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First year students have a program advisor selected by the department to advise on course selection and rotations until settling into a research group. Students typically join a research group during or near the end of the first year. This Dissertation Research advisor will direct the research program for the remainder of the student’s graduate career.

Professor Sean Hartnoll is the Chair of the Physics Graduate Study Committee for 2018-19. He is available (by appointment) to consult with students about any graduate student related matter, including degree progress.


Physics graduate students have a wide range of research choices available to them, including working on a Physics-related program in a different department, with a research advisor who is not a member of the Physics Department. Students working with advisors outside Physics/Applied Physics/SLAC* must have a co-advisor who is a faculty member in the Physics Department. (*Students with SLAC Photon Science faculty advisors with a Ph.D. in an area other than Physics require a co-advisor.)

A co-advisor serves two main roles: (i) acting as an official liaison for the student to the Physics Department and (ii) insuring that the student's dissertation has a physics component that is sufficient to allowing granting of a Ph.D. in Physics. The co-advisor also serves as the student's contact to the department for any academic issues that would be more appropriately dealt with by Physics, rather than a faculty member in another department.

Students should select the co-advisor as soon as he/she is no longer on rotation and has decided on a research program with an advisor in a department other than Physics. In any case, this should be no later than the end of the second year of graduate study. Students should complete the "Advisor/Co-Advisor" form and submit it to the Physics Student Services Officer, Maria Frank.

During the third year year the student submits a dissertation proposal on his/her research, including a description of the physics components, to Maria Frank.  The proposal should have been reviewed, approved and signed by the student's research advisor, co-advisor and Reading Committee Members.

From then on, the student is required to meet with his/her co-advisor on a yearly basis, although more frequent meetings are encouraged. During that annual meeting, the student submits a one-page progress report on research for co-advisor approval and signature. The form is given to the Maria Frank for placement in the student's file.

If, during the annual meeting, the co-advisor determines that the research no longer contains a significant physics component, the student will be warned that a Ph.D. in Physics may not be merited and he/she may need to transfer to the relevant department.