Apr 12, 2021  
2018-2019 Graduate Catalog 
2018-2019 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]


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Degree Programs

Programs of study leading to the degrees of Master of Science, Master of Engineering (Engineering Physics), and Doctor of Philosophy are offered through the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Doctor of Philosophy

Doctor of Philosophy: Typically, a total of 5-6 years are needed to complete the Ph.D. degree for a student who enters the program with a bachelor’s degree. A dissertation presenting the results of an original investigation in a specialized area of physics is an essential feature of the program and must be completed and defended successfully. Requirements also include passing the comprehensive examination, which must pass no later than the end of seventh semester for students who enter the Ph.D. program with a bachelor’s in physics.  Students entering with a Physics Master’s degree must attempt the exam prior to the start of their 4th semester.

The program of study for each student in the Ph.D. program includes a minimum of 30 course hours. The following courses, or their equivalents, are required of all students: PHY 501 Mechanics, PHY 502 Electrodynamics I, PHY 503 Quantum Mechanics I, PHY 510 Graduate Laboratory, PHY 512 Statistical Mechanics, PHY 574 Methods of Theoretical Physics, PHY 603 Quantum Mechanics II, and PHY 624 Solid State I. In addition, students must take at least one advanced course, chosen from among PHY 575 Methods of Theoretical Physics II, PHY 598 Continuum Mechanics, PHY 598 Statistical Mechanics II, PHY 602 Electrodynamics II, and PHY 625 Solid State II.

Students must also take at least one research specialty elective course, which must be approved by the student’s dissertation advisory committee. These electives do not have to be PHY courses, and they cannot be from among the 400-level PHY undergraduate core courses in Mechanics, Electricity and Magnetism, Quantum and Atomic Physics, Thermodynamics, Statistical Mechanics, or Optics.

In general, additional courses beyond the above minimal requirements are expected to be included in a student’s program of study, at the discretion of the student’s dissertation committee (or the Department Graduate Coordinator prior to formation of the dissertation committee). Each of the 400-level undergraduate core courses may be taken for graduate credit under this additional course expectation.

Master of Science

The program of graduate study for the master’s degree, which normally requires two academic years, is developed around an original investigation, the results of which are presented as a thesis which must be successfully defended.

Of the minimum of 30 semester hours required for the Master of Science degree, 24 are devoted to courses in physics and such allied fields as other sciences, mathematics, and engineering. However, the following courses or their equivalents, which are offered every year, must be included: PHY 501 Mechanics; PHY 502 Electrodynamics I, and PHY 503 Quantum Mechanics I. A minimum of 6 thesis credits are required.

Master of Engineering (Engineering Physics)


A minimum of 30 semester hours is required for the Master of Engineering (Engineering Physics) degree with thesis. Of the total of 24 required course hours, nine hours must be selected from a meaningful engineering course sequence. In addition, nine hours must be selected from three of the following courses: PHY 501 Mechanics, PHY 502 Electrodynamics I, PHY 503 Quantum Mechanics I, and PHY 510 Graduate Laboratory. In addition to the 24 required course credits an additional minimum of 6 credits of thesis (PHY 699) is required. The thesis may be completed in either the Physics Department or the engineering department in which the engineering course sequence is taken.

A non-thesis option exists which requires 36 approved course credits (no thesis credits). Movement from a thesis to a non-thesis degree will be under exceptional conditions and requires approval of the Department Graduate Faculty. Students in a non-thesis program shall not normally receive financial support.


•    Astrophysics: Optical, x-ray and radio observational and computational, primarily on galaxies and clusters of galaxies.
•    Biophysics: Ultra-high resolution microscopy and spectroscopy, influenza virus infection, function and lateral organization of biomembranes coupled to the cytoskeleton, single molecule fluorescence photophysics  https://physics.umaine.edu/research/biophysics-research-group/ and theoretical studies of chemically-driven microscopic motors and pumps.
•    Environmental radiation & Radon Studies
•    Surface Science: Physics and chemistry of surfaces, including microsensors, catalysis, adhesion, thin film growth, surface crystallography, phase transitions, tribology, and development of new instrumentation; https://umaine.edu/lasst/.
•    Physics Education Research:  Student reasoning in physics using dual-process theories of reasoning and decision-making; the teaching and learning of electronics in both physics and engineering; student use and understanding of mathematics in physics; K-12 teacher knowledge of content and students’ ideas and their use of formative assessment, particularly with energy concepts. http://umaine.edu/per/ .
•    Statistical Physics and condensed matter: Light scattering from liquid crystals and colloids.

Cooperative Research

A major interdisciplinary research organization at the University is the Laboratory for Surface Science and Technology in which research opportunities exist in high technology areas related to surfaces, interfaces, and thin film materials. Specific information is available at http://www.umaine.edu/lasst/.

Departmental faculty also participate in collaborative research and K-20 STEM professional development with the Maine Center for Research in STEM Education (RiSE Center) http://umaine.edu/risecenter/ .

Research Facilities

The Laboratory for Surface Science and Technology (LASST) has facilities for the fabrication/synthesis and characterization of surfaces, interfaces, and thin film materials; scanning probe microscopies; optical and electron spectroscopies; X-ray and electron diffraction; sensor device testing and electronic characterization; gas absorption and desorption analysis and a Class 1000 clean room for microelectronic device fabrication.

Super-resolution microscopy (FPALM) and fluorescence spectroscopy techniques are developed in the Biophysics Research Group and applied to living and fixed cells, tissues, and whole organisms. User facility for localization-based super-resolution microscopy and image analysis, biological sample preparation, cell culture, and cloning.

The Emera Astronomy Center consists of two observatories, a planetarium, and multi-purpose classroom space. The Jordan Observatory houses a PlaneWave CDK20 (20 inch) telescope on a German Equatorial Mount with an Apogee Aspen CG16M CCD camera with 7 slot filter wheel forimaging and photometry. The telescope and dome both can be remotely controlled. Additionally the facility has an historic Alvin Clark refractor (8 inch) housed in a roll-off roof observatory for visual observations. A Linux/PC workstation network is available for astronomical research data reduction and analysis, either from observations at our UMaine facility or at national or international observatories.


In addition to satisfying the general admission requirements of the Graduate School, candidates for advanced degrees in physics should have earned a bachelor’s degree in Physics or a closely related discipline. Typical classes beyond the introductory level include mechanics, electricity and magnetism, quantum mechanics, statistical and thermodynamics, as well as laboratory courses in these areas and electronics. Mathematics should be completed at least through differential equations. Candidates who have majored in other physical sciences or mathematics are encouraged to apply. A candidate’s preparation for graduate study in physics or astronomy can be strengthened by taking selected undergraduate courses for graduate credit.

Financial Assistance

Teaching assistantships are available for the academic year and include remission of tuition for up to nine credit hours per semester and three credit hours in the summer session. These appointments provide for approximately half-time teaching and half-time study. Teaching assignments usually involve six contact hours per week. Some summer support is available for students in the program, but it is expected that students and advisors obtain summer research assistantships.

Research assistantships from grant funding are also available to provide graduate stipends and tuition support, information about these research assistantships is available directly from individual faculty members.

The University of Maine supports a number of University fellowships and tuition scholarships, primarily for current graduate students.


Students are primarily admitted starting in the Fall semester (September). Applications for admission in the Fall (September) should be complete by January 5. We occasionally have openings for Spring semester (January). Applications for Spring should be completed by November 1. Late applications are accepted.  Online Application.

Additional Information

Individual faculty may be contacted via their email addresses below. The department’s home page is http://physics.umaine.edu/.
Email the Graduate Coordinator.
Department physical address: Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Maine, 5709 Bennett Hall, Orono, ME 04469
Telephone at (207) 581-1039.

Graduate Faculty

R. Dean Astumian, Ph.D. (Texas-Arlington, 1983), Professor. Design of microscopic mechanical and electrical pumps and motors powered by non-equilibrium isothermal chemical reactions. (e-mail: astumian@maine.edu)

David J. Batuski, Ph.D. (New Mexico, 1986), Professor. Observational cosmology, large-scale structure in the universe, dynamics of galaxy clusters, interacting galaxies and radio sources. (e-mail: batuski@maine.edu)

Neil F. Comins, Ph.D. (University College, Cardiff, 1978), Professor. Galactic formation, structure, stability, evolution stellar stability, observational astronomy (optical, radio), computational astrophysics general relativity, and astronomy education. (e-mail: neil.comins@umit.maine.edu)

Saima Farooq, Ph.D. (Kansas State University, 2016), Lecturer. High energy experimental physics. (email: saima.farooq@maine.edu)

Charles T. Hess, Ph.D. (Ohio, 1967), Professor. Alpha and gamma spectroscopy, x-ray fluorescence, environmental radioactivity, radon in water and air, and health physics. (e-mail: hess@maine.edu)

Samuel T. Hess, Ph.D. (Cornell University, 2002), Associate Professor. Biophysics, lateral membrane organization, protein structure and dynamics, single molecule fluorescence spectroscopy, nonlinear fluorescence microscopy, development of new markers for intracellular imaging, numerical modeling, quantum dots. (e-mail: sam.hess@umit.maine.edu)

Robert J. Lad, Ph.D. (Cornell, 1986), Professor. Director of the Laboratory for Surface Science and Technology (LASST). Surface physics and chemistry, ceramic materials, interfaces, thin films and gas-surface interactions. (e-mail: rjlad@maine.edu)

James McClymer, Ph.D. (Delaware, 1986), Associate Professor. Digital imaging and light scattering from equilibrium and nonequilibrium phase transitions in liquid crystals. (e-mail: mcclymer@maine.edu)

Susan R. McKay, Ph.D. (M.I.T., 1987), Professor. Condensed matter theory, phase transitions and critical phenomena, systems with quenched disorder, spin glasses, random-field ferromagnets, systems far from equilibrium, pattern formation, non-linear systems, and chaos.(e-mail: susan_mckay@umit.maine.edu)

Robert W. Meulenberg, Ph.D. (University of California, Santa Barbara, 2002), Assistant Professor.  Electronic structure of nanoscale materials, Surface and interfacial physics of nanostructures, Novel materials for alternative energy applications, Magnetometry and magnetic materials, Synchrotron radiation (x-ray absorption, photoemission, and emission)

MacKenzie R. Stetzer, Ph.D. (University of Pennsylvania, 2000). Associate Professor. Physics Education: In-depth investigation of student understanding of analog electronics, primarily in the context of upper-division laboratory courses on the topic.  In addition to identifying specific conceptual difficulties and examining the impact of such courses on student learning. (email: mackenzie.stetzer@maine.edu)

John Thompson, Ph.D. (Brown, 1998), Assistant Professor. Member of Center for Science and Mathematics Education Research. Co-director, Physics Education Research Laboratory. Physics Education: student conceptual understanding of physics topics including thermal physics, sound and longitudinal waves, and two-dimensional kinematics; research on understanding of science teaching and learning; curriculum development and assessment. (e-mail: John_Thompson@umit.maine.edu)

Kalpani Werellapatha, Ph.D. (University of Notre Dame, 2016), Lecturer.  Nanoscience at high pressure conditions using synchrotron spectroscopy techniques, X-ray Absorption Near Edge Structure (XANES), X-ray Magnetic Circular Dichroism (XMCD) and X-ray Emission spectroscopy (XES). (email: kalpani.werellapatha@maine.edu)

Michael C. Wittman, Ph.D. (Maryland, 1998), Professor and Chair. Director of the Laboratory for Research in Physics Education (LRPE). Investigating student learning (wave physics, quantum mechanics, electricity and magnetism), research-based curriculum development and dissemination, modeling student reasoning in physics. (e-mail: wittmann@maine.edu)

Lipping Yu, Ph.D (North Carolina State University, 2009). Assistant Professor. Computational Physics. Design of oxide interface materials for next-generation electronics, design of catalysts for water-splitting, design of 2D materials for flexible nanoelectronics and energy applications, design of thin-film photovoltaics and transparent conductors, dopants and defects in semiconductors.

Research and Associate Graduate Faculty

George Bernhart, Ph.D. (Maine, 1994), Lecturer/Research Scientist (LASST). (email: georgeb@maine.edu)

Thomas Stone, Ph.D. (Maine, 2010). Associate Professor of Mathematics and Physics, Husson University. Theoretical condensed matter physics.

Cooperating Graduate Faculty

Jayendra C. Rasaiah, Ph.D. (Pittsburgh, 1965), Professor. Statistical mechanics of electrolytes and polar fluids, computer simulation studies of solutions, fluctuation-dominated kinetics in heterogeneous media, theory of electron transfer reactions, and molecular biophysical chemistry.

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