Graduate Program

Our Programs

The Department of Physics offers both Masters and PhD programs in Physics. The Masters program takes two years to complete and the PhD program typically takes between five and six years to complete.  The Bulletin has information on all degree requirements. 

In addition, there is a Joint Post-baccalaureate Program (JPP) in the departments of Mathematics, Physics, and Earth and Planetary Sciences designed to prepare individuals who already have a bachelor’s degree from a U.S. institution to make the transition to graduate school. For more information on how to apply, see Joint Post-baccalaureate Program.


Research covers a wide area of experimental and theoretical physics, and benefits from collaborations with scientists in other departments on the Danforth Campus and at the School of Medicine. The department is a major participant in the McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences and the Institute of Materials Science & Engineering as well as the newly formed Center for Quantum Sensors.

Experimental research areas include:

  • Astrophysics, particle-astrophysics and space sciences
  • Condensed matter, materials, and quantum information
  • Biophysics

Theoretical research areas include:

  • Biophysics
  • Condensed matter physics
  • Particle-astrophysics and nuclear physics

Areas currently actively seeking to recruit graduate students.

Living in St. Louis

Grad student working on equipment in a physics lab

At WashU Physics we look forward to working with you

Learn about the graduate program in the Department of Physics at Washington University in St. Louis

XL-Calibur telescope launched to study black holes

XL-Calibur telescope launched to study black holes

Scientists from Washington University in St. Louis have launched a balloon-borne telescope to unlock the secrets of astrophysical black holes and neutron stars, some of the most extreme objects in the universe.

Breaking the cold barrier: searching for the nature of dark matter with new dilution refrigerator

Breaking the cold barrier: searching for the nature of dark matter with new dilution refrigerator

A state-of-the-art dilution refrigerator has recently been installed in James Buckley's new research lab, providing a cooling capacity that is 300 times colder than outer space.

Graduate Studies in Physics

Study and Research Programs Leading to a PhD

Incoming graduate students are encouraged to investigate the websites and publications of each research group to discover fields of interest to them, and to make contact with potential faculty research advisors early on. The department has active research in many areas including astrophysics, extraterrestrial materials, condensed matter physics, quantum information and quantum materials, particle and nuclear physics, and biophysics.

Learn more about our research

Physics 582 Seminar

Students are introduced to current developments in physics and research carried out by faculty within the department.

Physics 582 Seminar

Research Groups Currently Recruiting

Several research groups are actively seeking to recruit graduate students.

Research Groups Needing Grad Students

How to Apply

We welcome students of many different academic backgrounds. All application materials—including all mandatory supporting documents—must be received by the Office of Graduate Study’s deadline to ensure full consideration for fall admission, but we encourage you to apply early. Apply online by clicking the link below.

Application Information

Our Alumni

We've had outstanding students come through the Physics PhD program at Washington University, and we're very proud of how much our alumni have gone on to accomplish since graduating. 


Alumni Updates 

Peer Mentoring

The Physics Department graduate students support a peer mentoring program to help our new students transition into graduate school and to provide support throughout your first few years. We run both the Physics Department orientation in the fall and the Prospective Student weekend in the spring. Additionally, we host lunches and events for graduate students several times throughout the year to discuss helpful topics like choosing a research group, getting to know St. Louis, or just to have fun. Most importantly, we're always available to answer questions, give advice, and provide any sort of help you may need. Never hesitate to ask or come to us; that's what we're here for!

Peer Mentoring
professor and students

Financial Support

PhD Students:

Students who are admitted to the PhD program in Physics receive a complete financial support package including full tuition and a stipend/salary for the academic year. Financial support is guaranteed by the department for the first five years for students who are making satisfactory progress towards their PhD. Below are some of the fellowships for which students may qualify. 

Masters Students:

Students admitted to the Masters program in Physics pay the standard graduate tuition.

University Fellowships

University Fellowships provide full tuition and stipend support for Fellows during their first four semesters. During their second and third semesters, Fellows typically devote about 15 hours per week to a Mentored Teaching Experience. Summer support may be provided by a Hughes Research Fellowship or by one of our research groups.

Research Assistantships

Research Assistantships are given to continuing students who are in good academic standing and making satisfactory progress toward their degree. These assistantships provide full tuition and salary support for students, who devote the majority of their time to a Mentored Research Experience.

Arthur Holly Compton Graduate Fellowships

Each year the Physics Department will be able to award one Arthur Holly Compton Graduate Fellowship to a particularly outstanding first-year student. The Compton Fellows receive a substantially enhanced stipend during their first academic year (including summer months). The Compton Fellowships are named for Arthur Holly Compton, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for fundamental research that he carried out on this campus while he was a Professor of Physics at Washington University.

Dean's Distinguished Graduate Fellowships

The Dean’s Distinguished Graduate Fellowships in Arts & Sciences have been created to enhance the recruitment of and to recognize some of our most outstanding incoming graduate students. This program will support incoming PhD students with the promise of exceptional academic distinction; with a demonstrated interest to advance the public good; and who will contribute to the diversity and intellectual vitality of our university community.

McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences Graduate Fellowships

The McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences offers graduate fellowships for the nine-month academic year with a stipend plus tuition remission, for students interested in working in the space sciences or astrophysics. Renewals for a second and third year are contingent upon satisfactory progress and continued involvement in the space sciences or astrophysics. For one 3-month summer, McDonnell Fellows have the option of engaging in research with one of the space sciences or astrophysics research groups.

Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Fellowship for Women in Graduate Study

This fellowship was established in 1974, preparing elite women in graduate study to serve and lead at the highest levels of society. The fellowship provides exceptional resources and support to academically and artistically talented women in graduate study who will contribute to the fellowship and grow our network of fellows and alumnae.

Chancellor's Graduate Fellowships

This fellowship was established in 1991, to provide academic, professional, and personal support for academically excellent graduate students interested in enhancing diversity at Washington University and in the professoriate.

Arthur L. Hughes Fellowships

These fellowships were named in honor of a distinguished former chairman of the Department of Physics. A small number may be awarded annually to first-year graduate students who have demonstrated outstanding academic performance and who show unusual promise as prospective Ph.D. candidates in physics. Hughes Fellows receive an enhanced stipend during their first academic year.

McDonnell International Scholars Academy

The McDonnell Academy affirms the United States’ interest in attracting talented international and domestic students for advanced educational experiences and allows the university to learn more about the global community. To ensure the highest quality, the Academy is focused and small, involving a limited number of Scholars and Partner Universities. The Academy provides scholars tuition and a living stipend. 

Taiwan Ministry of Education – WashU Fellowship Program

To support outstanding Taiwanese students in PhD degree courses at Washington University in St. Louis, the Taiwan Ministry of Education offers fellowships to citizens of Taiwan who have graduated from any university in Taiwan. The MOE Fellowship provides 50% of the tuition ad 50% of the living stipend for each awardee for up to four years.

China Scholarship Council – WashU Fellowship Program

Applicants for this fellowship must be citizens of the People’s Republic of China and a graduate of any university in China (Hong Kong and Taiwan residents are not eligible) and apply to a PhD program at Washington University. The China Scholarship Council – Wash U Fellowship program will provide each awardee 50% of their tuition and 50% of a living stipend for up to four years, as well as a one-way ticket to St. Louis for settling in and a round trip airline ticket to their Chinese alma mater each year after completion of the first full year of study, as long as the student is in good academic standing. 

Visit the Office of the Provost Fellowships, Funding and Support page for more information.

I am so blessed to be a part of the physics family at WashU. I am always surrounded by great professors and staff and students who are very supportive and willing to help. The physics department provides you with great opportunities to carry out interdisciplinary research with world renowned researchers. Over the past few years, I have grown a lot from professional feedback from professors who have a lot of research experience at the forefront of science. WashU physics offers you a great environment for you to grow as a professional researcher in the science world. I made the right choice to earn my Ph.D. in the Department of Physics at WashU.

―Taeho LeePhD Candidate