The PhD program is designed to provide students with a broad experimental, observational, and/or theoretical foundation for successful careers as scientists. They become prepared for careers in teaching, research, and work in industry. Study includes formal course work, participation in teaching, and attending colloquia and seminars. The PhD degree requires the design and completion of an original research project. The results of the research must be presented in a written dissertation and defended in an oral examination.
The rate of progress of individual students depends on many factors, including previous preparation, how well the subject matter is mastered, the field of specialization, the type of financial support, and the rate at which a research project progresses. The MS degree typically is completed in slightly more than one calendar year. Although some students have completed the PhD in just four years, most students require more than four years. The average time to receive a degree, based on recent PhD graduates in the department over the past five years, was 6.1 years.