Skip to main content

Ph.D. Aid and Awards

Standard Financial Support

Students in the physics and astrophysics Ph.D. programs receive:

  • A five-year package of financial support from the College of Arts & Science and/or external grants, including an annual stipend ($35,000 for the 2023-2024 academic year)
  • A full tuition waiver
  • College-paid premiums for individual student health insurance (an annual value of $3,491)
  • Department-paid annual student services fee ($681), which provides student access to the Vanderbilt Recreation and Wellness Center.

Continued funding each year is contingent on a student performing satisfactorily in teaching and research

Students in physics and astrophysics are expected to serve one to two years as teaching assistants. Typical teaching duties for a semester include teaching two introductory lab sections and/or grading for a course. During the summer months, students are expected to join a research group and perform research activities, as determined by the faculty leading the research group. After the first one to two years, students join a research group full time as research assistants.

Additional Support and Awards

University and Graduate School Fellowships and Awards

  • University Graduate Fellowships (UGF) – provides an additional stipend of up to $5,000 per year for three years, with a possible renewal for two more years; applicants are nominated for this award by the graduate program to which they apply.
  • Provost’s Graduate Fellowships (PGF) – open to U.S. citizens and permanent residents from diverse backgrounds; provides an additional stipend of $5,000 per year for three years, with a possible renewal for two more years; applicants are nominated for this award by the graduate program to which they apply.
  • Russell G. Hamilton Graduate Leadership Institute – provides several funding opportunities, including dissertation enhancement grants, professional development and training grants, and travel grants.
  • Harold Stirling Vanderbilt (HSV) Funds – provides two-year extensions for UGF/PGF awards as described above; awarded by invitation only.
  • Vanderbilt Prize Student Scholar – open to female graduate students in biomedical sciences (including biophysics) who have completed their qualifying exam; cash prize of $1,000 and opportunity to be mentored by the corresponding faculty recipient of the Vanderbilt Prize in Biomedical Science.
  • Yellow Ribbon Program – up to $6,000 in financial aid to post-9/11 eligible veterans; eligibility determined by the Veterans Administration.
  • Graduate School Travel Grants – up to $500 in travel funds per year to enable graduate students to present their research at regional, national, and international conferences.

Federal Agency Fellowships and Awards

Many of our students have received their own extramural fellowships from federal funding agencies. We encourage all program applicants and first-year graduate students to apply for these competitive awards.

College of Arts & Science Awards

  • Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award – for exceptionally effective classroom and/or laboratory instruction by a graduate teaching assistant; nominated by departments and selected by A&S Committee on Graduate Education; cash prize and an engraved plaque.
  • Outstanding Graduate Student Lab Instructor Award – for excellence in laboratory instruction for science classes; nominated by departments and selected by A&S Committee on Graduate Education; cash prize and an engraved plaque.
  • A&S Summer Research Awards – funds for research expenses related to the doctoral thesis, other advanced research projects, or scholarly activities that significantly advance professional development; granted on a competitive basis. See annual announcement for details.

Department Fellowships and Awards

McMinn Fellowships
Endowed by William A. and Nancy F. McMinn to support outstanding graduate students in the Department of Physics & Astronomy; up to $5,000 per year in additional stipend; renewable for up to five years. All students who apply for admission are automatically considered.

Robert T. Lagemann Award
Established in 1988 in honor of Robert T. Lagemann, Landon C. Garland Professor of Physics, Emeritus, who taught at Vanderbilt from 1951 to 1977. The Lagemann award is given annually to an entering or first-year graduate student for exceptional promise in physics.

2023 Recipients

  • Levi Schult

2022                   Trevor Gravely, Michael Padgett and Christian Ross

2021                   Carolyn Drake, Olivia Greene and Stuart David Storm

2020                  Matthew Murrow, Laura Nichols and Brandon Soubasis

2019                 Brenda Fabela Enriquez

2018                 Thayer Walmsley and Brooks Musango 

2017                 Lihan Liu, Abigail Petulante, and Savana Starko

2016                 Kyle Godbey

2015                 Austin Howes

2014                 Andrey Baydin

2013                 Hong Ni, Rui Wang, and Qiao Xu

2012                 John Spear and Enhong Wang

2011                 Peter Denton and Junhao Lin

2010                 Shengquan Tuo and Alex Krejci

2009                 Eric Appelt and Susan Kost

2008                 Michael Andrew Clemens

2007                 Holley Ellen Lynch

2006                 Suseela Somarajan

2005                 Christopher Tyler Goodin and Stephen Lee Johnson Jr.

2004                 Rupam Das

Most Outstanding Student Publication

Established in 2011 by the Graduate Program Committee; given annually to recognize the most outstanding student publication for a paper published during the previous calendar year.

2023 Recipient

2022 Karl Jaehnig, Membership Lists for 431 Open Clusters in Gaia DR2 Using Extreme Deconvolution Gaussian Mixture Models, The Astrophysical Journal  923: 129.

2022 Aaron Stevens, Proteolytic activation of Growth-blocking peptides triggers calcium responses through the GPCS Mthl10 during epithelial wound detection, Developmental Cell 56: 2160–2175

2021 Don Marcus Dixon, Rotationally Driven Ultraviolet Emission of Red Giant Stars, The Astronomical Journal 160: 12.

2021 Stuart David Storm, Swampland conjectures and slow-roll thawing quintessence, Physical Review D 102: 063519.

2021 Brooks Musangu, Anomalous neutron yields confirmed for Ba-Mo and newly observed for Ce-Zr from spontaneous fission of 252Cf, Physical Review C 101: 034610.

2020 Gillian Beltz-Mohrmann, Testing the accuracy of halo occupation distribution modelling using hydrodynamic simulations, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 491: 5771-5788.

2020 Thayer Walmsley, Near-infrared optical transitions in PdSe2 phototransistors, Nanoscale 11: 14410.

2019 Sylvia Morrow  Creation of quark–gluon plasma droplets with three distinct geometries, Nature Physics 15: 214-220.

2019 Glenna Dunn, Sowing Black Hole Seeds: Direct Collapse Black Hole Formation with Realistic Lyman–Werner Radiation in Cosmological SimulationsThe Astrophysical Journal 861: 39.

2018 Kyle Godbey, Dependence of fusion on isospin dynamics, Physical Review C 95: 011601(R).

2018 Laura Vega, Evidence for Binarity and Possible Disk Obscuration in Kepler Observations of the Pulsating RV Tau Variable DF Cygni, The Astrophysical Journal 839: 48.

2017 Hong Ni Multiplicity and rapidity dependence of strange hadron production in pp, pPb, and PbPb collisions at the LHC, Physics Letters B 768: 103–129.

2017  Andrey Baydin Depth dependent modification of optical constants arising from H+ implantation in n-type 4H-SiC measured using coherent acoustic phonons, APL Photonics 1: 036102.

2016 Ryan Nicholl  The effect of intrinsic crumpling on the mechanics of free-standing graphene, Nature Communications 6: 8789. 

2016 Michael Lund Transiting planets with LSST. I. Potential for LSST exoplanet detection, The Astronomical Journal 149: 16.

2015 Junhao Lin Flexible metallic nanowires with self-adaptive contacts to semiconducting transition-metal dichalcogenide monolayers, Nature Nanotechnology 9: 436-442.

2014 Fabienne Bastien An observational correlation between stellar brightness variations and surface gravity, Nature500: 427-430.

2014 Shengquan Tuo Multiplicity and transverse momentum dependence of two- and four-particle correlations in pPb and PbPb collisions, Physics Letters B 724: 213–240.

2013  Eric Appelt and Shengquan Tuo  Measurement of the elliptic anisotropy of charged particles produced in PbPb collisions at √sNN=2.76 TeV, Physical Review C 87: 014902.

2012 Hiram Conley Graphene Bimetallic-like Cantilevers: Probing Graphene/Substrate Interactions, Nano Letters 11: 4748-4752.

2011 Jed Ziegler Plasmonic Response of Nanoscale Spirals, Nano Letters 10: 3013-3018.

Akunuri V. Ramayya Award

Established in 2007 by Akunuri V. Ramayya, Professor of Physics, Emeritus; given to the most outstanding physics or astronomy graduate student teaching assistant.

2023 Recipients

  • Mia Grace Cantrell
  • KeShawn Ivory

2022                 Aaron Hunsaker, Matthew Murrow and Hongrui Wu

2021                 Adam Dodson

2020                 David Curie, Justin Malave and Christian Ornelas

2019                Samuel White and Thayer Walmsley

2018                Sylvia Morrow and Gillian Beltz-Mohrmann

2017                Christina Davis and Kyle Godbey

2016                Zina Jarrahi

2015                Daniel Kidd and Christopher Massaro

2014                Sara Case, Steve Herchko, Ryan Nicholl

2013                Drew Dellamonica

2012                Chong Cai

2011                Keith Warnick and Michael Carlson

2010                Joyeeta Nag and Heungman Park

2009                Jeffrey Clay Hammonds

2008                William Teets

2007                Marcin Michal Jankiewicz

Royal Albridge Award

Established in 2007 in honor of Royal Albridge, Professor of Physics, Emeritus, who taught at Vanderbilt from 1961 to 2007; given to the most outstanding first-time physics or astronomy graduate student teaching assistant.

2011                Andy Muhich and Lisa Genovese

2010                Andres Delannoy and Alex Krejci

2009                Jason Pawlowski and Caroline Yount

2007                Holley Ellen Lynch


Admissions                        Plan Your Ph.D.                          Apply Now