Upcoming Thesis Defenses

If you are defending this term and do not see your information listed, please contact Sydney Miller in the APO.


When: Doctoral Students – After completing the written and oral exams and generally by the beginning of their third Year of study. Forming their committees at this stage will allow students to consult with all members of the committee during their studies and can provide additional advice and mentorship for them.

How: Register for thesis research under subject number 8.ThG, form a thesis committee, meet with full committee, and submit a formal thesis proposal to the department.

Thesis Committee Formation

Student should consult with their Research Supervisor to discuss the Doctoral Thesis Committee Proposal Form which will name the 3 required members of the Physics Doctoral Committee and a descriptive preliminary thesis title. 

Doctoral Committee must include 3 members with MIT Physics faculty appointments:

  • Committee Chair: Research Supervisor from MIT Physics Faculty or Research Supervisor from outside MIT Physics + Co-Supervisor/Chair from MIT Physics Faculty
  • Selected Reader: from MIT Physics Faculty (in the same/similar research area, selected by student and supervisor)
  • Assigned Reader: from MIT Physics Faculty (in different research area, selected by the Department’s faculty Graduate Coordinator.)

The Form should include the names of the Student, Chair, and Selected Reader and a Thesis Title, when it is forwarded to the Academic Programs Office via email to physics-grad@mit.edu and Sydney will work with Faculty Graduate Coordinator Will Detmold, who will identify the Assigned Reader.

Following the consultation with their supervisor, the student should reach out to the proposed Selected Reader to secure an electronic signature or email confirmation in lieu of signature to serve on this committee. (Form should include either signature or date of email agreement.) It will take approximately 2-3 weeks before an Assigned Reader will be added and Sydney will provide an introduction to this final member of your Doctoral Committee.

Once the Thesis Committee is established, the student should send all members a draft description of the proposed thesis topic and set up the first committee meeting with all members attending together in real time. A formal 2-page written Thesis Proposal should result from this important meeting and be sent to Sydney for the student’s academic record.  

Thesis Proposal

You should discuss your thesis research with your committee members all together in real time at your first committee meeting. Following this full discussion about your thesis topic, please write up your formal Thesis Proposal to reflect the mutually-agreed thesis plans and forward the Proposal to the graduate program at the APO using physics-grad@mit.edu for Sydney to document in the department’s academic records.

Following the formation of the doctoral committee and submission of the thesis proposal, the student will continue to work on their thesis research in consultation with their Research Supervisor and other members of their Committee. This important communication paves the way for the thesis defense and degree completion.

When students are ready to defend, they should complete an ‘Application for Advanced Degree’ with the Registrar and schedule a thesis defense with all committee members attending in real time, whether in person or by video. Announcements for the defense will be coordinated by the Academic Programs Office and students should be in close contact with Sydney Miller during their final term or study.

Further details about this last stage of your studies will be available separately.

If there is even a slight possibility that you may finish this term, please complete an Application for Advanced Degree at the Registrar’s website at the beginning of the term. It is easy to remove your name if your plans change, but this timely step will avoid late fees!

Thesis Defense

Defenses will be conducted remotely this term, with a Zoom meeting. You and your thesis committee will decide on a mutually-convenient defense date, whenever this works best for your studies.  

Once you have scheduled your defense, please send this information to Sydney at physics-grad@mit.edu:

  • Date:
  • Time:
  • Thesis Title:
  • Committee Members:
  • Zoom Meeting Details: (can be sent in the final week before the defense)

She will create the email notifications for our physics community (with zoom links) and the MIT Events and Physics Calendar listings (without the zoom links). This information you provide her is also used to generate the defense grade sheet for your defense.

Please send your committee members a thesis draft to help them prepare for your defense and plan to spend around two weeks making thesis revisions after your successful defense. The date you submit your thesis document to the department will determine whether it is for a Fall, Spring, or Summer degree.

Archival copies of all theses must adhere carefully to principles specified by the MIT Libraries for formatting and submission. For complete information about how to format your thesis, refer to the Specifications for Thesis Preparation.

Graduate Program Coordinator Sydney Miller can review your title page and abstract for accuracy before you submit the thesis. You may send these to her at physics-grad@mit.edu.

  • Signatures: On hard copies, the title page of both copies must have original signatures of the student, research supervisor, and co-supervisor (if applicable). Theses are accepted by the Associate Department Head, Professor Lindley Winslow, who will sign each thesis before it is submitted to the MIT Library Archives.
  • Thesis defense grade sheets: Before accepting a PhD thesis, the Academic Programs Office must have a signed thesis defense grade sheet from the research supervisor indicating a “Pass” on the thesis defense.
  • Thesis letter grade: Before accepting an SM thesis, Academic Programs must have received a letter or email from the research supervisor, assigning a final thesis grade of A, B, or C.

Departments collect the thesis documents on behalf of the MIT Thesis Library Archives and Physics graduate students will submit their thesis to Sydney Miller.  Review overall information from MIT about thesis specifications and format.

Please see the attached doctoral title page format for Physics and send your draft of the title/cover page and abstract to Sydney for review and any necessary edits. Once these are approved, please prepare the full document, with pagination appropriate for double-sided printing.

Theses may be completed and signed on any date of the year and the degree requirements are completed when the thesis is submitted. This is the final day of student status and payroll. (International students are eligible for Optional Practical Training starting on the following day.)

MIT awards degrees at the end of each term:

  • Fall Term degree is in February. (Theses due by mid-January.)
  • Spring Term degree is in May. (Theses due by early-May.)
  • Summer Term degree is in September. (Theses due by mid-August.)

For this term, thesis submissions are electronic files and you will submit the following to Sydney:

  • A complete thesis document, without signatures
  • A title page with electronic signatures from yourself, your supervisor (and co-supervisor, if required). Sydney will work with the Associate Head, Lindley Winslow, whose signature is required for the department and this will be added after you submit your document to the department/Sydney.
  • A separate abstract page

Doctoral students also complete and submit the Proquest/UMI form (PDF), with attached title page and abstract (no signatures).

In addition to submitting your thesis to the department for the library archives, you may also add your thesis to DSpace.

Digital Submission Guidelines

As of Spring 2020, all theses are being accepted by the MIT Libraries in digital form only. Digital theses are submitted electronically to the Physics Department, along with a separate signed title page. Students on the degree list will receive specific guidance about submission from the Academic Programs Office.

In-person Submission Guidelines
(not currently in effect, Spring 2021)

In regular semesters, MIT requires two signed original printed theses from each graduating student. Follow these guidelines for submitting a hard copy thesis to the Physics Academic Programs Office:

  • provide two printed copies of the thesis, plus one additional abstract page and title page stapled together;
  • be sure that both copies have original signatures and are printed on archival bond paper (check for a 25% or greater cotton watermark). MIT Bond and recyclable bond paper are not acceptable. Thesis paper and thesis printing are available at CopyTech;
  • clip each copy of the thesis together with a temporary cardboard cover, available in the Academic Programs Office. Tape a copy of the title page to the cardboard cover to provide required information for the Archives. Do not hole-punch or staple thesis pages or covers;
  • submit the completed University Microfilms, Inc. Form with a copy of the title page and abstract attached (PhD theses only).

Voluntary thesis e-submission system: students providing hard copies of a thesis may use the MIT Library’s DropBox to upload an electronic version for display in DSpace. For more information, contact etheses-admin@mit.edu.

All theses are archived in the MIT Libraries. An archival fee must be paid before a student’s final candidacy for a degree can be officially approved.

After all required materials have been submitted to the Academic Programs Office, a thesis receipt will be sent by email.

Check the MIT Academic Calendar for official due dates for both PhD and SM theses for each semester. Official deadlines are three to four weeks before the end of a term.

In practice, departments have some leeway to accept theses later than the published official submission deadlines. In planning, expect to budget two weeks between the date of the defense and the planned date of submission to make final revisions to the thesis. Consult with Academic Administrator Catherine Modica to determine your thesis submission timeline.

Thesis FAQs

The information on this page is applicable for both PhD and Masters (with the exception of an Oral defense) degree candidates.

Students register for thesis research units and assemble a thesis committee in the term following passing the Oral Exam.

The first step is for the student and research supervisor to agree on a thesis topic. An initial Graduate Thesis Proposal Cover Sheet (PDF) (Master’s Degree candidates should see process in section below) must be submitted to Academic Programs by the second week of the term.

The form requires

  • an initial thesis title
  • the name and signature of the research supervisor
  • the name of one additional reader for the thesis committee agreed upon by the student and advisor

A third reader from the MIT Physics faculty, who is not in the same research area but whose background makes him or her an appropriate departmental representative on the committee, will be assigned by the Graduate Program Faculty Coordinator. If a student has a co-supervisor (because the main supervisor is from outside the MIT Physics faculty), the thesis committee will consist of four people: research supervisor, co-supervisor, selected reader, and assigned reader.

After the student is notified of the assigned reader, he or she should convene an initial thesis committee meeting within the same term. The student should also register for 8.THG beginning in this term, and in each term thereafter. 8.THG registration should be for up to 36 units, depending on whether the student is also still taking classes and/or receiving academic credit because of a teaching assistantship. All post-qual students should routinely register for a standard total 36 units.

Master’s degree candidates should complete an SM Thesis Proposal Cover Sheet (PDF). A second reader for the Master’s degree thesis committee is assigned by the Graduate Program Faculty Coordinator. Note that there is no public defense required for an SM degree.

See the Doctoral Guidelines for additional information.

Please reference the Registrar’s complete graduation checklist. Students should reference this list at the START of the semester prior to graduation. Your research area’s administrative office and the Physics APO will also help you manage the final stage of your degree.

Fill out the Degree Application through the student section of WebSIS. Petitioning to be on the degree list for a particular commencement is required. Note that it is easier to be removed from the degree list to be added, so students are encouraged to apply for the degree list if there is any reasonable chance they will complete the PhD in the coming term.

The WebSIS degree list is used to communicate information about thesis defense announcements and grade sheets, thesis formats, and completion dates, so it is important to file a degree application to be on the list in a timely way. The standard deadline for filing a degree application without being assessed a late fee is the Friday of the first week of the term in which a student anticipates graduating. Removing oneself from the degree list requires an email to Academic Programs.

Students can defend and submit their thesis on any dates that work for their committees, but MIT confers degrees only 3 times each year: at the end of each semester. The Doctoral Thesis due dates for September, February, and May degrees can be found on the Institute’s Academic Calendar.

The department can generally grant some extensions beyond the Institute deadline. Students desiring extensions should contact the Academic Administrator, Catherine Modica.

Many Divisions have conference and/or seminar rooms which can be used for oral exams and defenses. These locations are recommended to keep your Thesis Defense comfortable and in familiar territory. Students who cannot book a room in their research area should contact Sydney Miller in the Physics APO to check availability of a Physics departmental conference room (often difficult to schedule due to heavy demand) or to help schedule a classroom through the Registrar’s Office.