The department will endeavor to provide financial support, contingent on state and federal funding, to Ph.D. students who are making satisfactory progress in their course work and research. Adequate resources have enabled us to offer full financial support to all students making satisfactory progress toward their degrees. Satisfactory progress is determined by the Graduate Studies Committee, and is measured in different ways, depending on the student's standing in the program:
- For students who have not passed the qualifying examination, satisfactory progress consists of achieving at least a B (3.0/4.0) average in course work and satisfactory teaching (or, if appropriate, research) evaluations. A student who does not achieve a B average in any given semester will be placed on probation. A student can be removed from probationary status by achieving a B average (not including research credits) in the following semester. While on probationary status a student may have summer support withheld. If the student is taking the qualifying exam for the first time in August while on probation the student must present a performance adequate to warrant awarding the M.S. degree upon completion of the core curriculum as determined by the faculty to have support for the fall semester; if taking the second attempt in January while on probation, the student must pass to have support for the spring semester. (If the student is taking the qualifying exam for the first time in January this will be modified accordingly.)
- Regardless of performance in the courses, if a student does not pass the qualifying exam after two attempts the student will be placed on probation. If the student chooses to appeal to the Graduate Studies Committee for a third attempt, then support may be withheld in the interim.
- For all students with teaching assistantships: teaching evaluations will be collected both from the students and from the faculty instructor. Satisfactory evaluations of teaching are necessary for continued support as a teaching assistant.
- Research students will be evaluated annually as described here.
- Students in good standing who decide to terminate their study at the master's degree will ordinarily have their support discontinued. Students may petition the graduate committee to have their support continued for a brief period if an abrupt cessation of support would cause hardship.
Health Insurance Benefits
The College requires all full-time students, as a condition of enrollment, to have health insurance coverage. Full-time students will be enrolled in the College-endorsed Student Insurance Plan and the cost will be billed to their student account, unless proof of other adequate health insurance coverage is provided. Students who already have health insurance for the entire academic year must submit a waiver request by the posted deadline each academic year, and the waiver request must be approved, in order to avoid being enrolled in the Student Insurance Plan. Such a waiver does not affect eligibility for services at the Student Health Center.
For international students, any policy other than the one sponsored by the College must be approved by the King Student Health Center.
The Physics Department considers acceptance of a stipend by a student to imply a full-time commitment to his/her research and teaching obligations. The intention of the Department is to keep to a minimum the number of years that a student spends pursuing an advanced degree. Thus with rare exception (for which the student must receive explicit approval of the Graduate Study Committee), paid employment outside the Department while the student holds a research or teaching stipend is not permitted.
Outside Support or Internships
The purpose of our graduate program is to prepare students for rewarding and productive scientific careers. Some students might be interested in non-traditional research opportunities afforded by paid fellowships, internships, co-op programs, or other forms of study involving outside support. By "outside support" we mean support paid for by an institution other than the College of William and Mary. If such research opportunities provide good training and allow our students to do good science, the department will be open to considering them. However, students must get approval in writing from the Physics Graduate Committee prior to making an application, or any kind of commitment, to an outside institution.
Guidelines for such non-traditional research activities should be negotiated with the two institutions involved ahead of time and be grounded on general policies, not after-the-fact on a case-by-case basis. Interested students are responsible for finding out whether such inter-institutional policies are in place by speaking to the Chair of the Graduate Committee. In addition, the following Physics Department policies must also be followed in order for the Graduate Committee to grant approval:
- By its very nature, such off-site research activities will imply that day-to-day research supervision will be carried out by someone other than a William and Mary Physics faculty member. However, the student must find a regular (i.e. tenure line) faculty member within the Physics Department who will act as the local advisor. Except for day-to-day advising, the responsibilities of the local advisor are understood to be the same as those of any other PhD advisor: responsibility for overseeing the student’s overall research progress and academic preparation, and making sure that the student’s work is leading to a thesis that is acceptable to the physics department.
- A three-person committee, composed of regular faculty of the physics department, should be appointed at the start of the project. The local advisor will chair this committee. The committee must meet at least once a year as part of the student’s regular annual review, but they should meet as often as they think necessary to make sure the student is making adequate progress and receiving sufficient guidance. It is the responsibility of the local advisor to inform the Graduate Committee of any concerns regarding the student’s progress. The Graduate Committee retains final authority for either continuing, or discontinuing, its approval based upon input from the review committee and any other information it may have.
Graduate Student Pay
Graduate students on Teaching Assistantships should be aware that for reasons outside the department's control the academic-year and summer paychecks are handled differently (see below).
- These points speak to the typical situation. There may be exceptions in certain cases due to special fellowships, etc. (Note FICA = Social Security)
- The total stipend for the period 8/25/2023 - 8/24/2024 is $31,059.
- Paychecks are generally paid on the 1st and 16th of each month by direct deposit.
- Some international students (NRA) are from countries which have a tax treaty with the US and may be taxed differently from others.
- Additionally, there are two pay periods where FICA is sometimes not exempt, and that has not always been consistent. These are the pay periods following the end of spring classes and following the end of summer school.
Students on Grant-Funded Research Assistantships:
- These students have paychecks divided into 24 equal pays of $1,294.13 (taxable but FICA exempt).
- Summer research funds could have FICA withheld if students are not registered for 6 credit hours of PHYS 800 Dissertation. Some international students are FICA exempt regardless and may not need to register.
Students on Teaching Assistantships:
- These students have 9-month stipends covering the period from 8/25/2023 - 5/9/2024, and summer stipends covering the period from 5/9/2024 - 8/24/2024.
- The 9-month stipend is paid by the Dean's Office. This is currently $23,294.25 issued in 18 pays of $1,294.13 each (taxable but FICA exempt).
- The remaining summer months are paid by the department in a manner that ensures the total annual stipend is $31,059.
- Therefore, the summer stipend is $7,764.75 (=$31,059 - $23,294.25), in 6 equal pays of $1,294.13 (taxable, but not necessarily FICA exempt) or one lumpsum fellowship.
- The next 9-month academic year pay period begins on 8/25, for which you will receive a paycheck on 9/16 of $1,294.13 once again (taxable but not FICA exempt).