2018-2019 Graduate Catalog 
    Dec 10, 2019  
2018-2019 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Physics PhD, Planetary Sciences Track

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College: Sciences Degree: PHD
Department: Physics Option: Dissertation
Program Websites: http://www.physics.ucf.edu/graduate.php
Graduate Program Handbook

Track Description

The goal of the Planetary Sciences Track of the Physics PhD program is to foster a vibrant planetary science research environment that can attract top students, researchers, and faculty and contribute significantly to the exploration of space. The Planetary Sciences track is designed to prepare students to be competitive in the global planetary sciences research community.


The Planetary Sciences track in the Physics PhD program requires a minimum of 72 credit hours beyond the bachelor’s degree or 42 hours beyond the master’s degree.

Total Credit Hours Required: 72 Credit Hours Minimum beyond the Bachelor’s Degree. 42 Credit Hours Minimum beyond the Master’s Degree.

This includes completion of 6 required courses (18 credit hours), 5 elective courses (15 credit hours) of regular course work selected in consultation with the student’s dissertation advisory committee, a minimum of 15 credit hours of dissertation, and the remaining 24 credit hours of appropriately selected research, dissertation, and elective courses. Courses must be selected so that at least 36 of the 72 hours are at 6000 level or higher. No more than 12 hours of independent study may be credited toward the PhD degree. The PhD includes a Candidacy Exam to be taken after the completion of the core courses, a written dissertation, and a dissertation defense before the student’s dissertation advisory committee.

Required Courses: 18 Credit Hours

The core is designed to give students a broad foundation in the planetary sciences and a rapid training in the data analysis techniques that will be necessary for a successful research and publications.

Elective Courses: 15 Credit Hours

Other Electives: 24 Credit Hours

Please see your adviser. This may include elective courses, dissertation hours, or selected research courses.

Dissertation: 15 Credit Hours

  • AST or PHY 7980 - Dissertation 15 Credit Hours

Dissertation Supervisory Committee

Within the first half-semester of admission to the planetary sciences graduate track, each student must select, by mutual agreement, a faculty adviser and at least three other faculty members to serve on his or her Dissertation Supervisory Committee. A quorum for supervisory committee meetings will be three faculty members.  UCF faculty, UCF self-funded research scientist, and non-UCF planetary scientist qualified to be Graduate Faculty Scholars are eligible to serve on supervisory committees.  The committee should include one non-UCF planetary scientist.  Changes in the membership of a Supervisory Committee must be approved by the Planetary Sciences Graduate Committee. The adviser is expected to meet regularly with the student. The full committee shall meet with the student at least once per year to review and make recommendations regarding the student’s academic progress.

Candidacy Exam

The Planetary Sciences Track requires a candidacy exam to be taken after the completion of the core courses. This exam is composed of a written component and an oral exam. The written component is a journal-level research paper that has either been accepted for publication or submitted for publication. The oral component is in two parts: (1) A public presentation of the research contained in the paper including the traditional question-and-answer period of a scientific presentation; and (2) private questioning on the detail of the presented research as well as the topics covered in the student’s preparation and coursework.

Dissertation Proposal

The dissertation proposal may be presented simultaneously with the candidacy exam or in a separate meeting not more than one semester thereafter. The Dissertation proposal is not formally an examination in the Planetary Sciences Track and the supervisory committee may direct any form of presentation it desires and may question the student. Before substantial work is done on the dissertation, the Supervisory Committee must approve the proposal and must also assess whether additional coursework is necessary to begin the dissertation. Such coursework should be completed at the earliest opportunity. The supervisory committee then becomes the dissertation committee.

Admission to Candidacy

The following are required to be admitted to candidacy and enroll in dissertation hours:

  • Completion of all required and formal elective course work, except for research hours.
  • Successful completion of the candidacy examination.
  • The dissertation advisory committee is formed, consisting of approved graduate faculty and graduate faculty scholars.
  • Submittal of an approved program of study.
  • Completion of CITI and RCR Workshops

Dissertation Defense

The dissertation defense is the final requirement for the PhD. It consists of a public presentation of the dissertation typically lasting 45-60 minutes including the traditional question-and-answer period of a scientific presentation, followed by private questioning by the Dissertation Supervisory Committee. Procedures are similar to the candidacy exam.

Independent Learning

The Planetary Sciences Track in the Physics PhD program requires a dissertation.

Application Requirements

For information on general UCF graduate admissions requirements that apply to all prospective students, please visit the Admissions  section of the Graduate Catalog. Applicants must apply online. All requested materials must be submitted by the established deadline.

In addition to the general UCF graduate application requirements , applicants to this program must provide:

  • One official transcript (in a sealed envelope) from each college/university attended.
  • Official, competitive GRE score taken within the last five years.
  • Three letters of recommendation.
  • Statement of goals.
  • Students entering the Planetary Sciences graduate track program with regular status are normally expected to have completed coursework generally required for a bachelor’s degree in a closely related science field such as physics, chemistry, geology, biology, or mathematics.
  • CV or Résumé.

Additional courses may also be required to correct any course deficiencies for those applicants without full preparation in physics and astronomy. Students should contact the graduate program director for further information.

Current students in the existing Physics graduate program wishing to switch to the Planetary Sciences track must submit a letter to the Planetary Science Graduate Committee addressed to Dr. Dan Britt. The letter should include the request to join the planetary sciences track, the student’s degree goal (Masters or PhD), the name of the student’s planetary sciences adviser, and a brief description of their expected area of research. Upon departmental approval, a Graduate Status Change Form will be submitted to the College of Graduate Studies.

Meeting minimum UCF admission criteria does not guarantee program admission. Final admission is based on the evaluation of the applicant’s abilities, past performance, recommendations, match of this program and faculty expertise to the applicant’s career/academic goals, and the applicant’s potential for completing the degree. For information on the Planetary Sciences track contact the Planetary Sciences Graduate Advisor Dr. Dan Britt at 407-823-2600 or dbritt@ucf.edu.

Application Deadlines

Planetary Sciences *Fall Priority Fall Spring Summer
Domestic Applicants Jan 15 Jun 1 Nov 1 -
International Applicants Jan 15 Jan 15 Jul 1 -
*Applicants who plan to enroll full time in a degree program and who wish to be considered for university fellowships or assistantships should apply by the Fall Priority date.


Graduate students may receive financial assistance through fellowships, assistantships, tuition support, or loans. For more information, see the College of Graduate Studies Funding website, which describes the types of financial assistance available at UCF and provides general guidance in planning your graduate finances. The Financial Information  section of the Graduate Catalog is another key resource.


Fellowships are awarded based on academic merit to highly qualified students. They are paid to students through the Office of Student Financial Assistance, based on instructions provided by the College of Graduate Studies. Fellowships are given to support a student’s graduate study and do not have a work obligation. For more information, see UCF Graduate Fellowships, which includes descriptions of university fellowships and what you should do to be considered for a fellowship.

Contact Info

Graduate Program

Daniel Britt PhD
Telephone: 407-823-2600
PSB 442  

Esperanza Soto Arcino
Telephone: 407-823-5146
PSB 432

Graduate Admissions

Anthony Tufano
Telephone: 407-823-2766
Millican Hall 230  
Online Application
Graduate Admissions

Mailing Address

UCF College of Graduate Studies
Millican Hall 230
PO Box 160112
Orlando, FL  32816-0112

Institution Codes
GRE: 5233
TOEFL: 5233
ETS PPI: 5233

Graduate Fellowships

Grad Fellowships
Telephone: 407-823-0127

Graduate Financial Aid

UCF Student Financial Assistance
Millican Hall 120
Telephone: 407-823-2827
Appointment Line: 407-823-5285
Fax: 407-823-5241

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