Interested in doing research with me or others in the Chen Ning Yang Institute for Theoretical Physics @ Stony Brook?

Course prerequisites for research

  1. Prerequisites for prerequisites: the equivalent of 1st-year graduate courses in Classical Mechanics, Classical Electrodynamics, & Quantum Mechanics.
  2. Advanced courses (some taught by me); for the kind of research I do: General Relativity, Quantum Field Theory (including Yang-Mills), String Theory. You may also want to sit in on these courses a 2nd time, as my version of QFT covers different stuff, & ST covers a lot of material. (If you already know a lot of the material, it may be possible to start early on research informally though reading courses.)


Research can begin after these topics are understood. (I don't see any advantage to doing research when one doesn't understand the physics upon which it's based, other than making a resumé deceptively impressive to bureaucrats who don't appreciate this.) Normally this means Ph.D. candidates, but sometimes M.A. students (see below). In principle this could also include very advanced undergraduates, but it seems unlikely. However, I sometimes give reading courses to undergraduates to bring them up to speed. (Some others in our group have even given "research" to high-school students.) See "For prospective grad students" for a brief introduction to my research.

Procedure for Ph.D. degree

  1. Get accepted into our Physics & Astronomy Ph.D. program. Applications are handled by the Stony Brook University Graduate School & the Physics Department admission committee, so any such info you have should be submitted through the on-line application form, not sent to me. The department has been accepting more Master's students, perhaps misleading them into thinking transferring into the Ph.D. program is not difficult. I do give research problems to M.A. students, after verifying they have sufficient background (or giving it to them through reading courses), but there is no guarantee it will lead to acceptance into the Ph.D. program. (This is especially true for those whose time is limited by their funds.)
  2. Take core/required courses (or pass the placement exam) & pass the comprehensive exam. Again not so much me.
  3. Start a research project with me (or others), preferably no later than the end of your 3rd semester, as preparation for your oral exam @ the end of your 4th. So far, I have always had room for new research students, although acceptance into CNYITP may get competitive.

⚠️ Warning

Getting a job in physics is difficult, especially theoretical physics. The level of difficulty increases as you advance through the stages
  1. acceptance to undergraduate school
  2. Bachelor's degree
  3. acceptance to PhD program
  4. acceptance into a research group
  5. PhD
  6. 1st postdoc
  7. 2nd postdoc
  8. tenure-track professor
  9. tenured professor
(In some places the last step might not be so bad. Also, there could be more postdocs, & tenure-track = assistant & then associate.) If you want to get an idea of the level of difficulty, compare the number of people accepted per year into each of these stages.

So there are 3 possibilities of how things will turn out:

The problem with the former 2 likely possibilities is that you may consider you have wasted time in physics. But probably getting a Ph.D. in physics is always useful, even for employment in other areas, although some extra time may be needed for re-training.

(Feel free to contact me with any questions on my courses, research, or physics in general.)