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Incoming Students

Courses, Credits and Exams

Advancement to Ph.D Candidacy, Research, Ph.D. Defense


What are the admission requirements?
  • A bachelor’s degree in physics or a closely related field from an accredited institution;
  • A minimum grade average of B in all undergraduate coursework, and at least B in each of the science and mathematics courses;
  • Admission by the Physics Graduate Program and the Graduate School.

In special cases, a student not meeting the first two requirements may be admitted on a provisional basis. Upon admission, the student will be informed of the requirements that must be satisfied for termination of provisional status.

Where should I apply?

Applications are only accepted  online.

What should be sent with the application?

Fill out the form   online . Before filling out the online application, follow the link on the main WEB page, and read the "Application Instructions". We can access the application only if the fee is paid.

  • Three letters of recommendation which should be submitted online.
  • Please upload an electronic copy of your transcripts via the application website. Only applications for which the transcipt has been uploaded to Applyyourself will be considered. We will request two paper copies of your transcript, which should be submitted by your school(s), only after you have been admitted.
  • The general GRE and the physics GRE are NOT required.
  • Scores from the TOEFL (or IELTS) are required from international students (see details below). Also these test results should be transmitted directly by the ETS to the graduate school.

Our institution code for electronic submission of TOEFL  scores is 2548.

Can I apply so that I start in the Spring Semester?

Yes, but admission for the Spring Semester is very limited. It is practically impossible to get financial support (a teaching assistant position) for Spring admission. Please contact the department before applying.

How long does it take to get a Ph.D.?


Technically, the absolute shortest time is a little bit more that one year, since students must advance to candidacy at least one year before the beginning of the semester in which they plan to defend their dissertation. In reality, 3 years is considered very short. Five years is typical. Seven years is a time limit set by the Graduate School. It is possible to apply for an extension, if the student is in the advanced stage of preparing a thesis, or if there was an unforeseen circumstance causing delays.


What is the deadline for submitting applications?

For Fall admissions applications received before   December 15 of the previous year  will be given priority and will be considered for Graduate Council Fellowship, Turner Fellowship and possibly other fellowships administered by the University. Admission decisions will be made in a timely fashion so that applicants can respond to offers of admission well before the April 15 deadline established in a resolution by the   Council of Graduate Schools . Late applications are accepted from   December 15 to June 1, but will be treated with a significantly lower priority than those submitted by the December 15th deadline . If you do submit a late application you should aim to have it in as close to deadline as possible. Chances of admission are extremely small for applications received past January 15. Please try to ensure your letters of reference are also submitted by December 15, we start considering applications right away. 

For the Spring semester the applications deadline is October 1. Normally, we do not take students with financial support for the Spring, so you should only apply for Spring admission to the PhD program if you have a pre-arranged source of funding. Applications from prospective MA and MSI students for the Spring are welcome.

Can I get financial support? How much?

All students admitted to our Ph.D. program will receive financial support during their studies. Some will have grants or scholarships, but most will be supported by the University (as a teaching assistant, TA) or by research groups (as a research assistant, RA). The current  9-month TA stipend is $24,000. The salary for a full summer TA/RA position is typically $6,000. In the research groups the amount of support varies, but it is typically equal to or higher than the TA stipend (ie. >$30,000 for the calendar year). PhD students also receive a scholarship that covers full tuition and most fees.

Master's students are not guaranteed any financial support, but may seek support from a research group. Note that unforturnately Masters students who are hired as RAs or TAs do not receive a tuition scholarship.

How much is the tuition?

Ph.D students do not pay tuition. The Department takes care of the tuition as long as a Ph.D. Student is registered properly.

Masters students do pay tuition. The amount of tuition will depend on the residential status of the student (NY state/Out of State) and information on these costs can be found here.

What are the language requirements?

All students who are not native or primary speakers of English must demonstrate proficiency in English to be admitted to the Graduate School . Stony Brook University has established overall minimum English language competency requirements for admission to graduate study and additional, more stringent   speak   competency requirements for PhD applicants as well as master’s students who serve as Teaching Assistants.    All students must declare their native language as part of the admission process. Intentional misrepresentation by a student of his or her native language is academic dishonesty and is grounds for dismissal from the graduate school. For full details of the required scores on IELTS or TOEFL tests for students who are not native or primary speakers, please refer to the guidelines established by the Graduate School.

My TOEFL was low, and I was admitted with the condition that I take the Intensive English Course in the Summer. I finished the Course. Do I need to re-take the TOEFL?

Yes you do and have to score at least 19 on the iBT Speak test with an overall total of 90.

What is the typical grade point average (GPA) of the admitted students?

The University sets the minimum GPA at 3.0. Do not apply if your GPA is below this. Our department typically looks for a significantly higher GPA and most admitted students will have a GPA of at least 3.5. (These numbers are on a scale where the maximum GPA is 4.0.)  However, the Admissions Committee will look at the individual grades very carefully. A student with a lower GPA may receive serious consideration if the science and mathematics grades are high.

Are my test results too old?


The TOEFL or IELTS cannot be older than 2 years. 

I cannot pay the application fee. What can I do?

There are a few special circumstances where US students can request a fee waiver. Details can be found here.

There are no possiblities for international students to have a fee waiver.

I have only one original copy of my TOEFL scores. Should I send them with my application?

There is no need to send your TOEFL scores. They will be reported electronically to the graduate school. Please enter you score in the application form. Note that we will not issue a formal letter of admission without having received your score from the testing service.

I want to send in my application early, but I have no grades for the Fall semester. Do you really need them?

You may sendthe official transcript with the Fall grades and send copy of the Fall grades when you get them. We will review your application; however you school must send the official transcript, with the Fall grades, directly to us before we will issue a letter of admission.

When will I receive a response to my application?

We receive a large number of applications in December and January; it takes some time to process all. We may admit or reject applicants any time between the application deadline and April 14. Very few cases are decided late; most applicants should hear from us well before April 1.

Can I visit Stony Brook and the Department?

You are welcome to visit any time, and we will do our best to help planning your trip and show you around. Once you are admitted, a limited amount of support will be available for travel reimbursement; however you must be a US citizen or a permanent resident to claim this. The best time to come is during our   "visiting weekend"  (which is actually a Sunday-Monday, usually in March).

I was admitted to your Department. What is the latest date to accept the offer?

The written note of acceptance should be here no later than April 15. If you are not sure that the mailed note arrives in time, and sending a fax is not possible, send us an email before the deadline (we will still need the written note, but it may arrive later). If you decline our offer, also send an email, please.

I was admitted to Stony Brook, but I am on the waiting list at another place. Can I delay my answer to you until I know the result there?

The April 15 deadline is established in a resolution by the   Council of Graduate Schools . Accordingly, all graduate schools should give you time to make a decision about the admission offer until April 15; we certainly do so. Any graduate school that strings you along past April 15th is not seriously interested in you. Our offer for admission expires on April 15th; if we do not receive a response by that date, we assume that our offer was rejected. (Note: In some years we may have a positions left open after the deadline. If you wish to be reconsidered for admission after April 15, you may contact the Graduate Program Director.)

I am from Europe, where applications are due in May, and I totally missed the application deadline. What should I do?

You should contact the Graduate Program Director. If we still have open positions in our program you may submit an application any time until June 15. Notice, however, that the admission rate for these late applications is much lower than that of the regular applications. 

Incoming Students


When do I need to arrive?

The first weeks of classes is typically the last week of August. Entering graduate stuisent should be here about two weeks earlier, there is a full week of orientation activities in the week before classes, some organized by the department and others by the graduate school. Please consult the Graduate School New Student Roadmap for important things you should do beofre arriving and during your first days at Stony Brook.

I've accepted your offer but haven't heard anything, should I worry?

After you accept our offer, watch out for emails from us - if you do not get any response to your acceptance try to contact us (in writing or by phone) to make sure that we have the correct email address for you.

When is the placement exam? How should I prepare for it?

This optional exam is the same exam as the Comprehensive Exam but you have to do all three problems for each of the subjects of the core courses. The best way for preparing to it is by looking at the   past course WEB pages  for PHY 501, 505, 511, 512, 540, reading the recommended books, solving problems from the books, and solving the homework and exam problems.

I am applying for a student visa and I am afraid that my application will be rejected or delayed. What can I do?

A possible way for us to help you is to provide a letter of recommendation directly to the embassy; unfortunately, experience shows that these letters do not help much. It is important that you prepare for your visa interview, understand the concerns of the consular officials, and avoid being mistakenly considered for rejection. Follow the procedures outlined by Stony Brook  Visa and Immigration Services  .

I have no idea how to rent a place in Stony Brook. Is there housing for new students?

We generally recommend that first-year students should live on campus (finding off-campus housing requires advanced visits and transportation may be also a problem). Graduate students may live in Chapin, Schomburg or the West Apartments. Current monthly rates can be found here. For returning students the housing is based on a year-long contract, with contract dates running from June 1-May 31; new students start paying at the time they arrive. Futher information about on-campus graduate student housing can be found here and on  this FAQ sheet

How do I apply for on-campus housing?

All new international and domestic  graduate  students are guaranteed  housing  as long as your advance  housing  deposit and  housing  request are received by the application deadline, which is May 15th for Fall admission.   All new  graduate  students should wait until they are assigned a Stony Brook ID number, and then pay their  housing  deposit online by credit card on the Solar System on or before May 15th  for Fall  admission:   There is not a specific deadline for Spring admits and   housing  is not guaranteed for Spring admits, students should pay their deposit as soon as possible.

Can I find off-campus housing?

This is an option if you can come here and look around no later than early August (earlier is strongly recommended), or if you already know students in the University with whom you could share an off-campus residence. Public transportation is very limited so a car is almost always necessary. Off-campus housing for individual students is difficult to find. Most single students who live off campus arrange groups to rent a house. To join such a group, one should be here, preferably during the academic year. It is then possible to get several people together for such an arrangement or join an existing group when one of its members leaves.

I am really determined to find a place off-campus. Where should I look?

The university is in Stony Brook, Brookhaven Township on the North Shore of Long Island. You might want to stay on the north shore and not more than 30 minutes away from the campus.  There are usually shopping centers not too far away from any particular point, but practically any trip to the supermarket  or other store will require a car. Generally places East of Stony Brook will be better for traveling purposes - all roads are congested!  Heading east the areas you might consider are: Stony Brook, Port Jefferson, Port Jefferson Station, East Setauket, Setauket, Mount Sinai, Sound Beach, Miller Place, Rocky Point, Shoreham. There are two areas a bit south of the university called Centereach and Selden and one a bit to the west is called St. James. Be aware that prices vary greatly; you   must  see the neighborhood before renting a place.  You should consult these resources from the Division of Student Affairs before beginning your search. There is also a Stony Brook Graduate Housing Facebook Group that you may find helpful. 

What should I bring with me?

If you finished a serious lab course, bring the lab reports and other material if you wish to request an exemption   from at least a part of our course. If you had graduate courses equivalent of our breadth courses, bring the course material, and you may be able to have it accepted for satisfying the breadth requirement.

Will I need a car in Stony Brook? How much would it cost to by a car?

In the first year most students live on-campus, and they do not need a car. Later, if you move out of campus, a car makes life much easier and enjoyable. Some intrepid students survive here for their entire academic career, living off campus with only a bicycle for transportation, but the weather on Long Island does not always lend itself to this arrangement. A barely running used car can be purchased for $1500 or less. There are, however, additional expenses: The car will have to pass a mechanical and emission inspection, repairs have to be paid for, and there is a required insurance. For new drivers the insurance costs are high, more than $1000 for a   half   year period. To register a car you will also need to get a NY State driver's license.

There are so many different orientation programs. Which one should I attend?

Participating in the orientation is legally required for being employed by the University. The orientation starts well before the first day of classes, and it is done by two organizations: the   Graduate School , and the   Department . The orientation and TA training given by the Department is mandatory for Physics PhD students. Watch for other mandatory programs. If you are from the USA, you do not have to go to the "international" part. There is also a separate orientation (after the first day of classes) about health insurance issues.

How do I connect computer to the network?

There is wired internet access in the grad student computer room (D-119) and in the grad student lounge. You will need to register the computer with the Department for this to work . The Wolfienet wireless service, managed by the University, and is available everywhere in the building. Follow   this link to the "WolfieNet" WEB page  for instructions. There are also several protected wireless access points, managed by the various research groups. If you want to use one of those you can try to track down the owner and ask for permission.

Solar System? Blackboard? Gmail?

The   Solar System  is a WEB portal for many of the University's services. It is used for class search and registration, to access course grades and an unofficial transcript, housing requests, to manage personal information, etc. Your Solar account is created when you get your Stony Brook ID number. Blackboard  is a class management interface used mostly for undergraduate courses. Using this system, instructors can post homeworks and mid-semester grades, send emails to the students, among other functions. Although all students get a Blackboard account, graduate students are most likely to encounter Blackboard as instructors of laboratory courses. Email at Stony Brook is run by the Google email system. Details can be found on the   Google Mail Website. All students get an email account in the format

Do I get email services in Stony Brook?

The Division of Information Technology manages the   Google Mail system.  All official emails will be sent to your account.


How can I make sure that I receive emails sent to me by the Department?

We send all emails to a generic email address "". Please make sure to check this email address on a regular basis.

Does the University provide computational resources to students?
  • The University has "SINC sites" with computers installed for use by the students (these sites are used mostly by undergraduates). 
  • There is free file storage space up to 2GB on the University's servers ( MySBfiles ).  
  • Various software is available for free or at reduced cost, please consult the DOIT Software Catalog to find if something you need is available and the best way to get it
  • For general prodcutivity software, Microsoft Office can be downloaded for free or you have access to unlimited storage on Google Apps through your Stony Brook Google account. Of course the open source purists among you can just go and get LibreOffice and leave the University out of it!
  • If you want to make a website the easiest way is probably to use SB You.

Courses, Credits and Exams

What is the deadline for registration?

You must be registered for at least one course by the first day of classes. The total number of credits is determined by your G-status. The exact dates are published each year in the   academic calendar . There are several extensions.

  • Students failing to register during the advance or final registration period may still register during the first 15 days of the semester, but will be charged a late fee of $40.
  • Graduate students may add classes through day 15 of classes.
  • Graduate students may drop classes through day ten of classes without incurring a tuition liability and without a W (withdrawal) being recorded.
  • From days 11 to 15, graduate students may only drop from courses if an even number of credits are added in a single transaction (i.e., 3 credits for 3 credits). Use the "swap" feature in the   Solar System  to make sure that you do the change in a single transaction. You may also withdraw from a class, but a W is posted and tuition is charged based on the Tuition Liability schedule. If you withdraw, make sure your credits do not drop below the required level.
What will we learn in the courses offered by the Department? What are the prerequisites?

For PHY course descriptions and prerequisites: look in the   Graduate Bulletin . For course instructors and times: follow link from the   Departmental Course Schedule List , or at the Solar System.

I have taken lots of classes in Classical Mechanics. Shall I repeat the course here?

Yes, unless you pass the corresponding part of the Placement Exam. 

I have a strong background in Physics and Math from college, but no significant graduate level courses. Which core courses should I take?

Fall: PHY501, PHY511,PHY540
Spring: PHY512, PHY505, PHY515

This is a very heavy load in the first year as the core courses have lots of homework and you should think carefully about whether you are prepared for the load. The advantage of knocking off the heavy courses in your first year is that you will be able to start focusing more on your areas of interest in your second year through breadth courses, specialized courses and research, in your second year, but for most students we would recommend a more gradual approach.

I think taking three core courses at the same time is too much for me. Can I spread it out?

Firstly, you are probably right. Taking three core courses at the same time is a very demanding load and most students would benefit from spreading them out.  One possible sequence is the following which spreads the core courses out over three semesters. In each case you would fill out your semester with appropriate other courses (breadth and specialization). PHY 503 is included as a recommended course in the first semester here as it it intended to help prepare you with the math knowledge you will need for PHY505.

Fall: PHY501, PHY503,  PHY511

Spring: PHY505, PHY512

Fall: PHY540,  PHY515/517

A four semester plan for completing the core courses might involve:

Fall: PHY 501, PHY503

Spring: PHY505, PHY515

Fall: PHY540, PHY511

Spring: PHY 512

Do remember in making your plans that you need to have passed the comprehensive exam by the beginnining of your third year. The core courses should help you prepare for the exam and when you take them should be part of your strategy for passing the exam. The comprehensive exam can be passed subject by subject so you do not need to attempt all of it at once.

I am going to be an astronomer. How can I satisfy the breadth requirement?

One way is to  take all four astronomy graduate courses. One of them is offered in each semester, on a rotating schedule. You must start taking the first one when you enter, since you have to be finished by the end of fourth semester. Discuss your plans with an Astronomy professor or the Graduate Program director.

Something is wrong with my registration and it is September 17th. Can I fix it now?


This is a big problem. Retroactive add/drop petitions must have the approval of the graduate program director and the Graduate School and will not be processed by the Registrar’s Office until a fee is paid.  

I am a Ph.D. student. Can I take a course from the Mathematics department?

Yes, but be careful. A few courses that are related to your specialty are OK, but they do not count for "breadth" or any other requirement. All students must have prior permission from their department/program to take any courses outside of their primary degree plan.

I am required to register for 9 credits. How do I take a math course?

A student with a full-time nine-credit tuition scholarship from a primary program may take a course in a secondary program. However, it must be in addition to the nine credits applying toward the primary program during the same semester. The cost of these credits is paid by the student.


I am a Ph.D. student. Can I take a foreign language course?

No, unless you pay the tuition. You are the receiver of a tuition scholarship. The scholarship only apply to courses that fulfill degree requirements in the program providing the scholarship. Talk to the graduate program director before taking any course outside of the Department.

Can I take an "English as a Second Language" (ESL) course?

Yes. If you are a G1 or G3 student, the credits will be covered by the tuition waiver. You may not exceed the total of 18 credits, and you must be registered for 12 credits in the Department.

I do most of my Ph.D. research in a national laboratory or other off-campus location. Do I have to register?

All degree candidates must register for nine credits doing thesis or dissertation research for the semester in which the degree is awarded. Students on approved leaves of absence do not register for those semesters for which a leave has been granted; however, they must register for the semester in which the degree is awarded. A special Summer course, PHY 800, may satisfy this requirement.

Is PHY... accepted as breadth course?

You need to ensure you have three advanced courses from three different areas. The areas are defined below.


Areas and Courses eligible for the Breadth requirement (all course numbers refer to Physics courses.)  

Astronomy 521, 522, 523, 524, 683, 688
Atomic and Molecular Physics 565, 566, 690
Accelerator Physics 543, 554, 564
Computational Methods 504,604
Solid State Physics 555, 556, 681
Nuclear Physics 551, 552, 684
Particle Physics 557, 612, 686
Physical Biology 558, 559, 687
Theoretical Physics 541, 610, 611, 620, 621, 622, 623, 680, 681, 685
I am taking one of the courses that are offered for 0-3 credits. What if I choose 0 credit?

We advise students to take a course for less than 3 credits if there is no other way to stay within the allowed total number of credits. This usually happens if the student needs to take a breadth course, but she/he is also registered doing research. Students taking a course for 0, 1, 2 or 3 credits are treated and graded exactly the same way, except if there is an explicit agreement between the student and the instructor. If less course work is done, the course can not be counted as a breadth course.

I have taken a lab course very similar to PHY515 or PHY517. Do I have to repeat the course?

In order to get exemption from PHY 515 or PHY 517 all materials associated with the course taken elsewhere should be presented: syllabus, the faculty supplied instructions or "write-ups" of the experiments done by the student, the laboratory logbook in which the student recorded the day-to-day results of each experiment, and the final written report for each experiment, together with the grades for each of those. Students seeking a waiver in PHY 515 or PHY 517 should submit all materials to faculty teaching the course soon after arrival to Stony Brook. Often, rather than fully waiving the course requirement, waivers are sometimes granted for individual experiments.

How difficult is the comprhensive exam? How should I prepare for it?

The exam will be in four parts with exams on Classical Mechanics, Electrodynamics, Quantum Mechanics and Statistical Mechanics. There will be three problems on each of the four core subject areas. An effort will be made to test each area separately; however, a strict separation between areas need not be maintained and material from the other core courses may be mixed in as appropriate. The problems reflect the material taught in, and the level of, the graduate core courses courses, and problems will be composed by the exam committee in consultation with current and past core course instructors. Students can choose 2 of the 3 problems in each area and pass each subject separately with passing scores at the PhD and Master level decided by the faculty. All PhD students are required to pass the Comprehensive exam before the start of their third year as PhD student. The minimum requirement for passing this exam is passing three subjects at the PhD level and one subject at the Master level.  The best way to prepare for the exam is by looking at the   old Exam problems , and reading the material of the breadth courses.

I am a G4 student and I am doing research. What course should I register for?

You have a choice here: If you are doing experiment, register for PHY 580, if you are doing theory, register for PHY 585. Certainly register for the section where the instructor is your scientific advisor.

I am a G5 student and I am doing research. What course should I register for?

If most of the research you do is on-campus, in Brookhaven Lab, or in Cold Spring Harbor register for PHY 699. If you are working anywhere else within the US (e.g. Argonne), register for PHY 700. If you are doing research outside of the US (e.g. at CERN) register for PHY 701.

My advisors name is not listed for the research course I have to register for. What should I do?

Talk to the Graduate Program Director. He will either tell you to register under his name, or he will appoint a Departmental co-advisor (typically the Chair of your Oral Exam Committee, if you had that exam). When the grade is due, he may ask you for short report on your activities and/or contact your real advisor for the grade.

I am an international student in the Ph.D. program. Can I go back to my home country for the summer?

Yes, although you may be disadvantaged in two ways. First, you are not going to get paid during the summer. More importantly, you will miss the opportunity to work with a research group.


Advancement to Ph.D. Candidacy, Research, Ph.D. Defense

What is the composition of the oral exam committee?

The oral exam committee typically consists of three members: Your advisor (they will sign a statement indicating that he/she takes you as a student), another faculty member from the same group, and a faculty member outside of your research area. Adjunct professors are welcome to serve on the committee, but at least half of the committee, and the chair, must be full time faculty. The chair can not be your future advisor. At least one member should be an experimentalist, and at least one should be a theorist.

I am working closely with a postdoc in my advisor's research group. Can they be on the committee?

A postdoc can serve on the committee, but only in addition to the members described above.

Who picks the members of the committee?

The student should identify the members of the committee, after consultation with the advisor. The committee must be approved by the Gradaute Program Director.

What are the procedure and deadlines for the Oral Exam?

The oral exam, like the comprehensive exam, is a requirement for a student to advance to candidacy and shouls be completed by the end of the student's fourth semester at Stony Brook. In practical terms the latest passing date is August 20 for students who entered in the Fall and January 20 for those who entered in the Spring. You should contact the Graduate Program Director at least three weeks before the exam and establish the composition of the committee. Once the committee is approved by the GPD, fill out this form and email to Matt and Don. Also download the signature sheet and the advisor's note before the exam. Make sure they are signed after the exam. Submit the signature sheet and the advisor's note to the Physics Main Office.

I am doing research in BNL and my advisor works there. What should I do?

First check if your advisor is an adjunct faculty. If yes, follow the usual rules applied to faculty members. Otherwise you will need a Stony Brook faculty member as your co-advisor. Preferably, he/she should be from a research area closely related to yours. Your committee will have four members: your two advisors, and another two members selected according to the rules described above.

What should be the topic of my oral exam talk?

You should pick it in consultation with your advisor. It can be a review of literature, an account of your research you have already completed, a thesis proposal, or something else. If you advisor is not a faculty member, the oral exam should be a thesis proposal.

What happens to the oral exam committee after the exam?

 The oral exam committee should meet with the student approximately once a year to review the student's progress. The meeting should be initiated by the student and a summary of the meeting should be sent to the Graduate Program Director who will add it to the file of the student.

I want to graduate next semester. What should I do?

Talk to Don or Matt, ask about the deadlines, discuss the Exam Committee and the procedures. Read the Grad School's  page about graduation   Make sure you are registered for the semester you are graduating in. If you are an international student, and you want to stay in the USA for a year after graduation, apply for "Optional practical training". Start looking for a job - it takes some time to sort these things out, and there are certain parts of the year, when job offers are more abundant. Some of our students get job offers well before graduation, but you have to work on this in due time.

What are the procedures and deadlines related to the Thesis Defense Examination and graduation?
  • The Department must submit a Thesis Defense Examination Committee to the Graduate School   by the second week  of the Semester, or   four weeks before the exam, whichever is earlier. Therefore the you should talk to the Graduate Program Director and discuss possible Committee members   before the start of the semester. Once the members of the Committee agreed to serve, fill out the "purple form" you get in the Department's Office with the names, the title of the dissertation and the approximate date of the exam, so that we can submit the committee for approval. (Bring a CV for the outside member, if necessary.) No harm is done if you postpone the exam or change one or two committee members later.
  • File for graduation  here   . You should do this during the   first week of the semester  you want to graduate in. No harm is done if you postpone the exam to the next semester.
  • Once you are sure that the dissertation will be ready and the exam will happen, set up a date, and discuss it with the members of the Exam Committee. When you select the date, take into account that there is a strict deadline at the end of the semester for submitting the thesis to the Graduate school. Your graduation will be postponed to the next semester if you miss the deadline.
  • Email the   "Doctoral Degree Defense Form"   to the to the Graduate Program Director at least   four weeks   before the exam. Note: The time and place of the exam cannot change after this point.
  • Check out if your thesis defense is   listed on the Graduate School's WEB site  about   two weeks  before the exam. Exams held without being posted will be invalid and must be repeated.
  • Distribute copies of your thesis to the Committee members well in advance of the Exam. We have no strict deadlines, but two-three weeks before the exam is recommended. If you are not completely done by that time, it is very important that you talk to members of your Committee and ask if they wish to look at a slightly incomplete version of the thesis, and what is the latest time they consider acceptable for having the complete work. Committee members may refuse to participate in the exam if they do not have time to study your thesis.
  • Bring a signature page to the exam.
  • After the exam, bring a copy of the signature page to the Department's Office.
  • Submit the dissertation and the original signature page directly to the Graduate School.
Who should be on the Thesis Defense Committee?

The Thesis Defense Committee has at least four members: typically the three members of the student's Oral Exam Committee, and one more member, outside of the Department. The outside member should be able to give an independent evaluation of the thesis work and cannot be a collaborator or co-author. At least three members must be Physics and Astronomy faculty (full time or adjunct). At least half of the committee, and the chair, must be full time faculty. There should be at least one experimentalist, at least one theorist, and at least one department member from a research field other than that of the thesis topic. The external member may also serve as the required theorist or experimentalist. The chair can not be your advisor. At most one committee membe can attend by Skype, and the defending student, the Chair and the Advisor have to be physical present. All defense committees are subject to approval by the Graduate Program Director.

Can a postdoc serve on my Thesis Defense Committee?

Yes, but only in addition to the committee members described above. In exceptional cases, with the permission of the Graduate Program Director, a post doc can be the outside member, but only if he/she had no scientific collaboration with the student.

How will I know if the "outside" member qualifies to be on the Committee?

Stony Brook regular faculty in other Departments automatically qualify, except if they are affiliated to our Department. For all other cases, you should ask a CV from the outside member, and bring it to the Graduate Program Director for approval.

How should I prepare for the defense?
  • Prepare dissertation in accordance with the   guidelines. Most students use LaTex.  A good start can be to ask for a template from a student who graduated currently.   However, it is your responsibility to make sure that the dissertation complies with the latest rules set by the Graduate School.
  • Distribute the written thesis to the committee well in advance of the defense.
  • Prepare a talk no longer than 45 minutes. Be ready to questions about any parts of the thesis.
  • Have a signature page ready for the Committee to sign after the exam. (See Dissertation and Thesis Guidelines  and Top Ten Mistakes.)
I defended the thesis. How do I collect the signatures from the Committee members?

Any type of permanent black ink may be used for the signatures, but no other color. Committee members sign off on the signature page when the dissertation has been accepted. This happens usually right after the defense. Occasionally, the Committee may request changes in the dissertation and withhold one or more signatures until the changes are reviewed by one or more Committee members.

Is there anything to do after my thesis defense?


  •  Send a final pdf copy of your thesis to the Graduate Program Director.
  • Bring a copy of the signature sheet to the Department's Office. (You will get your degree ONLY if the Office files the "Completion Statement" to the Grad School; we cannot file the statement, if we have not received a copy of the signature sheet and the final copy your thesis.)
  • You may have to do a few changes in the text of your dissertation. Once the dissertation is final, make several CDs in the format requested by the Graduate School for electronic transmission. Keep a copy for yourself.
  • File your thesis with the Graduate School before the deadline. Do not wait until the last minute: there may be minor problems with the thesis and you may need a few days to fix them.
  • Give back your library books, keys, etc.
  • Finish all other paperwork with the Graduate School, make sure that you will actually get your degree.
  • Participate in the Hooding Ceremony, if you can.
  • Leave us a forwarding address. .
  • Move on with your life, think nicely of Stony Brook.
I submitted the dissertation to the Graduate School in the middle of the semester. Can I stay on the payroll?

Yes, you can stay on as an RA until the end of the semester, as long as your advisor is willing (able) to pay you.

Can I start working as a postdoc before I get the degree?

Degrees are awarded in May, August, and December. Nevertheless, if you finished all requirements and filed the thesis with the Grad School, you can start working as a postdoc any time. Fill out the   "Request for letter of completion" , and bring it to us. We will check your files, sign the statement, and the Grad School will issue the proper document for your employment. (You will still remain a registered student until the end of the semester.) If this procedure does not work, the Department can issue a letter for you.

When will my student status expire?

You will remain a registered student until the end of the semester, even if you file your thesis at the beginning of the semester. That is true even if you leave Stony Brook and take up a job right after your thesis defense.