Undergraduate Programs in Applied Physics

The applied physics program stresses the basic physics that underlies most developments in engineering and the mathematical tools that are important to both physicists and engineers. Since the advances in most branches of technology lead to rapid changes in state-of-the-art techniques, the applied physics program provides the student with a broad base of fundamental science and mathematics while retaining the opportunity for specialization through technical electives.

The applied physics curriculum offers students the skills, experience, and preparation necessary for several career options, including opportunities to minor in economics and to take business-related courses. In recent years, applied physics graduates have entered graduate programs in many areas of applied physics or physics, enrolled in medical school, or been employed in various technical or financial areas immediately after receiving the B.S. degree.

Opportunities for undergraduate research exist in the many research programs in applied physics. These include fusion and space plasma physics, optical and laser physics, and condensed matter physics. Undergraduate students can receive course credit for research or an independent project with a faculty member. Opportunities also exist for undergraduate students in the applied physics program to participate in this research through part-time employment during the academic year and full-time employment during the summer, either at Columbia or as part of the NSF REU program nationwide. Practical research experience is a valuable supplement to the formal course of instruction. Applied physics students participate in an informal undergraduate seminar to study current and practical problems in applied physics, and obtain hands-on experience in at least two advanced laboratory courses.

Majors are introduced to two areas of application of applied physics (AP) by a course in each of two areas. Approved areas and courses are:

DYNAMICAL SYSTEMS: APMA E4101 or PHYS GU4003

OPTICAL OR LASER PHYSICS: APPH E4110 or E4112

NUCLEAR SCIENCE: APPH E4010

PLASMA PHYSICS: APPH E4301

PHYSICS OF FLUIDS: APPH E4200

SOLID STATE/CONDENSED MATTER PHYSICS: PHYS GU4018

BIOPHYSICAL MODELING: APMA E4400

In addition to these courses, courses listed in the Specialty Areas in Applied Physics can be used to satisfy this requirement with preapproval of the applied physics adviser.

All students must take 30 points of electives in the third and fourth years, of which 17 points must be technical courses approved by the adviser. The 17 points include 2 points of an advanced laboratory in addition to APPH E4018. Technical electives must be at the 3000 level or above unless prior approval is obtained from the department. A number of approved technical electives are listed in the section on specialty areas. The remaining points of electives are intended primarily as an opportunity to complete the absolutely mandatory four-year, 27-point nontechnical requirement for the B.S. degree, but if this 27-point nontechnical requirement has been met already, then any type of coursework can satisfy these elective points.