World Year of Physics 2005World Year of Physics 2005

To honor 2005 as the World Year of Physics, FGSA undertook a project to collect profiles of physics graduate study in countries around the world. Click the links below to browse the profiles.


Mexico FlagBy Carlos López Mariscal

Physics research in Mexico is a typical example of scientific activity in the third world. Usually, basic science is allocated a small portion of the already limited budget for research. Simultaneously, private investments are preferably concentrated on fast-return ventures with little risk, usually related to low-tech advancements with applications in mass production. The importance of scientific research is not necessarily underestimated, but there certainly exists a prominent lack of public awareness regarding science in the country's population. However, research activity in Physics and Optics has benefited from recent growth in several academic programs.

Mexico's research in Physics is located in several different cities. Important clusters of advanced studies of the National Polytechnical Institute are to be found in Guadalajara, Merida and Mexico City. The National University of Mexico in Mexico City is a locus of research activity, not only in Physics, but also in Biomedicine, Material Sciences, Neurobiology and Mathematics amongst others. The three major Optics Centers can be found in Ensenada's CICESE, near the US border with San Diego, where research also includes Earth and Computer sciences along with Oceanology and Microbiology. CIO in Guanajuato has strong research groups in Optical Metrology and Fiber Optics, and finally INAOE in Tonantzintla, where Astrophysics and Electronics are also major lines of research. Recently, efforts have been focused in the construction of new facilities for millimeter-wavelength astronomy in the state of Puebla, in central Mexico.


Within the country, several universities offer graduate programs in physics and related fields. I am currently enrolled at Tecnologico de Monterrey in the Optical Engineering graduate program. This program was recently created and has been attracting students interested mostly in Optics and Photonics. Typically, a student will be granted a Master's degree within two years and a Ph.D. degree after approximately three more years. Course work includes basic courses such as: Propagation and Fiber Optics, Computer Simulation for Optics, Digital Image Processing, Topics on Diffractive Optics and Laser Applications. Additionally, students are often offered specialized courses based on their particular interests.

Tec de MonterreyGraduate Program

Funding opportunities for graduate students are available from several different sources, such as The Excellence Scholarship program - awarded to candidates wit outstanding academic achievement in agreement with the National Council for Science and Technology (CONACyT). In my academic department, other sources of funding include research and teaching assistanceships sponsored by the Research Chair in Optics and the Physics Department. These are awarded on a limited basis to select students who have defined their research subject towards thesis work.

Most of the research in Physics done by graduate students at Tecnologico de Monterrey originates within the Photonics and Mathematical Optics Group (PMOG). Faculty members with Optics related interests, lead by the Optics Research Chair, advise students on their research projects, both in theoretical and experimental work. In particular, I work on experimental methods for the production of non-diffracting beams and their applications in Optical trapping and manipulation. Other projects within the PMOG include the construction and design of laser resonators with special characteristics, and theoretical work on soliton and propagation physics. The growth of the group is witnessed by the SPIE and OSA local student chapters, which are devoted to student and community awareness activities throughout the academic year.

PMOGSPIE Student Chapter

Tecnologico de Monterrey has only recently allocated significant funds for scientific research in areas that had not traditionally been of concern for the production-oriented profile of graduates. This, along with other strategic actions, have contributed to the burgeoning of research-oriented groups and an increasing number of publications in Physics, particularly in Optics.

Because Mexico's economy has been consistently harsh over the last few decades, a significant number of graduate students find opportunities overseas to be more appealing for their scientific and financial interests. Unfortunately, only a part of them return to Mexico upon completion of their academic training. The majority of Physics and Physics Engineering majors find jobs in industry and academic institutions upon graduation.

Carlos Lopez

Carlos López Mariscal is a Ph.D. candidate in Optics with the Photonics and Mathematical Optics Group at Tecnologico de Monterrey in northern Mexico. He is currently conducting research towards his doctoral dissertation in collaboration with the Optical Trapping Group at the University of St. Andrews in St. Andrews, Scotland.

United Kingdom

United Kingdom FlagBy Dr. Laura Corner

Physics doctoral degree courses in the UK are nominally three years long, although most students will take slightly longer, typically 3.5 years, to completely finish writing up their thesis and take their viva (final oral examination). This is less time than in many countries, but it is worth remembering that British undergraduate degree courses are very specialized by world standards, and typically require almost exclusive study of physics.

Students seeking admission to a doctoral degree program apply to join a specific research group (and sometimes to undertake a specific research project) in the physics department of the university of interest. Once admitted, they will begin working in their PhD supervisor’s group and carrying out research from the start of their degree course. Most universities run some kind of classes for at least first year doctoral students in the general area of their research (e.g., laser physics, condensed matter, theory) and possibly also on more general subjects as research skills, paper writing, and teaching. However, the courseload for first year doctoral students in the UK is generally significantly less time-demanding than the intense courseload required of first-year doctoral students in the US, allowing first-year UK students an opportunity to begin their doctoral research in earnest.

Many UK students are funded for three years by the UK scientific research councils. Currently this support includes coverage of tuition fees and a stipend of ~ £12,000 ($22,000). Overseas students often come with scholarships from their own government. If a student requires more than three years to complete all doctoral degree requirements, the student often must rely on his or her savings once the third year is complete.

There is generally no obligation for graduate students to teach, but many do, for financial or professional reasons. Teaching opportunities include supervising undergraduate labs and teaching problem-set classes and tutorials. There is often a time limit (e.g., six hours a week) imposed on the amount of teaching each graduate student may take on.

The relationship between the student and his or her supervisor is very similar to US doctoral programs: it can vary depending on the personalities involved. Some students see their supervisors at scheduled meetings, whereas others will have a more informal approach. To some extent how much the student sees his or her supervisor will also depend on how much support the student gets from postdocs or other students working in the same group.

PhD qualified physicists who want to build a research career will then take a postdoc somewhere, and this is a typical time for someone who has trained in the UK to move abroad. However, there is also a big demand for physicists in all disciplines that require numeracy, often in the financial sector, industrial research or within the national laboratories such as the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory or the National Physical Laboratory.

General information on physics degree programs in the UK can be found at:

Engineering and Physical Sciences Resarch Council (EPSRC)

UK National Physical Laboratories:

Laura Corner holds a BSC in theoretical physics and a PhD in nonlinear optics from Imperial College, London, and is currently working as a postdoc on attosecond science in the physics department at the University of Oxford.


China FlagBy Mingjun Chen

Just 22 years ago, the first conferring ceremony of a doctorate degree was held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Nowadays there are hundreds of physics graduate schools since the first one was set up by the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) in 1978. Since then, more and more funds have been devoted to both basic research and applied research; physics research in China has been widely developed and now covers almost all fields. Quantum computation, optics, nano-materials, and string theory are among the research issues currently receiving intense scrutiny in China.

In the physics departments of universities such as Nanjing University, USTC, and Peking University, about the top one-third of undergraduates may enter the university's graduate school without being required to take the entrance examination. Most students, however, do sit for the examination in January. The entrance exam is usually comprised of four parts: English, Political Theory, and two specilized courses corresponding to the particular field of graduate study one is applying to enter. For example, if your specialty is Optics, the two courses will be quantum mechanics and college physics. The English and Political Theory examinations are standardized throughout China, while the specialized parts are written by each school. Before a formal offer of admission, each student (whether having sat for the exam or not) will be vetted by an admissions committee comprised of professors.

A PhD in physics usually takes five years to complete (typically, two years for studying the basic courses, and three years for research). Beside taking specialized courses in physics, each student is required to pass several courses in English, including Oral English, Writing, Reading, and Listening. In addition, most departments require graduate students to serve as a teaching assistant for an undergraduate course for one term. Graduate programs also require students to publish one or two papers in the journals collected by the Science Citation Index or Engineering Index.

Currently, tuition and dormitory housing are free for physics graduate students. Basic living expenses, around $100-$200 per month depending on the school, are provided by either the government or the student's research group. In addition, there are also about ten prestigious scholarship programs in each school which attract competition from the best students. Award of these lump-sum scholarships comes in addition to the basic stipend.

The international student exchange programs are also popular in many universities. Some graduate students have the opportunity to go abroad for research collaborations through this program.Overseas students are also encouraged to study in China, and are usually provided with prepratory Chinese language classes.

Many top PhD-recipients seek postdoctoral positions in Europe, USA, or Japan. Some take a domestic postdoc or work in the colleges or institutes. In general, it is not difficult for physics PhD recipients to find a satisfying academic position.

Minjun ChenMingjun Chen is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Modern Physics, USTC, and a visiting student at the Beijing Institute of High Energy Physics. His thesis topic concerns the Very Long Baseline Neutrino Oscillation Experiment, whose research and development is located in Beijing.


Poland FlagBy Piotr Wasylczyk

In Poland students applying for a PhD degree course must hold an equivalent of the MSc degree (magister) which is nominally awarded after 5 years of study (thus around the age of 24). Those with a BSc (licencjat) must undertake an additional 2-year-long MSc course first.

Doctoral degrees in Poland may be received from either a university or a research institute. There are a number of universities with physics departments offering PhD studies: Warsaw (also the Technical Univeristy), Cracow (Jagiellonian Univ.), Poznan (A. Mickiewicz Univ.), Torun (M. Kopernik Univ.) and Gdansk being the biggest and most popular. The other possibility is to join one of the research institutes of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN) – Institute of Physics, Institute of High Pressure Research, Institute of Low Temperatures and about a dozen more scattered around the country. The most visible difference between the two paths from a potential candidate's point of view are: the stipends offered (typically lower at the universities) and the teaching duties (practically nonexistent in PAN institutes). In some places one may expect some kind of entrance examinations or an interview. A peculiar phenomenon is that there is practically no flow of students between universities (i.e., most of them undertake PhD studies in the same place where they received their MSc degree).

Once admitted, a PhD student joins a research group (very often chosen in advance as a group leader's support and declaration of interest, in cooperation with the candidate, may be advantageous) and is introduced in its activities. Throughout the whole period of the PhD studies he/she can chose the classes and lectures from either his/her home institution or another university/institute according to his/her interests and needs. The teaching duties consist of teaching problem solving classes or supervising undergraduate labs.

Nominally, the PhD thesis should be presented after 4 years of study but this rarely happens, especially in experimental physics. In most universities it is possible to extend the course into the fifth year, but further delay is in principle not accepted.

Most PhD recipients who want to continue their scientific career after receiving the title go abroad for one or more post-docs. The canonical path to a professorship after receiving the PhD involves being employed at a university or an institute as an equivalent of the research associate (adiunkt), receiving the habilitation (typically after 6-10 years) and finally getting the permanent post in an open competition. The possibility of finding employment in high-tech industry in Poland is very faint.

There are several traditionally strong fields of physics research in which there are a number of groups that are performing cutting-edge research: theoretical physics (gravitation, elementary particles, quantum optics, BEC theory, mathematical methods in physics), experimental particle physics (at CERN), some areas of solid state studies. Among the new enterprises, the National Laboratory for Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics was opened in 2003 in Torun with three groups at the moment working on quantum optics, quantum information processing with trapped ions and Bose-Einstein condensation.

Physics departments at the universities:

Piotr WasylczykPiotr Wasylczyk received his MsC in experimental physics and PhD in optics from Warsaw University. He is currently working as a research associate on nonlinear optics in the Ultrafast Phenomena Lab in the Institute of Experimental Physics of Warsaw University.


Canadian FlagBy Dan Melconian

Canada is a large and friendly country that offers opportunities for interested physics students to pursue quality post-graduate education in a variety of diverse environments. There are twenty-five universities offering post-graduate degrees in physics, with ~800 graduate students researching --- quite literally --- all areas of experimental and theoretical physics, both pure and applied. Any student interested in attending a graduate school in Canada could most certainly find a university offering a quality program in their field of interest. The availability of such diversity is also true of the United States and indeed graduate studies in the two countries are much more alike than they are different, especially on the global scale. I believe1 the only non-superficial differences are:

  1. Path to a Ph.D. Generally speaking, Canadian universities require that a doctoral candidate already possess an M.Sc. The latter entails 2--3 years of courses and research, culminating in a thesis which is often defended. With this experience, the student then has the option of continuing to pursue a Ph.D. --- which generally requires an additional 3-4 years of studies (with less emphasis on courses and more on research) --- or they can decide to enter the work-force with a strong M.Sc. degree. If they pursue their doctorate, they are able to switch schools, supervisors and/or fields. In some cases, if the student has a strong research and academic record during his/her M.Sc., the formal M.Sc. degree may be by-passed and the student may enter directly into a Ph.D. program.
  2. Financial considerations Canadian graduate students are required to pay tuition, which is becoming considerable in recent years: the country's average rose 4.3% to $5,475/year (CDN) last year, though some increases have been over 20% and tuition can go as high as $8,500/year. This may be starting to change, however, as some universities have begun adopting the laudable US approach of paying for a student's tuition. The financial support a typical student will get in Canada (through scholarships, teaching and/or research assistanceships) appears to be a little below what the same student would get at a US institution; coupled with the aforementioned cost for tuition, the overall difference is considerable. However, perhaps the largest factor determing a student's `effective salary' is the cost of living, which can vary considerably. In the end, what can be said generally is that the funding is reliable throughout a student's degree and, even in the more expensive cities in Canada, it is enough to live off of, i.e. though it is by no means an extravagant lifestyle, one does not need to get a part-time job or additional student loans to survive.

The Canadian government realizes the importance of physics research and has recently continued2 its level of funding, while other countries are facing significant cut-backs. This is good news for students because it means that, in addition to reliable support throughout their studies, Canada is aware of the benefits of physics research and is striving to continue to provide suitable funding to promote it. Some of the notable facilities for physics research in Canada include:

  • The NRU reactor (Chalk River, ON): Operating since 1957, this neutron facility has had many scientific achievements, including development of neutron scattering techniques to study condensed matter for which the 1994 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded.
  • TRIUMF (Vancouver, BC): With a long-standing reputation for cutting-edge research in nuclear, high-energy, medical and solid state physics, the new ISAC facility now allows physicists to probe the properties of and processes involving exotic nuclei far from the valley of stability.
  • The Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (Sudbury, ON): One of the deepest (cleanest) neutrino detectors in the world, it was instrumental in unravelling the solar neutrino puzzle and proving that neutrinos are not massless, and continues to probe neutrino physics.
  • The Canadian Light Source (Saskatoon, SK): A 2.9 GeV synchrotron for research in medicinal, environmental, geological and advanced material sciences was recently commissioned (Oct 2004); it represents the largest investement in a large-scale Canadian facility since TRIUMF was constructed thirty years ago.

In addition, Canada also invests and contributes to international collaborations (notably high-energy and astronomy/astrophysics), giving students the opportunity to conduct research abroad while studying in Canada.

Job prospects for Canadian M.Sc. and Ph.D.s are very good, whether they choose to continue in academia or not: according to Statistics Canada, scientists earn some of the highest wages in Canada, and a study by the Canadian Association of Physicists found that unemployment is less than 1% for those with a graduate degree. The CAP survey also found that most graduates find employment in research & development (26%) and teaching (24%) positions, while others enter one of the many other career options open to them (computing, health sciences, financial and managerial positions, etc.); less than 3% of all graduates felt that their education in physics was not relevant to their employment. Post-doctoral positions in Canada and elsewhere are not too difficult to obtain; every graduate I personally know of that has decided to continue in research has found post-doctoral positions, with most taking the opportunity to go abroad (US, Japan and throughout Europe) in order to gain diversity in their research experiences. After one or two post-docs, one is generally in a position to apply for permanent employment at a university and/or research facility. As with most countries, there is greater competition for these permanent positions, though it is expected that opportunities will improve in the near future as baby-boomers retire and universities/facilities look to replace them with promising young scientists. As an incentive to retain Canadian scholars, preference is given to native or landed immigrant Canadians if equally qualified candidates are applying at a university or lab funded by the government.

Based on my personal experiences and from what I've heard from other Canadian graduate students, I feel it safe to say that the diversity and quality of education that Canada offers will provide a graduate student with an enjoyable experience and a respected post-graduate degree, one that opens doors for careers in both academia and industry.

Canadian Association of Physics

List of physics departments in Canada

Research councils

  1. Having never attended a US university, there is some conjecture here ....
  2. Though on par with inflation, TRIUMF's funding was 20% less than requested this year, so we too are facing funding issues.
Dan MeloconianDan received his M.Sc. and is awaiting his Ph.D. in experimental nuclear physics from Simon Fraser University. Both theses involved precision ß-decay experiments at TRIUMF using laser-cooled 37,38mK to search for physics outside the Standard Model. Now at the University of Washington, he is continuing to study the weak interaction to probe fundamental symmetries.

South Africa

By Sarah Blyth

As a developing nation, we are lucky in South Africa that the government has made science and technology main focus areas in education and therefore the general climate in the country is positive towards research in these areas, including physics.

Currently, the South African university course structure in physics consists of:

Undergraduate course:

  • Bachelor of Science, BSc (3 year undergraduate degree)
    The course usually consists solely of pure and applied science courses including physics, maths, applied maths, computer science, statistics, etc.

Postgraduate courses:

  • Bachelor of Science (Honors), BSc (Hons) (1 year)
    Usually students have to achieve a minimum grade to be accepted into an Honors degree program which is the first stage of postgraduate study. It is also possible to change universities at this stage. During the Honours year, students attend lectures covering similar topics and content to that taught in the first years of graduate school in the US*.
  • Master of Science, MSc (2 years)
    After the honors year, students may begin work on a Masters degree. Typically, the MSc in physics is a pure research degree and requires a written thesis to be submitted on which the outcome of the degree is decided (like a mini-PhD). Students choose an area of interest and apply directly to work with a particular supervisor on the MSc.
  • Doctor of Philosophy, PhD (3-5 years)
    Similarly to the MSc., students choose an area of research and a supervisor with whom to work. A maximum of 5 years is allowed to perform the research but usually funding covers only 3 years, putting the burden on the student to fund the remainder of their degree. For the MSc and the PhD the student-supervisor relationship depends on the university and the particular people involved. In some cases, regular update meetings and progress reports are held, whereas in others, things are quite informal.

In South Africa, all university education is paid for by the student. At the postgraduate level in physics, funding can be obtained mainly in the form of scholarships from the National Research Foundation (NRF ) Since science and technology education is a high priority of the government, recently more scholarships have been made available, particularly aimed at improving demographics in the sciences both in terms of women and previously disadvantaged groups. However, there is a lot of competition for this funding and it usually does not fully cover expenses. Foreign postgraduate students are expected to organize their own funding and fees are usually higher for foreigners than for citizens.

Most postgraduate physics students do part-time tutoring or supervise labs for undergraduates. This is a good way to gain teaching experience as well as earn some extra money for fees!

After the PhD
After the PhD. the canonical path to professorship involves performing post-doctoral research at home or overseas and then applying to universities for lecturing positions from where one can work one's way up the ladder to professorship. At some universities, one may lecture during a post-doc; it depends on the institution. South Africa also has national research facilities including two low energy nuclear laboratories (iThemba Labs) and observatories (South African Astronomical Observatory, Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory) where research can be performed at a post-doctoral and further level. Also launched this year was the African Laser Centre. South Africa has physics theory capabilities across a broad range of topics from astrophysics and cosmology to nuclear physics etc. There is also a strong capability in solid state physics and condensed matter physics at a number of the universities across the country.

The Future
Future growth areas are most likely in astrophysics since construction of the SALT (South African Large Telescope) has recently been completed and there is a strong push to locate the SKA (Square Kilometer Array) in the country as well. The NASSP (National Astrophysics and Space Science Programme) program which is a collaboration between the observatories and a number of South African universities and international funding agencies, was also established in the last couple of years in order to train graduate students in the areas of astrophysics and astronomy.

According to 2002 statistics from the South African Department of Education, at any one time there are ~110 registered PhD students across the country and between 10 and 25 people graduate with PhD's in physics per year**. Some continue in academics, and others leave for industry or the financial or information technology sectors. However, a good general rule of thumb is that there are no unemployed physicists in South Africa and the hope of the local physics community is to increase the number of physics graduate students over the next few years.

*We use the same general textbooks and cover the same broad topics, differing slightly depending on university.


Sarah BlythSarah Blyth received her MSc in experimental physics (University of Cape Town) and is currently working on her PhD research in heavy-ion physics using data from the STAR experiment at RHIC (Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory / University of Cape Town).


France FlagBy Benoit Fiorina

In France, students applying for a PhD must hold a Masters degree in Science. This diploma is issued by the university or by an accredited engineering school after five years of university study.

A student applying for a PhD needs also to find funding which is generally related to a well-defined research topic. Lots of different funding opportunities exist to support a student during his/her PhD. About 25% of all PhD students are funded by the French Research and Education Ministry. Students have the option to ask for a position as a teaching assistant, which requires the student to teach a fixed number of hours. The monthly income of Ministry funding with a teaching assistantship is around 1500 euros. An alternative, which concerns approximately 5% of PhD students, is the CIFRE (Convention Industrielle de Formation par la Recherche) funding where the student is paid directly from industry to work on a specific research project. The topic of the thesis is therefore related to an industrial application. In this case the student is employed by industry for a fixed period and is paid at least 1680 euros per month. The amount generally varies with the position and the average income is around 2000 euros per month. The industrial employer receives financial aid from the French Research and Education Ministry which approximately consists of the half of the salary. As the student usually spends a period of his/her PhD working full-time in an industrial setting, this track provides experience that will be useful for his/her future carrier. Finally, PhD funding can also be issued from various government institutions like counties, environmental agencies, the EU, etc. About 5-10% of physics PhD students don’t have any funding.

In physics, the PhD must usually be defended after three years; this period corresponds generally to the duration of the funding. If the PhD takes longer than three years, the student must obtain additional funding and the formal permission of his/her supervisor to maintain enrollment. By contrast with the US system, a PhD student doesn’t have to attend courses before defending his/her thesis. The dissertation manuscript is sent to two reviewers who allow or deny the defense of the thesis.

After obtaining a PhD, a doctor who wants to pursue an academic carrier will apply to a “Maître de Conference” position, which substantially differs from the postdoctoral research associate position existing in US. In particular the position, which is funded by French Research and Education Ministry, is permanent. Competition for academic positions is very difficult and most of the applicants spend several years as a post doc before succeeding. The “Maître de Conference” is located in a laboratory inside a university where one will teach and conduct research. To become a professor the “Maître de Conference” needs to meet government specifications that allow him/her to supervise other PhD theses.

Another possibility is to work for a public research institute like the CNRS (Center for National Scientific Research). CNRS researchers work in laboratories, which are most often located inside universities. They can also supervise PhD students and be part of the teaching program of the university. In addition, roughly 30-40% of new PhD’s go to work in industry.

Research in France:

CIFRE funding:


Benoit FiorinaBenoit Fiorina received his MsC in fluid mechanics from the Ecole Supérieure des Sciences et Technologies de l’Ingénieur de Nancy and his PhD in turbulent combustion modeling at the Ecole Centrale Paris. He is now working on the simulation of supersonic combustors at the Center for Turbulence Research (Stanford University).


Indian FlagBy Selvakumaran Vadivelmurugan

For over 5000 years, Physics has been part of Indian education in some form. Since 1947, after independence, the Government of India has taken special interest in the field of Physics and has devoted more and more funds towards research. There are over 250 universities and over 10,000 colleges in India. In recent years, the universities are aiming towards world-class standards and have also made significant strides in higher and technical education. Any student interested in Physics will almost certainly find an institution offering a quality program in the chosen area of specialization.

The recent boom of information technology in India has helped in providing large digital libraries and infrastructure to several institutions offering undergraduate and graduate programs in Physics. Some of the well-known institutions for pursuing a masters in Physics and related areas are the Indian Institute of Technology, Indian Institute of Science (for Integrated PhD), Institute of Technology - Banaras Hindu University, Indian School Of Mines – Dhanbad and Jawaharlal Nehru University. For PhD and research, some of the world-class institutions are the Indian Institute of Science, IIT, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. These institutions offer students opportunities to perform research in virtually all of the major fields of physics research practiced today.

The institutions, in general, train physicists with hands-on experience on Engineering and technical skills in addition to offering them one of the most rigorous Physics curricula in the world. Both theoretical and applied physics have been given importance. The programs provide a wide perspective and training to students in their chosen field. To get admissions into the institutions one has to clear the competitive admission examinations that are conducted by the respective institutions. To pursue B.Tech and M.Sc degrees in any of the IITs one has to clear the competitive entrance exams JEE and JAM (Joint Admission for MSc) respectively. Generally, the Baccalaureate of Science with Physics major is a three year program while undergraduate engineering is a four year program. Physics is part of the curriculum for almost all undergraduate engineering disciplines and there are graduate programs for each major subdivision of Physics. The M.Sc and M. Tech degrees are generally 2 years in length.

Some of the Institutions offer a 5-year Dual Degree (Bachelors and Masters combination) program in all Engineering departments. That is, upon successful completion of the necessary academic requirements, a student is awarded two degrees: B.Tech of the parent department and M.Tech of the specialization within the parent department. A PhD may vary from 4 years to 10 years depending upon the field of study but on average students take about 5 years.

Course fees for undergraduate programs in most of the institutions vary from US $100 to $3000 per year, and for masters and PhD the course fees are about US $100 and $200 respectively per month. In many cases the institutions give stipends to students, hence making students pay virtually nothing as fees. Loans are also readily available. In general, government organizations like DST, AICTE, ISRO and UGC fund the majority of the institutional research while the Non-Government Organizations fund many industrial research opportunities.

The relationship between the student and supervisor varies depending upon the personalities involved. One may find both traditional and western styles of relationship in India. In recent years, there has been a considerable increase in the number of students who do international internships as part of the graduate program. Some students do part of their research in top institutions in the US, UK, Germany, Russia, Australia, Japan, etc. and are sponsored by their respective Indian institutions in most cases. Since India maintains friendly relationship with all the major countries of the world, student exchange programs and technology transfer have been considerably good. Each year about 100,000 students complete their graduate studies abroad; a significant number return to join faculties in Indian institutions, thus fostering an international climate.. Also the number of foreign professors visiting Indian institutions is increasing year by year.

The medium of instruction is English in most of the institutions and the overseas students are always encouraged to study in India. Special reservations for international students are also available in many institutions. Few institutions have the cutting edge of Sanskrit language and literature associated with it. In the major cities one will most certainly find coaching centers for foreign languages like French, German, Japanese, Russian, etc, and they help in teaching the respective natives to learn English and many other Indian languages.

In general, in India, it is easy for PhD recipients to find a satisfying position in universities and industry. It may be observed that many of the Indian institutions have focused more on national requirements than on international. It is one of the main reasons that Indian institutions, despite their quality infrastructure, still rank behind some of the US institutions. But these Indian institutions have taken very impressive steps to support the growing population. India, with its immense manpower and booming economy, is very likely to continue to promote an exponential growth in the quality of its research institutions. India may thus turn out to be one of the most desired destinations for higher education in the world in the near future, as India and her institutions believe in “Unity in diversity.”


Some of physics societies of India:

SelvakumaranFor a profile of Selvakumaran please see


German FlagBy Klaus Dehmelt

Until 2001, physics students, who studied at German universities graduated with a Master’s equivalent degree, Diplom-Physiker. Prospective high school physics teachers follow the same course of study and focus on physics-pedagogic issues in their final year. The standard period of study is nominally ten semesters, and is subdivided into a basic study period (Grundstudium) and the main study period (Hauptstudium). The basic study period is completed after four semesters and a comprehensive exam, passage of which allows continuation to the main study period. This second stage generally includes a final year project and a further comprehensive exam. However, the average total length of study is between 12 and 13 semesters.

In 2001 the first program of study for the degree of Bachelor was introduced and nowadays 34 universities in Germany allow studying for that degree within six semesters. Optionally postgraduate studies can be pursued and finished with a Master’s degree. This involves four more semesters, including a final year project.

In Germany, education policy is the responsibility of the 16 federal states with not much influence of the central German government. The states decide if and how much tuition fees will be demanded. Tuition fees vary from €0 (five states) to €500 per semester, in addition to some €50 for administrative purposes. Policy changes are planned for the near future that would result in all states but one imposing tuition fees.

The states provide financial support for students in need (and also for foreign students), in terms of an interest-free loan. The amount of support depends on the level of patrimony of the student, parents, spouses, etc. The maximum amount is €585 per month and is limited to five years.

In order to obtain a doctoral degree at German universities, the student has to hold a Master’s/Diplom-Physiker degree and must be affiliated with a university. The course of study concentrates on research within working groups at universities, institutes, or industry. There is no formal coursework to be completed; however, the student is expected to attend seminars and pursue other advanced training opportunities.

At universities and institutes the salary of a doctoral student amounts to roughly €1500 per month before taxes. In industry the salary can vary significantly. At universities and institutes the doctoral student can be engaged in teaching activities.

The supervision of the doctoral student depends on the size of the working group. Usually the groups consist of students, postdocs, and/or research associates, beside the group leader, who in general is a professor. The larger the workgroup, the lesser the contact to the group leader. However, a doctoral student is at least under the direct supervision of a postdoc.

The duration of the studies is in general three years and can be extended to four years. The study finishes with the defense of the dissertation and is connected with a comprehensive exam.

After successfully finishing the doctoral study the physicist’s title is Dr. rer. nat. (Doctor rerum naturalium), which is the equivalent to Ph.D. If one’s goal is an academic career, a postdoctoral position is almost always pursued.

Until very recently, if a new physicist wants to join the faculty of a German university as a professor, s/he had to peruse a lengthy path of additional post-doctoral training. Accession to professor status was granted only after completion of a qualification phase, a state doctorate, which is called ‘habilitation,’ and after “being called” from the university. The requirement for a habilitation is a successfully completed study in physics, an outstanding conferral of a doctorate, and a scientific successful postdoctoral work, from which a substantial time had to be spent abroad.

Evidence for the scientific successful postdoctoral work has to be given in form of a professorial dissertation. Commonly there will be a presentation of this work in front of a committee and after positive appraisal the formal process of acceptance can be started. In addition the candidate has to prove pedagogical adequacy. This entire process from granting of the doctorate until final approval of professorship can last up to ten years or more.

Only very recently has the German system moved to abandon the ‘habilitation’ model. In 2002 a new policy was adopted intended to introduce a new path to professorship (the ‘Junior-Professor’) beginning in 2010.[1] This model involves a probationary period of professorship, similar to the pre-tenure position of Assistant Professor in the U.S. Under the new system, a physicist who has completed some postdoctoral research may obtain a Junior-Professor position, with an initial term of three years. The Junior-Professor can then pursue his/her scientific career without going through the habilitation process, but with the same status as an academic professor. After the first probation period (three years) an evaluation will be performed in order to judge the scientific and pedagogic capabilities of the physicist. If the evaluation turns out to be positive, the professorship will be extended for another three years and passes through another evaluation process. After those, successfully evaluated six years the physicist can accept a call from a university (i.e., a tenured professorship).

However, in practice the model of the junior-professor in physics couldn’t establish itself as a convincing model up to now. So there will be further discussion about this topic in the next future.

Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft (the German Physical Society):

Information about German Universities

About Physics in Germany:

German Physics Departments

[1] Not only restricted to physics.

Klaus Dehmelt Klaus Dehmelt received his MSc in experimental physics from the University of Hamburg/DESY and is currently working on his PhD research on two-photon physics at the Florida Institute of Technology and with L3/CERN.