Oct 22, 2020  
2019-2020 Graduate Catalog 
2019-2020 Graduate Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Physics Department

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Graduate Coordinator: Joel Sander, Ph.D.

Chair: Yongchen Sun, Ph.D.

Physics Program
Akeley-Lawrence Science Center, Room 201
414 East Clark Street
Vermillion, SD 57069
Phone: 605-677-5649




Dongming Mei, Ph.D., University of Alabama. Specialization: Particle Physics, Nuclear Physics, and Astroparticle Physics.

Associate Professor:

Joel Sander, Ph.D., University of California-Santa Barbara. Specialization: Nuclear and Particle Physics.
Yongchen Sun, Department Chair, Ph.D., Montana State University-Bozeman. Specialization: Laser Spectroscopy and Condensed Matter Physics.

 Assistant Professors:

Jing Liu, Ph.D., Technical University of Munich. Specialization: Nuclear and Particle Physics.
Ryan MacLellan, Ph.D., Queen’s University. Specialization: Particle Physics.
Wenqin Xu, Ph.D., University of California-Los Angeles. Specialization: Nuclear and Particle Physics, Neutrino Physics.


Master of Science   


                 Analytics for Large Data Sets

Accelerated Master of Science, Plan A only - Analytics for Large Data Sets   
Doctor of Philosophy   

Program Description

The graduate programs in physics will prepare students for a variety of career paths, including positions in academia, industry and at national labs. While degree candidates may pursue specialized research foci based on the research expertise of individual faculty members, the most significant goal of the program is to focus on research areas germane to the needs and special resources of the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF). Examples of specialized research areas connected to SURF include nuclear/particle physics and particle astrophysics involving next-generation neutrino detection; double beta-decay, dark matter searches and gravitational wave detection experiments, as well as condensed matter physics concentrating on novel low background radiation materials and devices.


  1. Completed Graduate Application form found at: https://www.usd.edu/graduate-school/apply-now and a non-refundable application fee of $35.
  2. Official transcript(s) verifying receipt of an undergraduate degree and previous graduate credit (in English or with translation) must accompany an application. Official transcripts of all academic work at the undergraduate and graduate levels are required for international students. The USD Graduate School and/or academic units retain the right to require credential evaluations from organizations, such as Educational Credential Evaluators/World Education Services (ECE/WES), for a student if such an evaluation is deemed necessary.
  3. Applicants to the master’s program must have completed a baccalaureate in physics, although applicants with baccalaureate or graduate degrees in closely related fields may be considered. Applicants to the doctoral program will be considered with either an undergraduate or master’s degree in physics. Baccalaureate degree must be from an institution with full regional accreditation for that degree. A minimum undergraduate cumulative GPA of 3.0 on conferred degree and/or graduate cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better, based on a 4.0 scale, on all graduate coursework is required for full admission. We may admit students on provisional status per university policy.
  4. Applicants with degrees from countries other than the United States who have obtained an undergraduate or graduate degree from a regionally accredited American college or university are not required to submit an approved English proficiency exam score. For all other applicants, a minimum score of 79 on the Internet-Based TOEFL (iBT) or 550 on the Paper-Based TOEFL (PBT), a minimum IELTS score of 6.0, or a minimum PTE score of 53 is required for graduate admission. Applicants from or who have obtained an undergraduate or graduate degree from English-speaking countries are not required to submit an approved English proficiency exam score if their academic records after review indicate that English was the classroom language for their schoolwork.
  5. Applicants are required to submit a statement of purpose or goal statement.

Additional Program Admission Requirements:

  1. The General GRE is required for the master’s program. Applicants to the Accelerated B.A. or B.S./M.S. program are not required to submit the General GRE. The Physics Subject GRE is required for the doctoral program.
  2. Three (3) professional letters of recommendation, at least one of which must be from the student’s parent institution.

With permission of the graduate program, those who have not completed an undergraduate or master’s degree in physics may be admitted on a provisional basis. Students must complete the non-elective required courses for the undergraduate physics major (a year of calculus-based physics and PHYS 421, PHYS 431, PHYS 441, PHYS 451, and PHYS 471) at USD or demonstrate competence in those areas through some other mechanism prior to beginning graduate coursework.


A limited number of graduate assistantships are awarded each year on a competitive basis to fully admitted, full-time, on-campus M.S. and Ph.D. students. For full consideration for a graduate assistantship, the priority deadline is February 1.



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