typically in the form of a research assistantship. If a research advisor has not been identified after the first year is complete, and a student needs a teaching assistantship to maintain continuous funding, it is important to communicate this early to the student’s first year advisor and to the Department Head, who generally manages the teaching assistantship budget. In general teaching assistantship support is limited and hence not guaranteed after the first year, which makes identification of a research advisor and project important. Priority for teaching assistantships is given to first year graduate students in the Ph.D. program followed by Ph.D. students who have not identified a research advisor, and then M.S. students

Responsible conduct of research

Graduate students are required to demonstrate familiarity with and adherence to the Department’s policy.

Departmental and campus facilities

The Physics Department employs a machinist and an electronics technician who control a mechanical/machine shop and an electronics workshop respectively. Students can, after consultation with their thesis advisors, submit orders for fabrication or repairs to these workshops. After appropriate training they can also use the facilities by themselves. All other technical equipment in the Physics Department is under control of one of the research groups and can be used only after coordination with and training through the responsible faculty. There are also facilities in other departments available for use by physics graduate students; these are subject to their own regulations.

 

Graduate Student Advising Handbook

Department of Physics
Colorado School of Mines
July 2020

This resource is intended to serve as a guide, for graduate students and faculty alike, on how to navigate the procedures and requirements established for graduate students by the Mines Physics Department. Links to Mines Graduate School information are also provided, throughout and on the last tab, for convenience.

Whether you are a new Mines M.S. or Ph.D student in physics, an M.S. student in one of our combined programs, or a graduate student within the Materials Science, Nuclear Engineering, or Quantum Engineering graduate program working in our department, we welcome you to Graduate School at the Colorado School of Mines! The School has a number of resources for new graduate students, including

No matter what your role in our Department, the following are useful guidelines:

Establishing Residency

Due to the large difference in tuition charged Colorado residents vs. others, it is mandatory that incoming graduate students establish residency in Colorado as quickly as possible. The procedures for becoming a Colorado resident can be found at Residency Guidelines. Because it takes a full year to establish residency, you must begin the process before the first day of classes to be eligible for in-state tuition at the beginning of the second year. If tuition support through the department has been granted, it is assumed students will become residents, so this support will be based on in-state tuition after the first year. International students are exempt from this rule; they should organize their visa status through International Admissions.

Student identification card and computer account

Immediately upon arriving on campus, a new graduate student needs to

  • obtain a student Blaster Card (an identification card, named after the Mines mascot Blaster, an irritable-looking burro with a stick of dynamite clenched in his teeth). This is needed to enter the building after normal business hours.
  • establish a campus computer account and campus email address via Mines MultiPass Account Claim
  • fill out a form (available from the Physics Department administrative assistant Barbara Shellenberger, CoorsTek 382F, to start an account on the Physics Department network, which provides access to many physics-specific tools.
  • notify the student’s academic advisor (named in the admission letter) and Barbara Shellenberger of your new campus email address as soon as possible in order for you to be included in the distribution list for important notifications from the Department.

Additional useful links concerning campus-wide graduate school deadlines can be found at Graduation Deadlines .

Transfer credit

University policy generally allows for up to 24 credit hours of courses to be transferred (i.e., to be applied toward your graduate degree requirements). If a student enters the Ph.D. Program with a thesis-based M.S. (or international equivalent) a total of up to 36 credit hours for combined courses and research can be transferred. Courses transferred must not have been used as (required for) credit toward your undergraduate degree. This information is used in the Admission to Candidacy form available at Admission to Candidacy, which should be consulted for restrictions of transfer credit. Obtaining transfer credit is not simply a way of saving yourself time. The Graduate Bulletin states

Students enrolled in thesis-based degree programs who have completed the minimum course and research requirements for their degree are eligible to continue to pursue their graduate program full time at a reduced registration [tuition] level.

The sooner you have your Admission to Candidacy form approved the sooner you (and your thesis advisor’s grant) qualify for reduced tuition.  Please see Eligibility for Reduced Registration in the catalog on the Registration and Tuition Classification page. The Physics Department’s Graduate Student Advisory Committee (GSAC) reviews applications for transfer credit. See the form entitled Transfer of Course Credit in the Forms section on this page. You should apply to the GSAC in the first week of your first semester at Mines. This process can actually begin when you are admitted into the program so you can confirm, before accepting admission, how much transfer credit you will probably be granted. Inmaking decisions, the GSAC (or sometimes faculty who have recently taught a particular graduate orundergraduate course) will evaluate degrees, theses, transcripts, and course materials (text, syllabus, and assignments) from courses the applicant has taken, so please be prepared to bring in this material. The GSAC also decides which courses taken elsewhere can be used in fulfillment of the requirements for the quality control process (used in lieu of a qualifying examination) in our department. To be considered for this purpose, these courses must have (i) been passed with a course grade of B (or better) or (ii) the contents of these courses must have been subject to a comprehensive examination (with a grade of B or better) for a graduate degree at your previous graduate institution. Foreign grading scales will be evaluated by the committee as needed.

Deficiency courses

Deficiencies in your academic preparation are usually identified and communicated to you during the admissions process. Depending on the nature of the deficiencies your admission can in fact be probationary. Courses which must be taken to make up deficiencies, generally undergraduate courses in the physics program, are identified to the student. Progress will be monitored by the student’s academic advisor. If additional deficiencies become obvious, the student should immediately consult with the academic advisor. If a satisfactory agreement between student and advisor on a course of action cannot be found, the Graduate Student Advisory Committee will mediate and set benchmarks for the student to fulfill.

Department’s recommended degree timetable – M.S.

TaskWhen
Identify deficiency coursesBefore start of first semester of classes
Apply for transfer credit First week of first semester
Identify research advisorDuring first semester
Form thesis committee; use the The Advisor/Thesis Committee Request Form available at Advisor/Thesis CommitteeBy end of first semester
Complete core courses and electives Before graduation
Complete thesis proposalAt least one semester before thesis defense
Thesis Defense Request FormDuring last semester
Apply for graduation. See How to Apply to Graduate and Apply for graduation.
Check out and graduation. See Thesis Writer's Guide and FormsBefore departure
Please also see Steps to Graduation and Graduation Deadlines for both Thesis and Non-Thesis options.

Remarks for Mines students in Combined Programs

A Mines Combined Program results (under ideal circumstances) in an M.S. one year after completion of an undergraduate degree in Engineering Physics, our Department’s baccalaureate program. This requires a compressed schedule. We suggest that

 

  • Submit the graduate admissions application during your junior year.
  • The Thesis Committee be formed by the end of the first month of graduate school.
  • Most research be completed by the end of the first semester of graduate study.
  • The thesis proposal, consisting of a 5-page proposal and a 10-minute oral defense, be completed by October in order to graduate in May.
  • The M.S. thesis be defended well before the end of the second (Spring) semester.

Course Requirements

Please refer to the Major and Courses tabs on this Mines Academic Catalog page.

Thesis Proposal

Shortly after forming a thesis committee and at least one semester before the thesis defense, the M.S. candidate will prepare a thesis proposal and present it to the committee, which will approve the proposed program of research. While the advisor and committee provide overall guidance on the style and content of the thesis proposal, in general, it should:

  • Include adequate background to allow the committee to understand the importance of the proposed research.
  • Discuss the project within the framework of prior research and place it in context within the relevant field of study. Include an adequate bibliography to demonstrate that you have a complete grasp of the relevant literature.
  • Present and justify the techniques and approaches that will be used to achieve the proposed goals. While not always necessary, preliminary results are often included to help justify the direction and approach.
  • Include a time table for completion of the thesis, and a list of courses that have been taken (or will be taken) to meet the degree course requirements.

Thesis preparation and defense

M.S. students in Physics must prepare and defend a thesis. The thesis is prepared by the student, based on the student’s original research. While a thesis tends to include more detail than a journal article, it is expected that the technical quality of the thesis, and the writing itself, are of journal quality. See Thesis Writer’s Guide and Writing Center. In general a physics thesis discusses an application of the scientific method to a substantive research issue and demonstrates mastery of a research topic by the student. In preparing the thesis, the student coordinates the writing with the thesis advisor. The advisor provides guidance on the content of the thesis, writing style, and time frame for its submission. Once the advisor has approved the thesis, the student arranges a meeting of the thesis committee to defend the thesis. In addition to the rules and procedures in Thesis Defense Rules and Thesis Defense Request, the departmental guidelines for thesis defense given below must be followed.

  • Final copies of the thesis must be given to the committee members at least a week before the defense date.
  • A copy of the thesis should be left with the department administrative assistant at the same time it is distributed to the committee to allow non-committee members, who might wish to attend the defense to review the thesis in advance.
  • An email announcement which includes the student’s name, thesis title, location, and time of defense should be sent to physics department faculty, staff, and graduate students at least one week before the defense.
  • An advertisement for the thesis defense should be printed and given to the department administrative assistant at least one week in advance of the defense.
  • The defense should be scheduled for two hours. This includes an oral presentation by the student of a summary of the thesis, followed by questions from the committee and guests. The length and style of presentation is determined by the committee chair in conjunction with the student although talks are typically 30-40 minutes long.
  • After a successful defense, and completion of any corrections to the thesis, the thesis is formally submitted. Note: the possibility of strictly electronic submission is currently being considered. The Statement of Work Completion form is submitted to the Graduate School office. A copy must go to the department administrative assistant and to the thesis advisor.

The check-out procedure for graduation is discussed in the Graduate Bulletin.

Department’s recommended degree timetable – Ph.D.

TaskWhen
Identify deficiency coursesBefore start of first semester of classes
Apply for transfer credit First week of first semester
Identify research advisorTypically during second semester
Form thesis committee; use the The Advisor/Thesis Committee Request Form available at Advisor/Thesis CommitteeBy end of third semester
Complete core courses and
quality control process
Between end of first and end of second year
Complete electives requirement Before admission to candidacy
Apply for Admission to CandidacyRecommended by end of second calendar year
Thesis proposal defense End of third year
Must be completed a year before the defense
Thesis Defense Request FormDuring last semester
Apply for graduation
Check out and graduation. See Thesis Writer's Guide and FormsBefore departure
Please also see Steps to Graduation and Graduation Deadlines.

Course Requirements

Please refer to the Major and Courses tabs on this Mines Academic Catalog page.

Quality control process and admission to candidacy

All Ph.D. programs must include a quality control process. According to the current Mines Catalog Graduate Bulletin

To demonstrate adequate preparation for the Ph.D. degree in Physics, each student must achieve a grade of 3.0 or better in each core course. Students not meeting this standard must pass oral examinations covering the relevant core courses or retake the courses with a grade of 3.0 or better within one year. This process is part of the requirement for admission to candidacy, which full time Ph.D. students must complete within two calendar years of admission, as described in the campus-wide graduate degree requirements section of this bulletin. Other degree requirements, time limits, and procedural details can be found in the Physics Department Graduate Student Advising Brochure.

The Graduate Student Advising Committee (GSAC), described above and selected by the physics faculty, administers this policy. The GSAC guides the progress of the incoming physics graduate students, organizes the necessary oral examinations, and makes recommendations of graduate students to the Physics faculty for admission to Ph.D candidacy. Each student passing the core courses identified above with a grade point average of 3.0 or better will be eligible to apply for Ph.D. Candidacy. See the form entitled Quality Control Completion available from the Forms section on this page. Students who do not meet this standard will be required to take an oral examination in areas of weakness as determined by the GSAC, typically in those core courses were the student received a grade lower than B (3.0). Members of the physics faculty will administer the necessary oral examinations during as scheduled, generally as soon as possible after the student has completed the core sequence. The GSAC may grant students postponements in emergency circumstances. If the student fails the oral examination, the student may either (a) repeat the subject course or courses or (b) retake the oral examination at the next regularly scheduled opportunity. Students electing to repeat courses who fail to attain a grade point average of 3.0 or better in the physics graduate core with the new grade substituting for the previous may not become Ph.D. candidates. Likewise, students who fail the oral examinations twice may not become Ph.D. candidates. Students with previous graduate training may request the GSAC to consider substitution of earlier courses for core courses within one month of initiating graduate studies at CSM. Students admitted to the physics graduate program with a M.S. degree or a foreign equivalent, will have their previous course work, thesis, and other academic materials evaluated by the GSAC which will determine which courses, if any, can be substituted for core courses. Please see Transfer Credit in the Arrival at Mines section on this page for more information on transfer credit.

Thesis proposal

Typically within the first year at CSM (and definitely before the end of the second year) the student will consult with the GSAC to identify a potential area of thesis research and a thesis advisor. The student and advisor will identify a thesis committee. Pay careful attention to campus guidelines for committee membership. The Ph.D. candidate will, after finishing the above outlined course requirements, prepare a thesis proposal, which should be defended no later than one year after admission to Ph.D. candidacy and must be completed at least one year before the thesis defense. While the advisor and committee provide overall guidance on the style and content of the thesis proposal, in general it should:

  • Include adequate background to allow the committee to understand the importance of the proposed research.
  • Discuss the project within the framework of prior research and place it in context within the relevant field of study. Include a comprehensive bibliography to demonstrate that you have a complete grasp of the relevant literature.
  • Present and justify the techniques and approaches that will be used to achieve the proposed goals. While not always necessary, preliminary results are often included to help justify the direction and approach.
  • Include a time table for completion of the thesis and a list of courses that have been taken (or will be taken) to meet the degree course requirements.

The thesis proposal should not, however, be a mini-thesis; it needs to be a proposal. It need not be a long document. Something less than 30 pages with less than 20 pages of actual written discussion is more than adequate. The format of the thesis proposal defense is set by the committee but typically is scheduled for two hours with a short presentation followed by questions from the audience and committee. Upon successful completion, the committee and advisor will complete the form entitled Proposal Defense, available from the Forms section on this page. Ph.D. candidates have two attempts to defend their thesis proposal. If necessary, the second thesis proposal defense must occur within six months of the first attempt. A student who fails to successfully defend his or her thesis proposal after two attempts will be removed as a physics Ph.D. candidate but may petition the GSAC for permission to pursue a M.S. degree.

Thesis preparation and defense

Ph.D. students in Physics must prepare and defend a thesis. The thesis is prepared by the student, based on the student’s original research. While a thesis tends to include more detail than a journal article, it is expected that the technical quality of the thesis, and the writing itself, are of journal quality and that the central results of the thesis will be published. See Thesis Writer’s Guide and Writing Center. In general a physics thesis discusses an application of the scientific method to a substantive research issue and demonstrates mastery of a research area by the student.In preparing the thesis, the student coordinates the writing with the thesis advisor. The advisor provides guidance on the content of the thesis, writing style, and the time frame for its submission. Once the advisor has approved the thesis, the student arranges a meeting of the thesis committee to defend the thesis. In addition to the rules and procedures in Thesis Defense Rules and Thesis Defense Request, the departmental guidelines for thesis defense given below must be followed.

  • Copies of the thesis must be given to the committee members at least a week before the defense date.
  • A copy of the thesis should be left with the department administrative assistant at the same time it is distributed to the committee to allow non-committee members who might wish to attend the defense to review the thesis in advance.
  • An email announcement which includes the student’s name, thesis title, location, and time of defense should be sent to physics department faculty, staff, and graduate students at least one week before the defense.
  • An advertisement for the thesis defense, using the form given in the forms section of the brochure, should be printed and given to the department administrative assistant at least one week before the defense.
  • The defense should be scheduled for two hours. This includes oral presentation by the student of a summary of the thesis. This is followed by questions from the committee and guests. The length and style of presentation is determined by the committee chair in conjunction with the student although talks are typically 30-40 minutes long. Possible outcomes of the defense are discussed in the Graduate Bulletin.
  • After a successful defense, and completion of any corrections to the thesis, the thesis is formally submitted. The Statement of Work Completion form is submitted to the Graduate School office. A copy must go to the department administrative assistant and to the thesis advisor.
  • The check-out procedure for graduation is discussed in the university Graduate Bulletin.

Physics colloquium

An important activity in the physics department is the weekly colloquium. The colloquium organizer tries to bring speakers covering interesting and important topics from all fields of physics. It is important and enriching for graduate students to be exposed to problems from different areas; thus they are required to register for and attend the colloquium.

 

During fall and spring term students in the M.S.Program register for PHGN501 and 502, respectively. Ph.D. students register for PHGN601 and 602. Each semester students are awarded either a PRG (satisfactory progress) or a PRU (unsatisfactory progress). Credit is not awarded each term, but credit and a letter grade are given at the time of graduation. M.S. Students receive a total of 1 credit hours and Ph.D. students are awarded 1.

Note that this series also generally includes

  • in the Fall semester, a mandatory refresher version of the Environmental Health and Safety safety training for faculty, staff, postdocs, continuing grad students, and undergraduates working in laboratories, and
  • in the Spring semester, administration of the Department’s policy on responsible conduct of research (RCR) .

Other training for graduate students required by the Graduate School

Please carefully examine regulations generally posted at the Office of Graduate Studies. These include the full Environmental Health and Safety training course during their first semester and sexual harassment prevention training.

Obtaining financial support

Graduate students in the physics department are usually supported via full or partial teaching and research assistantships. Before admission, support is negotiated with the chair of the departmental graduate student admissions committee for the first year. After this year support should be arranged through the student’s academic advisor and is typically in the form of a research assistantship. If a research advisor has not been identified after the first year is complete, and a student needs a teaching assistantship to maintain continuous funding, it is important to communicate this early to the student’s first year advisor and to the Department Head, who generally manages the teaching assistantship budget. In general teaching assistantship support is limited and hence not guaranteed after the first year, which makes identification of a research advisor and project important. Priority for teaching assistantships is given to first year graduate students in the Ph.D. program followed by Ph.D. students who have not identified a research advisor, and then M.S. students.

Responsible conduct of research

Graduate students are required to demonstrate familiarity with and adherence to the Department’s policy.

Departmental and campus facilities

The Physics Department employs a machinist and an electronics technician who control a mechanical/machine shop and an electronics workshop respectively. Students can, after consultation with their thesis advisors, submit orders for fabrication or repairs to these workshops. After appropriate training they can also use the facilities by themselves. All other technical equipment in the Physics Department is under control of one of the research groups and can be used only after coordination with and training through the responsible faculty. There are also facilities in other departments available for use by physics graduate students; these are subject to their own regulations.

Graduate Student Advising Handbook

Department of Physics
Colorado School of Mines
July 2020

Comments/corrections to physicsgrad@mines.edu