There are many kinds of financial aid available to graduate students. Aid comes in the form of grants, fellowships, assistantships, work-study, and loans, available from within the University and through outside agencies. The Graduate Catalog describes the following options in more detail.
The most common support is through Research or Teaching Assistantships in the Department. While these are the names that we use within the Department, the official names (used on paperwork) are as follows:
Graduate Assistants: Title used for first year or continuing students who are involved in teaching labs and grading.
Project Assistants: Title used for students who are supported by externally funded research projects.
Graduate Associates: Title used for students who have passed the qualifier and all 12 courses required for a Ph.D. The course load is not to exceed 2 courses per semester.
To obtain a Research Assistantship, students should take the initiative and talk with faculty who work in the fields of interest to them. It is most common to start as a Research Assistant (RA) with a summer project.
Working as an RA for a professor in the Department will provide a graduate student with the basic skills needed for a future career as an independently working physicist. This is an integral part of the graduate curriculum. Work as an RA will usually lead into work on a thesis.
However, since the scope of the training and the research commitments of the groups are broader than the final thesis, it is expected that most students will perform additional scientific and technical duties. For example, if the thesis topic is centered around the analysis of results from a large experiment in space physics or nuclear physics, the student will probably be asked to also assist in the experimental and technical work related to the field. If the thesis is of a theoretical nature, the student may be asked to assist in the computer programming which leads to more sophisticated models in the field. The student may also be asked to participate in routine operations necessary to maintain the scientific infrastructure operation, such as help in the calibration of instruments, updating the software on laboratory computers, help in the assembly of experiments etc. Various different combinations of this kind are appropriate and will be most beneficial for success in a future scientific career. This non-thesis work should decrease as progress on the thesis is made, and should not impede progress toward a Ph.D. within the normal time frame.
Research Assistants are given a tuition waiver and salary as noted under the section on pay schedule. Typically RAs are supported in the summer as well as the academic year, but this must be checked with the faculty for whom the student is working.
A limited number of Teaching Assistantships (TAs) are awarded by the Physics Department to incoming students each year. The rest of the TA positions are for continuing students who have not yet decided on a research topic. Teaching assistants are expected to work approximately 20 hours a week. The assistantships include a tuition waiver and a stipend. Typically, TAs are not supported during the summer months. Students should try to find an RA position for the summer, or check with the Administrative Assistant to see if any TAs are needed in the summer. Students should find summer employment early in the spring semester. There are two types of teaching jobs: grading and lab assistants, whose jobs are explained in the following section.
Graduate Student compensation in the Physics Department of UNH is mostly tied to University rules and typically consists of several components:
- Graduate Student Stipend for the Academic Year: RA, TA, or Fellowship
- Graduate Student Stipend for the Summer: if RA or Summer TA (total set for Summer TA or negotiable, typically also with Fellowship)
- Tuition paid (AY only): RA, TA, or Fellowship
- Health Insurance: RA, TA, or Fellowship
- Student Fees: may depend on situation
The rates for the Graduate Student Stipend are set on an annual basis by the Graduate School and the Research Office. The Graduate Stipend is paid according to 4.5 months of compensated work for the 9-month AY because work is expected at a 20-h/week level, thus leaving room for graduate studies. There are 3 levels for the Stipend:
Level 1: All master’s students; PhD students who have only a bachelor’s degree and less than 2 years experience as a TA or RA @ UNH;
Level 2: PhD students who have a master’s degree or PhD students who have only a bachelor’s degree but have at least 2 years experience as a TA or RA @ UNH;
Level 3: PhD students @ candidacy.
These rates also translate into the Summer Stipend at the full monthly rate, recognizing that over the Summer 40 h/week are available for work. There are set rates for each Summer TA assignment, with the expectation that ample time remains outside this task. Each RA assignment may differ in the total of months compensated over the 3-month period. Offers typically range between 4/9 and 6/9 of the full AY Stipend (recognizing 40 h/week). If a student still needs to study for the Comp Exam and/or the student wants to spend a substantial time away from UNH during the summer, either 4/9 or 5/9 are offered, to be negotiated with the advisor. 6/9 are typically only offered if the student wants to work through the entire summer, with only some short vacation. Also, some of the research projects may not have 3 months Graduate Stipend available for the Summer. Also for this reason, this employment is negotiable with the advisor.
Graduate Student Tuition is waived by the College for TAs. For RA and Fellowship appointments Tuition is paid by the sponsor.
Health Insurance for the entire year comes with any full-time graduate student appointment (RA, TA, Fellowship) over the AY.
Student fees are usually the responsibility of the graduate student. For RAs, advisors may pay student fees from a combination of Grant and Help funds, depending on the type of fee. However, some advisors may not have the resources for these added fees. The advisor will talk with the students upfront about the situation and the total compensation. Fellowships may or may not include an allowance for such costs.
All TA's and Master's candidates receive the base salary. Doctoral candidates who have not yet passed the qualifying exams also receive the base salary. Base salaries change each semester; check with the Administrative Assistant for the current base. Doctoral candidates who are Research Assistants are eligible for salary increases as they progress through their program. The Administrative Assistant has information on the requirements and timing of these increases.
National Graduate Fellowships
There are several national fellowships that students should consider applying for. In particular, the Graduate Office has applications for the NSF Graduate Fellowships; these are available in September and due in November each year.
In the fields of space plasma physics and astrophysics there are currently two types of graduate fellowships available.
1) The University of New Hampshire is a Space Grant University. Under this agreement a few Space Grant Fellowships, sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, are available every year, administered through the Institute for Earth, Oceans, and Space (EOS). Criteria for selection are:
- Evidence of unusual promise in a space-related discipline as demonstrated by college or graduate transcripts, GRE scores, and the recommendation of academic supervisors.
- The relevance of the applicant's interest and planned graduate program.
The competition is announced every year. It is expected that the fellowship holder will assume additional responsibilities for outreach activities of EOS. These include stimulation of science and mathematics education among undergraduates, pre-college students, and lay citizens. The Space Grant fellowship is available for one year. The fellowship includes a stipend and the tuition waiver. Further information may be obtained from the Associate Director of EOS.
2) The National Aeronautics and Space Administration sponsors graduate fellowships for space related research topics. To compete for these fellowships a research proposal has to be submitted to NASA through the UNH Office of Sponsored Research. More information about these fellowships, which are available to US citizens only, may be obtained from the research office (phone 862-2000). To be successful in the competition it is advisable that research work has already started with a faculty member of the Department. The sponsoring faculty will assist the student in compiling the scientific objectives and the scientific implementation plan for a successful proposal. Help for the administrative part of the proposal is available in the Space Science Center administration. The fellowship includes a stipend, tuition and funds for research related travel for collaboration with other institutions and to scientific conferences.
UNH Scholarships and Fellowships
UNH provides several Scholarships and Fellowships for its Graduate Students. For information on any of these, check with the Graduate Office.
Full-Time Tuition Scholarship
|Any full time student with a high scholastic record
|How to Apply
|Apply to department or program
|See Graduate Advisor in January
Part-Time Tuition Scholarship
|Any part-time student without an assistantship
|Partial waiver of tuition
|How to Apply
|Apply at the Graduate School
Applications due Nov. 1 for spring semester
due April 1 for fall semester
Ph. D. students in final year of program
|Stipend and waiver of Doctoral Research Fee
|How to Apply
|Apply at the Graduate School
|Applications available Dec. 2; due mid January
Summer Fellowship for Teaching Assistants
|Students who have held a teaching assistantship position in the previous academic year
|Two month summer stipend
|How to Apply
|Apply at the Graduate School
Applications available in December, due in early February
For information on work-study, Stafford (GSL) Student Loan Programs, Perkins Loans, Supplemental Loans for Students (SLS), UNH Loans, and Veterans' Benefits, check with the Financial Aid Office.
Teaching Assistantship Responsibilities
Teaching assistants play an important role in the Department's introductory courses. All Teaching Assistants must enroll in Physics 806 during their first semester as a TA. This is a one-credit course on Physics Teaching designed to help new TAs with their duties.
Below, we discuss the basic responsibilities for both graders and lab assistants.
Lab Assistant Responsibilities
The following was taken from instructions for TAs in Physics 407. Only the general ideas are applicable to TAs in other courses. Check with the professor in your course to find out your exact responsibilities.
Reading: You should read both the lab book and the textbook. Reading the textbook will keep you up to date on what the students should know and the notation they are most familiar with. The Physics office will provide you with a copy of the text which you must return at the end of the semester.
Labs: You must do each lab before you teach it, just as if you were a student. This will allow you to answer the students' questions effectively and to anticipate any tricky sections of the experiment or calculations. It will also give you some sense of the accuracy that can be obtained with the equipment and techniques available. Check with the lab technician, who is in charge of labs, to see when you can do the practice lab.
Lecture: You should give a lecture for each lab, about half an hour long. The purpose of the lecture is to relate the lab to the lecture portion of the course, to give the students some idea how to do the lab, and to let them know what the purpose of the lab is. If there are any tricky, non-obvious procedures, they should be discussed at this point. This lecture should be prepared, not off the cuff.
Prelab Questions: Make sure that the students do the prelab questions before the lab. These questions are designed to ensure that students understand the physics behind the lab before they start. It may be a good idea to 'sign-off' on the answers so that there is a record that they were done on time. (This is course dependent. Not all courses have prelab questions.)
Labs: Be available while the students are doing the lab to provide assistance. Whenever possible, you should try to get students to answer their own questions. This can be done by searching to find something that they do understand, and working back toward the answer to their question.
Sample Calculations: Before each student leaves, they should do one sample calculation and have it checked by you. This ensures that they have some clue about how to complete the lab on their own.
Grading: You may be responsible for grading homework, quizzes, and tests. Plan on spending a total of about twenty hours a week on your grading and lab assistant duties. You should make every effort to grade the papers within one week of receiving them, otherwise you will fall behind and the students will forget the assignment.
Recording Grades: You are responsible for recording the quiz and homework grades. You can either record these on paper, or use an electronic spreadsheet. Please keep neat records, since these will be our only records for the class. Be sure that you and the professor agree on what the maximum score is so that the grades will be averaged in correctly. You must hand in the grades at the Physics Office before finals week.
Office Hours: You must have three office hours a week so that students can get help when they are stuck. You may find that on some days few students come. It therefore is wise to have your own work to do so that the time is not wasted. On the other hand, be firm with students when it is not your office hours or they have not made an appointment to see you. You need time to do your own work, and this will be impossible if all hundred or so of your students feel that they can drop in anytime, even if only for just a few minutes.
Names: Because the labs are small and the lecture is large, you are the most personal link that the student has to this course. One small but significant gesture is to learn the names of yours students. Any effort to make the course less impersonal will be appreciated.
Policies and Times: Before the course begins, all of the TAs, along with the professor, need to agree on late policy, make-up policy, due date, re-do policy, and a general grading scheme. Note that it is important to be as consistent as possible with each other. All important decisions should be made together. You also need to find a time when you can do the lab together, and everyone needs to decide on their own office hours. It might be wise to choose office hours that don't overlap so that students are more likely to find someone to provide help.
Occasional Duties: Information Sheets: At the beginning of the semester, you must hand out information sheets to your students. There is a sample form on the next few pages; you will need to fill in the blanks with the policies and times described above.
Test Grading and Proctoring: You may be asked to help with test grading or proctoring. Check your course syllabus carefully and check with the faculty member a week before the exam to see if you need to proctor. Find out from the time and room schedule when the final is scheduled, and plan on working for two or three days after that.
Help: If you get stuck on a lab, see the professor or lab technician. Don't forget that your fellow graduate students are also valuable resources, especially those who have taught this course before.
Sample Lab Information Sheet
This sheet was used in Ph407, and won't be exactly what is needed in the other courses. However, it should give TAs some ideas about what information their students will need.
Lab TA: _____________
Office: Graduate Cubes, location ______________________
Office Hours: ________________
Office Phone: 862-2067
Required Work: You must complete all labs and lab reports in order to pass, regardless of your overall point total. See the appendix Lab ReportOutline in your lab manual for details on report preparation. There is also a sample lab available to give you an idea of what is expected.
Transferring Credit: In order to receive credit for a previously successful lab you must fill out a lab petition. These petitions can be obtained from the Physics office in DeMeritt 105. Also, please let me know if you are transferring credit so that I can keep my bookkeeping straight.
Make-up Labs: If you miss a lab, try to make up the lab during that regular lab period, i.e. the one or two weeks during which that lab is scheduled. If this is not possible, labs can be made up during the make-up period at the end of the semester. In either case, please see me so that I'm sure that you have made arrangements to complete the work.
Due dates: Your lab is due _____days after your lab class. Late labs will be penalized as follows_____________________________________. Labs should be put in my lab report cubby; please do not put them in my mailbox.
Re-do Policy: If you complete a lab, but receive a grade of ____ or lower, you can re-do the lab report for additional credit. Such labs are due within __days after they are returned.
Suggested Preparation: Before you come to lab, read the appropriate section in the lab book as well as the related sections in the textbook (these are listed in the lab book). If you have time, also do the prelab problems.
Class organization: Each lab will begin with a short talk to discuss the purpose of the lab and the relation of the lab to the lecture portion of the course, as well as the details on how to do the experiment. Then you will be given time to do the prelab problems; these problems will show you the connection between the formulas you will be using and the formulas that are in the textbook. After your prelab problems have been checked by me, you may proceed to do the lab. After you have taken all the required data, you must do at least one sample calculation before you leave, and have it checked by me. This will ensure that you will be able to complete the lab report successfully on your own.
Lab Partners: All labs are done by pairs of students. However the reports should be done individually. Therefore the only part of the lab reports that should be identical are the data and error estimation.
Grading: The following is the general grading scheme: 1 point each for the abstract and the prelab questions, 1/2 point each for the purpose, procedure, equipment diagram, and results; 1 point each for the data collection, error estimation, graphs, and error propagation; and 2 points for the calculations.
Calculators: You will need access to a calculator that can handle trigonometric functions and powers.
Lab Book: You must have a lab notebook, preferably the Engineering/Science Notebook by Ampad Corp which has graph paper and ruled paper on each page. Your lab book should be written in ink (Why ink? Because real researchers never erase data, even though they may not believe it. Later they may realize that it was actually correct, or it may give clues to earlier misunderstandings. Using ink releases you from the temptation to erase.) The graphs are done in pencil because they are not raw data. Circle all data points and show error bars on your graphs.
Table of Contents: Number your pages as you go, and put a table of contents at the front so that the reports are easy to find.
Sections: Each of the sections: Abstract, Purpose, etc., described in Lab Report Appendix, should be kept separate from the rest and clearly labeled.
Legibility: Please write legibly. If a report can't be read it can't be graded. If you do find that you've written a sloppy section in ink, separate it from the rest of the text with horizontal lines and recopy it neatly below.
Questions and Problems: If you have any questions or problems with the physics, policy, grading, or anything else, let me know as soon as possible. Either come see me, or leave me a message. Aside from office hours, you can find me in the lab room during my other lab classes. These days and times are also posted on my lab report cubby If I don't hear from you, I assume that everything is going okay, or that you don't care that things are going badly.