The University

Michigan State University, one of the oldest land-grant colleges, was founded in 1855 for the purpose of furthering the interests of agriculture and the mechanic arts. From this modest begining it has grown to become one of America's largest universities, with many educational innovations to its credit. Through its 14 colleges and more than 100 departments, it offers 200 different programs leading to undergraduate and graduate degrees.

The university campus is well known for its natural beauty and spaciousness, its park-like walks, and its trees and flowering gardens. Extensive indoor and outdoor athletic facilities are available for general use by the university community.

The University sponsors numerous artistic and cultural events which feature internationally known performers and lecturers. In addition, the School of Music and the Department of Theatre sponsor frequent concerts, recitals and plays. Many of the performances take place in the Wharton Center which opened in 1982. This facility houses two theaters: the 2,500-seat Great Hall and the 600-seat Festival Stage.

The campus adjoins East Lansing, a pleasant residential city with a population of about 50,000 and a well-regarded public school system. Lansing, the capital of Michigan, is contiguous with East Lansing. The Detroit metropolitan area is located about 85 miles east of the campus. Michigan State University subscribes to the principles of equal opportunity and affirmitave action. University programs, activities and facilities are available without regard to race, color, sex, religion, creed, national origin, political persuation, sexual preference, marital status, handicap, or age.

The on-campus enrollment at Michigan State University for the 1996 fall semester was approximately 40000, including 8000 graduate and professional students. There were 120 physics graduate students, including 95 Ph.D. candidates, and 25 M.S. candidates; and in addition, there were 18 postdoctoral research associates.

The Graduate Program

The Department of Physics and Astronomy offers graduate programs leading to degrees of Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy. To earn a masters degree a student must pass a Candidacy Examination and complete 30 semester credits of graduate work. These 30 credits may be earned entirely in regular course work, including some research experience, or may combine course work with a thesis on an experimental or theoretical investigation. A student holding a teaching assistantship, and who can therefore not carry a full-time course load, can normally complete the M.S. degree in two academic years.

To complete the Ph.D. degree, a graduate student must pass the candidacy examination in graduate physics, at the Ph.D. level, and complete a dissertation based on original research. There is no foreign language requirement.

Ph.D. candidates are normally required to do some teaching as part of their degree requirements. While the time of graduate study required for completing the Ph.D. degree varies substantially with individual circumstances, the average time required by recent students here was five years. During the last decade, about 12 students per year have been granted the Ph.D. degree in physics by the University.

The candidacy examination is taken at the begining of the second year of graduate study. Graduate students with normal undergraduate preparation typically take three academic courses per term during the first year in the program. These include Quantum Mechanics, Statistical Physics, Classical Mechanics, and Electrodynamics. In addition to these courses, there is available a full complement of other graduate courses. A weekly general colloquium and an active calendar of seminars in solid state physics, nuclear & accelerator physics, elementary particle physics, and astronomy & astrophysics provide adequate opportunity to become acquainted with current research work presented by leading physicists of this country and abroad.

The departmental research programs provide the graduate student with a wide choice of areas, or combination of areas, in which to persue original research in fulfillment of degree requirements. There are currently 62 faculty members. Of these, 24 are primarily theorists and 38 primarily experimentalists. About 150 research articles in refereed journals are published per year by faculty and students in physics and astronomy.

Financial Support and Cost of Study

About 120 students now serve as teaching or research assistants. Students are usually teaching assistants in laboratory or recitation sections for introductory physics during the first year of graduate study. Later they transfer to research assistantships in their chosen area of doctoral research specialization. Half-time graduate assistantship stipends begin at $11,475 for the 1997 - 1998 academic year. Summer assistantships are available. Assistants spend up to 20 hours a week on their duties. In-class contact hours for teaching assistants range from 6 - 8 hours per week for recitation and laboratory classes. The normal load for assistants is 6 to 9 credit hours. The duties of research assistants are commonly in the general area in which the Ph.D. thesis will be written.

The following support is also available for exceptionally skilled incoming graduate students:

Students with outstanding records are automatically considered for and nominated for these fellowships. Health insurance is also provided for the academic year (the cost of this premium is about $600).

Tuition for 1996 - 1997 was $210 per credit hour for Michigan residents. Teaching and Research Assistants pay in-state rates and receive a tuition waiver of 6 credits per semester. Out-of-State tuition was $424 per credit hour. Half of the matriculation fees will be paid by MSU for all graduate assistants begining in 1997 - 1998. Registration fees for students in 1996 - 1997 were $275 per semester.

Living and Housing Costs

Single rooms in Owen Hall, the graduate residence center, rented for $2,000 per semester and double rooms for $1,900 per student per semester in 1996 - 1997. This cost includes credit toward 20 meals per week. Food may be obtained from several campus cafeterias and local restauraunts. The university owns and operates more than 2,000 one- and two-bedroom apartments to help meet the needs of married students. These rent for $ 375 and $445 per month respectively, and include utilities, essential furniture, and a private telephone. Privately-owned off-campus rooms and apartments are also available.

General Facilities

Along with the wide variety of specialized equipment associated with particular research areas, the department is well provided with general facilities. These include well-equipped machine shops staffed by experienced machinists and instrument makers, and an electronics shop with construction and maintenance technicians. An extensive departmental research and teaching library is located in the Physics and Astronomy Building. The Cyclotron Laboratory and its support facilities are housed in a separate building.

Research Facilities

Research facilities include

Important off-campus facilities in the high-energy area include the accelerator at Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois; the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, New York; CERN in Geneva, Switzerland and Argonne National Laboratory, where experiments are currently carried out by MSU faculty and students.

The astronomy faculty makes use of the facilities on campus, which include a 0.6m telescope, and of the observatories at Kitt Peak (Arizona), WIRO (Wyoming), Mounts Wilson and Palomar (California), Sliding Springs (Australia), and Cerro Tololo and Las Campanas (Chile). MSU has joined the SOAR consortium to build a 4-meter telescope near La Serena, Chile.

Go to Graduate Research Programs

Computer Facilities

The Physics & Astronomy Department has an extensive infrastructure of computing and data communications equipment that is constantly being upgraded. Faculty, staff and many graduate assistants have PCs or terminals at their desks, which they use for word-processing, electronic mail and to access other computers via departmental, campus and wide area networks. A room with up-to-date computer equipment has recently been made available to graduate students.

The department has a DEC 3000 Model 500X Alpha AXP minicomputer and a Sun Ultra 170e workstation for interactive and batch use in the VMS and UNIX operating systems. The research groups have additional UNIX and OpenVMS workstations for interactive graphics and specialized uses. All graduate students have accounts on the OpenVMS cluster and the central Sun Solaris machine for use with classwork, electronic mail, and serving World-Wide Web pages.

The University has several micro-computer and graphic laboratories available on campus for use by graduate and undergraduate students on a walk-in basis. The Computer Laboratory also maintains a Sun ES6000 Mini-Supercomputer system, and IBM 3090 system with a vectorprocessor, and a number of other Sun Solaris, SGI IRIX, and IBM AIX systems. These and other computers in the Chemistry Department, the Cyclotron Laboratory and other campus locations can be reached using various networks via the campus high-speed fiber network. Remote computers such as the NSF Supercomputing Centers, facilities at other Michigan universities, and at Fermi National Loboratory can be reached through connections to regional, national and international networks.

Science Theatre

In response to the growing need for innovative methods of teaching and exciting children about science, the graduate students at MSU have founded Science Theatre, a student-designed and -run outreach activity. Since its inception in 1991, Science Theatre has grown to involve not only over 30 graduate students from the Department of Physics & Astronomy, but also graduate students from the Departments of Plant & Soil Science, Biochemistry, Geology, and Chemistry, and the Colleges of Education and Engineering. Through funding from the NSF, AIP and the Michigan State University College of Natural Science, MSU Science Theatre brings unique and exciting science demonstrations to schools and community events throughout the state of Michigan in the form of hands-on activities and stage shows and science articles in local newspapers. In addition to their service to the Michigan K-12 School System, Science Theatre members enhance their graduate education by traveling to national conferences, applying for grant money from the NSF, AIP and corporate sponsors, by making contacts in the research, education, and funding fields, and by expanding their teaching and presentation skills. Science Theatre was a recent recipient of an annual AAAS science education award.

Most importantly, Science Theatre members experience fun and the thrill of sharing the wonders of science with children, parents, and teachers, and are involved in a project which has been called "one of the most worthwhile efforts in science education today."

The Student Shop

Graduate students have the opportunity to construct part or all of their research projects in the student shop, located in the basement of the Physics and Astronomy Building. The student shop is equipped with lathes, drill presses, milling machines, band saws and soldering facilities, as well as a full compliment of hand tools. After completing a six-lesson shop course emphasizing safety and machining techniques, students are encouraged to design and build sepecialized equipment for their research. The professional staff of the Department machine shop are available for advice and consultation.

Graduate Research Programs
Graduate Program Requirements


To apply for admission to the graduate program or financial aid, or to request further information, write to the address below or complete the Information Request Form below that:

Dr. J. S. Kovacs, Associate Chairperson
MSU Department of Physics & Astronomy
106 Physics-Astronomy Bldg., MSU
East Lansing, MI 48824-1116

Voice:(517) 355-9666
FAX:(517) 353-4500

Physics and Astronomy Department
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This page last updated: 1998.03.25 (Wednesday) 02:44:47 EST by GJP