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University of Pittsburgh

Department of Physics and Astronomy

Pittsburgh, PA


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University of Pittsburgh -- Department of Physics and Astronomy

The Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pittsburgh provides graduate students with a solid foundation in advanced studies of the universe, solar system, and galaxies to prepare for careers including teaching, research, or work in industry. Dating back to 1867, the department has an extensive history of innovation and research that has continued into the 21st century with world class teaching facilities such as the Alleghany Observatory.

A Highly-Distinguished Faculty

The program's distinguished faculty has included prominent physics pioneers such as Cyril Hazard, who revolutionized quasar observation, and Ezra T. Newman, known for his contributions to general relativity. The program has also launched the careers of noted scientists including Vladimir Zworkin, known for his crucial work in creating the iconoscope and kinescope, and graduate students commonly go on to distinguished careers of their own.

Masters, Doctoral Degrees Offered

The Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pittsburgh offers a Master of Science (M.S.) degree and a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in physics. The M.S. degree can typically be completed in just 1 year, while the Ph.D. program can take longer, depending on the rate in which your research project progresses and other factors such as previous preparation. Some students complete the program in just 3 years, while most students require more than 4 years. Over the past five years, the average time it took students to earn a degree was 6.1 years.

Research Specializes in Four Fields

The Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pittsburgh is well known for being at the forefront of breakthrough discoveries and research, with efforts generously funded by prominent agencies and organizations. One of the department's research teams, for instance, recently was awarded a 5-year, $7.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to establish the Foundation for Quantum Supercomputers. The research efforts in the department focus on 4 areas of specialty: astrophysics; cosmology; physics education; and condensed matter physics.

Astrophysics Research Group

Students and researchers focusing on astrophysics pursue topics ranging from massive stars and the supernova descendents to the production of dark matter in the early universe. Research efforts include participation in major projects such as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and Deep Extragalactic Evolution Probe 2, and the department's researchers use space telescopes such as the Hubble Space Telescope to investigate phenomena of current interest. In the research lab of Professor Daniel Boyanovsky, for instance, students participate in research focusing on bridging nuclear and particle physics with astrophysics and early universe cosmology.

Particle Physics Research Group

The University of Pittsburgh's particle physics group focuses on the search for new subatomic particles and the measurement of the properties of known particles and interactions. The particle physics group has taken a lead role in studies on heavy quark physics, and the researchers are also involved in experiments at facilities including Fermilab's Tevatron, which collides protons and antiprotons in the highest energy in the world, and Europe's famed Large Hadron Collider.

Condensed Matter Physics Research Group

Researchers in condensed matter physics explore an ever-expanding range of phenomena, including ultrafast processes, quantum computation, and large-bandgap semiconductors. In soft condensed matter physics, research looks at topics such as two-dimensional turbulence and biophysics. Recent research projects have looked at transport and other properties of ion channels, and the dynamics of complex fluids and transition dynamics in biological contexts.

World Class Allegheny Observatory

Graduate students in physics and astronomy conduct extensive research in the Allegheny Observatory, one of the world's major astronomical research institutions. The observatory dates back to 1859, and its current telescopes include the 30-inch Thaw refractor, a 30-inch Keeler Memorial Reflector, and the 13-inch Fitz-Clark Refractor. Among the many renowned accomplishments at the observatory was the publication of 10 volumes of star parallax data and calculations collected by researchers at the observatory between 1910 and 1969 and still of great value to astronomers.

Petersen Institute of NanoScience and Engineering

Much research in physics and astronomy also takes place in the University of Pittsburgh's Petersen Institute of NanoScience and Engineering, where interdisciplinary teams from various departments collaborate on groundbreaking innovations and knowledge generation.

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, a joint effort of the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, and Westinghouse Electric Company, offers students and researchers access to state-of-the-art systems for powerful, high-performance computing, communications and data handling.

Financial Aid at the University of Pittsburgh

Graduate students normally can receive financial aid through teaching or research assistantships. Extensive fellowships are also offered, including departmental, university-sponsored, and external fellowships. Students supported as teaching or research assistants or through fellowships receive a merit scholarship for tuition and fees, and health insurance is covered.

Degrees & Awards

Degrees Offered

Degree Concentration Sub-concentration
Master of Science (MS)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degrees Awarded

Degree Number Awarded
Master's Degrees 18
Doctoral Degrees 13

Earning Your Degree

Part-time study available? Yes
Evening/weekend programs available? No
Distance learning programs available? No
Terminal master's degree available? Yes

Degree Requirements

Degree Requirement
Master's Degrees Comp Exam Required
Thesis Alternate accepted
Minimum of 30 credits
Doctoral Degrees Comp Exam Required
Thesis Required
Preliminary evaluation, 2 terms of student teaching, admission to candidacy, minimum of 72 credits


Acceptance Rate



Application Fee - Domestic
Application Fee - International
applications accepted?
Applications processed
on a rolling basis?

Application Deadlines

Type Domestic International Priority date
Fall deadline January 15th January 15th Yes

Entrance Requirements

Exam Details
Master's Degree Requirements Minimum GPA of 3.0
Doctoral Degree Requirements Minimum GPA of 3.0

Tuition & Fees

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Financial Support

Application deadlines for financial awards April 15
Types of financial support available Fellowships
Research Assistantships
Teaching Assistantships
Health Care Benefits
Scholarship and/or loans

Student Body

Total Graduate Students
International Breakout (representing other countries)


Hispanic/Latino 3.54%
Black or African American 0%
White or Caucasian 26%
American Indian or Alaska Native 0%
Asian 0.88%
Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander 0%
Two or more races 0.88%
Unknown 0%


Male (76%)
Female (23%)


Total faculty
Full-time - 44
Part-time - 7
Male (42)
Female (9)


Focus of faculty research: Astrophysics/cosmology; particle physics; condensed matter/solid state/nanoscience; biological physics; physics education research
Externally sponsored research expenditures last year:

Location & Contact

Address 3941 O'Hara Street, Room 100 Allen Hall
Pittsburgh, PA  15260
United States
Contact Dr. Arthur Kosowsky
Phone: 412-624-6381
Fax: 412-624-9163

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University of Pittsburgh
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