Graduate Program

PhD in Physics and Astronomy

With more than 80 PhD students who come from all around the world, and 30 faculty members engaged in fundamental and applied research, the USC Department of Physics and Astronomy offers an exciting research environment in a vibrant cosmopolitan city. The areas of research span both pure and applied areas with research opportunities within the Department of Physics and Astronomy as well as the groups of our joint faculty. Those areas include experimental science, computation, and pure theory. Our research laboratories include lasers, optical measurement systems, low temperature facilities, cluster and atomic beam equipment, materials growth and characterization, biomaterials handling, and one of the fastest supercomputers in the world. In addition to the individual laboratories of faculty, graduate students gain access to the world-class research facilities of USC, which include: The Center for Electron Microscopy and MicroAnalysis (CEMMA); Molecular Imaging Center; Keck Photonics Center; Chemistry Instrumentation Facility; NanoBioPhysics Core Facility; Cell and Tissue Imaging Facility; Proteomics Core Facility; the D-Wave experimental quantum computer, and the High Performance Computing Center.

Here are some of the research groups of note currently taking PhD students:

Astronomy and Cosmology
Biological Physics
Computational Physics
Condensed Matter and Nanophysics
High Energy Physics
Quantum Information


Joint Programs

The department has established two unique dual-degree programs with the computer science department at USC. These programs allow our students to obtain a PhD in physics along with a MS in computer science with specializations in either high performance computing and simulation or data science.


Master of Science Program in Medical Biophysics

The Master’s Program in Medical Biophysics (MBPH) is designed for students who have backgrounds in physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, and engineering, and who are motivated to pursue training in biomedical research that emphasizes theoretical, computational, and experimental biophysical methods. The training faculty in the MBPH program includes faculty members from multiple departments at USC who have research programs in areas including structural biology, neuroscience, membrane biophysics, cellular biophysics, and theoretical biophysics. Students are usually admitted to the MBPH program on the research-based thesis track; however, in special circumstances applications to the non-thesis track will be considered.


Notable students


Jason Thalken

Jason Thalken

Jason Thalken worked on multi-parameter computational optimization of quantum engineering nano devices. After graduating, he used these skills acquired during his PhD to optimize processes in the mortgage industry. He is currently a senior vice president at the Bank of America.


Omid Nohadani

Omid Nohadani

Omid Nohadani developed a sophisticated Quantum Monte Carlo algorithm to study the phase diagram of quantum magnets and quantum liquids.During his postdoc years at the Harvard-MIT medical school he applied annealing techniques to radiation therapy. He moved on to became an industrial engineering faculty member at Purdue, and recently moved to another faculty position at Northwestern.


Nick Chancellor

Nick Chancellor

Nick Chancellor graduated this year. In his thesis work, he has been working on the dynamics of quantum systems. This has been motivated by the need to better understand the first generation quantum computing chip by DWave. He is moving to do a postdoc at the London Centre for Nanotechnology associated with UCL and Imperial College, who recently acquired a DWave chip on their own.





Betty Byers
Graduate Coordinator

Krzysztof Pilch 
Graduate Advisor

  • Department of Physics and Astronomy
  • University of Southern California
  • 825 Bloom Walk
  • ACB 439
  • Los Angeles, CA 90089-0484