Student and professor in class playing with fire


Set yourself apart with an advanced degree in physics. You'll conduct active research, work one-on-one with faculty, and study the world at its most fundamental levels.   

Advance Your Career in Physics

An advanced degree in physics builds upon and enhances your knowledge of the field in various ways. At USD, you'll explore individualized research interests, develop your mathematical problem-solving and critical thinking skills, and learn how to analyze data and clearly communicate complex ideas.

Whether you choose a thesis or non-thesis track, you'll become prepared for a future in academia, industry and at national labs. All graduate students can fully engage in a wide range of research, through large collaborations such as COHERENT, DUNE, LEGEND, MINER, PIRE-GEMADARC and SuperCDMS from data analysis and analytics to detector development to simulation. As part of that process, you'll work hands-on in research areas germane to the needs of the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF), such as nuclear/particle physics, double beta-decay, dark matter searches and gravitational wave detection experiments, and more. The interdisciplinary curriculum and small class sizes help establish relationships with your peers and professors that empower you to be successful.

Degrees & Offerings

Physics (M.S.)

  Vermillion Main Campus

The master of science in physics is a 32-credit-hour program which prepares you for a variety of career paths, including further study leading to the Ph.D. program. Students should expect the completion of an M.S. degree to take two academic years of full-time study. Choose from a thesis or non-thesis track which is an option for students who do not require Ph.D. preparation to be successful in their careers.

View Admissions Requirements

Physics: Analytics for Large Data Sets (M.S.)

  Vermillion Main Campus

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, data analyst jobs will see a 20% growth from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than average. USD's specialization in large data and analytics prepares students for a wider range of job opportunities by taking 15 credit hours of elective courses across three different departments which may include data mining, machine learning, database management, applied statistics and analytics programming.

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Physics: Analytics for Large Data Sets (B.S./M.S.)

Accelerated Program
  Vermillion Main Campus

If you are a current USD undergraduate student who would like to begin a master's degree while completing your bachelor's degree, you may apply and begin the program after completion of 90 undergraduate credit hours.

View Admissions Requirements

Physics (Ph.D)

  Vermillion Main Campus

If you love physics and gain great enjoyment from researching the unknown, then a Ph.D. is for you. It will open doors and give you the credentials to conduct independent active research or pursue a career as a professor at a university. Physics grads are invaluable in industries dealing with nuclear energy, electronics, communications, aerospace, medical instrumentation and more.

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Program Details





Graduate Admissions

Known for Excellence

With qualities like small class sizes, specialized programs and incredible student opportunities, USD is not your typical university. What makes us unique is what makes your education exceptional.


As a student at USD, the opportunities available to you extend beyond the classroom. Explore your interests, find your community and experience your education to the fullest extent through the following opportunities.

An Affordable Education

Gain valuable real-world, professional experience while enjoying paid employment and discounted tuition rates as a graduate student at USD. The affordability you gain through graduate assistantships and fellowships will equip you with valuable, professional-level skills that will set you apart after graduation. 

Teaching and research assistantships are awarded by individual departments. If you do not receive an assistantship within your department, you are eligible for an assistantship outside of your academic program or within support offices (non-academic units) at USD. Further inquiries should be directed to the graduate director of the department.

Learn More

You'll find the mentorship and opportunities you need to study topics that spark your curiosity. Some of our recent master's graduates in the physics program have crafted their degree plans around the following research areas:

  • EXO-200 and nEXO collaboration with Waster Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico
  • The existence of a lepton violating process and effective Majorana neutrino mass
  • The construction of a large two-phase liquid/gas xenon dark matter detector and water shield in the Sanford Deep Underground Laboratory at the Homestake Mine in South Dakota
  • Exploiting the unique properties of liquid argon and neon as a scintillator
  • Super CDMS - a dark matter search experiment in Soudan Underground Laboratory
  • Ultra-high purity germanium crystals are grown at USD for ultra-low background experiments
  • Our group is leading an effort to grow ultra-pure Ge crystals

At USD, our graduate students are actively pursuing unique research and presenting at local and national conferences and collaboration with researchers at other universities and national laboratories. Additional research and grant opportunities include:

Graduate Research

USD is home to more than 170 student organizations, including several that are housed in the Department of Physics. You may be interested in engaging internally through Physics Club, departmental events, and colloquium to make friends, develop new skills and explore your interests.

Physics Club

The Physics Club is USD's chapter of the Society for Physics Students and sponsors guest speakers, social events, a physics fair and astronomy skywatching. The club meets monthly and is open to all students with an interest in physics or astronomy. The club assists with the Science Olympiad each spring, and usually sponsors a physics fair in conjunction with the event.

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Graduate & Professional Student Association (GPSA)

Join your fellow graduate and professional students at USD. We aim to build a sense of community between graduate and professional students. Build your resume, network with others and gain experience and the unique opportunity to represent the interests of graduate students to the greater campus and community.

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Departments & Facilities

Our faculty are internationally recognized scholars and actively pursue grants and collaborations across the nation. We aim to develop relevant skills so that our graduates are highly marketable.
Two Students in a Physics Lab.


Physics at USD is a community of faculty and students dedicated to excellent teaching and to performing research at the forefront of the field, including the search for dark matter.

Faculty & Staff

Get to know the faculty and staff in your department. We're here to provide mentorship, expert instruction and an academic community for you and your peers.
Bio Image for Faculty Member Yongchen Sun

Yongchen Sun

Bio Image for Faculty Member Jing Liu

Jing Liu

Associate Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Dongming Mei

Dongming Mei



Visionary Physicist with Expertise
Bio Image for Faculty Member Joel Sander

Joel Sander

Coordinator-Graduate Programs, Associate Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member James Tracy

James Tracy Jr



Physics & physics instruction
Bio Image for Faculty Member Xiaoyi Yang

Xiaoyi Yang

Adjunct Instructor
Students doing research in a lab.

Participate in International Experiments

Successful students closely engage world-recognized experts from other institutions who often participate as members of student thesis committees. We are actively involved in several  major International experiments as well as leading several local R&D important experiments. We practice experimental nuclear physics, background measurements, simulations, material science and more.

Current Student Research
Student Gaining Hands-On Experience Working With a Patient Inside a Clinic.

Competitive Graduate Assistantships

Increase affordability and minimize student loan debt and apply early for a graduate assistantship. Graduate assistantships are available ($18,000-$30,000) on a competitive basis. All Ph.D. students are required to serve as teaching assistants for a minimum of two semesters, although teaching opportunities may be available to M.S. students as well.

Learn More About Applying

Surprisingly Affordable

Whether you’ve recently completed your undergraduate degree, or you want to kick your career up a notch, graduate school is the next logical step. The good news is there is funding for both online and on-campus students to get you through your program. 
GA (Resident*)
Tuition (1 cr.)
GAF Fee (1 cr.)

More About Tuition & Fees

Tuition rates are subject to change and may vary depending on the program or department. Visit the Graduate Tuition & Costs page for more information.

* Graduate Assistant (GA) rates are available for resident, non-resident and online students.

** Resident rates may be available to you through the SD Advantage, Child of Alumni or Western Regional Graduate Program. To see if you quality, visit

hear from a usd student

Success story Nathan Saunders smiling.
Since I did my undergraduate degree at USD, I was able to take advantage of the accelerated master’s program in physics. I had excellent opportunities to collaborate and lead research projects with professors over the summer.

Nathan Saunders

Accelerated M.S. in Physics (B.S./M.S.)
Sioux City, Iowa

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