Applied Physics Ph.D. (Ithaca)

Field of Study

Applied Physics

Program Description

Graduate study in the field offers the opportunity to achieve proficiency in physics, mathematics, and applied science. Applied physics is particularly suitable for students preparing for a scientific career in an area of applied science based on principles and techniques of physics.

A student may choose for specialization and thesis or dissertation research any subject compatible with an approach based on the application of principles of physics and mathematics. Current areas of advanced study and research include applied theoretical physics, biophysics, chemical physics, physics of fluids, nuclear and reactor physics, optics, laser physics, plasma physics, solid-state physics, nano-science, and space physics.

The Ph.D. program in the graduate field of Applied Physics (AP) is a research-oriented doctoral program tailored to individual interests. It combines a core physics curriculum with research and study in one of several areas that deal either with the application of physics to a technical discipline or with the interface between physics and another area of science. After two semesters of graduate study, students in the Ph.D. program take a written qualifying examination covering the core subjects. This exam is in addition to those required by the Graduate School.

Additional details about the Applied physics graduate programs are on the website,

Contact Information

Phone: 607 255-0638

212 Clark Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY  14853

Concentrations by Subject

  • applied physics



Application Requirements and Deadlines

Application Deadlines:

Fall: Dec 15

Requirements Summary:

Applicants should have undergraduate preparation in physics or another physical science or in an engineering field with a strong emphasis on mathematics and modern physics. Applicants must submit GRE general test scores, and are advised to submit scores on the GRE physics subject test and the GRE writing assessment.

all Graduate School Requirements, including the TOEFL Exam or IELTS Academic Exam for non-native English applicants

  • three recommendations
  • GRE general test*
  • both GRE writing assessment and GRE subject test in physics advised*
  • TOEFL minimum score of IBT Exam: Listening - 15; Writing - 20; Reading - 20; Speaking 22

 *Due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation and the difficulty students may have in preparing for and taking the GRE, we are waiving our GRE requirement for the Fall 2021 admissions cycle.

Learning Outcomes

In the Applied Physics Ph.D. program, we want to ensure that first and foremost, the candidates know how to “think like an applied physicist”. This implies that they have mastery of the fundamental physics knowledge, can synthesize knowledge from different areas, and take the course-based knowledge to the next level, where, with guidance from their mentors and peers, they apply the knowledge to solve problems of practical interest. We therefore aim at an interdisciplinary education and broad course base. In addition to becoming a world expert in the area of their dissertation topics, the candidates will be prepared for a career as a professional scientist/engineer, with all the flexibility that that implies.

Applied physicists must learn how to communicate using written, spoken and presentation skills. The candidates will acquire and improve these skills as part of our course work and exams. For example, Physics 6510, our Advanced Laboratory course has a requirement to write lab reports in standard journal (Physical Review Letters) format as well as make an oral presentation to faculty and peers in a timed format. Our A- and B-exams also require comprehensive skills in written and oral presentation. These formative skills are essential for the practicing Applied physicist.

It is essential that applied physicists are aware of ethical issues pertaining to the conduct and dissemination of research, in collaborative research endeavors as well as instances that may arise concerned with the teaching arena. Opportunities to participate in training concerned with ethical issues will be provided and must be completed by all students before their A-exams. The successful completion of the Responsible Conduct of Research unit online is required of all students.


A candidate for a Ph.D. in Applied Physics is expected to demonstrate (a) broad knowledge in the fundamental areas of physics and in-depth knowledge at highly advanced level in at least one sub-discipline of Applied Physics, (b) breadth of interdisciplinary training, and (c) the ability to synthesize and create knowledge by making an original and substantial contribution to an area of Applied Physics in an appropriate timeframe.

Proficiencies that are required to be demonstrated by the candidate:

Learning outcome 1: Demonstrate broad knowledge in the fundamental areas of Applied Physics, advanced knowledge in a sub-discipline, and interdisciplinary training.

  • Proficiency in basic physics
  • Advanced knowledge in an area of applied physics
  • Breadth of interdisciplinary training

Learning outcome 2: Demonstrate the ability to acquire skills to perform independent advanced research.

  • Demonstrate ability to identify and seek out resources and information; apply these to guide research plan development
  • Demonstrate the ability to master and/or innovate research methodologies, and techniques
  • Demonstrate oral and written communication skills

Learning outcome 3: Make an original and substantial contribution to the discipline.

  • Demonstrate independent thinking and creativity
  • Develop and execute original research plan(s)
  • Generate publishable advances in an area of applied physics

Learning outcome 4: Demonstrate a commitment to advancing scholarship.

  • Maintain familiarity with advances in the field
  • Demonstrate commitment to personal professional development through engagement in professional societies, conference participations and publications
  • Show commitment to learning, collaborative inquiry, and mentoring

Learning outcome 5: Demonstrate professional skills.

  • Understand and maintain ethical standards in the field
  • Listen, give, and receive feedback effectively