M.S. in Optical Sciences Reference Manual

The M.S. in Optical Sciences Reference Manual is designed as a resource for students, faculty and advisors. It is intended to convey common practices, procedures, policies and traditions of the University of Arizona (UA) College of Optical Sciences (OSC) and to supplement the enrollment, academic and degree completion requirements of the UA Graduate College. Students should first consult the OSC M.S. reference manual and then consult UA Graduate College policy when questions arise. The UA Graduate College provides essential information about general University policies and procedures, while the Ph.D. reference manual includes policies that are specific to Optical Sciences M.S. students. The latter may update, expand or add upon the general UA Graduate College policy.

The College of Optical Sciences reserves the right to change any provision or requirement listed in this reference manual at any time. The information listed in this reference manual supersedes all prior versions and applies to all students, regardless of admission year. Students are responsible to understand and adhere to all policies and procedures outlined in this reference manual.  

If you have any questions, please contact the senior academic graduate advisor at grad-advising@optics.arizona.edu520-626-0888 or stop by the Academic Programs office, Meinel 403B.

The information below is listed in alphabetical order by topic.

Academic Integrity

Integrity is expected of every student in all academic work. The guiding principle of academic integrity is that a student's submitted work must be the student's own. This principle is furthered by the student Code of Conduct and disciplinary procedures established by ABOR Policies 5-308 through 5-403, all provisions of which apply to all University of Arizona students. Conduct prohibited by the Code consists of all forms of academic dishonesty, including, but not limited to: cheating, fabrication, facilitating academic dishonesty and plagiarism.

Building Keys and Keyless Building Entry

Graduate students will be provided with keyless building entry. After obtaining your CatCard and enrolling in courses you will need to complete a key request form (PDF) and submit it to the Accounting Office in Meinel 641. For building entry, the associate dean for academic programs must give approval by signing the form. For lab or office key entry, the student's major professor/supervisor must sign the form.

Bursar's Office at the University of Arizona

The Bursar's Office is responsible for providing student account information; receiving payments for tuition, registration fees and miscellaneous campus charges; collection of delinquent accounts; and delivering refunds and financial aid proceeds. The Bursar's Office is located in the University Services Building, 888 N. Euclid Avenue.

The University of Arizona offers a tuition payment plan fall and spring semesters.

Note: To avoid repayment of the tuition waiver, registration deduction and student health insurance premium, graduate research assistants and graduate teaching assistants must officially graduate, according to the Graduate College Degree Certification Office, prior to resigning their position. This can happen anytime during the semester, as long as the official graduation occurs before resignation. The definition of “official” graduation is submission of all degree completion documents to the Graduate College Degree Certification Office.


The CatCard is the single, common and recognizable identification card for people who are affiliated with the University of Arizona. Amongst other uses, it is required to obtain keyless Meinel Building entry. In addition, the CatCard is used for: identification and status, library access, recreation center access, meal plan access, photocopying and printing services, vending machine purchases, parking payment at campus garages, and small dollar purchases at the UA BookStores and U-Mart convenience store.

Change of Class Schedule: Dropping and Adding Units

Unlike undergraduates, graduate students are able to alter their class schedules up to the last day of class if they complete a change of schedule form. Some changes, however, such as switching a graded course to an audit or dropping a course and replacing it with theses or master's report units, may include fees. Also, students will receive W grades for the dropped courses if they do not change their schedules before the University deadline to drop without penalty.

Please note: An audited course does not meet enrollment requirements for students receiving funding. Graduate research positions require enrollment in at least six units. If you have other financial aid funding, you should confirm the number of units you are required to be enrolled in each semester. When adding graded units, the Registrar's Office in the Administration Building may require the Graduate College's dean's signature on the change of schedule form. To obtain the signature of the Graduate College's dean (note: not the College of Optical Sciences dean), students should go to the third floor of the Administration Building, and then return to the Registrar's Office on the second floor.

Change of Degree Program: M.S. to Ph.D.

M.S. graduate students who wish to be admitted to the College of Optical Sciences Ph.D. program must submit a new application for the Ph.D program.

You do not have to complete the M.S. degree program requirements to change to the Ph.D. program. Most Ph.D. graduate students complete their M.S. degree along the way by completing the Ph.D. comprehensive exam.

Commencement and Diplomas

The University of Arizona and College of Optical Sciences celebrates graduate degree completion twice a year, in December and May. The College of Optical Sciences Pre-Commencement Celebration is held prior to the UA commencement ceremony. Invitations and information are emailed to anticipated graduates in mid-October and mid-March.

Diplomas are not given out at commencement. Diplomas are ordered individually for each student after the final degree audit of their academic record is completed. You should receive your diploma about four weeks after the Pre-Commencement Celebration. The diploma will be mailed to the address you have listed on UAccess Student as your "permanent" address. If you do not want it sent to your "permanent" address you should create a "diploma" address and it will be mailed there instead. Diplomas are printed and mailed from out of state; therefore students are not able to pick them up here on campus.

If you complete degree requirements early in the semester and need to provide proof of your degree, please make a request to the degree certification auditor at the Graduate College.

Communication and Contact Information

The primary means of communication with students is email. Be sure to set up your @optics.arizona.edu email account. Please check your email regularly. In addition to email, each on-campus College of Optical Sciences student will be assigned a mailbox in the Meinel Building. The mailroom is located on the fourth floor in Room 426.

Please remember to promptly submit new contact information (email address, mailing address, campus location, telephone number) to the Academic Programs office! You will also need to update any change in contact information in UAccess Student.

Continuous Enrollment

Graduate students must meet the Continuous Enrollment Policy. Master's degree and doctoral students hired on an assistantship must be enrolled in at least six units. Auditing a class does not count toward meeting the unit requirement. Students are not required to be enrolled during the first or second summer semester unless they are graduating in August. If you are unable to enroll in fall or spring semester, you should submit a leave of absence form to maintain your status. If you fail to meet the continuous enrollment policy and do not register, you will need to reapply to the Graduate College and be approved for readmissions by the associate dean for academic programs. Students with scholarships or financial aid may be required to be enrolled in more than six units. Note: When all course and thesis/master's report units have been fulfilled, only one unit is required.

Notice for international students: Please check with the Office of International Student Programs to be sure you are in compliance with your visa obligations since you may be required to be enrolled in additional units to maintain your full-time student status. Nine units is considered full-time status for nonfunded international students. Upon completion of all course work it is possible to request a waiver of the nine-unit requirement from the Office of International Student Programs so that you can enroll in only three units.


Graduate student cubicles are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Cubicle space is not secure and the College of Optical Sciences is not responsible for stolen or lost items. Storage lockers on the first floor may also be available. Students are responsible for providing their own locks.

Distance Class Enrollment

To enroll in an optics distance class, you will need to register through the University of Arizona UA Online program. Distance class DVDs are available for check-out in the Fred A. Hopf Reading Room. If you are enrolled in the on-campus section of a distance course and you wish to have Web access, you must speak with the professor and be approved to receive online access.

To enroll in an optics distance class, you will register through your UAccess Student Center using the following steps:

  1. Select the "Student Center" at http://uaccess.arizona.edu.
  2. Log in using your UA NetId.
  3. In the Academics section, click on “Enroll”.  This will take you to the Add Classes screen.
  4. Click on the SEARCH tab at the top of this screen.  This will take you to the Search Criteria screen.
  5. For TERM, select the semester you will be taking the class.
  6. In SUBJECT, type in or select OPTI.
  7. For CAMPUS verify is says Arizona Online.
  8. Click the green SEARCH button.  You should see all the OPTI courses on the screen.
  9. Scroll down to select your class and click on “Enroll” at the bottom of the screen to register for the course.

Final Oral Examination Requirements

For students who select the thesis option, the final is an oral exam based primarily on the content of the thesis. For those selecting the nonthesis option, the oral exam is based primarily on course work; however, with the agreement of the faculty committee, the oral exam may be comprised of a combination of course work and the master's report.

Students are not assigned a faculty advisor toward degree completion. They are free to communicate with faculty members individually and may want to review research areas to identify faculty whose interests align with their course work or thesis research.

Your three-member faculty committee must include two tenured or tenure-track members of the College of Optical Sciences faculty. The third faculty member may come from outside the college, but he or she must be approved in advance. Contact the graduate academic advisor to seek approval of an outside faculty member for your committee.

Students should submit their master's reports or theses to their faculty committees at least three weeks prior to the date of their final oral exams. The student will first submit an M.S. committee form in GradPath to confirm his or her faculty committee. Once the committee is approved, the student complete the M.S. final oral examination form (PDF).

Most students will provide light refreshments for their final oral exam. Coffee-making supplies may be obtained from the Academic Programs office in Meinel 403. Academic Programs will also assist students with reserving a conference room for their final oral exam. M.S. final oral exams are not open to the public. However, the student, together with his or her major faculty advisor, may agree to allow someone to attend the exam.

Upon completion of the M.S. final oral exam, the student is asked to submit one printed, unbound copy of their report or thesis to the Academic Programs office in Meinel 403. We arrange binding of all reports, theses and dissertations for inclusion in the Fred A. Hopf Reading Room collection.

Graduating students are requested to meet with the associate dean for academic programs for an informal exit interview. In addition, students should complete the OSC clearance form before departing.

Note: M.S. students must be enrolled in the semester in which they complete their degree. If the degree program requirements are to be completed in the summer or winter, the student must register for a minimum of one unit of graduate credit during that term. Master's candidates do not have to register for graduate units during summer or winter sessions unless they plan to make use of University facilities or faculty time. If they do plan to use facilities or faculty time, they must enroll for a minimum of one unit of graduate credit.

Graduate College deadlines, steps to degree completion and additional information is available at GradPath.

Grades and GPA

Unless the student's major professor approves one C-graded course per degree, only grades of A or B are accepted toward degree requirements. Prior to graduation, students may repeat — only once — a graduate-level course in which they received a grade of C, D or E. Both grades will be used toward calculation of GPA.

Graduate students must maintain a 3.0 GPA. Students who have a cumulative GPA of less than 3.0 will be placed on academic probation. Probationary status may impact current or future funding opportunities. Students whose GPA is below 3.0 for two consecutive semesters will be converted to nondegree status by the Graduate College.

Graduate College Thesis and Dissertation Waiver

The Graduate College thesis and dissertation waiver is a waiver of nonresident tuition only. Students classified as Arizona residents are not charged nonresident tuition. Students on appointment as a graduate research assistant or associate or a graduate teaching assistant or associate already receive a waiver of nonresident tuition as a benefit of the appointment.

Eligibility is limited to four semesters. Special permission from the associate dean for academic programs is required for awards exceeding the four-semester limit.

The maximum value of a Graduate College thesis and dissertation waiver is six units. To apply for a waiver, contact the graduate academic progress coordinator in the Academic Programs office. The deadline for an approved waiver is one week in advance of the Bursar's Office tuition payment deadline.

Immunization Requirement and Health Insurance

Before newly admitted graduate students can register, they must submit proof of measles and rubella immunizations. Distance learning M.S. students need to submit immunization records before their semesters on campus. Graduate students are required to enroll for student health insurance in UAccess Student in the fall semester. Those who enroll in the fall semester will be automatically enrolled for spring semester health insurance when they register for spring classes.

Note: Graduate students finishing in May who enrolled in the spring-semester health insurance are covered through mid-August.

Independent Studies

OPTI 599: Independent Study units must meet Graduate College policy and be approved by the associate dean for academic programs. Before enrolling in OPTI 599, you must complete an independent study proposal form (DOC) and submit it to the Academic Programs office in Meinel 403, for the associate dean's approval. Once approved, you will be registered for OPTI 599.

Plan of Study

This plan should be submitted by the beginning of your third semester or when you are nearing completion of 18 units. Students complete the M.S. plan of study in GradPath.

Program Withdrawal

A student who elects to withdraw from the University by dropping all classes after having paid registration fees must initiate such a procedure by contacting the Dean of Student's Office. A withdrawal may not be initiated after the last day of classes of any semester and must be completed before the beginning of final examination period. If a student is requesting a medical withdrawal and would like a tuition refund, he or she must contact the Campus Health Service and provide medical documentation. If a student withdraws for medical reasons and is beyond a refund period, medical documentation is not required.

Progress Interviews

The College of Optical Sciences requires that every graduate student schedule a progress interview once a year with a professor of their choice, the associate dean for academic programs or the graduate academic progress coordinator. Yearly progress interviews should be completed prior to spring break.

The purpose of these interviews is to discuss the student's goals, keep track of his or her progress, flag potential or actual problems, and help avoid difficulties in the future. Interviews normally last 15-20 minutes. Students must complete and submit a yearly progress interview form (PDF) to the Academic Programs office, Meinel 403. The associate dean for academic programs will read these reports to address any additional problems that may require attention.

Teaching Assistant Policy

The procedure for obtaining a position as a teaching assistant is to enter name, email address and course desired on the list posted in the Academic Programs office, or in response to email sent out by Acadmic Programs. The posting of the list will be announced via email at the end of each semester. Generally, Ph.D. students will be given priority over M.S. students.  All else being equal, earlier volunteers will be given priority over later volunteers. Exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis. TA assignments are dependent on course enrollments and generally made a few weeks before the start of the semester.

Transfer Courses

Approved courses for transfer are listed in the "transfer" section on the plan of study. The official transcript for all transfer courses must be submitted to the Graduate College Degree Certification Office, after courses are approved by the associate dean for academic programs. Up to six units of appropriate graduate courses may be transferred from other universities with approval. Students enrolled with nondegree graduate status are permitted to apply up to 15 units of optics coursework upon admission to the M.S. program. International students should submit a transfer evaluation form and English-language transcripts to the Degree Certification Office after courses are approved by the associate dean for academic programs.

All students should request evaluation of transfer courses in their first semester. 

UAccess Student

UAccess Student is a password-protected service that allows you to access your personal information and student account balance. You will need your NetID number and PIN. Your PIN is on your official University of Arizona Certificate of Admissions. If you lose your PIN, you must go to the Graduate College Admissions Office, Administration Building, Room 322.

It is important that you verify your student account information before the payment deadline each semester and each time you change your course schedule. Your account balance must be paid in full by the payment deadline date each semester in order to avoid late payment penalties. Additional penalties are charged on the 21st day of each semester.