Graduate Program



Our Graduate Program

We offer a two-year M.S. in Physics degree, which prepares students for a Ph.D. in physics, careers in industry, or further studies in other sciences or engineering.

Research: Our faculty do research in the science of lakes and oceans, biophysics, astronomy, condensed matter, experimental particle physics and neutrino astrophysics, microfluidics, and gravitational physics. Some of the topics are highly interdisciplinary. Several of our faculty are associated with the UMD Large Lakes Observatory and the University of Minnesota’s Water Resources Science program. They may accept and advise students in water-related fields of research at PhD level.

See more information on the faculty research interests page.

Courses: We offer foundation courses in fundamental Physics, methods courses in computational, analytical, and experimental techniques, and elective specialty courses. Students are also required to take two courses outside the department, such as in electrical engineering, computer science, chemistry, math, or another field that fits their career goals.

There are two routes to completing the degree:

  • Plan A is a research-based path that culminates in writing and defending a MS thesis.
  • Plan B is course-based and involves taking additional courses and completing a smaller research project.

Funding: Most of the students we admit into the program are funded with teaching assistantships, research assistantships, or other fellowships that cover the costs of the education and the living expenses.

For more information regarding our graduate program, please contact Prof. Alec Habig, our Director of Graduate Studies.


How to Apply

Admission Requirements 

  • A four-year (or equivalent) undergraduate degree in physics or a related field that provides you with significant physics and mathematics background and a keen interest in further physics training.
  • An undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 on a 4 point scale,
  • Undergraduate course transcripts
  • Graduate Record Exams (GRE) (optional). While the general and subject GRE results are not required, their submission is encouraged.

For international students:

  • TOEFL : minimum 79 (Writing subscore 21; Reading subscore 19).
  • IELTS : minimum 6.5 (Writing subscore 6.5; Reading subscore 6.5).

View more details on the Graduate School's English Proficiency Requirements page.


Applying through the online system

Please apply via the link on the Graduate School instructions to apply page.

The application includes:

  • Your CV or resume.


  • Personal Statement. Use it to tell us about your past achievements, current academic interests, your aspirations and future plans. Tell us what drives your interest in Physics. This is a good place to reflect on your learning style, your strengths and weaknesses, or the kind of things that motivate you. For example, do you find excitement in tinkering with equipment in a lab, or putting equations on a page with a pen, or programming? Do you like working things out by yourself or bouncing ideas in a team? What was the biggest project you accomplished, what makes you proud (both academically and more generally in life)? Who (or what) had the biggest influence on you and why? Be sure to mention if you already spoke with any of our faculty members and who you may wish to have as your prospective advisor.



  • Diversity Statement (optional). We encourage you to submit a statement on how you may contribute to the diversity of people, cultures, experiences, and ideas at our department, and on your past experiences or potential contributions in promoting diversity and equity.


  • Writing Sample (optional). You may use this section of the application to upload a sample of your writing, such as if you wrote a paper or an article.



  • Program Additional Material (optional). You may use this section for any additional material that you think may help the committee evaluate your application.


  • GRE scores (optional). While the general and subject GRE results are not required, their submission is encouraged.


  • Letters of reference.  You will be asked for contact information for three people who can evaluate your abilities and promise for graduate study. They will each receive an email from the system with instructions for how to upload their letters.


It is a good idea to communicate with one or several faculty members in the department before applying, to assess the potential match and selecting a prospective research advisor. 

Applications that are completed by April 1 will receive full consideration. To be considered for university-wide fellowships, however, candidates are encouraged to apply as early as possible, preferably by the end of January.



  • The University of Minnesota has several campuses. In the second online form, "Application Information", be sure to select the "University of Minnesota Duluth" option to the question "What Campus will you be attending?"


  • Students who wish to seek a PhD (rather than Masters) while working with our faculty in a field of aquatic sciences, should apply through the Water Resources Science program. Students who wish to pursue a Ph.D. degree in other areas of Physics are advised to consider the University of Minnesota's Twin Cities campus.



As required by Title IX, the University does not discriminate on the basis of sex in any of its education programs or activities, including in admissions and employment.  Inquiries about the application of Title IX can be directed to the University’s Title IX Coordinators or to the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights.  Please see the University of Minnesota’s Title IX Statement and the University’s policy for information about: (1) how to contact the Title IX Coordinators on the University’s campuses; (2) how to report or file a formal complaint of sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, sexual assault, stalking or relationship violence; and (3) the University’s procedures for responding to reports and formal complaints.



Expand all

Goals of UMD Physics

Institutional goal 1: Knowledge and Scholarly Formation

Physics goal 1: demonstrate knowledge of core physics topics

Outcome 1: students will demonstrate knowledge of classical mechanics, classical electrodynamics, and quantum physics at the graduate level, and the mathematical techniques intrinsic to the study of these topics.

Institutional goal 2: Research and Methodological Skills Relevant to Field

Physics goal 2: will have developed research and methodological skills relevant to physics.

Outcome 2a: students will develop skills in one or more methods used by practicing researchers in academia and industry: experimental, numerical, and data analysis methods.

Outcome 2b: students doing a thesis will apply one or more methods to their thesis or project. Students doing a project demonstrate knowledge of one or more methods if their project doesn't require application of such methods. Where do students progress: methods courses, thesis/project

Institutional Goal 3: Communication Skills

Physics goal 3: communicate physics ideas and research in a variety of contexts.

Outcome 3a: students will improve/demonstrate the ability for oral communication in chalk-talk/instructive situations for both peer and novice audiences, plus formal presentations.

Outcome 3b: students successfully justify their research in a proposal and present the outcome of their thesis/project in writing. Where do students progress: seminar course, thesis, TA duties

Institutional Goal 4: Leadership and Collaborative Skills

Physics goal 4: collaborate with peers and experts in their field outside UMD

Outcome 4: will have one or more interactions with an expert in the field outside UMD. Where do students progress: during thesis work or internship or career exploration experiences

Institutional Goal 5: Cultural Competence and Global Context Formation

All contemporary research in physics necessarily draws on international physics research activities, collaborations, and publications. This assessment substitutes for a per-student assessment.

You can also find more details in an easy-to-compare format at our entry in the American Institute of Physics website.