2020-2021 Graduate Catalog 
    Apr 18, 2021  
2020-2021 Graduate Catalog

Optics and Photonics PhD

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College: Optics and Photonics Degree: PhD
Program Websites: http://www.creol.ucf.edu/ Option: Dissertation
Graduate Program Handbook

Program Description

The Optics and Photonics PhD program provides the highest-quality education in optical science and engineering, allowing students to conduct scholarly, fundamental, and applied research, while aiding in the development of Florida’s and the nation’s technology-based industries.

Research activities cover all aspects of optics, photonics, and lasers, and the Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers (CREOL), the Florida Photonics Center of Excellence (FPCE), and the Townes Laser Institute (TLI) are integral parts of the College of Optics and Photonics. Current research areas include: linear and nonlinear guided-wave optics and devices, high speed photonic telecommunications, fiber optic fabrication, fiber optic communications, solid state laser development, nonlinear optics, laser-induced damage, quantum-well optoelectronics, quantum optics, photonic information processing, infrared systems, optical diagnostics, optical system design, image analysis, virtual reality, medical imaging, diffractive optics, optical crystal growth and characterization, high intensity lasers, x-ray optics, EUV sources, optical glasses, laser materials processing, free-electron lasers, and light matter interaction.

The College of Optics and Photonics (COP) was the first program to be offered the distinction of a college devoted to Optics in the United States. The College of Optics and Photonics has grown rapidly and now has 55 faculty members and faculty with joint appointments, 41 research scientists and 148 graduate students with research activities covering all aspects of optics, photonics, and lasers. Research expenditures are over $10 million annually, with more than 20 percent of the funding coming from industrial partners, illustrating the effectiveness of the commitment to partnerships that is a foundational value of the COP.


The Optics and Photonics PhD program is intended for students with a bachelors or master’s degree in Optics, Electrical Engineering, Physics, or closely related fields who wish to pursue a career in research or academia. Students with degrees in related fields may be required to take undergraduate articulation courses determined by the program director on a case-by-case basis.

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

Students are required to pass a qualifying examination, usually taken after 12 months in the program. About one year after passing the qualifying exam, students must take a candidacy examination, form a dissertation committee, and submit an approved plan of study before being admitted to candidacy doctoral status. The PhD core courses are not absolutely required, but they have been designed to include a significant portion of the material upon which the qualifying examination is based. Consequently, students are strongly encouraged to include most of these courses in their plan of study.

The Optics and Photonics PhD program requires a minimum 72 credit hours beyond the bachelor’s degree, of which more than 50 percent should be at the 6000 level or higher. These hours must be comprised of: 

  • At least 39 credit hours of formal coursework satisfying the following requirements:
    • at least 30 credit hours must be Optics (prefix OSE) courses.
    • at least 6 credit hours must be science and engineering graduate research methods/laboratory courses of which at least 3 credit hours must be in Optics.
  • at least 15 credit hours of Dissertation (OSE 7980)

Additional notes on the curriculum:

  • Up to 30 credit hours of appropriate graduate courses earned in a master’s program from accredited universities may be waived with approval from the graduate committee.
  • Only courses with grades of “B” or better can be transferred.

Required Courses: 24 Credit Hours

Core Courses: 18 Credit Hours

Research Methods/ Laboratory Courses: 6 Credit Hours

At least 6 credit hours of approved Optics and related science/engineering research methods/laboratory courses are required from the list below. At least one must be in Optics (OSE). One required laboratory may be waived if the student can demonstrate an equivalent hands-on proficiency in that laboratory specialization. These research methods/laboratory courses count toward the formal graduate course work requirement.

Elective Courses: 33 Credit Hours Minimum

Restricted Electives: 6 Credit Hours

In addition to the required courses above, students will need to complete an additional 6 credit hours to meet the 30 hours of formal Optics (OSE) course work required. An additional three hours of optics coursework will also be required if the student waived out of one of the research methods/laboratory courses above, or if one of the laboratory courses taken is not an OSE prefix.

Other courses with significant optics content may be accepted toward the Optics (OSE) coursework requirement, upon approval by the Associate Dean. 

A listing and description of courses offered by the College of Optics and Photonics is found in the “Courses ” section.

Unrestricted Electives: 27 Credit Hours Minimum

A combination of formal course work and research hours comprise the remaining unrestricted hours. At least 9 of these hours must be formal course work, which may be graduate optics, science or engineering courses. In addition to the 9 hours, 18 credits may be regular formal course work, doctoral research hours, independent study, or doctoral dissertation hours. The independent study hours are limited to a maximum of 3 credit hours. Any courses outside of the graduate optics, science or engineering disciplines must be approved by the college associate dean.

Dissertation: 15 Credit Hours Minimum

  • OSE 7980 - Dissertation Research  15 Credit Hours

Qualifying Examination

Before students are eligible to take the candidacy examination, they must pass a written qualifying examination, which for full-time students is normally taken at the end of the first year of graduate study. The purpose of the qualifying exam is for the student to demonstrate mastery of the fundamentals of optics and photonics. The exam is administered by the doctoral qualifying examination committee, which consists of several graduate faculty members representing the appropriate disciplines, appointed by the director or designee. The committee’s duties include the preparation and grading of the examination material, and it may solicit input from other interested faculty. The exam is a closed book written exam in the general areas of electromagnetic foundations of optics, interference, diffraction, coherence, linear systems imaging, and light matter interaction. Students who do not pass the qualifying examination in two attempts will not continue in the program.

Candidacy Examination

Students are required to successfully complete the candidacy examination before admission to full doctoral status. The purpose of the candidacy exam is for the student to demonstrate his or her readiness for the PhD program through preliminary research work in the chosen field of study. The candidacy exam is comprised of written and oral portions. The exam is administered by the members of the student’s dissertation advisory committee who are full faculty members of the College of Optics and Photonics. External committee members of the dissertation advisory committee are not appointed until after the student has passed the candidacy exam. The exam is normally taken near the completion of required course work. Students must pass the candidacy exam before registering for doctoral dissertation hours (OSE 7980).

Admission to Candidacy

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

  • Completion of most course work, except for dissertation 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.

Dissertation Proposal and Defense

Approximately one year after passing the general candidacy examination, and after the student has begun research, the student will write a dissertation proposal and present it to their dissertation advisory committee for its approval. The proposal must include the research performed to date and the research planned to complete the dissertation. The committee, which consists of three graduate faculty members from the College of Optics and Photonics and one faculty member from outside the college, must be approved by the director or designee and will meet annually to review the student’s progress. The dissertation advisory committee also administers the dissertation oral defense examination.

Independent Learning

The dissertation satisfies the independent learning experience.

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.
  • Bachelor’s or master’s degree in Optics, Electrical Engineering, Physics or closely related discipline.
  • Official, competitive GRE score taken within the last five years.
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • The College of Optics and Photonics requires a Statement of Purpose.
    • A brief, 1-2 page statement about educational, research, and long-term professional career objectives.
  • Résumé

Students with degrees in related fields may be required to take undergraduate articulation courses determined by the program director on a case-by-case basis.

Application Deadlines

Optics and Photonics PhD *Fall Priority Fall Spring Summer
Domestic Applicants Jan 15 Jul 1 Dec 1  Apr 1
International Applicants Jan 15 Jan 15 Jul 1 Nov 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

M. G. “Jim” Moharam PhD
Interim Associate Dean
Telephone: 407-823-6833
CREOL Room 209

Alma Montelongo
Telephone: 407-823-4726
CREOL Room 208

Graduate Admissions

Ashley Rivera Mercado
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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