Department of Physics

  • Chair

    Herman L. Verlinde

  • Associate Chair

    Steven S. Gubser

    James D. Olsen

  • Departmental Representative

    Steven S. Gubser

  • Director of Graduate Studies

    James D. Olsen

  • Professor

    Michael Aizenman, also Mathematics

    Robert H. Austin

    Bogdan A. Bernevig

    William Bialek, also Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics

    Frank P. Calaprice

    Curtis G. Callan Jr.

    Joanna Dunkley

    Cristiano Galbiati

    Steven S. Gubser

    F. Duncan Haldane

    M. Zahid Hasan

    David A. Huse

    Igor R. Klebanov

    Daniel R. Marlow

    Peter D. Meyers

    James D. Olsen

    Nai Phuan Ong

    Lyman A. Page Jr.

    Jason R. Petta

    Alexander M. Polyakov

    Frans Pretorius

    Michael V. Romalis

    Joshua Shaevitz, also Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics

    Shivaji L. Sondhi

    Suzanne T. Staggs

    Paul J. Steinhardt

    Christopher G. Tully

    Herman L. Verlinde

    Ali Yazdani

  • Associate Professor

    Thomas Gregor, also Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics

    William C. Jones

  • Assistant Professor

    Waseem S. Bakr

    Simone Giombi

    Andrew Leifer

    Mariangela Lisanti

    Silviu S. Pufu

    Michael P. Zaletel

  • Senior Lecturer

    Katerina Visnjic

  • Associated Faculty

    Ravindra N. Bhatt, Electrical Engineering

    Roberto Car, Chemistry

    Mihalis C. Dafermos, Mathematics

    Andrew A. Houck, Electrical Engineering

    Mansour Shayegan, Electrical Engineering

    Yakov G. Sinai, Mathematics

    David N. Spergel, Astrophysical Sciences

    David W. Tank, Molecular Biology, Princeton Neuroscience Institute

    Salvatore Torquato, Chemistry

    Ned S. Wingreen, Molecular Biology

Information and Departmental Plan of Study

The physics department offers a comprehensive program with the flexibility to accommodate students with a range of interests. Those students wishing to maximize their preparation for graduate school can choose from a variety of advanced-level courses. The requirements of the core curriculum, however, are such that students with diverse interests can take a considerable course load outside the department. Thus, in addition to those students planning to enter graduate school in physics, the department encourages students with career goals in such areas as engineering physics, biophysics, law, medicine, materials science, and teaching.

Advanced Placement

Students who have taken one or more of the Advanced Placement Examinations in Physics are usually placed in PHY 105-106, PHY 103-104, or PHY 101-102, and with these placements no advanced placement credit is awarded.  In some cases, students with strong backgrounds may be awarded up to two units of advanced placement credit and/or placed in higher level physics courses.


Prerequisites as described here apply to the Class of 2019 and beyond. The Class of 2018 should consult the 2016-2017 Undergraduate Announcement for a list of program requirements.

Prerequisites for concentration in physics are the following five courses: PHY 103-104, PHY 207, and MAT 203-204.  These six courses should be completed by the end of sophomore year.  PHY 103 may be replaced by ISC 231-232 (the first term of Integrated Science Sequence), or EGR 191-192 (Engineering-Math-Physics), or PHY 105.  PHY 104 may be replaced by ISC 233-234 or PHY 106.  PHY 207 may be replaced by PHY 205.  MAT 203 may be replaced by MAT 201 or MAT 218.  MAT 204 may be replaced by MAT 202 or MAT 217.  Prerequisites for concentration in physics cannot be taken on a pass/D/fail basis.

It is possible to concentrate in physics starting with 100-level physics courses in sophomore year. Interested students should meet with the departmental representative as early as possible.

Program of Study

The program of study as described here applies to the Class of 2019 and beyond. The Class of 2018 should consult the 2016-2017 Undergraduate Announcement for a list of program requirements.

Upon completion of the prerequisites described above, courses required for concentration in physics are as follows.

1. One semester of quantum mechanics: PHY 208.

2. One semester of thermodynamics and statistical mechanics: PHY 301.

3. One semester of experimental physics: PHY 312.

4. One course either on complex analysis or on differential equations at the 300-level or higher:  APC 350, MAE 305, MAE 306, MAT 330, MAT 335, or MAT 427.

5. One additional course in Physics (not including cross-lists) at the 300-level or above.

6. One additional course in Physics at the 300-level or above, including cross-lists.

7. One additional course in either Physics or Math at the 300-level, including cross-lists.

8. One elective course at the 300-level or higher, as detailed below.

The elective course can be any Physics Department course (including cross-lists) at 300-level or above.  400-level physics courses are particularly recommended.  Courses in astrophysics, biophysics or biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, geophysical science, materials science, plasma physics, and mathematics may also be appropriate depending on the interests of the student.  Graduate courses may also be taken with permission from both the instructor and the departmental representative.

Courses required for concentration in physics may not be taken on a pass/D/fail basis by physics concentrators.

Independent Work

Junior Year. In addition to the coursework carried out during the junior year, the student is required to complete two junior papers, each of which is on a research topic of current interest. The purpose of the papers is to give students exposure to how physics research is actually performed by immersing them in journal, as opposed to textbook, literature. Each paper is written in close consultation with a faculty adviser, who is typically performing research in the subject area of the paper. A junior paper may serve as a preliminary investigation of a senior thesis topic. Junior independent work may also be satisfied with a short experimental project.

Early Concentration.  Students who complete the prerequisites for concentration before the end of sophomore year may declare early concentration in physics.  They may be offered an opportunity to undertake independent work during the spring term by writing the first junior paper.

Senior Year. In the senior year, in addition to coursework, students write a senior thesis based on their own research. The topic might be chosen from one of the active experimental or theoretical research fields of the Physics Department, or might be suggested by a faculty member with some subsidiary interest. A student could also choose a topic relating physics and another field, such as biophysics, geophysics, the teaching of physics, history of science, or engineering physics. Students whose main adviser is outside the Physics Department must also have a co-adviser who is a faculty member in the Physics Department.

Senior Departmental Examination

An oral examination conducted by a departmental committee at the end of the senior year serves as the senior departmental examination.

Certificate Programs

For those students with an interest in such topics as solid-state devices, optics, fluid mechanics, engineering design, control theory, computer applications, or other applied disciplines, the Program in Engineering Physics provides an opportunity for close contact with the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Specific requirements for the engineering physics certificate can be found in the section of this announcement on the Program in Engineering Physics.

The department also offers the opportunity for concentrators to participate in the biophysics certificate program. Interested students should consult the section of this announcement on the Program in Biophysics and discuss the program with the director and their departmental representative.

The Program in Quantitative and Computational Biology is designed for students with a strong interest in multidisciplinary and systems-level approaches to understanding molecular, cellular, and organismal behavior. The required courses provide a strong background in modern methodologies in data analysis, interpretation, and modeling.

Physics Department Facilities

The research laboratories in Jadwin Hall (the main physics building) are open to undergraduates to conduct supervised research for their junior papers, senior theses, and summer jobs. There is a "student shop" that offers a (noncredit) course in the use of machine tools. Students with an experimental bent are encouraged to take this course and are then able to participate actively in the construction of experimental apparatus. There are graduate courses in electronics (PHY 557 and PHY 558) open to undergraduates that prepare students to design and build the sophisticated electronics required in modern experiments.