Program Category: PhD Programs
Chair: Dmitri Basov
Director of Graduate Studies: Gustaaf Brooijmans
Degree Programs: Full-Time: MA, MPhil, PhD

The department is strong in both theoretical and experimental physics. Properly qualified students interested in theory can find guidance in most of the subjects of contemporary physics including: elementary particle physics, string theory, cosmology, astrophysics, heavy-ion physics, atomic physics, and condensed matter physics. Current activities of the theoretical group include utilization of a high-speed parallel computer for the study of lattice QCD. Experimental research is being done in astrophysics, cosmology, condensed matter physics, atomic physics, heavy-ion physics, and particle physics. Experimental researchers from Columbia have access to a wide range of facilities as detailed below.

The programs listed above offer varied opportunities to students seeking advanced education in physics. To assist students in their studies, fellowships are awarded in recognition of academic achievement and in expectation of scholarly success. Teaching and research experience are considered an important aspect of the training of graduate students. Thus, graduate fellowships include some teaching and research apprenticeship. Fellowships are available only to students in the PhD program.

All students accepted for graduate study in the Physics Department are usually assumed to be candidates for the PhD degree. The departments of Physics and Philosophy also offer a special MA Program in the Philosophical Foundations of Physics (see Special Admissions Requirements below).

For Admission

All students accepted for graduate study are usually assumed to be candidates for the PhD degree.

The requirements listed below are special to this department and must be read in conjunction with the general requirements of the Graduate School. Students who have been admitted and who wish to obtain a detailed view of the sequence of tests, oral examinations, special options, and the like can consult the administrative coordinator in 704 Pupin or the Physics Department website.

Three years of physics, with laboratory work, in fundamental college courses and a working knowledge of ordinary differential equations are required. Students who have not had sufficient laboratory experience have the opportunity to register for the laboratory course (PHYS G4051) in their first year of residence.


A significant fraction of the research programs in the Department of Physics is conducted in the Pupin Physics Laboratories on the Morningside campus.

The Columbia Condensed Matter Laboratories, in the Pupin Physics Laboratories and in the Schapiro Center for Engineering and Physical Science Research, have extensive facilities for research in lasers, superconductivity, solid-state physics, atomic physics, and nanoscale science.

Excellent opportunities are provided for experimental research in high-energy particle physics and relativistic heavy ion physics. At the Nevis Laboratories in Irvington, New York (one-half hour from the campus), there are extensive facilities for the preparation and analysis of high-energy experiments being carried out by Columbia groups at the large accelerators at Brookhaven National Laboratory, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, and CERN. A Columbia group is also engaged in experiments involving heavy ion collisions at Brookhaven and at CERN.

The Columbia Astrophysics Laboratory in Pupin, as well as at Nevis Laboratories, offers opportunities for investigations of cosmic sources in a wide spectrum of energy bands, from radio to X-ray and gamma-ray wavelengths, using terrestrial and space observatories. Detection of dark matter in an underground laboratory in Gran Sasso, Italy, is also being pursued.

Special Admissions Requirements

In addition to the requirements listed below, all students must submit one transcript showing courses and grades per school attended, a statement of academic purpose, a personal statement, and three letters of recommendation from academic sources.

Your statement of academic purpose should include the grades you obtained and the textbooks used for the highest level courses you took in Mechanics, Electromagnetism, Statistical Mechanics and Quantum Mechanics, and address the following question: What was your most interesting research experience, either in class, in the lab, or at work? What made it interesting?

Submission of GRE scores is allowed but not required; the choice is yours.  We recognize that there are a variety of reasons why a student may not submit a GRE score, including expense and difficulty traveling to the test site.  Therefore, we will give full consideration to all applications, with or without Physics GRE scores; in particular there will be no preselection based on GRE scores prior to the holistic review of all application materials.

All international students whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate degree is from an institution in a country whose official language is not English must submit scores of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or IELTS.

For more information, refer to our Admissions Information and Frequently Asked Questions pages.

*GSAS will accept up to four recommendations, regardless of the number required by your program of interest. However, to be eligible for admission at GSAS, at least TWO letters must be submitted by academic recommenders.