Jun 24, 2024  
Graduate Catalog | 2023-2024 
Graduate Catalog | 2023-2024 Previous Edition

Applied Physics, M.S.

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The Applied Physics degree program is excellent preparation for those planning to continue their education through the Ph.D., either in physics or an engineering field, or for a career as an instructor in a two-year college. Students electing the Thesis Option will be well qualified for employment in industry or in a research laboratory.

Students have opportunities for research in Biophysics, Computational Physics, Medical Physics, and Optics. The major research emphasis in the department is in the area of applied optics. The Department of Physics and Optical Science is the administrative coordinator of M.S. and Ph.D. programs in Optical Science and Engineering. These degree programs are interdisciplinary involving five science and engineering departments (Physics & Optical Science, Chemistry, Mathematics & Statistics, Electrical & Computer Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering & Engineering Science), the Center for Optoelectronics & Optical Communications, and the Center for Precision Metrology. A second area of emphasis is in biophysics, where there is a strong interdisciplinary relationship with the Ph.D. programs in Nanoscale Science, Biology, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, and Applied Mathematics. The M.S. in Applied Physics program emphasizes basic and applied interdisciplinary education and research in many diverse areas that include:

  • Statistical and computational physics
  • Biological molecular motors
  • Protein folding, stability, and dynamics
  • Structural-based drug discovery
  • Nuclear molecular resonance spectroscopy
  • Micro-optics and nanophotonics
  • Fiber and integrated optics
  • Optoelectronic materials and devices
  • Biomedical optics
  • Optical interferometry and metrology
  • Optical fabrication
  • Nanoscale imaging and spectroscopy
  • Adaptive optics
  • Optical communication
  • Novel light-matter interactions
  • Quantum optics
  • Optical sensors and measurements

A complete description of the programs and course offerings in Optical Science and Engineering can be accessed online at optics.uncc.edu and under the Optical Science and Engineering programs and courses in the Catalog.

Admission Requirements

In addition to fulfilling the University’s general requirements for graduate admission at the Master’s level, applicants seeking admission into the M.S. in Applied Physics program must also:

  1. Possess a Bachelor’s degree in Physics, or a closely allied field, from a college or university accredited by an accepted accrediting body; applicants from fields other than Physics may expect to be required to remove deficiencies in their physics background
  2. Present satisfactory scores on the GRE General Test (no subject test is required)
  3. Possess an overall minimum GPA of 2.75 (based on a 4.0 scale) on all of the applicant’s previous work beyond high school; the GPA in the major should be 3.0 or above
  4. Present satisfactory scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language, if the applicant is from a non-English speaking country
  5. Demonstrate evidence of sufficient interest, ability, and preparation in physics to adequately profit from graduate study, as determined by the Physics Department’s Graduate Committee

GRE Waiver

The GRE General Test requirement is waived for applicants who meet all other requirements and who are graduating from UNC Charlotte with a B.A. or B.S. degree in physics or who have graduated from UNC Charlotte with a B.A. or B.S. degree in physics within the past two years.

Early Entry Program

Exceptional undergraduate students at UNC Charlotte may apply for the Early Entry Program and begin work toward the graduate degree before completion of the baccalaureate degree.  See the Undergraduate Catalog for details and requirements.  Also see the Degree Requirements and Academic Policies  section of the Graduate Catalog for more information about Early Entry Programs.

Accelerated Master’s Program

Academically talented high school seniors and UNC Charlotte undergraduate freshmen are encouraged to apply for the Accelerated Master’s Program to begin work toward both undergraduate and graduate degrees in their Freshman year.  See the Undergraduate Catalog for details and requirements.  Also see the Degree Requirements and Academic Policies  section of the Graduate Catalog for more information about Accelerated Master’s Programs.

Degree Requirements

The M.S. in Applied Physics requires the completion of 30 credit hours approved by the Department of Physics and Optical Science.  A minimum of 15 credit hours presented for the degree must be in courses numbered 6000 and above. 

At the time of admission, up to 6 credit hours of graduate transfer credit may be accepted if approved by the Department of Physics and Optical Science and the Graduate School. 

Students may, with departmental approval, apply up to 9 credit hours in non-cross-listed courses from graduate programs in related areas such as Bioinformatics, Biology, Chemistry, Engineering, Mathematics, and Nanoscale Science toward the 30 credit hour degree requirement.

All candidates for the degree must pass a final examination administered by their Advisory Committee.

Prerequisite Courses

Entering students not having the equivalent of PHYS 4222, PHYS 4232, or PHYS 4242 are required to take PHYS 5222 , PHYS 5232 , and/or PHYS 5242 , as appropriate, before the end of their first year of residence.  Courses for which undergraduate credit has been awarded may not be repeated for graduate credit.


There are two concentrations within the M.S. in Applied Physics program that include both thesis and non-thesis degree options:

  1. Applied Physics Concentration (Thesis or non-thesis option)
  2. Applied Optics Concentration (Thesis option only)

Thesis Option

The thesis defense is the final examination for students selecting the thesis option.  Students selecting a concentration with a thesis option must present credit of at least 3 credit hours for each of the following courses:

Non-Thesis Option

Students selecting the non-thesis option must pass a final examination administered by their Advisory Committee.  Example questions relating to subject matter for the examination are prepared by the Advisory Committee and given to students at least 30 days prior to the examination date.  Students prepare responses to these questions and make an oral presentation to members of the Committee that is based upon the prepared responses.  Committee members may question students on any and all aspects of the relevant test material.

Degree Total = 30 Credit Hours

Grade Requirements

A minimum grade point average of 3.0 is required on all coursework attempted for the degree.  

Admission to Candidacy

In addition to the general requirements for admission to candidacy, students enrolled in the Master of Science program in Applied Physics program should have:

  1. Removed all identified entrance deficiencies by the time of application for admission to candidacy
  2. Completed at least 18 approved credit hours with a GPA of 3.0 or above
  3. Selected a major advisor and formed an advisory committee

Advisory Committee

Each student in the M.S. in Applied Physics Program must have a major advisor and an advisory committee. The student should select a major advisor before the end of the first year of residency. The student and the major advisor jointly determine the advisory committee. The advisory committee must have at least 3 members, the majority of which must be from the Department of Physics and Optical Science. The major advisor and the advisory committee must be in place prior to applying for degree candidacy.


Support for beginning graduate students is usually a teaching assistantship. Continuing students are often supported by research assistantships.

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