Department of Physics
- Herman L. Verlinde
- William C. Jones
- Peter D. Meyers (acting)
Director of Undergraduate Studies
- William C. Jones
Director of Graduate Studies
- Peter D. Meyers
- 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
- Igor R. Klebanov
- Daniel R. Marlow
- Peter D. Meyers
- James D. Olsen
- Nai Phuan Ong
- Lyman A. Page
- Jason R. Petta
- Alexander M. Polyakov
- Frans Pretorius
- Michael V. Romalis
- Shinsei Ryu
- Joshua W. Shaevitz
- Shivaji L. Sondhi
- Suzanne T. Staggs
- Paul J. Steinhardt
- Christopher G. Tully
- Herman L. Verlinde
- Ali Yazdani
- Waseem S. Bakr
- Simone Giombi
- William C. Jones
- Mariangela Lisanti
- Silviu S. Pufu
- Lawrence W. Cheuk
- Andrew M. Leifer
- Biao Lian
- Isobel R. Ojalvo
- Sanfeng Wu
- 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
- Katerina Visnjic
- Jedrzej Biesiada
- Kasey Wagoner
Visiting Lecturer with Rank of Professor
- Stephen L. Adler
- Nima Arkani-Hamed
- Stanislas Leibler
- Juan M. Maldacena
- Nathan Seiberg
- Edward Witten
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 concentrators with career goals in such areas as engineering physics, biophysics, law, medicine, materials science, and teaching.
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 for concentration in physics are the following five courses: PHY 103-104, PHY 205, and MAT 203-204. These five 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 PHY 105. PHY 104 may be replaced by ISC 233-234 or PHY 106. The PHY 109/110 (spring/summer) sequence is fully equivalent to PHY 104. Students with a particular interest in formal mathematics may instead satisfy the MAT 203-204 prerequisite with either the MAT 215-217 or the MAT 216-218 sequence. 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 director of undergraduate studies as early as possible.
Program of Study
Upon completion of the prerequisites described above, courses required for concentration in physics are as follows.
- One semester of quantum mechanics: PHY 208.
- One semester of thermodynamics and statistical mechanics: PHY 301.
- One semester of experimental physics: PHY 312.
- One course on complex analysis or on differential equations chosen from the following list:
- APC 350
- MAE 305
- MAE 306
- MAT 330
- MAT 335
- MAT 427
- One additional course in physics (not including cross-lists) at the 300-level or above.
- One additional course in physics at the 300-level or above, including cross-lists.
- One additional course in either physics or math at the 300-level or above, including cross-lists.
- One elective course at the 300-level or higher, as detailed below.
All eight courses must be taken for a letter grade, not pass/D/fail. Note that this excludes any pass/D/fail-only courses from counting as one of the eight.
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. Courses from these departments may be approved on a case-by-case basis by the director of undergraduate studies. Graduate courses may also be taken with permission from both the instructor and the director of undergraduate studies.
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. Students interested in this option must do so with the advice and consent of the physics department and the residential college director of studies.
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.
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.
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 director of undergraduate studies.
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.