M.S. Students

M.S. Students


admin Sat, 06/07/2008 - 23:43

Graduate Student Manual

Graduate Student Manual

Right now this is just a placeholder, but soon we hope to fill these pages with sage advice for current and future CU physics graduate students.  If you are a current student, you can contribute!  This is a wiki page.  Login and add what you feel needs to be added. 

admin Tue, 11/18/2008 - 21:41

Department of Physics: Teaching and Research

Department of Physics: Teaching and Research
Mission Statement:
The Department of Physics is an integral part of the College of Arts and Sciences and Creighton University as a whole, and as such is committed to a quality liberal education in the Jesuit tradition. Through physics, the most fundamental of the natural sciences, we stimulate intellectual curiosity and develop the student's understanding of the world around us. Through classroom experiences, laboratory discovery activity and opportunities for research participation, we guide students towards a mastery of the skills and tools physicists use to address fundamental questions, foster the development of a logical approach to problem solving, and aid the development of an ethical framework, both professionally and personally. Through close personal attention we help students to develop confidence in their abilities.
Graduate Program:
Our M.S. graduate program began in 1968 with an initial enrollment of two graduate Teaching Fellows and several part-time students. Since then it has grown to support nine Teaching Fellows and several Research Fellows, along with part-time students. Teaching Fellows perform an essential service to the department as junior colleagues as well as being full-time graduate students. Our graduation rate matches the number of students we have in our program: 8-10 over a typical 2-year period. All full-time graduate students are encouraged to follow Plan-A, the thesis track, while Plan-B is more appropriate for part-time students. All of our faculty, at various times, serve as research advisors for one or more graduate students. Thesis committees comprise the adviser plus two additional faculty members. Graduate students present their work at the weekly departmental seminar, at the annual meeting of the Nebraska Academy of Sciences, St. Albert’s Day, and at local, national and international professional conferences. They often have their thesis work published in professional journals, co-authored with their adviser. Faculty are also involved in composing and grading written comprehensive exams which graduate students must pass.
About one-third of our graduates go on to pursue the Ph.D. in physics. The remainder have found success in a variety of areas, including medicine, medical physics, industry, computer programming, national laboratories, and teaching.
Departmental Activities:
In addition to teaching and research, the physics department engages in various extra-curricular activities. These include a Retreat, a Field Day for high school students, invited speakers in our Seminar courses, Dr. Zepf’s Haunted Physics Lab around Halloween, a Christmas party, a Fall picnic, and an Evening of Reflection at the end of the academic year. The department also participates in Career Days and an Open House in the Fall to attract majors. Each year, there is a university-wide St. Albert’s Day poster and oral research presentation event on campus for students to present their ongoing research. There is a Graduate Student organization, which all graduate students can join, that presents an Open House each year. Also, the International Students have an organization that presents an Open House and other festivities.
Physical Facilities:
Since 1968, when physics first moved into the Rigge Science building, the number of our faculty and staff has more than doubled. The demand for our courses is extremely high; enrollment in our astronomy course, for example, has grown to over 400 students per year.   At the beginning of 2003, the departmental offices were moved to the new Hixson-Lied (HL) Science Building. Also included in the new building are the Teaching/Research Fellows’ offices, physics club room, faculty/staff lounge, a student study area, and a new large classroom. The Rigge Science building was also renovated during 2003-2004.
Departmental Office Areas: The departmental office is located in room G81. Across the hall, room G79 houses the departmental work room which includes the mailboxes, supply storage, Fax machine, and copier.
Undergraduate Physics Club Room: Room G55 contains ample space for the convenience of physics club members. It includes several computers, copier, and a small library.
Fellows Office Suite: Room G63 affords office space for up to nine Fellows. Each desk is equipped with a computer and an adjoining book shelf. Each computer is interfaced to a common printer. The adjoining room, G62, has space for three Fellows.
Conference Room: The conference room is used primarily for departmental and committee meetings. The conference room, G05, is located on the ground floor of Rigge. It also contains a small kitchen area.
Reinert Alumni Library: This is the main university library. It is easily accessible without going outdoors by walking through the Eppley Business College building (connected to Rigge) on the second floor. Current journals are located on the upper level of the library, new books are displayed on the main level, and physics books are shelved in the lower level. Reserve materials and inter-library loans are obtained at the front desk. Electronic access is available through www.creighton.edu/libraries.
Lecture Rooms: The large lecture room is G59, which seats about 60 students and is adaptable for small group instruction. The smaller class room, G09, is located in room on the ground floor of Rigge. It can seat up to around 20 students. Each room is equipped with modern AV facilities and internet hook-ups are available at each student space.
Undergraduate Laboratories: Three General Physics laboratories and an astronomy laboratory are situated on the ground floor of Rigge. Upper division laboratories are to be found in the lower level of Rigge. These include Electronics, Modern Physics, Optics, Condensed Matter, and Nuclear Instruments and Methods (NIM). 
Research Laboratories: Research laboratories in the areas of Condensed Matter, Biophysics, and Atomic Physics are located on the lower level of Rigge. The Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), astrophysics,  computational biophysics and astro-particle research areas are located on the ground floor of Rigge.
Machine Shop:  The fully-equipped departmental machine shop is located on the lower level of Rigge. The machines in the shop are operated by a full-time machinist. 


MikeNichols Sat, 07/30/2011 - 11:09

Department Contacts

Department Contacts

Contact Information for all physics department faculty and staff can be found on the Contacts Page.

MikeNichols Sat, 07/30/2011 - 11:49

Program Guidelines

Program Guidelines
M..S. Plans:
Plan A or B - all full time should take plan A (30 cr. hrs. of 500-level or higher courses, including 6 cr. hrs for the thesis), while most part-time students will prefer plan B (33 cr. hrs. of 500-level or higher courses, including a one semester research project for 3 cr. hrs. and a research paper). All students are required to take the four core courses, and up to 15 cr. hrs. of elective courses can be taken outside the department, with the advisers approval. Also, Graduate Seminar (PHY 791, 1 cr. hr.) is required each semester for all full-time students. In this course, you are required to give a short presentation of a physics-related topic, which could include past or current research; new foreign students often give a description of their home country and school as a first presentation.
Teaching Certificate Plan - students taking this track start their studies in the summer preceding the first Fall semester of classes. Check the schedule for this track which is a concentrated combination of Education and Physics graduate courses. This program is similar to Plan B in that no thesis is required and PHY 797 (Ind. Dir. Research) is required along with the writing of a Research Report.
The Program Director will serve as the general academic adviser for all graduate students. At the time you begin research (Plan A), you will also be guided by your research adviser. Among other things, your adviser will assist you in scheduling courses into your program. You need to update your Tracking Form in this booklet with courses you take each semester.  PINs for pre-registration need to be obtained from the Program Director after approving your course selections on the Tracking Form.
Research Work:
In plan A, you should start working with a faculty member on activities leading to a thesis project after the initial semester. This usually takes place with a Directed Independent-type course. This also gives you an opportunity to change to another faculty member for thesis research work, if necessary, by the following semester or summer term. Thesis research is accompanied by taking 6 credit hours (usually, 3 hrs each of the last two semesters) of PHY 799. You will get grades of I (Incomplete) in these courses until your thesis is finished and approved (remind your adviser to complete these grades when the thesis is final).
Once accepted by a faculty member to work on a thesis project, a thesis committee will be assigned, consisting of the research advisor and two other physics faculty. The student should meet with the committee at least once each semester/summer to keep them abreast of progress and schedules. The committee needs to approve the final thesis and administers the oral thesis defense. Bound copies of the thesis are no longer  required.  Instead, an electronic copy of your thesis needs to be delivered to the Graduate School. Your adviser will inform you of the official style considerations for the thesis as required by the Graduate School (also found in this booklet).

Plan B work can begin at any time after the student is accepted by a faculty member for a research project. The project is accomplished under the format of taking PHY 797 (Dir. Ind. Research) for 3 credit hours. A paper based on the research project is required. It should at least be written at the level of an advanced laboratory report and must be approved, first, by the faculty member guiding the research and, last, by the Director.

Comprehensive Exams:
All students need to pass the 3-part Comprehensive Exam which is administered three times each year (January, June, and August). A schedule is posted about a month in advance of each test. Each part can be taken separately in any order. It is required that you "sign up" for each test in advance. You are allowed two attempts to pass each part; if you do not pass after two attempts, you must petition the Director for special consideration to take the test again. Starting with new students entering the program during Fall 2010, it is required that you must pass at least on Exam part during your first year in order to remain in the program. The test is at the level of undergraduate physics (mostly General Physics). New students can take one Part of the Comprehensive Exam during orientation and this will not count towards the “two attempts to pass” rule.
Previous exams given over the last 5 years are available to help prepare for these exams. These are available on a shared network drive. Contact the program directors for instructions on accessing these files.
Graduate School Requirements:
Consult the schedule of important deadlines (separate handout) and the Graduate School web page.
Teaching Fellows:
Teaching Fellows (TF) are restricted to a minimum of 8 and a maximum of 11 credit hours each semester, with a maximum of 18 credit hours per academic year, including summer; exceptions are possible only in special cases and must be approved by the Graduate Dean. Teaching Fellows are required to provide approximately 17-20 hours of service per week. Service typically involves teaching general physics laboratory sections and/or discussion sections, along with grading (reports, tests, and quizzes), proctoring tests, and office hours.  Assignments are made at an announced meeting prior to the start of the semester. There is a weekly meeting of TFs and faculty teaching the general physics sections.
Teaching Fellows occupy a shared office with separate desks and computers. The department secretary will issue keys to each TF: TF office, general physics lecture and laboratory rooms, and desk. E-mail accounts can be set up on line or by calling the DoIt Help Desk at 1111. Each TF will have a shared mail box. A special code is required to operate the copy machine - check with the departmental administrative assistance.
Teaching Fellow stipends are paid monthly, either by check or by direct deposit in a bank account, according to how individuals wish to be paid. 
Teaching Fellows need to contact the department administrative assistant to fill out necessary forms to get on the payroll and set up direct deposits when they begin their graduate studies. Keys and instructional materials are also obtained from the administrative assistant.
Starting in 2008-09, a new position of Graduate Laboratory Manager has been created. One TF line will be devoted to this position each semesgter and during the summer terms. The duties involve working with the designated faculty Laboratory Manager to set up and store away general physics experiment stations, attend weekly staff meetings of general physics courses, assist setting up classroom demonstrations, order and repair teaching apparatus, and help organize equipment storage.
It is expected that Teaching Fellows demonstrate proper proficiency and professional conduct in their teaching duties. Teaching Fellows are evaluated by both their students and the faculty each semester. A record of poor performance may result in termination of the Fellowship.
Research Fellows:
Provided enough students are available, faculty research grants often support graduate students as Research Fellows whose stipends are paid from the grants. Otherwise, Research Fellows have the same privileges and obligations as Teaching Fellows. Instead of devoting 17-20 hours per week engaged in teaching activities, Research Fellows spend time doing research.
Departmental Meeting Representative:
The graduate students are expected to elect one of their members to serve as their representative at departmental meetings.
Parking permits for the student lots can be purchased through Public Safety. 
The Physics Department will be paying all student fees each semester. 
The Graduate School offer small travel grants to support graduate students to attend a meeting (one per year) to present papers on their research. Funding requests should be submitted to the Graduate Student Goverment following using their application process.
Please also refer to the policies and guidelines of the CU graduate school.





MikeNichols Sat, 07/30/2011 - 22:26

Recommended Courses Sequence

Recommended Courses Sequence

If you are looking for information on registering for classes, please refer to the CU graduate school pages on online registration and grades.

Recommended Course Sequence (Plan A):

(Note:there is a special course sequence for the Teaching Certificate track which is
found separately in this handbook)
First year
Fall Spring
Core course 1
Core course 2
Graduate Seminar (PHY 791 or 591)  
Ind. Dir. Study or Readings(PHY 793 or PHY 795)
Elective Graduate Seminar
Ind. Dir. Study or readings (PHY 793 or 795)  
Second year
Fall Spring
Core course 3 Core course 4
Masters Thesis (PHY 799) Masters Thesis (PHY 799)
Graduate Seminar
Graduate Seminar
  • Each core course (PHY 611, PHY 621, PHY 631, PHY 641) is offered every other year.  
  • PHY 793/795/797 serves as an introduction to research with a faculty member. 
  • Electives can be any 500- , 600-, or 700-level physics course, or appropriate courses from another department that are directly related to your thesis research. 
  • Teaching Fellows are limited to a total of 18 cr. hrs. per year (Fall+Spring+Summer). 
  • Plan B students substitute Ind. Dir. Research (PHY 797, 3 cr. hrs.) for the two Masters Thesis courses; a formal report on the research is required.
MikeNichols Sat, 07/30/2011 - 22:35

The Master's Thesis

The Master's Thesis

All Plan A students are required to complete a thesis. In addition to the written thesis, the student should also submit an electronic copy of the thesis. The format of the electronic thesis could be any commonly used word processor or it could be converted to PDF. A form for submitting the electronic copy to the Graduate School is obtained from the Program Director at the time of the oral defense of the thesis; a copy is also provided in the following pages. Although the Graduate School no longer requires a written copy of the thesis, the physics department requires that the student arrange for at least two written copies (one for the student, one for the advisor).

The following links will take you to the CU graduate school webiste. All physics graduate students should be familar with the information on the following pages:

MikeNichols Sat, 07/30/2011 - 22:42

M.S. Program Deadlines

M.S. Program Deadlines
Fall Semester Spring Semester Summer Deadline
October 15, 2014 February 15, 2015 June 15, 2015 Last day for file on-line degree application for degree to be conferred at the end of semester
December 15, 2014 May 11, 2015 August 17, 2015
  • Final paper and electronic copy of thesis due in Graduate School following oral defense before committee.
  • Completed Final Report on Candidate for Graduate Degree form turned in to Graduate School.
  • Payment for submitting electronic copy of thesis and optional payment for bound copies. Note that the physics department will pay for three bound copies, one for the student, one for the student's advisor, and one for the department.
  • Incomplete grades for PHY 799 (Thesis) courses (6 hrs) should be converted to letter grades.
  • Same deadlines apply to Plan B Research Reports, which also need to be documented with Program Director.
December 20, 2014 May 9, 2015 August 14, 2015 Semester/Term ends.
December 20, 2014 May 16, 2015 August 22, 2015 Commencement/Degree Conferral Date

Students and advisors should also checek that the required number of credit hours have been passed for each Plan (33 hrs for Plan B, including 3 hrs of PHY 797; 30 hours for Plan A, including 6 hrs of PHY 799).

The maximum credit hours allowed for tuition remission for  Teaching Fellows is 18 for each year, including summer. Special permission from the Graduate Dean is required during the Spring semester to tak courses in the following summer if the limit would be exceeded.

Plan A students should also arrange to meet at least once each semester/term with their thesis committees, especially near the time of the oral thesis defense.

admin Sat, 11/22/2008 - 12:11

When you first arrive....

When you first arrive....

Procedures Upon Arriving for New Students

Orientation occurs during the two weeks prior to the start of classes. An orientation schedule is mailed in July to each student.
All Students:
Meet with the Graduate Program Director to arrange for obtaining a copy of the Physics Graduate Student handbook and registering for classes. 
Meet with the Administrative Assistant to fill out paper work for getting on the stipend payroll and arranging for bank transfer of the stipend. Advice will be given on setting up a local bank account.
            Obtain office space in the one of the Graduate Student offices.
            Obtain keys from the Administrative Assistant.
            Set up your Email account.
Obtain student ID card at Card Services in the Harper Center. The campus bookstore is also located there.
Purchase parking permit, if desired.
A graduate student teacher training session will be held the week before classes start. It runs daily from 9:00 am - 3:00pm.
The physics department orientation meetings also meet daily that week from 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm. Among other activities, your teaching schedule will be determined then.
Lab Safety training will occur on either Monday or Tuesday of the first week of classes.
You can take one Part of the Comprehensive Exam without it counting in case you don’t pass it (see schedule).
International Students:
Meet with Mrs. Shama Ali at the International Students Office at the Harper Center. 
Obtain permanent social security number through the International Students Office. This involves completion of an application which needs to be signed off by the Program Director and International Student Coordinator, Mrs. Ali. Transportation to the Social Security Office in Omaha is provided by the International Student Office and usually occurs on Monday or Tuesday of the first week of classes.


MikeNichols Sat, 07/30/2011 - 22:39

General Information

General Information

Duplicating: The copy machine is located in the department mail room (HL G79). It is not intended for personal copying. Students are advised to familiarize themselves with the Federal Copyright Laws that are posted near the machine. You can print directly to the copier from your computer (Printer name is HLSBG79-WC5150 on the print1 printserver).

Students with Disabilities: The laboratories are designed to accommodate handicapped students. If one of your students is handicapped, you should notify the Lab Manager to assure that appropriate accommodations are in place. If you feel that a student’s disability is a problem, you should express your concerns to your course coordinator.
Sexual Harassment: All TFs are requested to complete an online course on sexual harassment. Please complete this training before your first class and provide a copy of you certificate to the Office Manager.
Student Cheating/Plagiarism: Cheating and plagiarism are serious infractions of University policy and can easily result in immediate expulsion. If you suspect a student of such misconduct, do not accuse the student outright. Instead, collect any supporting evidence of the infraction (copies of student’s coursework, etc.) and discuss the issue with your course coordinator.
Office Supplies: Several common office supplies are available in the mail room. If any item(s) has run out, notify the Office Manager to have the item(s) replaced.
Textbooks (Desk Copies): TFs should receive a copy of the textbook and any laboratory manuals for the course with which they are involved. These materials are not to be re-sold, but are to re-cycled each semester. If you are missing these materials, contact your course coordinator.
Email: An email account (@creighton.edu ) can be started by contacting the Information Technology staff at 280-1111. Please let the Office Manager know the email address you intend to use for department activities so that it can be added to the department’s listserv. This listserv is the department’s primary means for communicating important information.
Keys: See the Office Manager to receive keys that you will need. There are no keys to the exterior doors of the buildings. Outside doors are generally unlocked during daytime and can be opened at night and weekends using your Student ID card.
Security: If you unlock a door, you are responsible for seeing that it is re-locked when you are finished using the room. If you find an un-occupied room open after 5 pm, please lock it.
Parking: A parking permit is required to park you vehicle in any campus lot. To obtain a parking permit, contact Public Safety at 280-2104.
Payroll: You should fill out all the appropriate forms in order to get on the payroll. This is arranged with the Office Manager.
Safety: Your safety and that of your students is an important consideration. TFs will be required to complete annual safety training before being allowed to teach in the laboratory. This group training session is usually conducted in the department just prior to the start of the Fall semester. During your first class, you should point out to the students the location of all safety items, such as fire extinguishers, fire alarms, chemical showers, eyewashes, etc.) The lower level of Rigge is the approved tornado shelter for your students. A list of emergency numbers and/or an emergency phone should be readily available in your laboratory.


MikeNichols Sat, 07/30/2011 - 11:47

Declaring a Physics Major/Minor

Declaring a Physics Major/Minor

Online Major and Minor Request Form

Applying for a Physics Major

Students usually apply for a physics major during the Sophomore or Junior Year.  Your application will be approved if you have successfully completed PHY 213/PHY 221 and PHY 214/PHY 222, or PHY 201/202 for the Biomedical Physics Majors.

Applying for a Physics Minor

You can apply for a minor whenever you like. The requirements for the minor can be satisfied anytime prior to graduation. It is helpful to let the department and your advisor know know if you are planning to minor. 

Finding a Major or Minor Advisor

When your application for a physics major is approved, a faculty member of the physics department will be assigned as your advisor. You can also request a particular faculty member to be your advisor.

admin Sat, 04/04/2009 - 10:00

Getting Involved

Getting Involved

At Creighton, Undergraduates are actively involved with Physics Department faculty and staff. Don't hesitate to get involved as soon as you can. Here are some ways to do this.

  1. Contact faculty regarding their research and ask to participate in undergraduate research. Nearly all Physics majors are involved, often receiving a stipend, scholarship, or course credit. Don't be shy, the faculty are eager to get you involved in undergraduate research.
  2. Come to the weekly Physics Seminar on Thursdays from 12:30 - 1:30.  Its a good way to get to know Physics folk, and the talks will broaden your perspective on current research in physics. It may also give you an idea of what kind of research project you would like to be involved in. As a bonus, snacks are provided!
  3. Subscribe to the physics_majors mailing list to receive department announcements, and learn about scholarship and research opportunities.
  4. Get involved in Physics Club (Society of Physics Students)
  5. THE PHYSICS CLUBROOM (Hixson-Lied G55) is available for all physics club members by keypad access. If you would like to join the physics club see one of the club officers or faculty. The clubroom is a place to hang out between classes, eat (breakfast) lunch (dinner), do homework, use the computers or just be social!
  6. Participate in yearly physics department events like service projects, Physnics, Field Day, Evening of Reflection, and Departmental Retreats.
MikeNichols Wed, 11/19/2008 - 13:55

Preparing for Medical, Dental, or other professional school

Preparing for Medical, Dental, or other professional school
  • Students interested in the health sciences should get involved with the CU Premed society. From that page you can subscribe to their mailing list to receive announcements of activities of interest.
  • Review the material on the CU Prehealth sciences pages to find information on choosing courses, applying to medical school, finding a pre-health science adviser at Creighton, extra-curricular activities, letters of recommendation,  and other resources.
  • Students who are not majoring in biology should be sure to take upper-division biology courses (in addition to BIO 211 and BIO 212).  Particularly useful courses include BIO 317 - Genetics and BIO 449 - Animal Physiology. It would be best to take one or both of these courses prior to taking the MCAT in the spring of your Junior Year.
  • Some medical schools now require Biochemistry for admission. The chemistry department offers CHM 371 - Biochemistry of Metabolism for premed students. They also offer CHM 381 - Fundamentals of Biochemistry (by instructor consent) that may be of interest to those seeking a more mechanistic approach to Biochemistry.  Both of these courses can be taken after CHM 323 - Organic Chemistry Lecture II. These courses are also helpful in preparing for the MCAT.

Pre-Medical Education (PMED)

Starting in the fall of 2009, Creighton will offer a non-credit, Pre-Med Educational Seminar (PMED) series to students planning to attend medical school after their undergraduate careers. The co-curricular program and its activities are designed to complement the student’s academic and scholarly achievements.

  • A five-semester series of weekly seminars and other activities designed to strengthen the candidacy of Creighton students as they prepare for the medical school application process.
  • The series begins in the second semester of the freshman year and ends in the second semester of the junior year.
    o Seminar activities will include workshops on interviewing, preparing an AMCAS application, writing personal statements and developing solid shadowing experiences among other important topics.
  • PMED will allow students to develop and maintain quality relationships with advisors and those providing input to the committee letter (see below). The impact will be visible across the University.

Creighton will be joining many other top-ranked universities in offering students university-level committee letters to include in their applications to medical school.

  • Medical schools are looking for these letters as an important part of an applicant’s dossier.
  • The letter is not required, but does help to give the student an edge in the admissions process.
  • Students who register for and successfully complete all 5 semesters of the seminar offered during their 4-year undergraduate program will be eligible to have a committee letter sent on their behalf.
  • For the 2009-10 academic year, rising sophomores will need to complete 4 semesters of the seminar and rising juniors will need to complete 2 semesters of the seminar in order to apply for the campus letter.

To obtain more information about pre-medical education and/or to be put on our email distribution list, please contact Tricia Brundo Sharrar, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, at pmed@creighton.edu or 402-280-1845.

Please remember to sign up for the correct section of PMED. In most cases, that's based on when you plan to graduate (even if by credit hours you already have the next year's class status). So in most cases, that means the following:

  • If you plan to graduate in May 2011 (and thus will be a junior in fall 2009), then ...
  • sign up for the junior section, which is Pre-Medicine Seminar - 73196 - PMED 301 - JR
  • If you plan to graduate in May 2012 (so will be a sophomore), then ...
    sign up for the sophomore section, which is Pre-Medicine Seminar - 73195 - PMED 201 - SO
  • If you will be taking a "real" (for credit) class that meets at the same time (from 3:30 - 5:30 p.m. on Fridays) which conflicts with PMED, you might check with Ms. Sharrar.


To learn about the profession, admission requirements, the OAT exam and application procedures, consult the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) Website

"GENERAL REQUIREMENTS for all schools include at least one year of Biology or Zoology, General Chemistry, General Physics, English and College Math."

In addition, most schools require students to have successfully completed Organic Chemistry (1 year), Biochemistry (1 course), Anatomy, Physiology, Microbiology, Psychology, and Statistics. So you should review the list of School- Specific Course Requirements.

GPA: In 2009, the average GPA of students entering 16 of the 20 reporting optometry schools varied from 3.10 to 3.61.



MikeNichols Wed, 11/19/2008 - 13:54

Preparing for the GRE

Preparing for the GRE

Graduate programs in most fields use the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) as one component of the admissions process.  Expect to take the general GRE exam regardless of the type of graduate program that you will be applying to.  This is a three hour exam that tests verbal, math, and writing skills (see http://www.ets.org/gre for more details).

Many Physics graduate programs also require the GRE Physics subject test, which specifically tests on knowledge of undergraduate-level physics.

The pages below offer study suggestions and preparation materials:


MikeNichols Wed, 11/19/2008 - 13:53

Studying for the GRE (Sandra M. Behncke)

Studying for the GRE (Sandra M. Behncke)


Studying for the GRE
Sandra M. Behncke
General GRE
 This test may be scheduled in advance pretty much any week day/weekend day.  The test cost $140 to take and may be taken at UNO’s Testing Center.  Schedule your test far in advance and choose the best time of day for your. As soon as you register start preparing!
I prepared for the general GRE by using the giant test books available at local bookstores.  There are many different versions, Baron’s is good, or anything that Kaplan or ETS recommends…   I purchased the most recent book and read all the testing strategies that it recommended.
I attacked studying systematically, studying one subject at a time.  I took a couple of weeks to work out all of the quantitative problems, another couple of weeks to familiarize myself with the structure of the verbal section, and lastly I concentrated on the essay section.  ***During the entire test preparation, study flash cards of all the GRE vocabulary!!!!!!!!!!!! Study a lot, and if you can, sign up for the free Kaplan practice test offered at Creighton or your school.
Quantitative – Get familiar with the different TYPES of questions they ask and all of the sneaky stuff that they try. i.e. don’t automatically assume that figures are drawn to scale, and tricky comparison questions.  The math here is NOT difficult!  However, the GRE wants to see if you pay attention to what the problem is asking and it will try (and many times succeed) to trip you up.  My biggest recommendation is to just work out as many example problems as possible, and brush up on your geometry and algebra!
Verbal – First and foremost, MAKE FLASHCARDS of the recommended vocabulary that you are not familiar with.  Study them A LOT!  Bring them with you everywhere and start using them everyday, incorporate the new words into your life!
The rest is easy…familiarize yourself with the TYPES of questions that they will ask you.  Don’t confuse what the question is asking, some are antonyms, some are synonyms.  Here again, they will try to trick you!
Writing – For this section the most important thing to do is to keep track of your time. You will be writing two essays, one where you present your perspective on your choice of two topics, and one where you critique the author's essay (no choice here).
To practice for this first sketch out your time schedule, I did it like this:
Essay 1 – Your perspective (you have 30 minutes total):
Write all brainstorming words – 2 minutes
Write your thesis statement, evidence, conclusion – 3 minutes
Write body of essay – 10 minutes
Write intro – 2 minutes (state your thesis statement)
Write summary – 3 minutes (restate your thesis statement)
Proofread – 10 minutes
For the essay where you critique someone else's writing the judges are NOT looking for your opinion. Keep it objective. Usually each essay for you to critique is about 4-5 sentences, and usually 3-4 of these sentences have a problem hidden within. I numbered each sentence and systematically discussed them in my critique.
Essay 2 – Your critique (you have 20 minutes total):
Identify and number each problem in the work – 2 minutes
Write the body – 5 minutes
Write the introduction – 5 minutes (state in order the problems with the writing)
Write the summary – 5 minutes (restate problems and offer 1-2 alternatives for the writer to improve their argument)
Proofread – 3 minutes
The problem here is that there is very little time to think about what you're going to write. I actually wrote down the above time schedule before I started the GRE on my scratch paper. You have to take a short tutorial at the beginning of your session. Afterwards they ask you if you are don and as soon as you press the button the real test starts. Before I entered the actual exam I jotted down my time schedule to refer back to. The time is in front of you and is ticking away…its easy to get distracted and lose focus. This way you have something to guide your thinking.
After you finish all three subjects on the GRE they will surprise you with an extra subject. Mine was another verbal section, but it could be any of the three. You should expect this to happen. You will be tired and will not want to go through another section, but TRY TO DO AS WELL AS THE ORIGINAL SECTION! The extra section is for statistical purposes and you don't know which of the two taken the judges will grade. You want to do as well on the second in case that one is chosen for your score!
Physics Subject Test
This test must also be scheduled far in advance, but know that it is only offered on specific dates of the year (about 4/year). Choose the date that works for you and register early. It costs $130.
To study for this test I recommend knowing everything there is to know in your General Physics book, as well as a lot of Classical Mechanics, some E&M, Thermo, Quantum, and Statistical Analysis…easy, huh?...its an incredible amount of physics to know like the back of your hand…but start with reviewing everything from General Physics. This will give you a broad, refresher on many physics topics. I also recommend going to the fabulous site offered by Ohio State University’s Physics Dept.: http://www.physics.ohio-state.edu/undergrad/ugs_gre.php
Here you can find TONS of problems with their solutions to work out. 
DO AS MANY PROBLEMS AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN!!! Know how and WHY they work – DO NOT just try to memorize the answers.
Make flashcards, sing songs to remember formulas…
One of the truly most helpful ways to study is to go to OSU’s site (above) and print out the 4 copies of past Physics Subject Test exams. I worked them all out, about 1/week. The answers are on the back to refer to. If you don’t understand some of the problems, ask our brilliant faculty to help you!
When I took the subject test I had never taken Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics, and had just started taking Quantum and E&M. It would have helped tremendously if I had a better understanding of all of these courses. If you can take all these courses before taking the Physics Subject Test it will help your score, but if you review your Gen. Phys. Stuff that should get you by.
As with all tests the most important things to remember are:
  1. GET A GOOD NIGHTS SLEEP!!! This is the most important
  2. Eat something nutritional the week of your tests like salmon, brown rice, broccoli, blueberries, red bell peppers – any power foods.
  3. Don’t fry yourself out with massive amounts of caffeine! Drink lots of H20…your body and mind becomes tired when it is dehydrated.
  4. Don’t stress out! Exercise, dance, do yoga…do what you like to do to relieve stress.
  5. When you take the test don’t panic! Remember to breathe and stay calm…you know this stuff...don’t beat yourself up! 
  6. Wear comfortable clothes to take the test. If you're always cold bring a sweater, etc. You can also chew gum to stimulate your head...studies show that students who chew gum during tests score 30% higher than if they weren't chewing.
  7. Lastly, if your test scores come in the mail and make you cry, don’t fret…you can always take it again in the future! One little standardized test score does not represent the entire intelligent person YOU ARE!


MikeNichols Wed, 02/04/2009 - 08:50

Suggestions for Math Classes

Suggestions for Math Classes

The following proposal is tentative, and should not be considered final until this sentance disappears!  Be sure to discuss your plans with your major advisor, or a faculty member in physics if you have not yet declared a physics major.


  • Year 1 (Freshmen, or first year in the Physics major)
    • General Physics (PHY 211 and 212) are calculus-based physics classes, so you need to have Calc I (MTH 245) as a co- or pre-requisite for these classes.  
    • After PHY 212, some sophmore-level courses like Modern Physics (PHY 301), and Optics (PHY 331) require require Calc II (MTH 246) as pre-requisites. 
    • The best practice is to take Calc-II (MTH 246) along with PHY 212.
  • Year 2 (Sophomores)
    • Upper division Physics classes rely heavily on a firm mathematics background. It is often the case that mathematics is best understood in the applied context of Physics. And since Physics requires practical application of  math, you'll also be learning through direct practice in upper division Physics courses.
    • The two classes that will help you the most are Calc III (MTH 347) and Mathematical Physics (PHY 551).  
    • Best practice will be to take Calc III (MTH 347) concurrently with Modern Physics (PHY 301) in the Fall of your sophomore year,  followed by Mathematical Physics (PHY 551) in the Spring. 
  • Year 3 (Juniors)
    • Students going on to Graduate school in Physics or Engineering should plan to take Linear Algebra (MTH 529) and Differential Equations (MTH 545).
  • Year 4 (Seniors)
    • Additional courses can help round-out your mathematics preparation for graduate programs in Physics and Engineering. There are many possibilities, but two of particular relevance include Partial Differential Equations (MTH 546), and possibly Complex Analysis (MTH 593), though other Math courses could also be recommended.
    • BONUS! Students completing all of these classes will complete the requirements for a Mathematics Minor!


MikeNichols Wed, 11/19/2008 - 12:30

Society of Physics Students

Society of Physics Students


Welcome to the Creighton University Chapter

of the Society of Physics Students !


About Our Chapter: Activities

The Creighton chapter of the Society of Physics students is active throughout the entire academic year.  Meetings are held most every month where free pizza is shared and upcoming activities discussed.  Some of the events which are usually done each year are:

Fall Semester

Physnic - A picnic put on by SPS for the entire department as an opportunity for the faculty, staff, graduate, and undergraduate students to get to know each other and any new students in a social setting.

Haunted Lab - Beware and be spooked as the optics lab is transformed into a Halloween tunnel demonstrating the many applications of physics through terrific demonstrations set to a haunted theme.

Community Service - The SPS tries to do one day of service per semester, a recent fall community service event was raking up leaves for those unable to do so themselves.

Spring Semester

Physics Department Retreat - The SPS is crucial to planning and executing the annual Departmental Retreat for all students and faculty.  The SPS helps decide what the theme and discussion of the retreat are as well as planning the meals and logistics.

Physics Field Day - The highlight of the year for the SPS is hosting a day of competition for high school physics classes.  High schoolers from Nebraska and Iowa come to compete in contests which involve using the basic concepts of physics which they are learning about in their classes.  Events such as catapults, quiz bowl, circuit building, optical slalom and many more make for a fun packed day for those participating and administrating.  To see the winners and rulebooks for past Field Days, visit the Hall of Fame located in the Departmental Events section.

Community Service - Traditionally the SPS has spent a day working with Habitat for Humanity for the spring service.

Photos from these activies can be found in the Photo Gallery.

Current Officers:

The Society of Physics Students annually elects four officers at the end of the spring term to serve for the following academic year.  The ’23-’24 academic year officers are:

President:  Nick Tobin
Vice-President: Chance Persons
Secretary: Molly McLaughlin
Treasurer: Grace Dirks

Faculty Moderator: Dr. Patricia Soto

If you are interested in joined the Society of Physics Students please contact Mason Rhodes: MasonRhodes@creighton.edu

About our Chapter: Background

The Creighton University Physics Club was founded in the fall semester of 1962-63 by Dr. Thomas H. Zepf who also served as the club's first faculty moderator. On April 22, 1968 the club became one of the 292 original founding chapters of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) an affiliate of the American Institute of Physics. Physics majors are strongly encouraged to join the Creighton University Chapter. The SPS encourages a professional spirit and friendship among its members and it provides an opportunity for students to form a closer relationship with faculty. Its activities seek to promote interest in physics both on campus and in the local community. Membership provides a number of benefits including scholarships and travel awards, as well as a subscription to the journal, Physics Today.

Sigma Pi Sigma, the national physics honor society

Sigma Pi Sigma is a member of the Association of College Honor Societies. It serves as a means of awarding distinction to students of high scholarship and promise of achievement in physics. It promotes student interest in research and advanced study in physics. Founded in 1921, it is now housed within the Society of Physics Students. Today there are hundreds of chartered chapters throughout the United States. The Creighton University chapter was chartered on December 5th, 1982 with the induction of 15 members who met the eligibility requirements. The installing officers were  Dr. Thomas H. Zepf and Dr. Nancy Fogarty of Creighton University, and Dr. Robert Wood Green of Morningside College. Membership is open to all students with an interest in physics who have completed at least three semesters of full-time college work, including 12 hours of upper-division physics courses applicable to the major. Undergraduate students must have a minimum QPA of 3.25 in all college work and a 3.25 in upper-division physics at the time of initiation. Graduate students must have satisfactorily completed at least 15 semester hours of graduate work in physics and be approved for membership by the Graduate Physics Faculty on the basis of the quality of their graduate work. Election to Sigma Pi Sigma is a lifetime membership.

About the Society of Physics Students and Sigma Pi Sigma

If you would like to learn about the Society of Physics Students and Sigma Pi Sigma, the physics honor society you might start by reading the national SPS webpages. This website has membership forms, scholarship applications,travel award notices, research award forms, related to the Society for Physics Students.

Past Officers

Past SPS Officers
year President Vice-President Secretary Treasurer
2023-2024 Nick Tobin Chance Persons Molly McLaughlin Grace Dirks
2019-2020 Mason Rhodes Emi Berni Lorenzo Riva Andrew Walther
2018-2019 Sam Ruiz John Sunderland Gus Hernandez Colin Reedy




admin Sun, 06/08/2008 - 16:18