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Plasma Physics, Ph.D.

  • Application Deadline
  • 60 months
University rank #6 (WUR) Princeton, NJ, United States
 Plasmas, the fourth state of matter, are collections of freely moving charged particles (mainly electrons and ions) in which collective phenomena, such as waves, dominate the behavior of the system. Plasmas are essential to many high-technology applications.
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  •  One example is fusion energy, for which the fuel is a high-temperature plasma. Low-temperature plasmas are used for a growing number of materials fabrication processes, including the formation of complex microscopic and nanoscopic patterns for microelectronic and micro-optical components, and the deposition of tribological, magnetic, optical, conducting, insulating, polymeric, and catalytic thin-films. Plasmas are also important for illumination, display technology, microwave generation, destruction of toxic wastes, lasers, spacecraft propulsion, astrophysics, and advanced-design accelerators for fundamental particle research.
  • Applications of plasma science and technology meld several traditional scientific and engineering specialties. The purpose of this program is to provide strong interdisciplinary support and training for graduate students working in these areas. The scope of interest includes fundamental studies of the plasmas, their interaction with surfaces and surroundings, and the technologies associated with their applications.
Academics and Research
  • The faculty responsible for the teaching program hold positions within the Department of Astrophysical Sciences. Recognizable on the list of faculty are many names associated with classic textbooks or research papers in the field of plasma physics. Students can pursue research with the teaching faculty, with associated faculty in other departments, or with any of the nearly one hundred scientists at PPPL. The Program in Plasma Physics emphasizes both basic physics and applications. There are opportunities for research projects in the physics of the very hot plasmas necessary for controlled fusion, as well as for projects in solar, magnetospheric and ionospheric physics, plasma processing, plasma devices, nonneutral plasmas, lasers, materials research, and in other emerging areas of plasma physics. With the field of fusion energy entering an exciting phase of burning plasma and technological implementation, increasing attention is paid to the practical engineering issues that will allow fusion reactors to become economically competitive.
  • Graduate students entering the Plasma Physics Program at Princeton spend the first two years in classroom study, acquiring a foundation in the many disciplines that make up plasma physics: classical and quantum mechanics, electricity and magnetism, fluid dynamics, hydrodynamics, atomic physics, applied mathematics, statistical mechanics, and kinetic theory. Courses offered in the program are taught by the members of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory's research staff who also comprise the plasma physics faculty. The curriculum is supplemented by courses offered in other departments of the University and by a student-run seminar series in which PPPL physicists share their expertise and graduate students present their research.
  • In addition to formal class work, first- and second-year graduate students work directly with the research staff, have full access to laboratory and computer facilities, and learn firsthand the job of a research physicist. First-year students typically assist in experimental research areas, and second-year students usually undertake a theoretical research project. There are two exams that must be passed as a graduate student in the program, the physics department preliminary exam, usually in the first year, and the program's general examination, usually in the second year. After passing the general exam, students concentrate on the research and writing of a doctoral thesis.

Detailed Programme Facts

  • Programme intensity Full-time
    • Full-time duration 60 months
  • Languages
    • English
  • Delivery mode
    On Campus

Programme Structure

  • Students in the Program in Plasma Physics are not required to satisfy course requirements. Students are expected to take whatever courses they feel are necessary to prepare for the general examination or in accordance with research interests. 
  • In preparation for the physics department preliminary examination, some students take graduate-level courses offered by the physics department in the fall. 
  • Additionally, courses are usually taken with the Pass/D/Fail option, and there is no grade point average requirement for students in the program.
Thesis Proposal
  • The thesis proposal takes place in the six months following the successful completion of the general examination. A completed thesis proposal consists of a written proposal, and a proposal presentation.
  • The thesis committee notifies the student of the results of the thesis proposal immediately following the proposal presentation.

English Language Requirements

  • Minimum required score:


    The IELTS – or the International English Language Test System – tests your English-language abilities (writing, listening, speaking, and reading) on a scale of 1.00–9.00. The minimum IELTS score requirement refers to which Overall Band Score you received, which is your combined average score. Read more about IELTS.

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  • Minimum required score:


    The TOEFL iBT ® measures your English-language abilities in an academic setting. The test has four sections (reading, listening, speaking, and writing), each with a score range of 0-30, for a total score range of 0-120. Read more about TOEFL iBT ®.

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Academic Requirements

  • This programme accepts GRE® scores. However, it does not provide a recommended score range.

    Schedule GRE®

    The GRE® General Test is a widely administered admissions test that measures the skills needed in today's graduate and business school programs worldwide. The GRE® General Test contains three sections - Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. Three scores are reported: a Verbal Reasoning score on a 130 - 170 score scale in one-point increments, a Quantitative Reasoning score on a 130 - 170 score scale in one-point increments, and an Analytical Writing score on a 0 - 6 score scale in half-point increments.

General Requirements

Application Requirements:

  • Statement of Academic Purpose
  • Resume/Curriculum Vitae
  • Recommendation Letters
  • Transcripts
  • Fall Semester Grades
  • Prerequisite Tests
  • English Language Tests
  • GRE 
  • Application Fee: $90

Tuition Fee

  • International

    49450 USD/year
    Tuition Fee
    Based on the original amount of 49450 USD per year and a duration of 60 months.
  • National

    49450 USD/year
    Tuition Fee
    Based on the original amount of 49450 USD per year and a duration of 60 months.
We've labeled the tuition fee that applies to you because we think you are from and prefer over other currencies.

For Ph.D. candidates are provided in full financial support, in the form of tuition support from fellowships, assistantships, or external sources.

Living costs for Princeton

  • 2022 - 4980 USD/month
    Living Costs

The living costs include the total expenses per month, covering accommodation, public transportation, utilities (electricity, internet), books and groceries.


Sources of Funding

  • Fellowships
  • Assistantships
  • External Funding
  • Veteran's Benefits
  • Travel Grants
  • Education Loans and Work Study
  • Assistance Programs

Studyportals Tip: Students can search online for independent or external scholarships that can help fund their studies. Check the scholarships to see whether you are eligible to apply. Many scholarships are either merit-based or needs-based.

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