Ph.D. in Optical Sciences Requirements

Time Limit

  • Degrees must be completed within five years of the student’s completion of his or her oral comprehensive examination. The Graduate College will grant extensions only in exceptional circumstances and may require students to retake the comprehensive examination. The average time to degree for Ph.D. students is 5.5 years.

Plan of Study

Working together with their major professor, each student develops a written study plan that will specify the balance between coursework and dissertation units for their Ph.D. degree. This plan must be filed with the department at the time the written portion of the comprehensive examination is taken. Video 6 can provide you with information how to complete the form.

All PhD plans require a minor. Students can select their minor to be Optical Sciences. 9 units of a student’s 54 units of coursework can be used toward the minor. There is also the option to select a minor with an outside department. Please note that minor requirements vary from program to program.

Examination Methods

All College of Optical Sciences Ph.D. students will be required to complete and pass a qualifying examination and comprehensive examination. A qualifying examination is required to demonstrate sufficient mastery to pursue the doctorate as well as to determine areas of study where further course work is necessary. After completion of the qualifying exam, a student must pass a written and an oral doctoral comprehensive examination before admission to candidacy for the doctoral degree. This examination is intended to test the student's comprehensive knowledge of the major and minor subjects of study, both in breadth across the general field of study and in depth within the area of specialization.

New Examination Method

New Students

The new exam method is required for all students admitted to the OSC Ph.D. graduate program beginning in the Fall 2015 semester and all subsequent semesters.

Continuing Students

Continuing graduate students have the option of following the previous exam method OR opting into the new exam method. Such students who have not previously taken any part of the previous comprehensive exam method are eligible. If a continuing student opts into the new exam method they are required to complete the new method and cannot revert to the previous one.

View New Exam Method Details   View Previous Exam Method Details

Ethics Courses

University of Arizona graduate-level ethics courses may count toward the M.S. in Optical Sciences and Ph.D. in Optical Sciences programs at the College of Optical Sciences, with approval from the associate dean for academic programs.

Transfer Courses

With approval of the associate dean, graduate work completed at another graduate-accredited institution may be transferred, provided these courses received a grade of A or B, are comparable to a UA course and were not used toward an undergraduate degree. Students must complete an evaluation of transfer credit form for approval by the associate dean in their first semester.

Waivers to these requirements may be granted by the associate dean for academic programs when determined to be in the best interest of the student and the college. The student's dissertation director will often be consulted prior to granting a waiver. All such waivers must be in accordance with the policies of the University of Arizona.

There is no specified maximum number of units a student may transfer; it depends on one’s background and chosen study program. Subject to department approval, as many as 12 to 18 units may be transferred (usually from math, physics or engineering courses).

Approved transfer courses are entered in the transfer section on the plan of study.

Minor

Most students both major and minor in optical sciences; however it is also possible to minor in another department. Students taking courses outside the College of Optical Sciences for credit toward a minor in that department must meet with the graduate advisor of the other department to ensure all requirements for their minor are met.

Students interested in the quantum optics track of optical sciences may particularly wish to consider a minor in physics. Nevertheless, students are welcome to take courses in other departments even if they intend to minor in optical sciences  — we are flexible enough that virtually all of the courses in an related minor field may be taken without formally selecting it as a minor.  The associate dean for academic programs can advise you if there is any question about whether a specific course is suitable for your degree program.

Coursework

The number of units of graduate credit required for the Ph.D. in Optical Sciences is not specified explicitly; the requirement is for the equivalent of six semesters of full-time study. A minimum of 18 units of dissertation and 54 units of coursework is required.

OPTI 599: Independent Study units must meet the Graduate College policy and be approved by the associate dean for academic programs. Generally, six units of OPTI 599 are approved. Please note that only two nontechnical courses may count toward the Ph.D. degree requirements.

Two lab courses are required. Lab waivers are rare and only granted in exceptional circumstances. Students with such circumstances and needing to have one lab waived should contact the associate dean for pre-approval. Lab waiver requests should be submitted no later than a student's second semester of enrollment. While one lab requirement may potentially be waived, students must make up that one unit elsewhere (i.e. the total requirement of 54 units remains the same).

With the approval of the student's dissertation director, the required number of units may be reduced to 45. There are no exceptions to this minimum. The default requirement is not 45 course units. Note: The 45 units of coursework exception may be appropriate for a minority of students whose field of research requires fewer advanced courses and greater time for research.

Also with the approval of the dissertation director, a student may list a single C-graded course on their plan of study, but only if the plan of study has 54 units of coursework.  For example, if the student’s dissertation advisor has approved a plan of study consisting of 45 units of coursework, the student must pass all of those units and receive an A or a B in each of the 45 units of coursework that are graded and listed on the plan of study. If a student receives a C (or lower) in a course, that course cannot count towards the 45 units of coursework on the plan of study, and the student will need to take additional coursework (to be listed on the plan of study) in which a grade of C or lower is not received. the student and his or her dissertation director should carefully consider the value of retaking a course with a C grade.

A 54-unit and C-grade waiver form must be signed and submitted along with the student's doctoral plan of study.

OPTI 597B does not count toward fulfilling the Ph.D. program course requirements.

Core Curriculum

A total of eight courses from the following lists are needed to fulfill a student's core course requirements. Substitutions or waivers for core courses are not permitted other than in exceptional circumstances. A request for a course substitution or waiver must be approved first by the Associate Dean for Academic Programs and may require review by the Graduate Curriculum Committee. Students requesting substitutions or waivers should submit a one-page petition explaining the request and justification to Academic Programs prior to taking the written comprehensive exam. Requests will not be considered after a student completes their comprehensive exams. Transfer credit that is equivalent to core course requirements must be pre-approved by the Associate Dean for Academic Programs.

Letters and numbers correspond to the tracks table below.

Group I

Select two courses from the following.

Group II

A student must select one course under each topic. The qualifying and comprehensive exam policies (old and new) are stated in their prospective sections. 

  1. Electromagnetic Waves
  2. Geometrical Optics
  3. Quantum Optics
  4. Physical Optics
  5. Solid-State Optics

Group III

A student must select one course from this list. The material in the course chosen by the student will not be on the written portion of the comprehensive exam, but will be on the oral portion of the comprehensive exam.

  1. Photonics
  2. Image Science
  3. Applied Optics
  4. Optical Physics

Tracks

Provided below are some recommended course sequences for various subject tracks.

Course AreasApplied Optics TrackImage Science Track

Photonics Track

Optical Physics Track

Mathematical and Physical Foundations 1

OPTI 512

OPTI 512 or OPTI 604OPTI 503A or OPTI 512OPTI 503A or OPTI 512

Mathematical and Physical Foundations 2

OPTI 508

OPTI 508

OPTI 508

OPTI 570*

1. Electromagnetic Waves

OPTI 501

OPTI 501

OPTI 501

OPTI 501

2. Geometrical Optics

OPTI 502

OPTI 502

OPTI 502

OPTI 502

3. Quantum Optics

OPTI 511R

OPTI 511R

OPTI 511R

OPTI 544*

4. Physical Optics

OPTI 505

OPTI 505

OPTI 505

OPTI 505

5. Solid-State Optics

OPTI 507 or OPTI 537

OPTI 537

OPTI 507

OPTI 507

6. Specialization Area

OPTI 503 or OPTI 506

OPTI 536

OPTI 510

OPTI 600G

*OPTI 544 and OPTI 570 assume previous academic experience in physics, particularly undergraduate-level quantum mechanics.

Laboratory Requirements

All students must include at least two introductory optics laboratory courses as part of their plan. These classes should provide hands-on experiences to help the students learn the fundamentals that are taught in the core lecture classes. While two lab courses are required, additional laboratory courses are strongly recommended. Students are not permitted to use both OPTI 512L and OPTI 571L to satisfy the laboratory requirements, only one computation-based lab can be used. The classes currently offered that satisfy this laboratory requirement are: