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Graduate Programs

Four graduate degrees are offered by the Physics and Astronomy Department:

  • Physics, M.S.
  • Physics, Applied Physics Option, M.S.
  • Physics, Computational Physics Option, M.S.
  • Professional Physics, M.S.

Additional information can be found in the CSULB Catalog: Physics and Astronomy.


Deadlines: The deadline for the Fall semester is generally May 31, and for the Spring semester is October 31. It is at least month earlier for international students. Please check with our advisors and department office. Note that we usually admit Fall cohorts and only on a case by case basis for the Spring.

How to Apply: Apply online at Cal State Apply. No separate application to the department is required. However, the following material needs to be sent to the graduate advisor directly, in addition to the Cal State Apply application.

Include a short statement of purpose (1/2 - 1 page) in which you explain:

  1. your goals beyond the Master's degree (what do you plan to do with the degree), and
  2. what Physics research you would like to pursue in the department if admitted.

Send your personal statement to the graduate advisor (, and have one (1) letter of recommendation sent directly by your references to the graduate advisor. Letters should be on official letterhead, dated, bear the writer's signature and be sent from an official work email address. Letters of recommendation should not be uploaded to Cal State Apply. Contact the graduate advisor if you have issues getting the letters.

Minimal Admission Requirements:

  • BS or BA
  • GPA > 2.5
  • No GRE required
  • TOEFL > 550 or >80 (iBT) (for international students)

If you have a Bachelor in a field different from physics please contact the graduate advisor to determine the course of action. If you are interested in the APS Bridge Program, please contact the Bridge Site Advisor.

Program Components

Each program has 3 components:

  1. Core classes that every student has to take (19 units)
  2. Electives (a minimum of 5 or 6 units) chosen in accordance with one of the options: General Physics, Applied Physics, Computational Physics, or Professional Physics
  3. Research performed with one of the faculty (a minimum of 6 units) resulting in a Master's thesis

The minimum number of units required for the Master's degree is 31 units. Students may take more units depending on interest and research foci. Students should first contact the graduate advisor if they intend to take classes not directly related to the Master's degree.

The possibility to do a comprehensive exam instead of the Master's thesis is offered. Students should express their interest early by contacting the graduate advisor.

Core Classes and Thesis Units

Core classes are mandatory for every Master's student and should preferably be taken in the order presented in the following table:

Core Classes by Semester
Semester Class Course
S1 PHYS 545, 546, 548, 562, 576, or 580 Experimental Physics or Computational Physics1 (3 units)
S1 PHYS 560A Mathematical Methods in Physics (3 units)
S2 PHYS 510 Mechanics (3 units)
S2 PHYS 540A Electrodynamics (3 units)
S2 PHYS 697C Directed Research in Computational Physics2 (3 units)
S3 PHYS 550A Quantum Mechanics I (3 units)
S3 PHYS 698 or 699 Thesis or Professional Project3 (3 or 4 units)
S4 PHYS 522 Statistical Physics (3 units)
S4 PHYS 698 Thesis (3 units)
Any PHYS 595 Colloquium4 (1 unit)

1All students have to choose one experimental physics class listed above as a core class. If a student decides to do a thesis in theoretical physics, he/she is expected to take Advanced Computational Physics (PHYS-562) in semester 1 and an experimental physics class in any of the other semesters. For a student doing a thesis in experimental physics, he/she is expected to take the experimental physics class available in semester 1 and further experimental classes in other semesters.

2Students who choose the option Computational Physics will take PHYS 697C units with their thesis advisor.

3The Professional Project is for students who choose the Master's of Science in Professional Physics.

4Although only one unit of Colloquium (PHYS-595) is required for one of the above semesters, it is expected that students attend the colloquium regularly during the entire time they are at the department, unless there is a conflict with class and teaching schedules.

Electives and Required Classes for Each Option

Students will specialize their knowledge in one of the options: Applied Physics, Computational Physics, General Physics, or Professional Physics. Students aiming at a teaching career can choose any of these options and will be involved in the PhysTEC program. Students who choose the Professional Physics path will do a Master's professional project instead of a thesis.

The following indicates the additional required classes a student has to take for each option in semester 3 or 4.

Applied Physics:

  1. One additional experimental class (3 units) among:
    • PHYS 545 Advanced Experimental Methods in Material Science (3 units)
    • PHYS 546 Advanced Experimental Methods in Physical and Electronic Properties (3 units)
    • PHYS 547 Advanced Experimental Methods in Nanoscale Physics (3 units)
    • PHYS 548 Advanced Experimental Methods in Soft Condensed Physics (3 units)
    • PHYS 576 Modern Optics with Laboratory (3 units)
    • PHYS 580 Computer Interfacing in Experimental Physics (3 units)
  2. Any 500-level (or above) physics class useful for the Master's thesis (minimum 2 units)

Computational Physics:

  1. PHYS 550B Quantum Mechanics II (3 units)
  2. PHYS-562 Computational Physics (3 units)

General Physics:

  1. PHYS 550 B Quantum Mechanics II (3 units)
  2. Any 500-level (or above) physics class useful for the Master's thesis (minimum 2 units)

Professional Physics:

  1. One 500-level (or above) physics class (3 units)
  2. Three classes (9 units) among:
    • NSCI 501 Project Management for Scientists (3 units)
    • NSCI 502 Leadership and Management for Scientists (3 units)
    • NSCI 503 Accounting and Finance for Scientists (3 units)
    • NSCI 504 Introduction to Regulatory Science (3 units)
    • NSCI 505 Professional Ethics (3 units)
    • PHYS 692 Internship (3 units)


We highly recommend Master's students to perform research in close supervision with one or several faculty members during the academic year and/or the summer. This activity offers the opportunity to expand the knowledge acquired in class and to apply this knowledge on an actual scientific problem. The publication of research results in peer reviewed journals is often an achievable goal.

The research topics are listed for each option.

Applied Physics

A student choosing Applied Physics will acquire skills in state-of-the-art experimental techniques used primarily in Condensed Matter, Materials Science and Chemical Physics. Theoretical work in these areas is also possible.

Faculty working in areas related to Experimental Condensed Matter and Materials Science are:

  • T. Gredig - organic semiconductors, solar cells
  • J.Y. Gu - magnetism and superconductivity
  • C. Kwon - superconductivity, nanoparticles
  • C. Ojeda-Aristizabal - quantum coherence, low dimensional systems, graphene

Faculty working in areas related to Condensed Matter and Materials Theory are:

  • A. Bill - superconductivity, magnetism, crystallization
  • M. Peterson - strongly correlated systems, quantum topological phases
  • G.T. Pickett - polymer physics, origami

Computational Physics

Computers are one of the essential modern tools used to solve a physical problem or simulate or model a real system. A student choosing Computational Physics will acquire practical skills on how to solve differential and integral equations how to model a system and write a program that allows calculating quantities that can be compared with experimental data or predict the outcome of an experiment. The skills are universal in the sense that they may be applied to any field of Physics.

Faculty working in areas involving Computational Physics are:

  • A. Bill - condensed matter and materials theory
  • P. Jaikumar - astrophysics
  • Z. Papp - few body systems, quantum mechanics
  • M. Peterson - condensed matter and materials theory
  • G.T. Pickett - condensed matter and materials theory

General Physics

Students interested in any topic not covered by the above options, such as Particle Physics, will choose this path to acquire in depth knowledge in a chosen subject.

Faculty working in these fields are:

  • Z. Hlousek - particle physics
  • S. Rajpoot - particle physics
  • any other faculty of the department for other topics

Physics Education and Teaching

Students interested in doing physics education research or improving student learning may choose this path. The research will be supervised by physics and science education faculty Faculty working in areas related to physics education online should contact Z. Hlousek, T. Gredig, or C. Kwon. Students interested in aspects of teaching and learning of physics should contact C. Kwon.

Professional Physics

This program is especially suited for students who either come from industry, or aim at working in industry after the Master's may choose that path or another one. The particularity about Professional Physics is that it provides some knowledge and skills in fields not usually covered in the a traditional Physics program but that are encountered and used in industry. The list of specific classes taught for that career path are given in the section "Electives and Required Classes for Each Option" above.

In addition, students following that track may not want or have time to devote for a Master's thesis that involves research at the graduate level and requires time in the laboratory. Instead, the Professional Physics path requires students to do an internship in a company and write a project document. Students interested in that career path should contact the graduate advisor.

Program Learning Outcomes

To enable M.S. students to succeed in their future endeavors in industry, PhD programs or teaching, we designed classes that train students to achieve the following additional graduate learning objectives:

  1. Obtain a solid knowledge of graduate Physics,
  2. Gain proficiency in Mathematical techniques necessary for understanding graduate Physics,
  3. Obtain hands-on training in the use of advanced experimental and computational methods and techniques to solve problems.
  4. Gain aptitude to model complicated multifaceted problems and use methods to conceive a path to solve these problems.
  5. Gain maturity in solving a problem by gaining stamina, endurance and perseverance in a long research project that culminates in the writing of a MS thesis and its oral defense.