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Optics & Photonics PhD Handbook: Timeline

First year: Students are usually expected to take a full course load, meaning 9-12 credit hours, unless designated part-time by the Associate Dean. Additionally, students are required select a dissertation advisor, get started on research, and begin drafting their Program of Study. In the first year, students will usually spend more time on courses, in preparation for the qualifying exam, than on research, but students on research fellowships/assistantships must also meet their research obligations. At the end of their first year, full-time students must take the qualifying exam. Part-time students, with the approval of the Associate Dean, may delay taking the qualifying examination until all core courses are completed.

Qualifying exam: All students must pass this exam on their first or second attempt to continue in the Ph.D. program. This is a written exam based on material in the following courses:

  • OSE 5115 - Interference, Diffraction & Coherence
  • OSE 5312 - Light Matter Interaction
  • OSE 6111 - Optical wave propagation
  • OSE 6211 - Imaging and Optical Systems
See additional information on the Qualifying Exam here.

Students are required to take the Qualifying Exam at the first opportunity after all of the above listed courses have been taken. Those students failing on the first attempt must retake the exam at the very next attempt. Failure to take the exam at the required time will be regarded as equivalent to a failure of the exam.

Second year: Before the beginning of the second year, students are required to submit their proposed Program of Study to the Office of Academic Programs. Second year students are usually expected to devote a large fraction of their time to research, while typically also taking about 6 hours of formal coursework per semester. After completing the core requirements, students should take their candidacy exam by the end of the second year. Prior to scheduling a candidacy exam, the Ph.D. dissertation advisory committee should be formed. Once committee members are selected from the approved graduate faculty, the student is responsible for completing the Request to Form PhD Advisory Committee form and submitting it to the Office of Academic Programs. The Associate Dean must approve all dissertation committees. Additionally, once formed, the dissertation advisory committee may not be changed, unless for some reason a committee member becomes unavailable due to extended or permanent absence.

Third year: By the third year, an Optics Ph.D. student should be primarily involved with dissertation research and substantially done with courses except for upper level courses that are taught infrequently. Within one year of passing the candidacy exam, the dissertation proposal should be written and examined by the dissertation advisory committee. The student must ensure that The Report of Dissertation Proposal Examination form is submitted to the Office of Academic Programs once the examination is complete.

Subsequent years:After passing the dissertation proposal students should be entirely engaged in their research. Students must arrange annual progress meetings with their dissertation advisory committees. Students must complete the Report of Annual Meeting with Dissertation Committee each subsequent year to document their progress towards dissertation defense and graduation.

Dissertation defense and graduation: In the semester that the student intends to graduate, an Intent to Graduate form must be completed online by the student.

The announcement of dissertation defense is due to the Office of Academic Programs at least two weeks prior to the scheduled oral defense date. After the intent and announcement are submitted, students are responsible for meeting all additional university graduation requirements and deadlines as outlined in the current catalog. Failure to attend a dissertation format review, meet the dissertation announcement deadline, meet the dissertation defense deadline, or submit the dissertation by the Graduate Studies Editor’s deadline will result in removal from the graduation list.

After the defense but prior to leaving, each graduate must attend an exit interview. Students may contact the Office of Academic Programs to schedule an appropriate time.

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