University of Notre Dame
Physics Graduate Program

Our graduate students are an indispensable part of the Notre Dame Department of Physics, contributing to and energizing research in experimental and theoretical physics from a wide range of areas. During a typical year, approximately 100 graduate students collaborate with the 60 faculty members, and 20 post-doctoral researchers who make up the department.

All admitted students receive full tuition support and a stipend. Beginning doctoral students typically work as teaching assistants (about 15 hours per week) during the academic year. During the summer most students hold research assistantships. The majority of advanced students work as research assistants funded by external research grants. Applicants with strong academic records are automatically considered for fellowships.

The APS cites the Notre Dame Department of Physics as a female-friendly physics department with approximately 30% female graduate students.

The Notre Dame Difference:

Notre Dame offers the research opportunities of a large university coupled with the environment of a smaller, private university. The Notre Dame Department of Physics prides itself on its collaborative and supportive environment.

Areas of Study




From the detection of exoplanets orbiting other stars, to unlocking the secrets of dark matter and dark energy, Notre Dame astrophysicists are working to answer some of the most fundamental questions about how the universe operates. Our faculty have been recognized for co-discovering the acceleration of the universe's expansion (dark energy), the oldest known star in the galaxy (HE 1523-0901), and the first earth-like planet in a star's habitable zone (Kepler-186f). They make use of the Hubble Space Telescope, participate in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, and are partners in the Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona, the largest and most advanced telescope in the world. Research at Notre Dame includes work on a wide variety of both theoretical and observational projects, including: studies of the big bang, extra dimensions, the origin of galaxies, stellar evolution, supernovae explosions, black holes, neutron stars, brown dwarfs, circumstellar disks, and many other topics.  We are a world leader in the field of nuclear astrophysics, studying the processes inside stars that produced the elements that we see around us. And we are fast becoming a leader in the new field of "galactic archaeology" in which astronomers use the oldest known stars to probe conditions soon after the Big Bang. Notre Dame has also recently developed an experimental astrophysics lab to build cutting-edge instruments for telescopes that operate at visible and near infrared wavelengths, and that will allow for unprecedented accuracy in detecting and studying earth-like exoplanets.





Atomic physics at Notre Dame focuses on the study of fundamental physical laws in atomic systems. Work involves precision atomic theory and measurements that are motivated by the study of parity non-conservation, fundamental symmetries, and the determination of fundamental constants. Experimental work provides tests of atomic structure calculations in many electron systems. Stabilized diode, Ti-sapphire, and dye lasers are used for making precision measurements of transition strengths, optical frequencies, and energy splittings. Precision spectroscopy is also applied to multiple areas of interdisciplinary research, such as quantum optics, nanoparticle analysis, and the detection of DNA and cancer. Atomic theory at Notre Dame centers on quantum electrodynamics, the modern theory of the interaction of charged relativistic particles with the electromagnetic field. Present research is investigating how this theory applies to quarks in the proton.





Our expanding research in biophysics involves experimental and theoretical effort geared toward understanding how biology works at the molecular level. The biophysics group comprises faculty from the Physics, Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Applied Mathematics departments. We study the geometry, electronic structure, and interactions of such biological systems as DNA, proteins, bacteria, viruses, and liposomes. In order to tackle these challenges our laboratories are equipped with state-of-the-art instrumentation for laser transmission spectroscopy, photoelectron spectroscopy, and nuclear magnetic resonance. In theoretical biophysics, mathematical and computational tools are applied to bio-complexity problems, including the development of new techniques for early detection of cancer and its treatment, in collaboration with the Harper Cancer Research Institute at Notre Dame.


Modern network science was born at Notre Dame with the invention of scale-free (or power-law) networks and the discovery that they were ubiquitous in both natural and man-made systems. Our group continues to work in complex networks, studying the many-body behavior of physical and biological systems in which disorder and strong interactions play an important role. Examples include disordered solids, social and biological networks, population genetics and evolution, inverse problems, reliability theory, swarms and active matter, and various foundational questions in quantum many-body theory. This research is driven by three fundamental questions: (1) Universality: To what extent do microscopic laws uniquely determine macroscopic behavior? (2) Statistics: How should microscopic laws be transformed to give macroscopic ones? (3) Inversion: Can microscopic laws be determined from macroscopic observations? The work is highly interdisciplinary, involving collaborations with applied mathematicians, biologists, engineers and computer scientists, and is funded by the NSF, NIH and DARPA.





In our experimental condensed matter program, students and faculty fabricate nanoscale materials (such as self-assembled quantum dots and nanowires) and study them using facilities on campus and at national laboratories. New materials investigated also include wide-bandgap hetero-structures and ferromagnetic semiconductors with possible spintronic applications. Graphene, topological insulators, and other low-dimensional systems are studied for fundamental electronic properties. Scanning tunneling microscope (STM) spectroscopy and small-angle neutron scattering are used to explore the structure and dynamics of magnetic vortices in superconductors. At even smaller length scales, researchers manipulate individual atoms on surfaces using an STM to study quasicrystals and organic superconductors. The resulting artificially engineered atomic structures are used to investigate fundamental properties of quantum electronic systems. Interdisciplinary research involves collaborations with chemists, biologists, and electrical, chemical, and environmental engineers. Theorists work on topics including the interaction of superconductors with magnetic materials, superconducting mesoscopic devices, and theoretical underpinnings of electrostatic behavior in molecular dynamics simulations.





Researchers in elementary particle physics at Notre Dame play major roles in the CMS experiment at the CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC), leading major instrumentation, computing and analysis efforts. The goal of the LHC program is the elucidation of the fundamental laws of nature, including electroweak symmetry breaking, the generation of particle mass, CP violation, and the hierarchy problem. In 2012, the Notre Dame team played a key role in the discovery of the Higgs boson at the LHC, and is now embarking on the measurement of the coupling between the Higgs boson the top quark, as well as major detector upgrades. Notre Dame also participates in the DUNE neutrino oscillation experiment at Fermilab and the Sanford Underground Research Facility in South Dakota, hoping to elucidate the mass hierarchy among the neutrinos and their CP-violating phases. The theoretical efforts at Notre Dame focus on physics beyond the standard model, including how signals of novel particles or phenomena would manifest at the LHC, flavor physics and CP violation, dark matter, and cosmology.





The Nuclear Science Laboratory at Notre Dame is the oldest, continuously operating nuclear accelerator lab at any US university, and its program is ranked among the strongest in the nation. Our research is built around a broad program in experimental and theoretical low energy nuclear physics, including nuclear astrophysics, nuclear structure, nuclear reactions with radioactive ion beams, and accelerator mass spectroscopy. The group emphasizes the participation of students in every aspect of the research program, while the laboratory, with its three accelerators and recently-installed next-generation mass separator, provides an extensive and invaluable hands-on experience. Experiments are conducted at Notre Dame and at facilities worldwide, and are complemented by a theoretical program that includes modeling efforts in nuclear structure and nucleosynthesis and the use of supercomputing to explore the physics of light nuclei. Notre Dame is a founding member of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics, one of only ten NSF-funded Physics Frontier Centers in the nation, and continually hosts visiting researchers from around the world who come to collaborate with our group and to use our facilities. 


Shari Herman
Graduate Program Coordinator

Student Spotlight

Astrophysics graduate students witness first-ever detected neutron star collision

Whitten And Rasmussen 250

Third-year physics graduate students Kaitlin Rasmussen and Devin Whitten were settling into their observation work in August on the 2.5-meter Irénée du Pont Telescope atop a rocky mountain in Las Campanas, Chile, scouring for a type of star enhanced by a set of reactions called the rapid-neutron capture process, or r-process. What they witnessed instead is being described as one of the most significant discoveries in astrophysics.

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Graduate student Kevin Howard awarded JSPS Summer 2017 Fellowship

Howard Kevin Summer2017 For Web Site Small

Physics graduate student Kevin Howard has been awarded a fellowship from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS). This summer Mr. Howard will be working with Prof. Shinsuke Ota at the Center for Nuclear Study at the University of Tokyo, and Dr. Tomohiro Uesaka, a Chief Scientist at the Spin Isospin Laboratory at the RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerator-Based Science.

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Sensharma selected to NSF sponsored training program in Reilly Center

Nuclear graduate student, Nirupama Sensharma has been selected to the 2017 cohort of the NSF-sponsored training program Social Responsibilities of Researchers (SRR) in the Reilly Center.

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Physics graduate student attends 2016 Lindau Nobel Laurete meeting

Allison Cern

Notre Dame physics graduate student Allison Reinsvold Hall has been selected to attend the 66th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, an opportunity for young researchers and Nobel laureates to inform and inspire each other.

The annual meetings are held on the island town of Lindau, on Lake Constance in southeastern Germany. They focus alternately on chemistry, physics, and physiology, and began in 1951 with a meeting of seven laureates and around 400 physicians. Its attendees include 400 young scientists from 80 countries and 29 laureates from years ranging from 1973 to 2015. Laureates are invited to lecture and lead discussions on topics of their choosing, with themes ranging from the retrospective to the speculative.…

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Warren named 2016 Shaheen Award Recipient

MacKenzie Warren, PhD, has been selected as a recipient of the 2016 Shaheen Award.

About the award: The highest honor bestowed on Notre Dame graduate students, the The Eli J. and Helen Shaheen Awards were established in 1990 and are named for two long-time benefactors of the University. They recognize the superior academic achievements of a graduating student in each of the four divisions of the Graduate School—Engineering, the Humanities, Science, and the Social Sciences. Nominated by their departments, Shaheen Award winners are chosen for their superior ability as exhibited by grades, research, and publication records, fellowships, and other awards received during the course of study at Notre Dame, as well as teaching ability.…

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Anthony Ruth receives NASA Fellowship


Department of Physics Graduate Student Anthony Ruth has been selected as a recipient of the 2015 NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship (NSTRF15). His application was titled “Hybrid Van Der Waals Materials in Next-Generation Electronics.”

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Notre Dame network physicists create model to predict traffic patterns


Researchers at the University of Notre Dame have designed a simple, yet highly accurate traffic prediction model for roadway transportation networks. They have recently published their work in the journal Nature Communications

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Army veteran Luis Morales honored by NSF in Washington, D.C.

Luis Morales

Physics graduate student and U.S. Army veteran Luis Morales is one of 11 military veterans who was honored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) with Graduate Research Fellowships on November 5, 2014 in Washington, D.C. During the official visit to the NSF headquarters, the group was recognized with a formal ceremony highlighting veterans and their contributions science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. The 11 fellows will also participate in a poster session to discuss their research and personal motivations in pursuing graduate school in their field of interest.

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Ayangeakaa named 2014 Shaheen Award Recipient

Akaa (Daniel) Ayangeakaa, PhD, has been selected as a recipient of the 2014 Shaheen Award.

The highest honor bestowed on Notre Dame graduate students, the The Eli J. and Helen Shaheen Awards were established in 1990 and are named for two long-time benefactors of the University. They recognize the superior academic achievements of a graduating student in each of the four divisions of the Graduate School—Engineering, the Humanities, Science, and the Social Sciences. Nominated by their departments, Shaheen Award winners are chosen for their superior ability as exhibited by grades, research, and publication records, fellowships, and other awards received during the course of study at Notre Dame, as well as teaching ability.…

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Graduate Student Spotlight: Stephanie Lyons


Physics graduate student Stephanie Lyons cannot remember a time in which she was not interested in the scientific world. Her first love — all the way back in the second grade — was the teeming world of insects. Now, though, rather than looking down, her gaze is focused upwards: on the stars.…

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