UNC Charlotte | Graduate Programs in Optical Science and Engineering

Ph.D. Optical Science and Engineering

Degree Requirements

The degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Optical Science and Engineering is awarded for completion of scholarly research that advances the knowledge base in the field and is demonstrated by a successful dissertation defense. Additionally, recipients of this degree should demonstrate mastery of relevant subject matter and a potential for success in future research and teaching.

The minimum requirement for the Ph.D. degree in Optical Science and Engineering is 72 credit hours beyond the baccalaureate degree.

Each candidate for the Ph.D. degree in Optical Science and Engineering must complete the following:

  • Present evidence of competency in the core curriculum by successfully completing 18 of 21 credit hours of core courses with a grade of B or above in each course
  • Complete a minimum of 9 credit hours of elective courses having an OPTI prefix in addition to the core curriculum
  • Complete 1 credit hour of OPTI 8610 Seminar during the fall of the first academic year in the program
  • Complete 1 credit hour of OPTI 8611 Graduate Colloquium during the spring of the first academic year in the program and complete 1 credit hour of OPTI 8611 Graduate Colloquium each subsequent academic year in the program
  • Complete a minimum of 24 credit hours of OPTI 8991 Dissertation Research
  • The remaining credit hours may be dissertation research credits, elective courses or a combination
  • Successfully complete the written and oral qualifying examination
  • Select a dissertation advisor and form an advisory committee
  • Prepare a plan of study detailing how you intend to satisfy the 72 credit hour requirement
  • Successfully submit a Ph.D. research proposal
  • Successfully defend the Ph.D. dissertation

Electives must be approved by the academic advisor and may include courses having a prefix of OPTI, PHYS, ECGR, MEGR, and NANO. Other courses may be considered. PhD Students should enroll in 8000-level courses when possible.

A student in the Ph.D. program must maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 in all coursework attempted for the degree.  An accumulation of two C grades will result in suspension from the program.  A grade of U earned in any course will result in suspension from the program.  An accumulation of three C grades or two U grades will result in termination from the program.

Core Curriculum

All graduates of the program must demonstrate competency in the core curriculum.  Students may do so by completing 18 of the 21 available credit hours of core courses with a grade of B or above in each course.  The course makeup of the 18 credit hours, changing the course makeup, or withdrawing from a core course must be approved by the academic advisor or program director.  Competency is typically demonstrated by the end of the 3rd semester in the program.  With program director approval, students may demonstrate competency by passing a core competency exam.  Credit hours that would have been earned if the student had taken the course may be replaced by dissertation research or an approved elective.

Core Courses


OPTI 8101      Mathematical Methods of Optical Science and Engineering (3)
OPTI 8102      Principles of Geometrical Optics (3)
OPTI 8102L    Geometrical Optics Lab (1)
OPTI 8105      Optical Properties of Materials (3)


OPTI 8103      Light Sources and Detectors (3)
OPTI 8104      Electromagnetic Waves (3)
OPTI 8106      Principles of Physical Optics (3)
OPTI 8106L    Physical Optics Lab (2)

Responsible Conduct of Research

UNC Charlotte is committed to ensuring that doctoral students understand their obligations as researchers.  All first year doctoral students in science, math, engineering or technology are required to enroll in GRAD 8002 - Responsible Conduct of Research.  This two credit course prepares students for a range of research related issues.  Class times to be announced.

Qualifying Exam

Ph.D. students will participate in a written and oral qualifying examination administered by the optics faculty no later than the semester following the successful demonstration of competency in the core curriculum.  If a student fails the qualifying examination, it may be retaken once.  If a student fails the exam a second time, the student’s enrollment in the Ph.D. program will be terminated.

Dissertation Advisor and Advisory Committee

Each student in the program must have a dissertation advisor and an advisory committee. The student should select the advisor before the end of the second year of residency.  The student and advisor determine the committee by agreement.  The advisor serves as chair of the committee and must be a member of the Optics Faculty and a regular member of the Graduate Faculty at UNC Charlotte. The Dean of the Graduate School will appoint a committee member to serve as the Graduate Faculty Representative.  The committee must have at least 4 members, one of whom is the chair and one of whom is the Graduate Faculty Representative. All members of the committee must be members of the Graduate Faculty and a majority must be members of the Optics Faculty. Composition of the advisory committee must be approved by the Optics Program Director and the Dean of the Graduate School.

Plan of Study

All students should prepare a plan of study before the end of their fourth semester following admission to the program.  The plan of study shows in detail how the student intends to meet the degree requirements. The plan of study must be approved by the advisory committee and the optics program director.

Research Proposal

After successful demonstration of competency in the core curriculum and approval of the plan of study, the student will prepare a written research proposal and present an oral defense of the proposal to their advisory committee. This should be completed within three years following admission to the program. The research proposal, also called the dissertation topic proposal, must be approved by the advisory committee. The research proposal demonstrates the student’s knowledge of the relevant literature and the specific research problems and methods of study that, if successfully completed, will lead to an acceptable dissertation.


Each student will complete a minimum of 24 credit hours of dissertation research. The student must submit a written dissertation for final review to the advisory committee three weeks before the defense date. The student must defend the dissertation before the advisory committee at a presentation which is open to the university community. Upon approval of the written dissertation and oral presentation by the advisory committee, the student has successfully completed the dissertation requirement. The dissertation must be written using a format acceptable to the Graduate School.

Residency Requirement

The student must satisfy the residence requirement for the program by completing 20 credit hours of continuous enrollment in coursework/dissertation credit. Residence is considered continuous if the student is enrolled in one or more courses in successive semesters until 20 credit hours are earned.

Transfer Credit Accepted

Up to 30 credit hours of approved coursework may be transferred from other accredited master’s and/or doctoral programs. Only courses in which the student earned a grade of B or above (or its equivalent) can be transferred. No more than 6 credit hours of approved coursework taken as a post-baccalaureate student may be applied toward the degree. Credit for dissertation research cannot be transferred.


Support for beginning graduate students is usually a teaching assistantship.  Continuing students are usually supported by research assistantships.

Application for Degree

Students should submit an Application for Degree at the beginning of the term in which they anticipate defending their dissertation.  Adherence to Graduate School deadlines is expected.  Degree requirements are completed when students successfully defend their dissertation and file the final copy of the dissertation in the Graduate School.