After selecting a general field of research, each doctoral student must find a faculty researcher in that field to supervise his or her dissertation research. This is usually arranged after the completion of the preliminary examination and generally no later than the end of the second year of graduate study. To that end, first year graduate students are encouraged to enroll in a seminar course, Physics 251 (Introduction to Graduate Research) where research supervisors present current research opportunities in their fields and attend the annual poster session in the fall.
Research is a major part of the Ph.D. program and the Department offers opportunities in a wide variety of experimental and theoretical fields. Campus research includes atomic physics and spectroscopy, astrophysics, biophysics, cosmic rays, mass spectroscopy, nonlinear optics, condensed matter physics and statistical mechanics. At LBNL extensive opportunities exist for research in elementary particle and nuclear physics, condensed matter physics and materials sciences, in plasma physics, and on energy and environmental problems. Space physics, interplanetary studies, solar plasma research, physics of the upper atmosphere, and cosmological problems are pursued both in the Department and at the Space Sciences Laboratory (SSL).