Sept 15, 2008
Definition: a member of the physics department (“insider”) is someone who is entitled to vote at physics faculty meetings. Others, including Barnard faculty, are “outsiders”.
(1) It is the responsibility of the student to identify a thesis advisor who agrees to supervise
the thesis research and who agrees to support the student for the duration of the Ph.D.
(2) A student may do a thesis with an advisor who is not a member of the physics
department, if (a) the Director of Graduate Studies approves and (b) the student also
identifies a Departmental Sponsor: a member of the physics department who agrees to
take responsibility for ensuring that the student is making adequate progress and that the
thesis has sufficient physics content.
a. A student whose thesis is supervised by a member of the physics department is required to undergo one examination, the ‘University defense’. This examination is conducted by a committee consisting of 5 people—three members of the Physics Department, including at least one experimentalist and one theorist, andtwo “outsiders” who are not members of the Physics Department. All five members of the University defense committee vote on the outcome.
b. A student whose thesis is supervised by someone who is not a member of the Physics Department is required to have two examinations: a ‘Departmental defense’ followed a ‘University defense’. The Departmental defense is conducted by a committee of 4 people—the external advisor and three members of the Physics Department, including at least one experimentalist and one theorist. The thesis advisor does not vote on the outcome of the Departmental defense. The ‘University defense’ is held at least 2 weeks after the Departmental defense. It is conducted by a committee of 5 people —the three department members whoconducted the Departmental defense, the advisor, and one additional “outsider”. All five members of the University defense committee vote on the outcome.
c. The thesis defense is not public. GSAS regulations state “only the candidate and the approved members of the dissertation defense committee may be present during the defense. Columbia University policy never allows spectators or other individuals to attend a defense. There are no exceptions to this rule”.
(4) Thesis committees are appointed by the Director of Graduate Studies in consultation with the advisor and Departmental Sponsor. The candidate shall not be involved in selecting the thesis committee. Normally the Departmental members will be experts in the subfield of physics in which the thesis is done. The outsiders will typically be members of other departments in the University, although non-Columbia outsiders may be considered in special cases. We discourage the appointment of outside members who are collaborators on the thesis research but are not the thesis advisor. The Department office is available to help schedule the defense.
(5) The thesis should be submitted three weeks in advance of the first defense. The Departmental members of the committee are expected to read and comment on the thesis and may if necessary require changes in the thesis before the University Defense takes place. The Chair of the thesis committee may postpone or cancel the University defense if in the judgment of the committee the thesis is inadequate or in need of major revision.