Skip to Content

Masters Program in the Physical Sciences

This is an archived copy of the 2012-13 catalog. To access the most recent version of the catalog, please visit


  • Robert Wald

Program Description

The Master of Science Program in the Physical Sciences Division (MS-PSD) at the University of Chicago is a program designed for students who wish to broaden or deepen their knowledge of the physical and mathematical sciences.  It should be especially valuable to those seeking to prepare for further graduate work, including those who wish to prepare for a graduate program in a field outside of their undergraduate major.  MS-PSD students have the opportunity to work with faculty members in the Departments of Astronomy & Astrophysics , Chemistry , Computer Science , the Geophysical SciencesMathematicsPhysics , Statistics , and the program in Biophysical Sciences .  The MS-PSD program allows students, in consultation with the faculty Director, to design programs of study to meet individual student needs.  This flexibility combined with the rigor of UChicago courses makes the program unique.

Students normally complete the M.S. in Physical Sciences in nine-months (three quarters).  The program is administered by the PSD Dean of Students office and directed by Professor Robert Wald, Charles H. Swift Distinguished Service Professor, Department of Physics, Enrico Fermi Institute and the College.

Courses and Master's Project

MS-PSD students are required to complete nine courses, including a master's thesis project.  Students choose from quarterly course offerings in physical sciences departments.  At least four of the courses must be graduate-level courses in a single department or associated with a specific interdepartmental track, such as environmental science, biochemistry/physics, computational methods in physical science, and optics/imaging.  To accommodate students who seek to broaden their knowledge of the physical sciences as well as those seeking to transition to a new field, students may be allowed to take as many as three advanced undergraduate courses in fields outside of their undergraduate majors.  In all cases the Director must approve the chosen curricula.

For experimentalists a typical master's project might consist of performing or assisting with a laboratory research experiment.  For theorists a typical master's project might consist of performing some numerical simulation experiments.  Students normally choose their projects in the winter quarter, carry them out during the spring quarter, and summarize their projects' results in a required master's paper.


All application materials must be received by February 28 to ensure full consideration for admission to the following autumn class.  Applications received after February 28 will be considered if open spots are available.  Interviews are not required, but prospective students are encourage to visit campus .

The application is online and all supporting materials are submitted electronically.  These include:

  • A personal statement of academic and career objectives.
  • One transcript from each educational institution beyond high school.  Students seeking admission to the program normally must have a baccalaureate degree in a traditional discipline of the physical sciences.
  • Three letters of recommendation.
  • Official Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores.  The general exam is required.  A GRE Subject Test in an area of physical sciences is strongly recommended.
  • TOEFL scores (see below).
  • $55 Application fee (waived for University of Chicago alumni: see fee waivers section in the application for other instances).

The University of Chicago GRE & TOEFL institution code is 1832.

English Language Requirements

Applicants whose first or native language is not English must demonstrate an adequate command of both spoken and written English, and they are required to submit English proficiency test scores as part of their application.  We recognize the internet-based test (iBT) of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).  Applicants whose total score on the four-part TOEFL falls below 90 (or IELTS falls below 7) will not normally be admitted unless other demonstrable evidence of proficiency in English is available. 

The English language requirement may be waived if the applicant is a native of or studied full-time status for at least one academic year within the last five years in the U.S., the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or English medium universities in Canada or South Africa.  Students who studied in English in other countries, for example, India, Pakistran, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore, etc., are not exempt from the English language requirement.


Prospective students should contact the Dean of Students in the Physical Sciences Division with questions about the program and/or the application process:

Miranda Swanson

Master of Science in the Physical Sciences Program
Office of the Dean of Students
George Herbert Jones Laboratory #116
5747 South Ellis Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637