Department of Physics and Astronomy College of Arts and Sciences Mississippi State University

Department of Physics and Astronomy College of Arts and Sciences Mississippi State University

Mississippi State, MS
student ratio
total students
Not Reported
average amount to complete degree
July 1
fall application deadline
acceptance rate
3 Degrees Offered
degrees offered


An Exciting Research-Focused Department of Physics and Astronomy

The Department of Physics and Astronomy at Mississippi State University (MSU) combines cutting-edge research with an emphasis on the personal development of every student. Students can complete experimental programs in astrophysics, atomic physics, molecular physics, plasma physics, and nuclear physics or theoretical programs in optical physics, computational physics, condensed matter physics, nuclear physics, and astrophysics. The department offers both a Master of Science (M.S.) degree program and a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree program.

The Master of Science in Physics and Astronomy at MSU

The department offers both a thesis and a non-thesis option for the Master of Science (M.S.) degree program.

The thesis option involves creation and defense of an original research thesis exploring some facet of physics or astrophysics. Students pursuing the non-thesis option must pass the comprehensive written examinations on classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, electromagnetic theory and mathematical physics.

The Doctor of Philosophy degree at MSU

The department offers both a Ph.D. in Physics degree program and, in collaboration with the MSU's James Worth Bagley College of Engineering, a Ph.D. in Engineering with an emphasis in Applied Physics degree program. Students will complete and defend their own original research dissertations in their chosen fields and must pass the comprehensive written examinations on classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, electromagnetic theory and mathematical physics.

Prominent Faculty Members in Physics and Astronomy at Mississippi State

A Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (A.A.A.S.), Professor Mark A. Novotny is Head of the Department of Physics and Astronomy and is a William L. Giles Distinguished Professor at Miss State. Dr. Novotny has been awarded "Outstanding Referee" by the American Physical Society and has been a member of the steering committee for the National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Material Research. Professor Novotny specializes in the study of electrochemistry, quantum computing, Markov chains, and quantum transport.

Professor Anatoli Afanasjev is a Fellow of the American Physical Society whose research focuses on atomic nuclei. Dr. Afanasjev serves on the organizing committee of Marie and Pierre Curie nuclear physics workshops in Poland and is Chair of the Nuclear Physics section of the American Physical Society. His interests include the properties of superheavy nuclei, high spin rate transitions, quantum many-body theory especially, with regard to the Dirac equation, and computational tools and their application to data sets.

A member of the American Physical Society and the American Association of Physical Teachers, Professor Wenchao Ma studies experimental nuclear physics, nuclear structure at high spin states, nuclei far from stability, and nuclear radiation detection and measurement technology. Dr. Ma has served on the User Executive Committee Member of Gammasphere at Argonne National Lab and currently contributes to "Physical Review" and "Physical Review Letters."

Areas of Specialization in Physics and Astronomy at MSU

Astronomy focuses on the study of asteroids and comets, particularly the study of cometary atmospheres and searches to discover exoplanets. The Howell Observatory is located near campus.

The research of the Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics group includes work on the computational modeling of and experimental investigation of electromagnetic scattering from complex single-particle and multiparticle systems and analytical investigations in fundamental electromagnetic theory and interactions with matter. Current research also includes developing and applying, measuring, monitoring, and sensing technologies to address problems in energy, environment, and biomedical engineering; using laser diagnostics in plasma and combustion, especially plasma-assisted combustion; creating time-domain fiber-optic sensor and sensor network for multifunction (physical, chemical, and biological) monitoring and sensing; developing cavity ring-down instrumentation for trace elements, isotopes, and volatile organic compounds; creating breath biomarkers for non-invasive disease diagnostics and metabolic status monitoring; and in situ classification of airborne small particles.

The Computational Physics group uses the large-scale computational facilities at the Center for Computational Sciences of the High Performance Computing Collaboratory to study condensed matter physics and nuclear physics. At this research center, specific research opportunities also involve collaborative efforts with many disciplines, including engineering, chemistry, mathematics, and computer science.

The Condensed Matter Physics group studies the electronic and magnetic properties of strongly correlated materials; creates computational methods for strongly correlated systems; examines the electronic and structural properties of nanostructures, semiconductors, and metals; and investigates the time dependence of classical and quantum models for materials.

The theoretical Nuclear Physics group investigates nuclear structure and reactions in a manner that is consistent with quantum chromodynamics, using effective field theory to construct the low-energy nuclear potential to study properties of light nuclei and dense nuclear matter in astrophysical contexts (such as neutron stars), and uses relativistic mean field theory to understand the structure of medium to heavy mass nuclei.

The experimental low-energy Nuclear Physics group studies both high-spin states (including triaxial super deformation) produced in fusion evaporation reactions and lower spin structures fed by various decay processes (including half-lives, delayed-neutron probabilities, shell closures, etc.). The medium energy physics group conducts high precision measurements that probe the fundamental nature of quarks inside atomic nuclei and precision tests of fundamental symmetries and the standard model and is also involved in building novel detectors, systems, and targets for the experimental program at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility. Research is performed at Argonne National Laboratory, Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory.

A Beautiful Campus

Mississippi State University is located on 4000 rolling acres in Starkville, Mississippi. Known throughout its history as "The People's University," Mississippi State University provides the opportunities to help each person excel. That mission is taken seriously. Here, faculty, staff and students share a common goal: to make the Mississippi State University experience a lifetime opportunity. Several campus features of historical importance include the "Drill Field," the Presidential Library for the papers and effects of Ulysses S. Grant, and the Cullis and Gladys Wade Clock Museum in the campus Welcome Center houses timepieces dating back to the 17th century. Also of historical importance is Lee Hall on the main campus quad.

Location & Contact

Department of Physics and Astronomy

College of Arts and Sciences
Mississippi State University

PO Box 5167
Mississippi State, MS 39762
United States

Dr. Mark Novotny

Department Head and Professor

Phone: 662-325-2806
Fax: 662-325-8898

Dr. Henk Arnoldus

Graduate Coordinator

Phone: 662-325-2919
Fax: 662-325-8898

Request More Info

Degrees & Award

  • Degrees Offered
    • Major Degree Levels Offered
    • Engineering Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) [applied physics]
    • Physics Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
      Master of Science (MS)
  • Degrees Awarded
    • Master's Degrees 8
    • Doctoral Degrees 3
    • First Professional Degrees Not reported
    • Other Advanced Degrees Not reported
    • * Shows the number of degrees awarded for the last academic year that data was reported.
  • Earning Your Degree
    • Part-time study available? Yes
    • Evening/weekend programs available? No
    • Distance learning programs available? No
    • Terminal master's degree available? Not reported
  • Degree Requirements
    • Master's Degrees
    • Doctoral Degrees
    • First Professional Degrees Not reported
    • Other Advanced Degrees Not reported


23% of applicants are admitted.
  • Acceptance Rate
    • Applied 59
    • Accepted 14
    • Acceptance Rate 23
    • Enrolled 13
  • Applying
    • Application Fee - Domestic $60
    • Application Fee - International $60
    • Electronic applications accepted? Yes
    • Applications processed on a rolling basis? Yes
  • Application Deadlines
    • Type Domestic International Priority Date
    • Fall deadline July 1st May 1st Yes
    • Winter deadline Not Reported Not Reported Not Reported
    • Spring deadline November 1st September 1st Yes
  • Entrance Requirements
    • Master's DegreesGRE, minimum GPA of 2.75 on last two years of undergraduate courses
    • Doctoral's DegreesGRE
    • First-Professional's DegreesNot Reported
    • Other Advanced DegreesNot Reported
    • International DegreesTOEFL required, 477 paper based, TOEFL iBT, IELTS recommended, IELTS paper based

Tuition & Fees

  • Tuition & Fees *
    • Tuition & FeesNot Reported
    • *Average dollar amount (tuition & fees) required to complete the degree
  • Financial Support
    • Financial award applicants must submitFAFSA
    • Application deadlines for financial awardsMarch 15
    • Types of financial support availableResearch Assitantships, Teaching Assistantships, Federal Work-Study, Institutionally-sponsored Loans, Graduate Assistantships

Student Body

  • Gender
    • Total Graduate Students53
    • Female Percentage17%
    • Male Percentage83%
  • Participation
    • Total Graduate Students53
    • Part-time Percentage8%
    • Full-time Percentage92%
  • Ethnicity
    • Hispanic / Latino6%
    • Black / African American0%
    • White / Caucasian69%
    • American Indian / Alaskan Native6%
    • Asian12%
    • Native Hawaiian / Other Pacific Islander0%
    • Two or more races6%
    • Unknown1%


  • Faculty Breakout
    • Total Faculty17
    • Full-time Percentage94%
    • Part-time Percentage6%
    • Female Percentage12%
    • Male Percentage88%


  • Existing Research
    • Focus of faculty researchAtomic/molecular spectroscopy, theoretical optics, gamma-ray astronomy, experimental nuclear physics, computational physics
    • Externally sponsored research expenditures last year$3,263,000