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 over 40% 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

Physics doctoral student champions nuclear energy through startup company

Nirupama Sensharma, who plans to graduate in 2021 with her doctoral degree in physics from the University of Notre Dame, is passionate about nuclear science and wants to make sure the public understands the benefits of deriving energy from nuclear power. Her message: Be not afraid.

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Physics graduate student recognized with 2020 CRC Award for Computational Science and Visualization

The Department of Physics is proud to announce that graduate student Trevor Sprouse has been recognized with a 2020 Center for Research Computing (CRC) Award for Computational Sciences and Visualization. This award recognizes outstanding contributions in the areas of computational sciences and visualization. Such contributions may include, but are not limited to: 1) applications of high performance computation and/or visualization technology; 2) development of algorithms, codes, software environments or other tools for better using high performance computing and/or visualization.…

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2020 Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Awards announced

Kaneb Logo

Physics graduate students Saurabh Bansal (advised by Prof. Chris Kolda) and Orlando Gomez (advised by Prof. Anna Simon) are the recipients of 2020 Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Awards from the Kaneb Center. 

This award was created in 1999 to recognize graduate student instructors and TAs who demonstrate commitment to exceptional teaching in lectures, seminars, labs, and across the academic profession. The Graduate School and the Kaneb Center for Teaching and Learning present the award annually to TAs that are nominated by their departments. There were fourteen awards given to TAs in the College of Science. The award consists of a certificate from the Kaneb Center and Graduate School, a letter documenting the award for the graduate student’s file, and a $100 honorarium from the Kaneb Center.…

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Physics graduate student Nirupama Sensharma works to create nuclear energy awareness

Nucl Energy

Nuclear Energy - The Better Energy is an initiative to promote knowledge and awareness about the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Physics PhD student Nirupama Sensharma’s vision in developing 'Nuclear Energy - The Better Energy' is to bridge the gap between her research as a nuclear scientist and her responsibilities towards society. She says that spreading awareness is the only way to counter the fear and stigma associated with nuclear energy. In the present age of technology, society is constantly evolving and moving towards advancement. To fight the current climate crisis, Sensharma explains that there is a need to reduce carbon emissions and find a way to progress using sustainable resources. She believes that embracing nuclear energy is the step that will take society closer to a safer environment.…

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Holmbeck wins award at the Nuclear Physics in Astrophysics Conference (NPA-IX)

Npa Ix Holmbeck

Erika Holmbeck, fifth-year graduate student in the Theoretical Nuclear Astrophysics and Galactic Archaeology groups of Professors Rebecca Surman and Timothy Beers, won the “Best Poster Award” for her work on Characterizing r-Process Sites Through Actinide Production

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Physics doctoral student receives NASA grant to study galaxy evolution

Michelle Berg

The third time was the charm to receive a highly competitive grant for Michelle Berg, a doctoral student in astrophysics at the University of Notre Dame, who this year landed a NASA grant to study the role of gas in shaping galaxies.

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Huestis Selected for DOE Graduate Student Research Award

(From the web page)

Huestis Landscape

Patricia Huestis, a collaborator in the Interfacial Dynamics in Radioactive Environments and Materials (IDREAM

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Elite group of students selected to advance research in energy at Notre Dame

The Center for Sustainable Energy at Notre Dame (ND Energy) has selected 11 students to receive 2019 fellowships in energy research at the University of Notre Dame. Awards are granted to students who demonstrate high academic achievement and have a profound interest in addressing the most critical energy challenges facing the world today. Research projects are submitted in collaboration with ND Energy affiliated faculty with project goals focused on supporting the mission to advance energy-related research at Notre Dame. Students use their awards for stipends, laboratory supplies, and travel to present their research results at a national conference. Funding for these competitive awards is made possible through the generosity of University alumni and their families.…

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Reingold spends summer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Reingold Cropped

Craig Reingold, fourth-year graduate student in the Nuclear Science Laboratory working with the group of Prof. Anna Simon, spent ten weeks in summer 2018 at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. He joined the Academic Cooperation Program at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory which hosts up to 800 undergraduate and graduate students each year. The program is designed to encourage external collaborations with LLNL. His stay at LLNL was also partially funded by CENTAUR: Center for Excellence in Nuclear Training and University-based Research. CENTAUR is a five-year grant from National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) that is focused on training the next generation of nuclear physics

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Gomez receives Nuclear Forensics Summer Internship at LLNL

Gomez Orlando

Orlando Gomez, a third-year graduate student working in the Nuclear Science Laboratory with Prof. Anna Simon, received the Glenn T. Seaborg Institute at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory "Nuclear Forensics Summer Internship". The internship provides a stipend and travel cost reimbursement for a graduate student who is then paired with an LLNL scientist for a two-month program. The student joins the research group at LLNL and works on a project directly related to the efforts of the group.…

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