Important Information

The following sections show important information for both current and prospective students regarding the graduate program.

For All Students

In general, most courses can be petitioned for substitution by submitting this form to the Graduate Coordinator. Please note that courses cannot be substituted for the elective requirement. 

GTA Awards

Near the end of the academic year, three outstanding teaching assistants are selected and are given a monetary award in honor of Emery E. Slossen. Awardees are restricted to those GTAs who have held at least quarter time appointments during both semesters of the current academic year. The Director of Laboratories is the lead decision-maker when selecting honorees and conducts thorough evaluations of all eligible candidates throughout the academic year. Evaluations shall be on the basis of:

  • preparation for teaching assignments
  • quality of grading and recording
  • effective presentation of the material
  • assisting students patiently and pleasantly

Strong consideration shall be given to performance beyond the call of duty.

Graduate Travel Fund

The department has a pool of funds set aside to help Physics & Astronomy graduate students travel to conferences and summer schools. To apply for the funds (up to $750) please fill out the form located here. Applications are reviewed by a sub-committee of the graduate committee at the beginning of each month. Early applications are strongly encouraged. 

Policy on Departmental Travel Award for Graduate Students (Revised April 2019)

1. Eligibility

Students are eligible to apply if they are full time degree-seeking graduate students, who have passed the comprehensive exam before the targeted travel date. Based on availability of funds, the awards can be given to all graduate students in good standing. Students can apply as often as needed. However, preference will be given to students who have not traveled using funds from this award within 18 months before the targeted travel date.

The award supports a trip to either a conference or a school related to the dissertation research. The student must give a presentation related to the dissertation research if attending a conference.

 2. Award Information

Each award is up to $750. Eleven awards are expected to be made in each academic year. Unused funds in a calendar year will be added to the next academic year.

3. Application

Eligible students should submit an application including a half-page description of the conference/school, estimated cost of the entire trip, plans for additional source of support (if greater than $750), and how the trip benefits the dissertation research. For a conference trip, the applicant is required to submit evidence that an abstract has been submitted or an invitation has been received. For both conference and school trips, a letter of support from the advisor is required. Applications should be submitted to the Graduate Coordinator.

Students are encouraged to submit an application once an abstract has been submitted to a conference; however, an award will be issued only if the abstract was accepted for a presentation.

4. Evaluation

Applications will be evaluated monthly by a committee formed by selected members of the Graduate Committee.

5. Future revision reserved

The Graduate Committee will review this policy yearly for necessary adjustments.

Astronomy Associates of Lawrence

The Astronomy Associates of Lawrence (AAL) is an organization of students and community members interested in Astronomy. This organization elects its own officers. Faculty Advisor: Prof. Bruce Twarog.

Departmental Assembly

The Departmental Assembly is the constituted body for full departmental meetings. The Department provides for the inclusion of regularly enrolled students in both its Departmental Assembly and its policy-making committees. The number of students in each body is at least 20 percent of the number of faculty members who hold the rank of instructor or above and who serve on that body. The Departmental Assembly is comprised of the entire faculty, plus student members of the Committees on Graduate Studies and Undergraduate Studies.

Graduate Committee

This committee comprises seven faculty members appointed by the department chairperson and two current graduate students. This committee handles graduate student petitions and reviews the program and student progress.

Society of Physics Students and Sigma Pi Sigma

The Society of Physics Students (SPS) is open to all persons with an interest in physics. Sigma Pi Sigma is the physics honors society within SPS with scholastic requirements for membership. SPS is a member society of the American Institute of Physics. This organization elects its own officers and also nominates the student representatives (both graduate and undergraduate) to the Departmental Assembly. Faculty Advisors: Prof. Barbara Anthony-Twarog and Prof. Dave Besson 

Graduate Student Organization

The Physics & Astronomy Department Graduate Student Organization is lead by a group of graduate students within the department. They organize events, discuss graduate student related issues, and more! For more information contact one of the GSO Executive Officers: Gabriella Townsley, Fatima Lariz, Paige Trevarrow.

Peer Mentoring Program

The Physics & Astronomy Department has a graduate student led peer mentor program. The program is organized and maintained by the GSO.

Below is the department protocol for declaring an advisor.

(1) To declare an advisor, an Advisor Declaration Form shall be signed by both the student and the advisor and submitted to the graduate coordinator.

(2) In the case of a student who is changing their advisor, an Advisor Termination Form shall be signed by either the student or the advisor and submitted to the graduate coordinator. If the student has reached Candidacy, that student will then be given a period of 4 months to find a new advisor, and submit a new Advisor Declaration Form. Such a student who has failed to find a new advisor before the 4-month deadline may be put on academic probation.

Please contact the Graduate Coordinator or reference the Graduate Student Handbook for the forms.

For Enrollment & Grading regulations, the department adheres to the descriptions and policies outlined on the Graduate Studies Policy website here and COGA recommendations found for grading here and enrollment here.

Prof. K.C. Kong ( is the interim Director of Graduate Studies for the department. 

Prof. Wai-Lun Chan ( is the Graduate Student Advisor. Each student is required to meet with Prof. Chan every semester for advising until he/she secures a research advisor.

Prof. Thomas Cravens ( is the Chair of the Graduate Committee.

The Microsoft Word version of the handbook can be found here.

The Adobe PDF version of the handbook can be found here.

Graduate Teaching Assistantship Information

For non native English speaking students, please see the Graduate Studies English proficiency requirements for GTA eligibility. 

Pedagogical Instruction

Every student who receives a GTA appointment will be required to complete PHSX 702 at the first offering of the course starting with the semester of the student's initial GTA appointment. Failure to complete this class at the first opportunity may affect consideration for subsequent GTA appointments.

GTA Time Limits

A graduate student of the Department is allowed to hold a GTA appointment for a maximum number of 12 semesters (spring and fall semesters only). In special situations, a student can submit an application to extend eligibility to the Graduate Committee. Accompanying this request should be a detailed plan on graduation and a statement on the length of extension needed (up to the 16 semester maximum allowed by the College). We suggest that the detailed plan be completed using the Degree Completion Agreement template.

Please visit the Past Requirements website for a list of changes to the Graduate Program.

For Newly Admitted Students

Getting settled in a new location can be expensive. It is recommended that students plan on bringing at least a month's worth of funds (approximately $1500-2000 for Lawrence) to be financially comfortable during their first month as a graduate student. 

For international students, we strongly recommend visiting the International Student Services website for an in-depth guide on planning your arrival. Please note that there are few financial resources available to assist students that do not have a Social Security Number (SSN).

For incoming students, please reference this housing guide website for student sourced information.