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Applied Physics Ph.D.?

  1. Aug 14, 2008 #1
    I'll be graduating this coming year and it's time to hunt for graduate schools. Definitely will go into experimentalism, and fondling the idea of applied physics.

    Anybody know anything about that or any schools that have a specialization in it? I found out Cornell has a separate kind of division for applied physics, which is cool. That's kind of what I'm looking for.

    Would going into applied physics have any cons vs. regular physics?
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  3. Aug 14, 2008 #2


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    Phd don't really have titles like that, there is no such thing as applied physics / regular physics.
    Some topics will be theoretical some will be very experimental and within a topic (and even within a group working in the same lab) there will be a range of people working from very theoretical to very experimental parts. Look at the LHC, that's about as theoretical as you can get while beingthe worlds biggest experiment.
  4. Aug 14, 2008 #3
    Someone forgot to forward that memo to the applied physics departments at Caltech, Stanford, and Columbia, to name a few examples...
  5. Aug 14, 2008 #4


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    Yeah but you don't get a PhD in 'applied physics', just like you dont get a PhD in theoretical physics.
  6. Aug 14, 2008 #5
    Well, actually, you do get a PhD in '"Applied Physics." Hence why some of those schools listed above have separate departments of applied physics. Rice University is another school that comes to mind.

    From what I've seen, there's two kinds of applied physics programs. One type is very closely allied with the standard physics department (e.g. Stanford) but basically expects you to have a physics undergrad background. The other type (e.g. Rice) seems to be a place where engineers and chemists can go to get a more traditional theoretical education while still being active in the more "applied" areas of physics.

    In general, these types of programs will concentrate more on solid-state and optical physics and won't make you "bother" with areas such as high-energy and relativity.
  7. Aug 15, 2008 #6
    Yeah, and that's pretty much what I want. I like particles and stuff, but I would much more enjoy doing something where I can make something work and see results.
  8. Aug 15, 2008 #7


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    But you'll need to decide what area you want to do applied physics in. Particle physics, materials science, nanotechnologies and AMO physics are widely different fields.

    Browse around those three applied physics departments linked above to get an idea of what sorts of projects exist and see what seems to interest you. Then find the groups doing research in those fields (most of which will not have their own 'applied physics' department)
  9. Aug 15, 2008 #8
    I would just like to point out that the general notions of "experimental physics" and "applied physics" are NOT the same. Clearly experiments are performed constantly in "pure physics". The difference is that the experiments in pure physics may not necessarily lead to "direct" application in technology or to the general society. Also, as some have eluded to, "applied physics" research will undoubtedly be practiced in the standard physics departments. Similarly, for those schools with applied physics department, there will be researchers that specialize in modeling and computational methods; sometimes we call these people "theorists".

    Oh, there is also engineering..... :tongue2:
  10. Aug 15, 2008 #9
    John Hopkins runs the Applied Physics Lab...It is a good choice.
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