Applied Physics Ph.D. (Ithaca)

Field of Study

Applied Physics

Program Description

The Applied Physics program combines a core physics curriculum with research and study in areas that also includes the application of physics to the broader scientific and engineering communities. Students in applied physics may pursue research in any one of several broad areas, including nanoscience, advanced materials, condensed matter physics; renewable energy; quantum information and photonics; biological physics; astrophysics and plasma physics.

The Ph.D. program in the graduate field of Applied Physics (AP) is a flexible, research-oriented doctoral program tailored to individual interests. AP combines a core physics curriculum with research and study usually in one of the areas discussed above. Graduate students can engage in a wide range of cross-disciplinary research activities, bringing their expertise as an applied physicist to bear, often in a collaborative environment. Instead of a qualifying exam, students are expected take classes in a common core of physics subjects, being quantum mechanics, electrodynamics, statistical mechanics, and advanced laboratory techniques.

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


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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. The GRE general and subject exams are not used in our evaluation process and should not be submitted.

Learning Outcomes

In the Applied Physics Ph.D. program, our philosophy is “learn physics, speak engineering”. This implies that graduates will 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 will have learned to 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