Department of Mathematics

Address: Mathematics 253-37 | Caltech | Pasadena, CA 91125
Telephone: (626) 395-4335 | Fax: (626) 585-1728
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Ph.D. Requirements

The major requirement for the Ph.D. in Mathematics at Caltech is the presentation and acceptance by the faculty of a thesis containing results of original research.

For admission to candidacy for the Ph.D., students are required to:

(a) Demonstrate a good working knowledge in the three core areas: Algebra, Analysis, and Topology/Geometry by

  • (i) earning grades of B or better in the core courses, Ma 110, 120, 151 (unless excused),
  • (ii) taking and passing a written qualifying exam in two of the three areas.

(b) Complete at least 9 quarter-courses in advanced mathematics in addition to the core courses. At least two of these must be in discrete mathematics (combinatorics, logic, complexity and computability).

  • (i) These 9 courses MUST be taken for grades except for courses that are given Pass/Fail only.
  • (ii) Two of the 9 courses must be in discrete math.  Any quarters of 116, 117 or 121 count automagically.  Other courses can be used with approval by the Dr. Wilson or Dr. Kechris.  Preferably you should get the approval in advance and ask the approver to send an email to the Graduate Program Administrator (Kristy Aubry)
  • (iii) Normally the 9 courses should be in Ma (or joint listed with Ma first). Other courses can be used with approval of the Director of Graduate Studies for the Mathematics Department (Dr.Kechris). Preferably you should get the approval in advance and ask the approver to send an email to Kristy for your file.

(c) Pass a candidacy examination consisting of an oral presentation to a committee of mathematics faculty describing the proposed thesis research and the area of research it belongs to. At least a week prior to the examination, candidates submit a written summary of their presentation.

Qualifying examinations are usually taken in June. Some entering students take a qualifying examination in October in order to demonstrate knowledge of one of the core areas and be excused from taking the corresponding course. It is expected that the core courses will be completed in the first year, unless the student needs to take a preparatory course, such as Ma 109 (Introduction to Geometry and Topology). The candidacy examination is expected to be completed before the end of the student's third year.

In addition to the core courses, students are required to complete nine quarters of other advanced mathematics courses, of which at least two quarters must be in the area of discrete mathematics: combinatorics, logic, complexity, and computability. Under special circumstances (e.g., finishing the degree in three years), exceptions to these requirements may be granted by the graduate option representative.

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