PhD Program

The doctoral program is designed to prepare its graduates to carry out independent, creative research in an industrial, academic, or government setting. Admission to the PhD program is very competitive, with approximately 12 to 15 students admitted each year.  Prospective students do not apply for admission in a specific research group.

For financial and application information, visit the apply to Rochester page.

The Institute’s PhD program is a combination of research, coursework, teaching assistantships, and thesis work that students complete over four or more years. The typical PhD schedule is outlined below:

First Year

  • Full-time coursework and study
  • Choose thesis advisor (by April 15)
  • Summer research
  • Preliminary examination

Second Year

  • Advanced specialized coursework
  • Teaching assistantship
  • Research
  • File program of study form

Third Year

  • Thesis proposal
  • Oral Qualifying Examination
  • Elective courses
  • Research

Fourth Year and Beyond

  • Research
  • Elective Courses
  • Thesis submission
  • Oral Thesis Defense

*For more information about the PhD program, see the Graduate Handbook.

Students can also connect with optics professional outside the institute through regular research seminars, visits by internationally known optics researchers, and participating in Industrial Association events.

Note:  Prospective students do not apply for admission in a specific research group. Instead, they must first be admitted into our Ph.D. program, and then they join a research group after successful completion of two semesters of coursework.  This gives students time to get to know the different faculty and their research.  (The department would pay your stipend until you join a research group at the completion of your first year.)