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Department of Physics

  Assessment Plan

Assessment of the efficacy for our graduate program is based upon 4 types of data.  (1) Candidacy exam results (PhD only); (2) Thesis/dissertation defense results; (3) time to degree completion; (4) satisfactory post-graduate employment.  These measure the efficacy of the program in meeting the student learning objectives as described below.

The assessment data are evaluated by the faculty as a whole during the annual Faculty Retreat; action items are created as appropriate.

Assessment tools

(1) Candidacy Exam

The candidacy exam takes place shortly after the student has completed the required coursework.  It is designed to measure whether the coursework part of the program (along with any faculty mentoring) has provided an adequate foundation in the learning objectives to begin a detailed research project for the thesis/dissertation.  The exam has a written and an oral component.  The exam is administered and evaluated by the faculty as a whole.  The evaluation process has each faculty member using a rubric to evaluate progress toward attainment of learning objectives.

The required graduate curriculum, which is taken in the first two years, is designed to provide a sound foundation in the fundamentals of physics theory and phenomenology, preparing the student to proceed with self-education, research, and teaching, irrespective of the ultimate specialization which occurs in thesis/dissertation work.  The small class size (typically 5-10) and extensive homework and/or testing which occur in all classes give the instructor detailed information on the student's assimilation/mastery of the material.  

(2)Thesis/dissertation defense

This is the capstone experience for the degree.  It involves a written document containing new results in physics obtained by the student. It involves an oral examination pertaining to these results.  The student's advisory committee administers the defense.  They use a rubric to
to evaluate attainment of learning objectives.

(3)Time to Completion

This is the time needed to complete the degree.  If this is significantly longer than the national average (currently 2.5 years for MS and 6.5 years for PhD) then action should be taken to streamline the program.

(4) Post--graduate employment

This data can be difficult to collect, but insofar as possible the department will track the initial career trajectory of its graduates to see if satisfactory employment was obtained.