May 30, 2023  
2021-2022 Graduate Catalog 
2021-2022 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:

Jing Liu, Ph.D., Technical University of Munich. Specialization: Nuclear and Particle Physics.
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:

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.

WICHE Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP) eligible program. 


  1. Completed Graduate Application form found at: 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 institutional 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 an institutionally accredited American college or university or from an accredited institution in the following English-speaking countries: United kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Canada (Excluding Quebec), Australia, and New Zealand 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 Academic score of 6.0, or a minimum PTE score of 53 is required for graduate admission. 
  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. *The General GRE and Physics Subject GRE are both temporarily not required through spring 2023.
  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 coursework in the foundational areas of E&M, Classical Mechanics/Thermodynamics and Quantum Mechanics or demonstrate competence in those areas through some other mechanism prior to enrolling in graduate courses for which one or more of these undergraduate courses are prerequisites.


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.

Application Deadline

  • Fall start
    • Priority Deadline: February 1
    • Final Deadline: Three weeks before the start of the semester
  • Spring start
    • Final Deadline: Three weeks before the start of the semester

Student Learning Outcomes for Physics (M.S.)

  1. Students will demonstrate that they possess the knowledge associated with graduates of a high quality graduate physics master’s program across the broad spectrum of fundamental subfields of physics. 
  2. Students will contribute to original research, and thus enhance research activities within South Dakota.  
  3. Graduate students will demonstrate an understanding of the importance of underground science to the state of South Dakota.  
  4. Graduate students will exhibit academic and professional integrity as they demonstrate an understanding of the importance of low background radiation detection underground science to the state of South Dakota.

Student Learning Outcomes for Physics (Ph.D.)

  1. Students will demonstrate an extensive understanding of core knowledge in physics, including electrodynamics, classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, and statistical mechanics, as well as a thorough understanding of advanced knowledge in focused areas including particle and nuclear physics and astroparticle physics. 
  2. Students will demonstrate their capability as independent researchers by formulating valuable research questions and developing scientific methodologies that lead to the solution. Experimental physics students will be able to apply experimental and analytical skills to design and conduct experiments and to collect and analyze data. Theoretical physics students will be able to translate physical concepts into mathematical language and apply advanced mathematical skills to examine the questions. Both should be able to draw logical and analytical conclusions.   
  3. Students should understand and maintain ethical standards in the field, contribute to the advancement of a diversified and inclusive society, demonstrate effectiveness in teaching using various pedagogical methods, demonstrate commitment to disseminate research results to general public.


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