Aug 03, 2020  
2020-2021 Academic Catalog 
    
2020-2021 Academic Catalog

Physics, MS


At the core of all science, physics helps us understand chemical reactions, protein folding, the Earth’s interior, and the life cycle of stars. Physicists invented the semiconductor, the laser, and the electron microscope. They play key roles in the design and operation of spacecraft and in the development of electronic and optical instrumentation. The Department of Physics and Astronomy  offers a Master of Science in Physics and two concentrations: Computational Physics  and Modern Optics . Our faculty are experts in lasers and optics, computational physics, condensed matter, astrophysics, and physics education research. The department receives on average approximately $1.8 million annually in external funding for sponsored research.

Department of Physics and Astronomy Website: physics.sjsu.edu.

Admissions Requirements

Candidates must meet all the university admissions requirements . Students can be admitted in either classified or conditionally classified standing:

  • Classified Standing: Students admitted with classified standing will have an undergraduate degree in Physics or other STEM discipline with classes completed in upper-division Mechanics, Electricity and Magnetism and Quantum Mechanics.
  • Conditional Classified Standing: Conditional acceptance means that the candidate must fulfill specific requirements in order to be eligible to apply for advancement to candidacy. These conditions will be stipulated as part of the acceptance agreement between the faculty adviser and the applicant. Failure to fulfill these requirements will result in disqualification from the program.

Applicants from countries in which the native language is not English must achieve a minimum English-language proficiency test score as indicated on the Graduate Program Test Requirements webpage.

Advancement to Candidacy

Each semester, students should consult with their graduate advisor to develop a schedule of courses. Students admitted as conditionally classified must satisfy the requirements listed in their acceptance agreement before advancing to candidacy. Students who have achieved classified standing in the master’s degree curriculum must next advance to candidacy for the degree. A student may advance to candidacy after:

  1. Completing a minimum of 9 units of letter-graded work as a graduate student in 100- or 200-level courses acceptable to the department as well as fulfilling the other university requirements for advancement to candidacy .
  2. Candidacy includes successful completion of the Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR) , which is satisfied in this degree by the completion of PHYS 100W  or PHYS 220E  with a grade of “B” or better.

Requirements for Graduation

University Graduation Requirements

Students must complete all residency, curriculum, unit, GPA, and culminating experience requirements as outlined in the Graduation Requirements  section of the Graduate Policies and Procedures .

Program Graduation Requirements

Students must complete program requirements, which consists of 30 semester units of approved work. The student consults with their advisor to select a thesis or project topic.

Culminating Experience

Plan A (Thesis)

Thesis: The thesis must meet university requirements as stipulated in the Graduate Policies and Procedures  section of this catalog and in the SJSU Master’s Thesis and Doctoral Dissertation Guidelines. It will be written under the guidance of the candidate’s research committee chair with the assistance of the research committee. The MS thesis document must be approved by the student’s research committee before submission. Typically, the research committee will provide the candidate feedback during the Thesis Defense and may request changes to the thesis before final approval. Oral Thesis Defense: All MS candidates are required to present a public seminar based on their research project.

Plan B (Project)

Written Project: The written project must be a manuscript describing the student’s research project, written following a professional journal’s format for submission. It will be written under the guidance of the candidate’s research committee chair with the assistance of their research committee. The manuscript must be approved by the student’s research committee. Typically, the committee will provide the candidate feedback during the Project Defense and may request changes to the manuscript before final approval. 

Master’s Requirements (30 units)


Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement


Students must pass the Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR) .

Electives (6 units)


  • 3 units letter-graded 200-level physics
  • 3 units 100- or 200-level physics, mathematics, science or engineering courses approved by the graduate advisor

Culminating Experience (6 units)


Complete one option (Plan A or Plan B):

Plan A (Thesis)


Plan B (Project)


Total Units Required (30 units)