Frequently Asked Questions

Why LSU Physics & Astronomy?

Because we are a top quality research University with a wide variety of fun programs in physics and astronomy. We have some of the best programs in the world for gravity research (both theory and experiment), quantum optics and quantum information, medical physics, and compact objects in astrophysics. We have great facilities with LIGO (for gravity wave detection), CAMD (a synchrotron light source for many applications in solid state physics), QueenBee, Texpor, and Philip (with plenty of supercomputer power), and the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center (for medical physics). Our faculty members are major players in some of the most exciting groups around: including Auger (for the highest energy cosmic rays), and Super-Kamiokande plus T2K (for neutrinos). The promise of these programs includes a likely Nobel Prize for LIGO and a career helping to fight cancer for our medical masters graduates. All of this translates into great opportunities for you to work on an exciting thesis that will place you in the front-line of science, and this will translate into a good job for you when you graduate from LSU.

When are applications due?

For admissions for the fall semester (starting in August), the deadline for us to receive completed applications is January 15 of the same year. For admissions for the spring semester (starting in January), the deadline is October 15 of the previous year. We will continue to accept applications after that date for as long as we have available sources of financial support, but the applications received after January 15/October 15 deadline have a lower chance of acceptance. Generally, applications received after March 15 are not considered for fall admission. Therefore we recommend that you submit your application by the 15th of January to have the best chance of acceptance.

Do you offer graduate assistantships or other forms of financial support?

Yes, essentially all students accepted into our Department are offered financial support in the form of a graduate assistantship. (Some fraction of incoming students are offered scholarships in various forms that cover salary at similar levels but with no requirement of being a TA or RA.) The yearly salary also includes a full tuition waiver plus most of the health insurance being covered. The graduate assistantships are either in the form of a Teaching Assistantship (TA) or a Research Assistantship (RA). A TA will help in running undergraduate labs, grading, recitation sections and such. An RA will be doing research with some professor, generally doing their own research towards a PhD. Typically, incoming students start out as TAs until they pass their Qualifying Exam, whereupon they will join some research group or start working with a particular professor as an RA. In general, it is a good idea to get some experience as a TA, but to start the RA work on your thesis as soon as is reasonable.

Must I pay the application fee?

For US citizens, the answer is NO. Our Department will automatically pay your application fee in the online application system run by the Graduate School.

For non-US citizens, the answer is MAYBE. If you apply through the online system you will have to pay the application fee. We do recognize that for some foreign applicants this poses a substantial financial burden. Therefore we are accepting applications from foreign students sent directly to our Department according to the instructions here. If we accept your application, we will pay your application fee to the Graduate School. Note that we need to have exactly the same information irrespective of the method of submission.

How do I apply?

Applications can be submitted with the online system run by the LSU Graduate School. You can see our instructions and advice for filling out the application form.

Paper applications can also be submitted by regular mail or scanned/electronic copies (PDF format) sent by email directly to the Department
Instructions for submitting applications by regular mail or email.

What is needed for the application?

You must include in the online application:

  • Application form.  For the online system, you will be asked to fill in questions.  For a paper or email submission, the blank application form is here in PDF format.
  • GRE scores (GRE general, including Verbal and Quantitative, is required, GRE Physics is highly recommended). You must arrange for the GRE scores to be sent directly to us by the testing agency. We are willing to consider photocopies of official reports for initial consideration (include these as PDF files in an uploaded document), but you must arrange for an official report to be received before we can formally admit you. We encourage you to take the GRE Physics test. Even though this is not required, the GRE Physics score allows us to directly compare you with other applicants and hence can greatly increase your odds of acceptance. 
  • TOEFL or IELTS scores (for all foreign applicants except those from an English-speaking country [UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and some others] and those who have a degree awarded by a college in a country where English is official and native language). For initial evaluation purposes, you may send us copies of your score; you will have to send an official score before we can formally admit you. We require a minimum
  • TOEFL score of 100 on the iBt scale (600 old scale) (IELTS 7.0) for admission. In exceptional circumstances we have considered applications with TOEFL as low at 97, but in the last 5 years we have not accepted any applicants with a TOEFL below 95. If your score is below this cutoff, you do not qualify for admission.
  • Official transcript of all colleges attended.
    We require the official transcripts from all your colleges before we can formally admit you, but for initial considerations we can work with photocopies of official forms. 
  • Three letters of recommendation from people who know your research and education experiences. The letters must be submitted to the online system

What are typical and minimum scores for admission?

For the GRE Verbal + Quantitative scores added together, our formal minimum is 1000. In the last three years, the median GRE V+Q score is 1320 (which varies from year-to-year between 1290 and 1420). In the last three years, we have only had one student starting with a GRE V+Q less than 1150.

We require a GPA of better than 3.00 (the equivalent of a B on the American system). GPA minima vary with country of the college as other places have different systems; so for example our limit corresponds to 60 in the Indian system and 80 in the Chinese system.

The minimum acceptable TOEFL score is 100 on the iBT Internet version, which translates into 250 on the computerized version, and 600 on the old scale. For the IELTS test, the corresponding minimum is 7.0. In cases of students with exceptional research promise we *may* consider applications with TOEFL of 590/97. However, in the last 5 years we have not accepted any applicants with a TOEFL below 95. If your score is below this cutoff, you do not qualify for admission irrespective of the other aspects of your application.

Unfortunately, we cannot accept any of the many other test types. As always, we are looking at the whole application, so, while you need to exceed the minimum cutoff simply to be considered, low but acceptable test scores may be compensated by the evidence of exceptional research promise.

What are we looking for when admitting students?

We are looking for evidence of skill and knowledge at research. In part, this will come from grades and test scores, but work in a research group, published papers, or independent research are strong positive factors. In your letters of recommendation, we are looking for evidence that you can think on your own, understand what research is all about, and can move past the book-learning of undergraduate education. We consider all the submitted material, and try to make some sort of overall evaluation. This means that if your application is somewhat poor in one respect then this can be made up for in other respects. Also, we have no bias against non-traditional students (i.e., those not applying directly out of a four-year undergraduate program), as often maturity and experience make for the best students.

Do Ineed to be a physics major in college to apply to the LSU Department of Physics & Astronomy?

No. Our graduate students come from a variety of backgrounds. However, all students must have a solid background in physics, including a year of calculus-based general physics, mechanics, E&M, modern physics and experimental lab.

When should I hear about my application?

This varies somewhat from year-to-year and when your application was submitted. For applications from before 15 January, you might hear back from us anytime from middle February to even as late as May. For later applications, you will likely hear from us sometime in April or May. (What is going on is that we have to await the replies from all the first-round offers we made {to people whose applications came in before 15 January} before we know how many second-round offers we can make.)

What countries do the graduate students come from?

About 60% of our Department’s graduate students come from all over America. Our foreign graduate students come from China, India, Iran, Argentina, Venezuela, Romania, Nepal, Taiwan, Cameroon, Indonesia, Nigeria, Ukraine, Japan, Ceylon, and Russia.

How many students do you accept each year?

This varies substantially for the PhD program. For students starting in August of the years 2005-2010, we had 17, 18, 6, 13, 18, and 14 students starting. For students starting in January for the years 2005-2009, we had 4, 1, 2, 0, and 8 students starting. For the Medical Masters program, we usually have five students starting each year, only in August.

What is the "university code" for reporting GRE and TOEFL scores?

The LSU code for ETS reporting is R6373-5. IELTS test scores should be sent directly to LSU by IELTS.

Whom should I contact if I have more questions?

For questions on course offerings, contact Prof. Robert Hynes.

For procedural questions on admission, contact Ms. Arnell Nelson. For other admissions questions, contact Prof. Ilya Vekhter. Note that due to the large number of inquiries we receive, we can in general only answer short, specific questions on issues not covered by the information provided on our website.

For general queries, you can email or call the Department office at 225-578-2261.

For questions on particular research programs, visit Research or you can contact any individual faculty from their information in the People section.

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