The Physics Department admits only as many graduate students as it anticipates being able to support through the Ph.D. Every effort is made to offer full financial support to all graduate students until they complete their advanced degree.
Several students enter the program with fellowship support from Cornell or fellowships from an outside agency. Fellowship recipients may be able to augment their fellowship stipends by teaching part-time. Most fellowship recipients receive a full tuition waiver and university health insurance coverage for the duration of the fellowship award. The Cornell Graduate School has information about both university-sponsored and external fellowships for prospective and continuing graduate students. The school’s Graduate Fellowship Database is a searchable database of more than 500 external fellowships.
The experience of teaching is a valuable part of graduate education and most first- and second-year students serve as teaching assistants for undergraduate courses. It allows you to relearn and reinforce fundamental concepts. It also encourages development of organization, communication, and the kinds of interpersonal skills that are a pre-requisite for success in both graduate school and subsequent careers. In fact, teaching is considered so important that even graduate students who come to the university with a fellowship and do not have to teach are strongly encouraged to do so at some time during their graduate studies.
The typical teaching assistantship (TA) assignment includes a maximum of 20 hours work per week. In addition to classroom time, this includes time to prepare lessons, grade assignments, and hold office hours. While serving as a teaching assistant you will probably enroll in three courses (and be considered a full-time student earning residence credit toward your degree). Teaching assistants receive a stipend, full tuition waiver and university health insurance coverage for the duration of their assistantship.
To help you prepare for your teaching duties, the department holds a two-day TA training workshop in August. Exceptional teachers, both experienced graduate students and faculty, will guide you through a course designed to help you become comfortable with teaching classes and supervising labs. Throughout your time teaching at Cornell, many experienced teachers are available for advice and support.
In your second or third year of study you will probably move from teaching to research and become a faculty member’s research assistant. The appointment is always in an area relevant to your thesis topic: most of the time, it is your thesis topic that you are being paid to work on. The typical research assistantship includes an average of twenty hours of work per week. Research assistants receive a stipend, full tuition waiver, and university health-insurance coverage for the duration of their assistantship.
For first-year and some incoming students, summer support is usually available either as a research or teaching assistant. Nearly all advanced graduate students receive stipends during the summer as fellows or research assistants to pursue their thesis research without interruption.