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Academic Programs

UHCL Physics Classroom

Bachelor's Degree in Physics

Physics B.S.

The plan in Physics leads to the bachelor of science (B.S.) degree at the undergraduate level. Our location and the connections our faculty have with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and allied aerospace industry allow UHCL to offer students unique research opportunities. In addition to our Physics B.S., we also offer sub-plans in Engineering Physics and Computational Physics. The Houston-Galveston area is a thriving center for many science-intensive industries, from aerospace to petrochemical; thus, the demand for professionals with knowledge of physics is high. Local industries in Houston provide a huge potential to employ individuals with a B.S. in Physics, in addition to the increasing demand for physics teachers in high schools. This demand is also expected to grow dramatically over the next decade. An undergraduate degree in Physics would enable the students to progress into graduate programs in Physics, Astronomy or Engineering. Students may select electives in areas of particular interest.

Physics, B.S.

Physics is a very broad discipline, which can lead to a variety of career options. The UHCL Physics program provides students with the opportunity to use electives to prepare them for their specific career goals.  Some of these areas include: Geophysics, Biophysics, Space Science, Mathematical Physics, Materials Science, Physics Education, Premed and Prelaw.  Courses needed to support these focus areas are chosen in consultation with a physics advisor and faculty member from a different program.  They may even be included as part of a minor.

In addition to the University Core Curriculum, Undergraduate Physics majors are required to complete the following courses, see the Physics Section of the UHCL catalog for more information:

Major Requirements   Credit Hours
CHEM 1311/1111 General Chemistry I and Lab 4
CHEM 1312/1112 General Chemistry II and Lab 4
MATH 2413 Calculus I 4
MATH 2414 Calculus II 4
MATH 2315 Calculus III 3
PHYS 2325/2125 University Physics I 4
PHYS 2326/2126 University Physics II 4
PHYS 3303/3103 Modern Physics 3
PHYS 3311 Mathematical Methods for Physics and Engineering I 3
PHYS 3312 Mathematical Methods for Physics and Engineering II 3
PHYS 3321 Intermediate Mechanics 3
PHYS 3331 Intermediate Electromagnetism 3
PHYS 3342 Quantum Theory I 3
PHYS 3343 Quantum Theory II 3
PHYS 3351 Thermodynamics & Statistical Mechanics 3
PHYS 4371 Research Seminar I 3
PHYS 4372 Research Seminar II 3
WRIT 3315 Advanced Technical Writing 3
CSCI 1320, 1370, 1470, 1471, 3321, 3323 Scientific Programming Language 3-4

In addition to these major requirements, students majoring in physics can choose up to 25 hours of approved electives chosen in consultation with their faculty advisor. Some students may choose to specialize in Engineering Physics. The requirements of this plan are listed below.

Specialization Requirements   Credit Hours
CENG 3264 Engineering Design and Project Management 3
CENG 2312/2112 Digital Circuits and Lab 4
CENG 3313/3113 Linear Circuits and Lab 4
SENG 4310 Introduction to Systems Engineering 3
Electives (9 hours) - Upper-level electives approved by faculty advisor
MENG 3303 Solid Mechanics 3
MENG 3310 Introduction to Fluid Mechanics 3
MENG 3316 Heat Transfer 3
MENG 3324 Introduction to Materials Science 3

Students interested in the Computational Physics sub-plan should take the following courses.

Specialization Requirements   Credit Hours
CSCI 1470 Computer Science 1 3
CENG 2312/2112 Digital Circuits and Lab 3
MATH 2305 Discrete Mathematics 3
CSCI 2315 Data Structures 3
CSCI 3321 Numerical Methods 3
CSCI 3352 Advanced Data Structures 3
SWEN 4342 Software Engineering 3
PHYS 4202 Computational Physics 2
Electives Upper-level electives approved by faculty advisor 3

Physics Scholars Plan

The Physics Scholars Plan combines the B.S. degree plan in Physics with our M.S. degree plan in Physics with the intention of allowing highly motivated and qualified students to complete both the B.S. and M.S. degrees in physics in a time and cost efficient manner. Students in the plan may take up to four courses at the graduate level in their senior year if they have completed the required course prerequisites. These graduate credit hours may be applied toward either the B.S. or M.S. degree, but not both. Additionally, students in the Scholars Plan are expected to begin a graduate research project early in their studies. After admission to the Scholars Plan and successful completion of the B.S. degree in Physics, the Physics Program Graduate Admissions committee will consider waiving the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) requirement for admission into the Physics Graduate Program.  Requirements and conditions for the Scholars Program can be found in our catalog.

Physics Scholars Plan-Linked B.S./M.S. Degree Plans in Physics

At the completion of the requirements for each degree the student will be awarded the B.S. and M.S. degrees. A notation will be made on the student's transcript indicating they have completed the Physics Scholars Plan.

In the event a student is unable to complete the entire program of study, they are assured the B.S. degree in Physics upon completion of the requirements for that degree. In the event a student fails to complete the M.S. degree requirements, graduate level classes taken while in the program may be applied toward the B.S. degree.

4-year Sample Plans



Deadlines for Applying

  • Freshman Deadlines
  • Fall

    Priority - July 15 
    Final - August 1 

  • Spring

    Priority - November 1
    Final - December 1 

  • Summer

    Priority - March 1
    Final (Summer Session I & II) - May 1 

  • Transfer Deadlines
  • Summer 2022
    Priority - May 1
    Final (Summer Session I) - May 25
    Final (Summer Session II) - July 1
  • Fall 2022
    Priority - August 12
    Final - August 17
  • Spring 2023
    Priority - December 1
    Final - January 9
    Returning UHCL Students - January 11

Master's Degree in Physics

Physics M.S.

Read Me First!
Things you need to know before you take graduate-level physics courses.

Graduate Physics Student Handbook

The goal of Physics Master of Science program is to prepare students for PhD level work and advanced research in Physics and Astronomy. This program also serves to expand the knowledge base of practicing engineers. Students in this program gain better problem-solving abilities as well as increased knowledge of several aspects of Physics and Astronomy. The physics program provides students with a deeper understanding of the essential science used in many of the engineering disciplines and in the space industry. All students potentially interested in our Collaborative PhD in Physics should apply to both UHCL and UH before beginning graduate level coursework.

Physics, M.S.

Physics Basic Preparation

Applicants for candidacy should have a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in one of the physical sciences, mathematics or engineering disciplines. Applicants with other degrees may also apply if they meet the requirements listed below. Equivalent courses or appropriate substitutions will be determined in consultation with a faculty advisor. If background deficiencies exist, students may be required to take courses that will not apply toward the graduate degree.

Students should take the following courses (or equivalents) in preparation for the program (Note: PHYS 3311 and PHYS 3312 satisfy many of these requirements):

  • University Physics I and II with Laboratory
  • Modern Physics with Laboratory
  • Calculus I, II and III
  • Differential Equations
  • Complex Variables
  • Linear Algebra
  • Probability and Statistics
  • Intermediate Electromagnetism
  • Intermediate Mechanics
  • Quantum Theory I and II
  • Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics

Core Requirements of our M.S. Program

Required Course   Credit Hours
PHYS 5331/5311 Electrodynamics and Recitation 4
PHYS 5431/5411 Classical Mechanics and Recitation 4
PHYS 5531/5511 Mathematical Methods I and Recitation 4
PHYS 5631/5611 Quantum Mechanics I and Recitation 4
PHYS 5632/5612 Quantum Mechanics II and Recitation 4
PHYS 5731/5711 Statistical Mechanics and Recitation 4

Note: PHYS 5632/5612 are not required for students completing the sub-plan in Technical Management.

Physics Advanced Electives

Advanced SCE courses that meet the needs of students' professional goals may be selected in consultation with a faculty advisor. 

Physics Thesis Option

Under the thesis option, a minimum of 24 hours of formal course work must be completed. In addition, students must complete a minimum of six hours of PHYS 6939; Master's Thesis Research and our introductory research course PHYS 6837. A maximum of 12 hours of PHYS 6939 can be applied toward graduation requirements. Remaining course work for a total of 36 hours may come from additional formal courses. 

Physics Non-Thesis Option

Under the non-thesis option, a minimum of 30 hours of formal course work must be completed. In addition, students must choose a research advisor and complete three credit hours of our introductory research course (PHYS 6837) and three hours in the Research Project and Seminar Course (PHYS 6838). Students completing the sub-plan in Technical Management should take either PHYS 5739 or PHYS 6837.

Physics Specialization, Technical Management

A good technical manager needs both an advanced broad-based technical background and insight into how to lead a team of people from different technical disciplines. Because physics is the scientific basis of all engineering, it can satisfy much of the broad-based technical requirement for a degree training technical managers. The physics core is complemented by a combination of systems engineering, engineering management and management courses in order to create a plan that provides both the technical background and the leadership training. This results in a unique new approach to training technical managers. Please note that students in this specialization are not required to take PHYS 5632/PHYS 5612.  The list of Engineering Management, Systems Engineering and Management courses that may be taken as part of this specialization can be found in the catalog.

2-year Sample Plans


Admission Requirements

  • Physics M.S.
  • Admission Deadline

    Standard Graduate Admission Deadline

  • Application
    A standard university application is required.
  • Requirements
    • 3.0 GPA
    • GRE Total Score of 290 (140 Verbal + 150 Quantitative)
    • GRE Essay of 3.5
    • Additional Requirements – Undergraduate degree in Physical Sciences discipline, Mathematics and/or Engineering; Other degrees may apply if the coursework meets the preparation requirements in the catalog
 

Deadlines for Applying 

  • Graduate Deadlines
  • Fall
    New Degree-Seeking Students - August 1
    Returning UHCL Students - August 15
  • Spring
    New Degree-Seeking Students - January 5
    Returning UHCL Students - January 15
  • Summer
    New Degree-Seeking Students - May 1
    Returning UHCL Students - May 25

Please note, some graduate programs have special deadlines and requirements. For more information, go to How to Apply as a Graduate Student. Check the status of your application online through E-Services using your UHCL student ID.

The UHCL application is available online through Apply Texas. The online application is scheduled to close for Graduate students after the Formal UHCL Student deadline of each semester.

Applying After the Priority Deadline

New, non-degree seeking, and returning UHCL students applying after the deadlines above may be considered for admission on a case-by-case basis. Please contact the appropriate graduate enrollment counselor for more information. A $50.00 Late Registration Fee or $50.00 Late Payment may apply.

Review the UHCL Academic Calendar for registration and payment dates and deadlines.

  • International Deadlines
  • Fall

    Final - April 1
    Document Deadline - April 15

    Early Fall Deadline - Computer Science, Computer Information System, Data Science, Software Engineering Final - February 4

  • Spring

    Final - October 1
    Document Deadline - October 15

    Early Spring Deadline - Computer Science, Computer Information System, Data Science, Software Engineering Final - August 1

  • Summer*

    Final - March 1
    Document Deadline - March 15

    Early Summer Deadline - Computer Science, Computer Information System, Data Science, Software Engineering Final - February 4

Students interested in qualifying for scholarships &/or applying for visas outside the U.S. should apply and submit the application documents/test scores by the priority deadline

*International freshmen applicants will not be accepted for Summer semester.

Physics M.S. with a Specialization in Technical Management

Professional Science Masters

The Professional Science Master's (PSM) is an innovative, new graduate degree designed to allow students to pursue advanced training in science or mathematics, while simultaneously developing workplace skills highly valued by employers.

Overview

I would like to introduce you to our Professional Physics Sub-Plan in Technical Management. This program is being developed at UHCL to meet the needs of the local community in the area of high-tech management. The degree will combine advanced scientific knowledge with business administration skills to train students to become better engineers and scientists - as well as managers. 

This degree differs from the traditional Physics MS in various ways. Most notably, the degree bridges the de-facto gap that exists when either a technically formally trained engineer or scientist receives an MBA, and then uses that combination to try to manage highly technical staff. The advanced technical knowledge learned during the course of study, coupled with the elements of an MBA (found to be most useful for those who aspire to manage highly technical personnel), is something rarely found in either the technical areas alone or in classic MBA programs.

Physics is the most fundamental science. It is the basis for all the disciplines of engineering and the natural sciences. It teaches students problem-solving skills, and the knowledge gained will always be applicable to new technical challenges. Physics teaches students how to think and derive knowledge from basic principles. This knowledge in turn leads to a broad range of skills. Those skills run the gamut from such diverse areas as systems development, computer programming, troubleshooting, technical writing, and much more.

Working professionals can benefit from this Physics Sub-Plan through increased technical knowledge beyond the Bachelor's-degree level. This knowledge is essential for good corporate decision-making. This combination of skills leads to an increased ability to communicate with both technical workers and upper management. Also, recipients of this degree will have better problem-solving skills for both technical and non-technical problems.

UHCL is the only University in the Clear Lake Area that offers face-to-face classes at times convenient to the full-time working student. UHCL has a tradition of teaching part-time, nontraditional students with evening courses. UHCL also has strong ties to the Johnson Space Center community and a long history of meeting the needs of our local constituents. 

The program curriculum is a mixture of Physics, Systems Engineering, and Business Courses. Students may replace the traditional research project or thesis with an internship. Students involved in the program should be able to finish the degree in as little as three years while taking classes on a part-time basis. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at garrison@uhcl.edu. Please pass this information along to anyone in your organization who may be interested.

Regards,
David Garrison


Physics Specialization, Technical Management

A good technical manager needs both an advanced broad-based technical background and insight into how to lead a team of people from different technical disciplines. Because physics is the scientific basis of all engineering, it can satisfy much of the broad-based technical requirement for a degree training technical managers. The physics core is complemented by a combination of systems engineering, engineering management and management courses in order to create a plan that provides both the technical background and the leadership training. This results in a unique new approach to training technical managers. Please note that students in this specialization are not required to take PHYS 5632/PHYS 5612. 

Collaborative Ph.D. Program

Overview of the Physics PhD Collaborative Program

This program establishes a collaboration between the Physics Departments at UH and UHCL for the mutual benefit of both universities, their students, and the Clear Lake Community. This joint effort unites the Master's program at UHCL with the PhD program at UH. UH will award the PhD; UHCL supports the effort with its courses and research opportunities. Select faculty at UH and UHCL hold joint appointments. This allows them to ensure their students a smooth transition into the PhD program.

UHCL Physics students pursuing a PhD can do so through the Collaborative UH/UHCL Physics PhD Program. Six UHCL Physics courses and their corresponding recitations PHYS 5311/5331: Electrodynamics, PHYS 5411/5431: Classical Mechanics, PHYS 5511/5531: Mathematical Methods in Physics I, PHYS 5611/5631 and 5612/5632: Quantum Mechanics I and II, and PHYS 5711/5731: Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics will count towards PhD candidacy at UH. A candidate must earn a grade of B or better in the class and pass the Candidacy Exam at UH. Students exploring this option must apply for PhD candidacy by applying and being accepted into both the UHCL and UH physics programs. Students accepted into the collaborative PhD program will be subject to the same requirements as other PhD candidates in the UH Physics program. They can complete their PhD Thesis under the advisement of a UH and UHCL faculty committee.

Physics Ph.D. Collaborative UHCL/UH Program

Physics Candidacy Certificate

Students completing the candidacy requirements for the Collaborative UHCL/UH Physics Ph.D. Program  are eligible to receive a physics candidacy certificate. This certificate can be awarded to students independently of the Physics Master's Degree. A student pursuing a certificate has the option of switching to the Physics M.S. degree program at any time during his/her enrollment in the certificate program and can apply all physics coursework taken towards the certificate to the M.S. degree. Qualified students pursuing the Physics M.S. degree have the option of applying for the certificate once the candidacy requirements are satisfied. This certificate does not imply any acceptance into the UH Ph.D. program or the successful completion of all Ph.D. candidacy requirements and is used primarily at UHCL to monitor the progress of students working towards the Physics Ph.D. through our Collaborative Physics Ph.D. program.

Physics Candidacy Certificate


Benefits of the Program

Benefits to Students

  • The first local PhD program available to full-time and part-time students
  • Advanced training in Physics increases work-related proficiency for students
  • Increased knowledge base improves job satisfaction
  • Intellectual challenge for students  

Benefits to the Clear Lake Community

  • Accessibility of pertinent courses for JSC and petrochemical communities
  • More PhDs available to local industry and JSC
  • Connection to UH System for advanced research projects of benefit to the community
  • Local PhD opportunities helps private and public institutions retain employees

Application to the Program

A candidate must earn a grade of "B" or better in the class and on the final exam. Students exploring this option must be accepted into the Graduate Physics program at UH for core courses to count toward candidacy. Therefore interested students should apply for admissions to both the UHCL and UH physics programs before signing up for Ph.D. candidacy courses. Students accepted into the collaborative Ph.D. program will be subject to the same requirements as other Ph.D. candidates in the UH Physics program. They will complete their Ph.D. thesis under the advisement of a UH and UHCL faculty committee.

Core Requirements at UHCL

  • PHYS 5331 Electrodynamics
  • PHYS 5311 Recitation for Electrodynamics
  • PHYS 5431 Classical Mechanics
  • PHYS 5411 Recitation for Classical Mechanics
  • PHYS 5531 Mathematical Methods I
  • PHYS 5511 Recitation for Mathematical Methods in Physics I
  • PHYS 5631 Quantum Mechanics I
  • PHYS 5611 Recitation for Quantum Mechanics I
  • PHYS 5632 Quantum Mechanics II
  • PHYS 5612 Recitation for Quantum Mechanics II
  • PHYS 5731 Statistical Mechanics
  • PHYS 5711 Recitation for Statistical Mechanics

Advanced Electives

Students will select advanced UHCL and UH courses to meet their professional goals in consultation with their advisor. Many of these electives may be taken at either UH or UHCL but final approval of electives that count towards the PhD is handled by the Graduate Studies Committee. 

UHCL MS Capstone

After completing the core courses and some electives, some students may choose to finish the requirements of the UHCL MS program, while others may choose to move directly into PhD level work without completing the MS. The choice of whether or not to complete the degree depends on several factors. Currently, students who complete the MS at UHCL are no longer considered degree-seeking students and are therefore ineligible for financial aid on the UHCL campus. We are working to resolve this situation. 

PhD Work at UH

Students must complete all PHD level work according to the standard rules of the UH Physics Department. Visit UH's Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy for a full description of these requirements.

Students in the program should be continuously enrolled at either UHCL or UH each long semester until they complete their degree. After taking the core courses, all students should select a research advisor and dissertation committee. The student and advisor must jointly select the dissertation committee. The student must then submit an oral presentation and research plan to the dissertation committee. The student must also send annual progress reports to the dissertation committee. The student must present an acceptable dissertation based on original research in Physics and defend it orally before the dissertation committee. In addition, to complete the PhD, students may be required to take additional courses under the request of their thesis advisor. They may take these courses at UH or UHCL. 

Admissions

Students interested in this program must apply and be accepted into both the UHCL and UH physics programs separately. The application standards of this committee will be the same as those of the UH PhD admissions committee (visit UH's Physics Graduate Programs for details). This process gives students access to both UHCL and UH courses, library, labs, and other resources needed to successfully complete the PhD program.


Frequently Asked Questions

Why should UH-Clear Lake collaborate with UH that offers a Physics PhD?

High student and community demand. Between 2002 and 2004, the Physics program at UHCL conducted four needs-assessment surveys. These surveys focused primarily on establishing a Masters Degree in Physics at UHCL, but received dozens of unsolicited requests to establish a Physics PhD program. In response to these requests. The department conducted a fifth needs-assessment survey in the fall of 2006. The results of this survey showed an overwhelming demand for the program.

How much time is required for students in the program?

Plan on spending 10-20 hours per week on each three credit-hour graduate class. This program is designed for both full-time (nine credit hours per semester) and part-time (fewer than nine credit hours per semester) students. 

How are the courses different from the current UHCL Physics MS program?

Each core course (and its final exam) can count toward PhD candidacy in the UH Physics program with a passing grade of B or better. Candidates can transfer some UHCL advanced courses to UH for PhD credit. In addition, some UH faculty may offer courses at UHCL.  

I am already a UHCL Physics major; how will this change effect me?

If you choose to complete the MS at UHCL and not continue on with the PhD, nothing will change. If you want to complete the PhD, you must apply and be accepted into the UH physics program and pass the candidacy exams in each subject after completing the core courses and recitations with grades of B or better.

What will be the areas of advanced study?

Students in this program can pursue research related to the scholarly interests of any Physics faculty member at UHCL or https://uh.edu/nsm/physics/research/index.php.  

Are financial aid or assistantship available?

UHCL students may apply for Financial Aid. In addition, a faculty grant funding program offers some teaching and research assistantships.  

Will the program offer distance learning?

We currently offer a section of our Graduate Mathematical Methods course (PHYS 5531/5511) online. All courses are offered in the evenings and we have offered advanced courses taught between UH and UHCL using video conferencing software. Faculty members occasionally teach daytime courses off campus.

How long does it take to complete the program?

This can vary, depending on whether a student completes the program part-time or full-time. Typically, it takes two to three years to complete the MS (at UHCL), and another four to six years to complete the PhD (at UH).

If I am an UHCL master student and interested in the UH/UHCL collaborative Ph.D. program, what do I need to do to enter the program?

You will need to submit a complete UH application and submit all the needed materials, following the same instructions as any other applicants. Please note that UH and UHCL are different Universities. Applying to UHCL is not the same as applying to UH. In order to be in the collaborative program a student must apply and be admitted to UH. For more information please see http://phys.uh.edu/graduate/faq/index.php.

Minors

Minor in Astronomy

The Minor in Astronomy is designed to provide students with a background in astronomy that focuses on answering the fundamental question about our origins that humans have pondered over the ages. Building on an introductory survey of astronomy, students will explore topics in planetary science such as asteroid collisions with the Earth or the science of extrasolar planets. The upper level requirements will offer students the choice of focusing on the origin and evolution of stars, our Solar System, our universe and life elsewhere in the universe.

Astronomy Minor

Course # UHCL Course Title
Required Courses (8 hours)
ASTR 1303/1103 Stars and Galaxies with Lab
ASTR 1304/1104 Solar System with Lab
Elective Courses (9 hours)
ASTR 3311 Stellar Astrophysics
ASTR 4311 Universal Origins
ASTR 4312 Principles of Astrobiophysics
ASTR 4391 Selected Topics in Space Science
PHYS 4362 Fundamentals of Astroparticle Physics

Minor in Physics

A Minor in Physics will serve students who wish to expand their problem solving ability. These skills can be used in a variety of careers from science to business or law.

Physics Minor

Course # UHCL Course Title
Required Courses (12 hours)
PHYS 2325/2125 University Physics I with Lab
PHYS 2326/2126 University Physics II with Lab
PHYS 3303/3103 Modern Physics with Lab
Elective Courses (6 hours)
PHYS 3321 Intermediate Mechanics
PHYS 3331 Intermediate Electromagnetism
PHYS 3342 Quantum Theory I
PHYS 3351 Thermodynamics & Statistical Mechanics

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