The Optics and photonics MS degree is an interdisciplinary, cooperative program managed by the Optics and Photonics Degree Program Committee on behalf of the three participating departments: Physics, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Chemistry and Biochemistry. Students apply directly to the Optics and Photonics MS Program and are admitted through one of the participating departments, selected based on advisor affiliation and student interest.



To apply, visit the graduate school page:


and click on Optics and Photonics Degree


Applicants are encouraged to contact faculty to discuss research and funding opportunities prior submitting their application.  For information on research opportunities, visit the research web pages of the participating departments:





Application Materials

During the on-line application process, you will be asked for the following:

  • Statement of Purpose: In an essay approximately one page in length, describe your primary research areas of interest and include a discussion of specific research areas of mutual interest to you and the faculty member(s) you are interested in working with at Montana State University.
  • Conferred bachelor’s degree: Unofficial transcripts can be uploaded by the student during this online process, however MSU must receive official transcripts directly from the university(s) attended. Have official transcripts sent to the appropriate departmental address listed in the contact information area below. Applicants who are undergraduate alumni of MSU-Bozeman do not need to submit their official MSU transcripts, however they should upload unofficial transcripts during the application process.
  • Official Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores: The requirements for GREs, both general and physics subject exams, have been suspended for 2021 academic year. We will NOT require, and will not consider, any GRE scores in graduate applications for fall 2021 enrollment. 
  • Three (3) letters of reference: During this online process, applicants will be asked to provide information about their references. The electronic process will prompt each reference to submit a signed reference letter. Letters should be written by people who are able to judge your ability to succeed in graduate school, e.g., your undergraduate professors, an advisor or supervisor during an internship, other faculty. Please do not ask for letters of recommendation from family members, friends, roommates, etc.
  • International Applicants: In addition to the above, international applicants will be required to submit a variety of additional documentation including English proficiency scores (at or above) the following: TOEFL [iBT: 100, PBT: 600], IELTS [level 7.0], or PTE [68]. Please see International application processfor further information.



Program requirements

The M.S. degree in Optics and Photonics is earned by satisfying these requirements:

Take two fundamentals courses (one PHSX and one EELE):                                              6
   PHSX 427                            Advanced Optics                                            3

   PHSX 437                            Laser Applications                                          3

   EELE 482                             Electro-Optical Systems                                 3

   EELE 484                             Laser Engineering                                          3

Take one specialty course:                                                                                                     3

   EELE 581                             Fourier Optics & Imaging                                3

   EELE 582                             Optical Design                                                3

   PHSX 531                            Nonlinear Optics & Spectroscopy                  3

   CHMY 527                           Optical Spectroscopy                                     3

   CHMY 560                           Symmetry, Orbitals, & Spectroscopy             3

Take 6 credits of optics electives chosen from the following:                                                6

   EELE 432                             Applied Electromagnetics                               3

   EELE 482                             Electro-Optical Systems                                 3

   EELE 484                             Laser engineering                                           3

   EELE 538                             Advanced Topics in EM & Optics                   3

   EELE 581                             Fourier Optics & Imaging                                3

   EELE 582                             Optical Design                                                3

   EELE 583                             Remote Sensing Systems                              3

   PHSX 427                            Advanced Optics                                            3

   PHSX 437                            Laser Applications                                          3

   PHSX 507                            Quantum Mechanics II                                    3

   PHSX 515                            Advanced Topics in Physics1                         3

   PHSX 520                            Electromagnetic Theory II                              3

   PHSX 531                            Nonlinear Optics & Spectroscopy                  3

   CHMY 421                           Advanced Instrument Analysis                       3

   CHMY 527                           Optical Spectroscopy                                     3

   CHMY 557                           Quantum Chemistry                                        3

   CHMY 560                           Symmetry, Orbitals, & Spectroscopy             3

   CHMY 564                           Advanced Quantum Chemistry                      3

   EELE, PHSX, CHMY 591    Special Topics1                                               1-3

   EELE, PHSX, CHMY 592    Independent Study1                                       1-3

   OPTI 594                              Optics Seminar2

1 Maximum of 3 credits total of these courses is allowed if subject is directly optics related.

2 Maximum of 2 credits total of optics seminar allowed.

Take at least 5 credits of technical electives at 400 level and above:

ECE, Physics, Math, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Biology, or Business, etc.                       5

Take at least 10 credits under Plan A or Plan B:                                                                   10


Plan-A: 10 credits Master’s Thesis (EELE, PHSX, CHMY 590)                                10

Plan-B:  3 credits Professional Paper (OPTI 575)                                                       3

               7 additional technical elective credits                                                            7

                                                                                                                        TOTAL           30

Note:   At least 20 credits must be at the 500 level


Optics and photonics graduate students are required to pass the optics and photonics qualifying examination at the end of their first year of enrollment. Students who fail the qualifying examination may have a second chance to pass the exam the second year, but in that case financial assistance may not be available the second year. Optics and photonics graduate students will defend their thesis or professional paper in an oral examination.



For additional information, please contact one of the following:

Diane Harn, Program Coordinator, Optics and Photonics Degree Program Committee


Prof. Wm. Randall Babbitt, Chair, Optics and Photonics Degree Program Committee