Physics

Academic Year 2022 – 2023

General Information

Address
Jadwin Hall
Phone

Program Offerings:

  • Ph.D.

Director of Graduate Studies:

Graduate Program Administrator:

Overview

Graduate study in the Department of Physics is strongly focused on research leading to the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree. We welcome students from diverse backgrounds and strive to provide a sense of community and inclusiveness where students are enabled to achieve their full potential. The Physics Department maintains an active research program with equal emphasis on theoretical and experimental studies. Primary research areas are theoretical and experimental elementary particle physics, theoretical and experimental gravity and cosmology, experimental nuclear and atomic physics, mathematical physics, theoretical and experimental condensed matter physics, and theoretical and experimental biophysics.

Students are encouraged to involve themselves in research activities right from the beginning. Early research participation leads to a more mature appreciation of the formal aspects of graduate study and a mastery of the skills necessary to succeed in independent work. It also allows a closer association with faculty members and a more natural transition to independent research later on. While research for the doctoral dissertation is the most important component of the program, the Physics Department also offers intensive training on best practices for teaching and scholarly presentation of research results. Together, this comprehensive training is designed to prepare students well for careers in academia and research at government or industrial laboratories, as well a broad range of non-academic careers in the private sector. The average time to completion of the Ph.D. in the Department of Physics is 5.4 years.

Interdepartmental Research Opportunities
Physics department faculty and graduate students are active in research collaborations with scientists in several other departments, including astrophysical sciences, plasma physics, chemical and electrical engineering, chemistry, biology, neuroscience, and quantitative and computational biology, as well as the Institute for Advanced Study and the Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials. With prior approval, students may conduct their research under the supervision of advisers from outside the physics department.

Apply

Application deadline
December 15, 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (This deadline is for applications for enrollment beginning in fall 2023)
Program length
5 years
Fee
$75
GRE
General Test optional/not required; Physics Subject Test optional/not required

Additional departmental requirements

Applicants must indicate at least one choice from a menu of Department's current Areas of Research – see the Department of Physics website "Research" section for descriptions of the research areas and the current activities in each. The Statement of Purpose is a good opportunity to clarify research interests. The Department of Physics notes that it is not necessary to describe how an applicant developed an interest in Physics.  Applicants are typically best served by devoting the statement to a description of their research background and interests. However, applicants with unusual or compelling paths are welcome to describe their experiences.  In any case, the Statement of Purpose should focus on an applicant’s specific research interests at Princeton and any relevant research experience.

Program Offerings

Courses

The Department of Physics divides the core curriculum into three groups.  During the first two years, students are required to take and pass (at least) one course in each group. Thus minimally, a student needs to pass three core courses. A passing grade is a B or higher. All students are required to complete the core curriculum by the end of the second year.  The core curriculum is grouped into three areas, which are outlined below:

Quantum Mechanics/Quantum Field Theory
PHY 506 Quantum Mechanics
PHY 509 Relativistic Quantum Theory I
PHY 510 Relativistic Quantum Theory II
PHY 529 Introduction to High Energy Physics

Condensed Matter/Biophysics/Atomic Physics
PHY 525 Introduction to Condensed Matter Physics I
PHY 526 Introduction to Condensed Matter Physics II
PHY 551 Atomic Physics (not taught every year)
PHY 561 & 562 Biophysics

General Relativity/High Energy Physics
PHY 523 Introduction to General Relativity
PHY 524 Advanced Topics in General Relativity
PHY 529 Introduction to High Energy Physics

During the fall term of the first year, students generally take one core course to supplement their undergraduate physics background and prepare for the preliminary exam. Students are encouraged to take other more advanced courses to expand their knowledge in their chosen specialty. 

All students are required to take a dedicated course, PHY 502 Communicating Physics that is designed to strengthen the skills necessary to communicate effectively as a teacher and researcher in physics.

Additional pre-generals requirements

Adviser Selection
The Department of Physics aims to engage graduate students in research as soon as they arrive.  Graduate students are required to settle on a thesis topic and secure a dissertation adviser by the end of the second year.

General exam

The preliminary examination, the experimental project and the required minimum number of core courses constitute the general examination. All sections of the general examination must be completed by the end of the second year.  

Students take the first section of the general examination, the preliminary examination, in January or May of the first year. The preliminary examination covers topics of electromagnetism, elementary quantum mechanics, mechanics, statistical physics and thermodynamics.

The second section of the general examination is the experimental project, which consists of a report and presentation on an experiment that the student has either performed or assisted others in performing, at Princeton. Students submit the report and complete the presentation in November of the second year.  

Qualifying for the M.A.

The Master of Arts (M.A.) degree is normally an incidental degree on the way to full Ph.D. candidacy and is earned after a student successfully completes all components of the general examination. It may also be awarded to students who, for various reasons, leave the Ph.D. program, provided that these requirements have been met.

Teaching

While teaching is not a requirement, the Department offers graduate students the opportunity to teach at least one semester during their graduate tenure. A wide range of teaching opportunities are offered, from laboratory work to recitation sessions in core undergraduate and advanced graduate courses.

Post-Generals requirements

The Pre-Thesis Project
The pre-thesis project is a research project in the student's area of interest, conducted under the supervision of a faculty adviser who is likely to become the Ph.D. adviser for the student.  The final product is a written report and an oral defense in the presence of a pre-thesis committee, which is strongly encouraged to comprise faculty who will also serve as the student’s Ph.D. committee. The report's length and format are typically comparable to a journal article. It is advisable to include an introduction aimed at physicists who are not expert in the field.

The goals of the pre-thesis projects are:

  • to give the student a serious introduction to his or her final area of specialization
  • to get the student involved with the faculty in the research group of interest
  • to get the student known by the faculty in the research group of interest

In order to get a rapid start on their thesis research, students are expected to start actively working on their pre-thesis project as soon as possible. The evaluation by the pre-thesis adviser will be an essential part of the reenrollment process at the end of the third year. The pre-thesis defense should take place no later than the fall of the third year.

Dissertation and FPO

The Ph.D. is awarded once the dissertation is accepted and the final public oral (FPO) has been completed.

Faculty

  • Chair

    • Herman L. Verlinde
  • Associate Chair

    • William C. Jones
    • James D. Olsen
  • Director of Graduate Studies

    • James D. Olsen
  • Director of Undergraduate Studies

    • William C. Jones
  • Professor

    • Michael Aizenman
    • Robert H. Austin
    • Bogdan A. Bernevig
    • William Bialek
    • Curtis G. Callan
    • Jo Dunkley
    • Cristiano Galbiati
    • Thomas Gregor
    • Frederick D. Haldane
    • M. Zahid Hasan
    • David A. Huse
    • William C. Jones
    • Igor R. Klebanov
    • Daniel R. Marlow
    • Peter D. Meyers
    • James D. Olsen
    • Nai Phuan Ong
    • Lyman A. Page
    • Alexander M. Polyakov
    • Frans Pretorius
    • Michael V. Romalis
    • Shinsei Ryu
    • Joshua W. Shaevitz
    • Suzanne T. Staggs
    • Paul J. Steinhardt
    • Christopher G. Tully
    • Herman L. Verlinde
    • Ali Yazdani
  • Associate Professor

    • Waseem S. Bakr
    • Simone Giombi
    • Mariangela Lisanti
    • Silviu S. Pufu
  • Assistant Professor

    • Lawrence W. Cheuk
    • Andrew M. Leifer
    • Biao Lian
    • Isobel R. Ojalvo
    • Sanfeng Wu
  • Associated Faculty

    • Ravindra N. Bhatt, Electrical & Comp Engineering
    • Roberto Car, Chemistry
    • Mihalis Dafermos, Mathematics
    • Andrew A. Houck, Electrical & Comp Engineering
    • Mansour Shayegan, Electrical & Comp Engineering
    • David N. Spergel, Astrophysical Sciences
    • David W. Tank, Princeton Neuroscience Inst
    • Salvatore Torquato, Chemistry
    • Ned S. Wingreen, Molecular Biology
  • Lecturer with Rank of Professor

    • Edward Witten
  • Senior Lecturer

    • Katerina Visnjic
    • Kasey Wagoner
  • Lecturer

    • Steven J. Benton
    • Aurelien A. Fraisse
    • Kelsey M. Hallinen
    • Matteo Parisi
    • Jason L. Puchalla
    • Claudio Savarese
    • Andi Tan
  • Visiting Lecturer with Rank of Professor

    • Stephen L. Adler
    • Nima Arkani-Hamed
    • Stanislas Leibler
    • Juan M. Maldacena
    • Nathan Seiberg

For a full list of faculty members and fellows please visit the department or program website.

Permanent Courses

Courses listed below are graduate-level courses that have been approved by the program’s faculty as well as the Curriculum Subcommittee of the Faculty Committee on the Graduate School as permanent course offerings. Permanent courses may be offered by the department or program on an ongoing basis, depending on curricular needs, scheduling requirements, and student interest. Not listed below are undergraduate courses and one-time-only graduate courses, which may be found for a specific term through the Registrar’s website. Also not listed are graduate-level independent reading and research courses, which may be approved by the Graduate School for individual students.

CHM 510 - Topics in Physical Chemistry (also PHY 544)

Topics covered vary from year to year and are selected from the following: state-selected chemical processes; high-resolution spectroscopy; energy transfer and redistribution; laser-induced chemistry; surface chemistry; electronic properties of conjugated polymers; nonlinear optical materials; physical electrochemistry; heterogeneous reaction dynamics; spectroscopy and dynamics of clusters; and chaotic systems.

ECE 567 - Advanced Solid-State Electron Physics (also PHY 567)

Electron localization in disordered structuresAnderson model and scaling theory of localization; correlated electron systemsHubbard model, Mott transition; metal-insulator transitions in correlated and disordered materials; quantum hall effectinteger and fractional; and quantum phase transitions.

MAT 595 - Topics in Mathematical Physics (also PHY 508)

The course covers current topics in Mathematical Physics. More specific topic details provided when the course is offered.

MSE 504 - Monte Carlo and Molecular Dynamics Simulation in Statistical Physics & Materials Science (also CBE 520/CHM 560/PHY 512)

This course examines methods for simulating matter at the molecular and electronic scale. Molecular dynamics, Monte Carlo and electronic structure methods will be covered with emphasis on hands-on experience in writing and/or exercising simulation codes for atomistic and electronic structure simulation.

PHY 501 - Electricity and Magnetism

A systematic treatment of the theory of electromagnetic phenomena from an advanced standpoint. Maxwell's equations are discussed, with special attention given to their physical meaning. Other topics include dielectric and magnetic media, radiation, and scattering.

PHY 502 - Communicating Physics (Half-Term)

This course provides training to become superior communicators of physics. In particular it focuses on the subset of skills that are most helpful to graduate students who serve as Graduate Assistant Instructors at Princeton, these are listed below. - Learn to create a fair and inclusive environment - Learn research-proven teaching methods - Gain experience communicating in many different settings This course should be taken by first-year graduate students in the Department of Physics. There are no prerequisites for the course.

PHY 505 - Quantum Mechanics

The physical principles and mathematical formalism of non-relativistic quantum mechanics. The principles will be illustrated by selected applications to topics in atomic physics, particle physics and condensed matter.

PHY 506 - Advanced Quantum Mechanics (also MSE 576)

A one-term course in advanced quantum mechanics, following Physics 505. After a brief review of some fundamental topics (e.g., hydrogen atom, perturbation theory, scattering theory) more advanced topics will be covered, including many-body theory, operator theory, coherent states, stability of matter and other Coulomb systems and the theory of the Bose gas.

PHY 509 - Quantum Field Theory

Introduction to quantum field theory. Quantization of Klein-Gordon and Dirac fields. Interactions with Feynman diagrams. Elementary processes in quantum electrodynamics. Introduction to non-abelian gauge theory. Radiative corrections.

PHY 510 - Advanced Quantum Field Theory

Advanced topics in Relativistic Quantum Theory: renormalization group, non-perturbative techniques (solitons, instantons), and quantum fields in curved space.

PHY 511 - Statistical Mechanics

The physical principles and mathematical formalism of statistical mechanics, with an emphasis on applications to thermodynamics, condensed matter physics, physical chemistry, and astrophysics are studied.

PHY 521 - Introduction to Mathematical Physics (also MAT 597)

An introduction to mathematically rigorous methods in physics. Topics to be covered include classical and quantum statistical mechanic, quantum many-body problem, group theory, Schroedinger operators, and quantum information theory.

PHY 523 - Introduction to Relativity

A modern introduction from scratch to the theory of gravity, with an emphasis on quantum effects, supersymmetry, strings, and black holes.

PHY 525 - Introduction to Condensed Matter Physics

In the fall semester the course explores electronic structure of crystals, phonons, transport and magnetic properties, screening in metals, and superconductivity. In the spring semester the focus is on "soft" condensed matter physics, including fluids, polymers, liquid crystals, phase transitions, generalized elasticity, dislocations, dynamics and hydrodynamics.

PHY 529 - High-Energy Physics

An overview of modern elementary particle physics. The basic formalism is developed in the context of quantum electrodynamics (QED), then the principle of local gauge invariance is used to generalize this to the current "standard model" of the fundamental forces. The latter is then applied to a variety of physical cases. Specific topics include: weak decays, W and Z physics, deep inelastic scattering, CP violation, neutrino oscillations, and Higgs searches, with an emphasis on areas of current interest. The course also covers key concepts in accelerator and detector physics.

PHY 536 - Advanced Condensed Matter Physics II (also MSE 577)

Fermi liquids, Luttinger liquids, the quantum Hall effect, superconductivity, quantum magnetism, Kondo effect and localization.

PHY 537 - Nuclear Physics

A summary of some contemporary nuclear physics topics, including neutrino mass, double beta decay, and violations of parity and time reversal symmetries. Discussion of nuclear structure calculations relevant to these topics are also given.

PHY 539 - Topics in High-Energy Physics

The large N expansion in gauge theories; quantization of closed and open strings; string perturbation theory and conformal field theory techniques; string effective actions; and large N matrix models and random surfaces.

PHY 540 - Selected Topics in Theoretical High-Energy Physics

Superstrings; low-energy effective actions; p-brane solutions in supergravity; Dirichlet branes; D-brane approach to black holes; the AdS/CFT correspondence.

PHY 557 - Electronic Methods in Experimental Physics

Analog circuits: operational amplifiers, active filters, low-level measurements, transducers, phase-lock loops, and power supplies: digital circuits: logic, flip-flops, counters, data transmission, A/D and D/A converters and timers; and computer hardware; computer architecture and mini- and micro-computer interfacing are studied. Students build about 100 circuits from voltage dividers to microcomputers.

PHY 558 - Electronic Methods in Experimental Physics II

This is a laboratory course that provides hands-on experience designing, building and testing digital logic circuits. The course meets for one three hour session each week and has weekly reading assignments. Topics covered include combinatorial and sequential logic devices, A/D and D/A converters, PLLs and microcontrollers. Grading is in P/D/F format as is based on solutions of several "design problems" assigned throughout the semester. Students are assumedto have some familiarity programming in a procedural language ( C, Pascal, FORTRAN, Java, etc.) This course complements PHY557 which concentrates on analog electronics.

PHY 561 - Biophysics

A physicist's perspective on selected topics in biology. The course explores problems ranging from functioning of individual biological molecules and their complexes to emerging collective properties of biological systems.

PHY 562 - Biophysics

A physicist's perspective on selected topics in biology. The course explores problems ranging from functioning of individual biological molecules and their complexes to emerging collective properties of biological systems.

PHY 563 - Physics of the Universe

Introduces the physics and astrophysics of compact objects, including white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes. Topics included are radio-pulsars, X-ray binaries, and gamma ray bursts.

PHY 580 - Extramural Summer Research Project

Summer research project designed in consultation with the student's research adviser and an industrial, NGO, or government sponsor that will provide practical experience relevant to the student's research area. Start date no earlier than June 1. A written research report and sponsor's evaluation are required at the end of the experience.

PHY 581 - Graduate Research Internship

This course is for post generals students who are working on their thesis and nominated by their advisor. The student has been nominated and awarded an internship from another university, research institute, private organization or foundation. This internship allows the student to further their research on their thesis.

QCB 505 - Topics in Biophysics and Quantitative Biology (also PHY 555)

Analysis of recent work on quantitative, theoretically grounded approaches to the phenomena of life. Topics rotate from year to year, spanning all levels of biological organization, including (as examples) initial events in photosynthesis, early embryonic development, evolution of protein families, coding and computation in the brain, collective behavior in animal groups. Assumes knowledge of relevant physics and applicable mathematics at advanced undergraduate level, with tutorials on more advanced topics. Combination of lectures with student discussion of recent and classic papers.

QCB 515 - Method and Logic in Quantitative Biology (also CHM 517/EEB 517/MOL 515/PHY 570)

Close reading of published papers illustrating the principles, achievements and difficulties that lie at the interface of theory and experiment in biology. Two important papers, read in advance by all students, will be considered each week; emphasis will be on student discussion, not formal lectures. Topics include: cooperativity, robust adaptation, kinetic proofreading, sequence analysis, clustering, phylogenetics, analysis of fluctuations, maximum likelihood methods.