There are numerous graduate teaching and research assistantships available to graduate students in physics. Entering graduate students are usually awarded teaching assistantships; they aid in recitations and laboratories, help grade homework, quizzes and examinations, confer individually with students in their classes who are having trouble, and perform other departmental duties. All assistants must spend approximately twenty hours per week on their assigned duties. Students interested in teaching as a career can arrange to have a broad variety of teaching experiences during their careers as teaching assistants.
Teaching assistantships are awarded for at most one year at a time. Because their number is limited, competition for them can be considerable. The Assistantship Committee regularly reviews assistants' records for renewal consideration. In addition to satisfactory performance in their teaching responsibilities, assistants are expected to show satisfactory academic progress appropriate to their level of study. During the first year or two of graduate study this is normally measured by course grades, and the assistant wishing a renewal is required to enroll each semester for at least six credits of work leading to his or her degree under the Regular (A through F) grading option. A more advanced student may demonstrate satisfactory progress by passing the Qualifying Examination, or by beginning dissertation research. Failure to show good progress may result in loss of the assistantship. Likewise, failure to perform the teaching functions satisfactorily may result in loss of the assistantship.
First priority in the assigning of teaching assistantship positions is to new students and others who have not yet passed the Qualifying Examination but are otherwise making satisfactory progress. For students with satisfactory teaching records who have passed the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination, the Department will try to provide a teaching assistantship for one or two semesters, during which it is assumed the student is actively looking for a research advisor. It is occasionally possible for a thesis student to be supported by a teaching assistantship, but only after full discussion with the Assistantship Committee. Assistantships for such students are very limited in number.
Students who have decided upon their fields of research are usually considered for research assistantships. These assistantships are supported by research contracts and are contingent on the availability of research funds. Students on research assistantships generally spend part or all of their research time on their own thesis research.
A limited number of fellowships are available to outstanding students. Students who apply for assistantships will automatically be considered for these fellowships. Well-qualified students are also encouraged to apply directly for the many non-university fellowships sponsored by such agencies as the National Science Foundation.