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Academic Program

Ph.D. Program Snapshot

MPS is a dual major program and all students have a primary department affiliation. Students normally enter the MPS program in the Fall semester. Students can enter at other times by special permission (go here for admissions information).

Typical Ph.D. Timeline

  • Year 1: students take core courses, including requirements of the primary department. Students do three to four laboratory rotations, each eight weeks. Most students will choose a lab after three rotations (approximately in mid-February).
  • Year 2: students find a dissertation advisor and form a guidance committee. Students take elective courses and start their thesis research.
  • Year 3: by the beginning of the third year, students take the qualifying exam for admission to Ph.D. candidacy, which has oral and written parts.
  • Years 3 - 5: students do the bulk of their research and take seminar courses.
  • Year 5: students wrap up the research. In the last six months, students write and defend their dissertations. 

At an early stage, applicants are encouraged to contact faculty in their areas of interest regarding potential openings in their laboratories. Not all faculty accept students every year.

Note that the MPS program does not offer Master’s degrees.


Go to the Coursework and Requirements page for information on MPS-specific courses and supplemental primary department requirements.


In the first year, students do 3-4 laboratory rotations, each 8 weeks, in order to select an advisor and research area of interest. In subsequent years, research is conducted under the supervision of a dissertation advisor and a guidance committee, including:

  • Preparation of research proposal
  • Experimental work
  • Writing of manuscripts and dissertation
  • Public research presentations


All students should receive teaching experience because of its importance to the career development of all scientists. The amount of teaching expected of MPS students will depend on the source of their funding and on the requirements of their primary department.