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Graduate Opportunities in Physics

Graduate Opportunities in Physics

Graduate school should provide opportunities to develop skills that will be useful to you in your scientific career. In addition to course work and your particular research project, you should develop a broad knowledge of physics, learn to present your findings to your colleagues and the general public, develop teaching skills, learn how to communicate with colleagues and begin to develop a professional network. In the physics department, we try to provide as many opportunities as possible for you to develop this professional sophistication.


The weekly departmental colloquium features researchers from within OSU and from other universities, national laboratories and from industry speaking on a wide variety of topics. Colloquia are designed to present information that will provide a good introduction to the topic for students, be interesting to faculty and other researchers in different fields, and also present new information for experts.


We have an active weekly seminar series in all areas of physics. The seminars are generally given by local and regional speakers. This is where graduate students present their first research seminars and is an excellent forum to practice in a friendly and supportive environment. The seminar is also used for students to practice 10-minute talks presented at national conferences.

Communications Seminar

Usually offered in spring, the weekly Communications Seminar provides a forum to practice and discuss professional communication. A 10-minute talk, the research seminar, lessons on appropriate telephone and e-mail demeanor and other important topics are part of the program. Please consult the course instructor of PH 607 for more details.

Research Seminar

The research seminar is offered in winter term. Physics faculty present their research programs to keep graduate students informed of work in the department. This allows newcomers to find research projects and allows all graduate students to broaden their physics knowledge. The seminar series begins with a session on the culture of research in academia, with broad-ranging topics from research funding, expectations setting and how to function efficiently in a research group.

Teaching Assistant Seminar

The weekly fall Teaching Assistant Seminar continues the pre-fall term TA orientation to help incoming TAs develop teaching skills. TAs practice presenting material, running group problem-solving sessions and supervising labs.

Teaching Seminar

The weekly Teaching Seminar runs in winter and spring. The format differs from term to term; formats may include discussions of current best pedagogical practices as determined by physics education research PER, discussions of education theories and opportunities to design curricular materials and practice teaching. In some terms, this seminar meets jointly with TAs and faculty from other science departments.

Teaching Assistantships

There are opportunities to assist in the teaching of a wide variety of courses. The astronomy courses feature interactive, web-based exercises as well as night observations. The Paradigms curriculum provides an opportunity to teach in an innovative, team-run program. The Computational Physics degree offers courses that allow TAs experience with computational labs. There are advanced labs in optics, lasers, electronics and computer interfacing. Other lab opportunities are in Baccalaureate-core courses on light and sound. Recitation and laboratory sections in calculus- and algebra-based introductory physics are based on the results of physics education research. A peer mentor program is in place to support TAs throughout the teaching experience. Advanced students can seek apprenticeships with faculty members and assume a more responsible role for sections of courses.

Orals Lunch

Students have a chance to practice presenting responses to typical oral-exam type questions to a group that includes a faculty member and fellow students. This is great practice also for conference presentations and job interview situations. Meets several times a term.

Graduate orientation

The graduate student orientation program runs the week and a half before fall classes begin. Faculty, staff and experienced graduate students introduce incoming students to the graduate program: courses, research, advising, TA orientation and administrative matters. Incoming students will have opportunities to meet with multiple faculties in groups or in one-on-one settings by request. The orientation ends with the departmental welcome activities such as a trip to the coast, a picnic or an informal group dinner with faculties and other graduate students.

Search committees

Graduate students play an active role in interviewing prospective faculty members, and thus learn about the interview process. Candidates always meet the graduate students as a group, and the meeting is moderated by the graduate student member of the search committee. This student also is involved in the candidate selection process.

Large group of students and faculty

Students and faculty at the American Physical Society Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP). Undergraduate women physicists from the Northwest gathered to present their research, participate in workshops and network with professionals and peers.


Students attend national and international research conferences to present their work. Local and regional conferences provide an inexpensive way to give research presentations locally. Tell your advisor of your interest in attending these. Presenting your work to new audiences is the best way to hone your skills.

Regular conferences in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest

  • Spring Meeting of the Materials Research Society
    MRS Spring meetings cover the latest developments in materials research.
  • Annual Meeting of the APS Northwest Section
    APS Annual Meetings offer valuable opportunities for presenting research, sharing insights, and networking, as well as related workshops and activities for scientific discussion, professional development, improving education, and science advocacy.
  • Oregon AAPT Meeting
    The AAPT brings educators together to share best practices in teaching, host workshops, share demonstrations, and preview the latest in laboratory equipment.
  • Annual Meeting of the Oregon Academy of Science
  • Annual Meeting of AAAS Pacific Division
  • Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics (CLEO)
    The Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics (CLEO) is the premier international forum for scientific and technical optics.
  • SPIE annual meeting
    SPIE's annual meeting is the best opportunity to connect face-to-face for discussions about optical engineering and applications, nanotechnology, quantum science, and organic photonics.
  • Frontiers in Optics

American Physical Society

The APS is your professional society. It publishes journals and periodicals of interest (Physics Today for free!), holds conferences, advocates for the health of physics and is concerned with education and scientific literacy. The forum on Graduate Student Affairs (FGSA) is specifically concerned with issues of importance to graduate students. Student membership is cheap.

Jobs and job searches

Professional science societies have excellent websites that have job postings and networking, resume-writing and other useful information.

Physics students running a booth at Family Science Night

Physics students volunteering at Family Science Night. Family Science Nights have been a yearly staple in area schools for over a decade, bringing hands-on science directly to schools.


Outreach — informing and educating the broader community about physics and science — is an important part of a career in physics. Graduate students can be instructors in OSU's middle school TAG program Adventures in Learning, and the SMILE science program for underrepresented students in grades 4-12. Each year, physics runs the Beaver Open House to introduce prospective undergraduates to OSU physics and participates in Discovery Days, a pre-college outreach program.

Physicists for Inclusion in Science

The Physicists for Inclusion in Science group ("PhIS," pronounced "fizz") provides a networking opportunity, and a forum to discuss issues of importance to under-represented groups. The group meets several times a term for discussion and to organize events and activities. The group consists of students, faculty and staff in the physics department, alumni and other physicists on campus or in the community.