Advancement to Candidacy

In order to advance to candidacy, students must have met the departmental requirements and have been accepted as a Ph.D. student by a faculty research supervisor (advisor). At the time of application for advancement to candidacy, a doctoral committee responsible for the remainder of the student's graduate program is approved by the Dean of Graduate Division. The student's committee conducts the candidacy exam no later than the end of the third academic year of graduate study.

The exam tests readiness for Ph.D. research and requires (1) either three quarters of successful (satisfactory in the opinion of the advisor) research experience prior to the exam or/and a written thesis proposal and (2) an oral presentation and exam.

At the time of advancement to candidacy a doctoral committee is chosen by the student and advisor in compliance with the UCSD Graduate Division policies. For students with no successful research experience prior to the exam, the Candidacy Committee should also be approved by the Department Vice Chair. All committees must be officially approved by the Dean of Graduate Division. All committee members should familiarize themselves with the Advancement to Candidacy website's statement of policy and procedure.

For the Candidacy Exam, the student prepares a substantial written thesis proposal. The thesis proposal should:

  • State the theme and direction of research, and present a thorough discussion of relevant background.
  • Make the case for the topic's importance, relevance and novelty
  • Present an initial plan (i.e. an outline) of work and anticipated direction for the thesis research.
  • Describe the anticipated and/or possible outcomes, and discuss their contribution and potential impact. Discuss results obtained so far.
  • List needed preparation, equipment, computer time, etc. and how these will be obtained and developed.

The written thesis proposal should be sent to the Candidacy Exam Committee at least two weeks prior to the exam.

If a student has been working in a research group for three quarters prior to the Candidacy Exam, and if the student's Advisor deems the student's work and progress to be satisfactory, the student may be excused from the written thesis proposal, at the advisor's discretion.

At the Candidacy Exam the student will make a 45-minute presentation of research results and the planned thesis research. The presentation will be followed by:

  • Questions on the proposal and questions on physics in the area of the proposal research
  • Questions on background deemed broadly appropriate to the area of the proposed work. In particular, the student is expected to have mastered basic graduate physics (and/or related science) relevant to the research area. Ordinarily, "relevant" corresponds to material covered in the basic 200 level sequence corresponding to the research area, in addition to other material important to the student's research. Such material may include competence in relevant experimental, observational or computational techniques. The student should discuss preparation for the exam with his/her Advisor, Mentors, and committee members.

The Candidacy Exam shall last approximately 1.5 hours. Students and committees should endeavor not to exceed this time limit.

The outcome of the exam can be Pass, Conditional Pass, or Fail. Upon successful completion of this examination, students are advanced to candidacy and are awarded the C.Phil. Degree. In the case of Conditional Pass, the Committee should provide a written statement of the conditions and how compliance will be evaluated. In the case of Fail, a written statement of deficiencies to be remedied is required. Students who fail must re-take the exam no later than the end of their 4th year. Students who fail twice must leave the program.