Planetary Sciences This is a Track

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College : Sciences Degree :PHD
Department : Physics Option : Dissertation
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The Planetary Sciences track in the Physics PhD program is designed to prepare students to be competitive in the global planetary sciences research community.


The Planetary Sciences track in the Physics PhD program requires a minimum of 72 credit hours beyond the bachelor’s degree or 42 hours beyond the master’s degree.

Total Credit Hours Required:
72 Credit Hours Minimum beyond the Bachelor's Degree
42 Credit Hours Minimum beyond the Master's Degree

This includes completion of 6 required courses (18 credit hours), 5 elective courses (15 credit hours) of regular course work selected in consultation with the student’s dissertation advisory committee, a minimum of 15 credit hours of dissertation, and the remaining 24 credit hours of appropriately selected research, dissertation, and elective courses. Courses must be selected so that at least 36 of the 72 hours are at 6000 level or higher. No more than 12 hours of independent study may be credited toward the PhD degree. The PhD includes a Candidacy Exam to be taken after the completion of the core courses, a written dissertation, and a dissertation defense before the student’s dissertation advisory committee.

Required Courses—18 Credit Hours

The core is designed to give students a broad foundation in the planetary sciences and a rapid training in the data analysis techniques that will be necessary for a successful research and publications.  

  • PHY 5524 Statistical Physics (3 credit hours)
  • PHY 6246 Classical Mechanics (3 credit hours)
  • PHZ 5156 Computational Physics (3 credit hours) or AST 5765C Advanced Astronomical Data Analysis (3 credit hours)
  • AST 5154 Advanced Planetary Geophysics (3 credit hours)
  • AST 5263 Advanced Observational Astronomy (3 credit hours)
  • AST 5165 Planetary Atmospheres (3 credit hours)

Elective Courses—15 Credit Hours

  • AST 6938 Planetary Astronomy Seminar (3 credit hours)
  • AST 6112 Origins of Solar Systems (3 credit hours)
  • AST 5334 Extrasolar Planets and Brown Dwarfs (3 credit hours)
  • PHY 5937 Astrobiology (3 credit hours)
  • AST 5145 Advanced Asteroids, Comets, and Meteorites (3 credit hours)

Other Electives—24 Credit Hours

Please see your adviser. This may include elective courses, dissertation hours, or selected research courses. 

  • PHZ 5505 Plasma Physics (3 credit hours)
  • PHY 5346 Electrodynamics I (3 credit hours)
  • PHY 6347 Electrodynamics II (3 credit hours)
  • PHY 5606 Quantum Mechanics I (3 credit hours)
  • PHY 6624 Quantum Mechanics II (3 credit hours)
  • OSE 5041 Introduction to Wave Optics (3 credit hours)
  • EEL 5820 Image Processing (3 credit hours)
  • OSE 5312 Fundamentals of Optical Science (3 credit hours)

Dissertation—15 Credit Hours

  • PHY 7980 Dissertation (15 credit hours)

Dissertation Advisory Committee

Within the first half-semester of admission to the planetary sciences graduate track, each student must select, by mutual agreement, a faculty adviser and two other faculty members to serve on his or her Dissertation Advisory Committee. One of the faculty members who is not the adviser must be from an area in the department other than Planetary Sciences. UCF graduate faculty and self-funded research scientists who are graduate faculty scholars are eligible to serve on these committees. Changes in the membership of a Advisory Committee must be approved by the Planetary Sciences Graduate Committee. The adviser is expected to meet regularly with the student. The full committee shall meet with the student at least once per semester to review and make recommendations regarding the student's academic progress. At the time of the Candidacy Exam, a non-UCF Planetary Sciences scientist shall be added to the Advisory Committee.

Candidacy Exam

The Planetary Sciences Track requires a candidacy exam to be taken after the completion of the core courses. This exam is composed of a written component and an oral exam. The written component is a journal-level research paper. The oral component is a two parts: (1) A public presentation of the research contained in the paper including the traditional question-and-answer period of a scientific presentation; and (2) private questioning on the detail of the presented research as well as the topics covered in the student’s preparation and course work.

Dissertation Proposal

The dissertation proposal may be presented simultaneously with the candidacy exam or in a separate meeting not more than one semester thereafter. Before substantial work is done on the dissertation, the Supervisory Committee must approve the proposal and must also assess whether additional course work is necessary to begin the dissertation. Such course work should be completed at the earliest opportunity and before substantial work is done on the dissertation.

Admission to Candidacy

The following are required to be admitted to candidacy and enroll in dissertation hours:

  • Completion of all required and formal elective course work, except for research hours.
  • Successful completion of the candidacy examination.
  • The dissertation advisory committee is formed, consisting of approved graduate faculty and graduate faculty scholars.
  • Submittal of an approved program of study.
  • Completion of CITI and RCR Workshops

Dissertation Defense

The dissertation defense is the final requirement for the PhD. It consists of a public presentation of the dissertation typically lasting 45-60 minutes including the traditional question-and-answer period of a scientific presentation, followed by private questioning by the Dissertation Advisory Committee. Procedures are similar to the candidacy exam.

Independent Learning

The Planetary Sciences Track in the Physics PhD program requires a dissertation.

Application Requirements

For information on general UCF graduate admissions requirements that apply to all prospective students, please visit the Admissions section of the Graduate Catalog. Applicants must apply online. All requested materials must be submitted by the established deadline.

In addition to the general UCF graduate application requirements, applicants to this program must provide:

  • One official transcript (in a sealed envelope) from each college/university attended.
  • A bachelor's degree in physics, astronomy, geology, geophysics, geochemistry, atmospheric sciences, or planetary sciences.
  • Official, competitive GRE score taken within the last five years.
  • The Physics Subject Test of the GRE is recommended, but not required.
  • Three letters of recommendation.
  • Statement of goals.
  • Résumé.

Additional courses may also be required to correct any course deficiencies for those applicants without full preparation in physics and astronomy. Students entering the Physics graduate program with regular status are normally expected to have completed course work generally required for a bachelor's degree in physics, including mechanics, electricity and magnetism, thermal and statistical physics, and quantum mechannics. Students should contact the graduate program director for further information.

Current students in the existing Physics graduate program wishing to switch to the Planetary Sciences track must submit a letter to the Planetary Science Graduate Committee addressed to Dr. Dan Britt. The letter should include the request to join the planetary sciences track, the students degree goal (Masters), the name of the students planetary sciences adviser, and a brief description of their expected area of research. Upon departmental approval, a Graduate Status Change Form will be submitted to the College of Graduate Studies.

Meeting minimum UCF admission criteria does not guarantee program admission. Final admission is based on evaluation of the applicant's abilities, past performance, recommendations, match of this program and faculty expertise to the applicant's career/academic goals, and the applicant's potential for completing the degree.

Application Deadlines

Planetary Sciences *Fall Priority Fall Spring Summer
Domestic Applicants Jan 15Jun 15Nov 1


International Applicants Jan 15Jan 15Jul 1


International Transfer Applicants Jan 15Mar 1Sep 1


*Applicants who plan to enroll full time in a degree program and who wish to be considered for university fellowships or assistantships should apply by the Fall Priority date.


Graduate students may receive financial assistance through fellowships, assistantships, tuition support, or loans. For more information, see the College of Graduate Studies Funding website, which describes the types of financial assistance available at UCF and provides general guidance in planning your graduate finances. The Financial Information section of the Graduate Catalog is another key resource.


Fellowships are awarded based on academic merit to highly qualified students. They are paid to students through the Office of Student Financial Assistance, based on instructions provided by the College of Graduate Studies. Fellowships are given to support a student’s graduate study and do not have a work obligation. For more information, see UCF Graduate Fellowships, which includes descriptions of university fellowships and what you should do to be considered for a fellowship.