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

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 Schedule

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 December 15 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

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

Students who are admitted to the PhD program in Physics receive a complete financial support package including full tuition and a stipend 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. 

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 externally funded assistantships provide full tuition and stipend 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.

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.

Mr. and Mrs. Spencer T. Olin Fellowships for Women

These fellowships are awarded as a result of an annual competition open to all women who intend to commence graduate studies at Washington University the following fall. Olin Fellowships carry stipends for four years and full tuition. Women wishing to become candidates for the Olin Fellowship competition are asked to complete a separate Olin application in addition to their application for admission. Applicants must be graduates of a baccalaureate institution in the United States. 

Chancellor's Graduate Fellowships

These fellowships are designed to facilitate training for students who will contribute to diversity in graduate education and who are interested in becoming college or university professors. Students will be selected who, in light of all pertinent qualifications, experiences and attributes, would contribute to the diversity of graduate education at Washington University.

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 Graduate School Financial Support page for more information.

Mahdi Naghiloo

"What I most like about the Department of Physics is its supportive and friendly atmosphere. Looking back over the past few years, I see myself as a member of a great academic family exploring science at the edge of today’s technology. I had the chance to contribute to several novel experiments, attend conferences and workshops across the country, and collaborate with scientists across the world. I am glad that I chose WashU for my PhD studies."

―Mahdi NaghilooPhD Candidate