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MIT Course Catalog 2014-2015

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Department of Physics

The Department of Physics offers undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate training, with a wide range of options for specialization.

The emphasis of both the undergraduate curriculum and the graduate program is on understanding the fundamental principles that appear to govern the behavior of the physical world, including space and time and matter and energy in all its forms, from the subatomic to the cosmological and from the elementary to the complex.

The Department of Physics strives to be at the forefront of many areas where new physics can be found. Consequently, the department works on problems where extreme conditions may reveal new behavior: from clusters of galaxies or the entire universe to elementary particles or the strings that may be the substructure of these particles; from collisions of nuclei at relativistic velocities that make droplets of matter hotter than anything since the Big Bang to laser-cooled atoms so cold that their wave functions overlap, resulting in a macroscopic collective state, the Bose-Einstein condensate; and from individual atoms to unusual materials, such as high-temperature superconductors and those that are important in biology. Pushing the limits provides the opportunity to observe new general principles and test theories of the structure and behavior of matter and energy.

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Undergraduate Study

Bachelor of Science in Physics/Course 8
[see degree chart]

An undergraduate degree in physics provides an excellent basis not only for graduate study in physics and related fields, but also for professional work in such fields as astrophysics, biophysics, engineering and applied physics, geophysics, management, law, or medicine. The undergraduate curriculum offers students the opportunity to acquire a deep conceptual understanding of fundamental physics. The core departmental requirements begin this process. The student then chooses one of two options to complete the degree: the focused option is designed for students who plan to pursue physics as a career; the flexible option accommodates those who want to tailor their physics program in a way that reflects broader interests, as well as those who are interested in other, perhaps nontraditional, career paths. Either option provides a considerable amount of time for exploration through electives. Students proceed at the pace and degree of specialization best suited to their individual capacities. Both options lead to the same degree: the Bachelor of Science in Physics.

Physics: Focused Option

This option—which includes three terms of quantum mechanics, 36 units of laboratory experience, and a thesis—is ideal preparation for a career in physics. In the second year, students take 8.03 Physics III, 8.033 Relativity, 8.04 Quantum Physics I, 8.044 Statistical Physics I, and 8.223 Classical Mechanics II. Important skills for experimentation in physics may be acquired by starting an Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) project.

In the third year, students normally take laboratory subjects 8.13 and 8.14 Experimental Physics I and II, along with 8.05 and 8.06 Quantum Physics II and III. Students should also begin to take the restricted elective subjects, one in mathematics and at least two in physics. The mathematics subjects 18.04 Complex Variables with Applications, 18.075 Methods for Scientists and Engineers, and 18.06 Linear Algebra are particularly popular with physics majors. Topical elective subjects in astrophysics, biological physics, condensed matter, plasma, and nuclear and particle physics allow students to gain an appreciation of the forefronts of modern physics. Students intending to go on to graduate school in physics are encouraged to take the theoretical physics sequence 8.07 Electromagnetism II, 8.08 Statistical Physics II, and 8.09 Classical Mechanics III.

An important component of this option is the thesis, which is a physics research project carried out under the guidance of a faculty member. Many thesis projects grow naturally out of UROP projects. Students should have some idea of a thesis topic by the middle of the junior year. A thesis proposal must be submitted before registering for thesis units and no later than Add Date of the fall term of the senior year.

A relatively large amount of elective time usually becomes available during the fourth year and can be used either to deepen one's background in physics or to explore other disciplines.

Physics: Flexible Option

This option is designed for students who wish to develop a strong background in the fundamentals of physics and then build on this foundation as they prepare for career paths that may not involve a graduate degree in physics. Many students find an understanding of the basic concepts of physics and an appreciation of the physicist's approach to problem solving an excellent preparation for the growing spectrum of nontraditional, technology-related career opportunities, as well as for careers in business, law, medicine, or engineering. Additionally, the flexible option makes it more possible for students with diverse intellectual interests to pursue a second major in another department.

The option begins with the core subjects 8.01, 8.02, 8.03, 8.04, 8.044, and either 8.21 or 8.223. Students round out their foundation material with either an additional quantum mechanics subject (8.05) or a subject in relativity (8.20 or 8.033). There is an experimental requirement of 8.13 or, with the approval of the department, a laboratory subject of similar intensity in another department, an experimental research project or senior thesis, or an experimentally oriented summer externship. An exploration requirement consists of one elective subject in physics. Students can satisfy the departmental portion of the Communication Requirement by taking two of the following subjects: 8.06, 8.13, 8.225, 8.226, or 8.287J. The department and the Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement may accept substitution of one of the department's two required CI-M subjects with a CI-M subject in another department if it forms a natural part of the student's physics program.

Students following this option must also complete a focus requirement—three subjects forming one intellectually coherent unit in some area (not necessarily physics), subject to the approval of the department and separate from those used by the student to satisfy the HASS requirement. Areas of focus chosen by students have included astronomy, biology, computational physics, theoretical physics, nanotechnology, history of science, science and technology policy, philosophy, and science teaching. Some students may choose to satisfy their experimental and exploration requirements in the same area as their focus; others may opt for greater breadth by choosing other fields to fulfill these requirements.

Although students may choose this option at any time in their undergraduate career, many decide on the flexible major during their sophomore year in order to have enough time to craft a program that best suits their individual needs. Specific subject choices for the experimental and focus requirements require the written approval of the Flexible Program coordinator, Dr. Sean P. Robinson.

Cambridge-MIT Exchange

The Physics Department participates in the junior-year exchange program with Cambridge University, in the United Kingdom, through the Cambridge-MIT Exchange (CME). Students with broad interests and a desire to experience a different educational environment are encouraged to explore this unique opportunity. Interested students should consult the Year or Term Away section of the chapter on Undergraduate Education in Part 1, then contact the department's CME coordinator, Professor Thomas Greytak.

Minors

The Minor in Physics provides a solid foundation for the pursuit of a broad range of professional activities in science and engineering. The requirements for a Minor in Physics are 18.03 or 18.034, plus at least five Course 8 subjects beyond the General Institute Requirements that constitute at least 57 units.

Students should submit a completed Minor Application Form to Physics Academic Programs, Room 4-315. The Physics Department's minor coordinator is Catherine Modica. For more information on minor programs, see Undergraduate Education in Part 1.

The Minor in Astronomy, offered jointly with the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, covers the observational and theoretical foundations of astronomy. For a description of the minor, see Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Programs and Minors in Part 3.

Inquiries

Additional information concerning degree programs and research activities may be obtained by contacting the department at physics-undergrad@mit.edu or 617-253-4841.

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Graduate Study

The Physics Department offers programs leading to the degrees of Master of Science in Physics, Doctor of Philosophy, and Doctor of Science.

Entrance Requirements for Graduate Study

Students intending to pursue graduate work in physics should have as a background the equivalent of the requirements for the Bachelor of Science in Physics from MIT. However, students may make up some deficiencies over the course of their graduate work.

Master of Science in Physics

The normal degree program in the department leads to a PhD in Physics. Admission to a master's degree program in Physics is available only in special cases (e.g., US military officers). The requirements for the Master of Science in Physics are the same as the General Degree Requirements listed under Graduate Education in Part 1. A master's thesis must represent a piece of independent research work in any of the fields described below, and must be carried out under the supervision of a department faculty member. No fixed time is set for the completion of a master's program; two years of work is a rough guideline. There is no language requirement for this degree.

Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Science

Candidates for the Doctor of Philosophy or Doctor of Science are expected to enroll in those basic graduate subjects that prepare them for the general examination, which must be passed no later than in the seventh term after initial enrollment. No specific subjects of study are prescribed, except for the requirement of two subjects in the candidate's doctoral research area and two subjects outside the candidate's field of specialization (breadth requirement). Half of the breadth requirement may be satisfied through a departmentally approved industrial internship. The doctoral thesis must represent a substantial piece of original research, carried out under the supervision of a department faculty member.

The Physics Department faculty members offer subjects of instruction and are engaged in research in a variety of fields in experimental and theoretical physics. This broad spectrum of activities is organized in the divisional structure of the department, presented below. Graduate students are encouraged to contact faculty members in the division of their choice to inquire about opportunities for research, and to pass through an apprenticeship (by signing up for Pre-Thesis Research) as a first step toward an engagement in independent research for a doctoral thesis.

Research Divisions

Faculty and students in the Department of Physics are generally affiliated with one of several research divisions:

  • Astrophysics
  • Experimental Nuclear and Particle Physics
  • Atomic Physics, Biophysics, Condensed Matter Physics, and Plasma Physics
  • Theoretical Nuclear and Particle Physics

Much of the research in the department is carried out as part of the work of various interdisciplinary laboratories and centers, including the Haystack Observatory, Laboratory for Nuclear Science, Research Laboratory of Electronics, Spectroscopy Laboratory, Center for Materials Science and Engineering, MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, Francis Bitter Magnet Laboratory, Microsystems Technology Laboratories, and the Plasma Science and Fusion Center. Information on these can be found under Interdisciplinary Research and Study in Part 3. These facilities provide close relationships among the research activities of a number of MIT departments and give students opportunities for contact with research carried out in disciplines other than physics.

Inquiries

Additional information on degree programs, research activities, admissions, financial aid, teaching and research assistantships may be obtained by contacting the department at physics-grad@mit.edu or 617-253-4851.

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Faculty and Staff

Faculty and Teaching Staff

Peter H. Fisher, PhD
Professor of Physics
Department Head

Krishna Rajagopal, PhD
Professor of Physics
MacVicar Faculty Fellow
Associate Department Head for Education

Professors

Raymond C. Ashoori, PhD
Professor of Physics

John Winston Belcher, PhD
Class of ’22 Professor of Physics

William Bertozzi, PhD
Professor of Physics

Edmund W. Bertschinger, PhD
Professor of Physics
Institute Community and Equity Officer

Wit Busza, PhD
Francis L. Friedman Professor of Physics

Claude Roger Canizares, PhD
Bruno Rossi Professor of Physics
Associate Director for MIT, Chandra X-ray Observatory Center
Vice President

Deepto Chakrabarty, PhD
Professor of Physics
Division Head, Astrophysics

Arup K. Chakraborty, PhD
Robert T. Haslam (1911) Professor of Chemical Engineering
Professor of Chemistry, Biological Engineering, and Physics
Director, Institute of Medical Engineering and Science

Min Chen, PhD
Professor of Physics
(On leave, spring)

Isaac Chuang, PhD
Professor of Electrical Engineering and Physics

Janet Conrad, PhD
Professor of Physics

Bruno Coppi, PhD
Professor of Physics

Edward Henry Farhi, PhD
Cecil and Ida B. Green Career Development Professor of Physics
Director, Center for Theoretical Physics

Daniel Freedman, PhD
Professor of Mathematics and Physics

Alan Harvey Guth, PhD
Victor F. Weisskopf Professor of Physics

Jacqueline N. Hewitt, PhD
Professor of Physics
Director, MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research

Scott Hughes, PhD
Professor of Physics

Robert Jaffe, PhD
Professor of Physics
Otto and Jane Morningstar Professor of Science

John Dimitris Joannopoulos, PhD
Francis Wright Davis Professor of Physics
Director, Institute of Soldier Nanotechnologies

Mehran Kardar, PhD
Francis L. Friedman Professor of Physics

Marc Aaron Kastner, PhD
Donner Professor of Science

Wolfgang Ketterle, PhD
John D. MacArthur Professor of Physics
Director, MIT-Harvard Center for Ultracold Atoms

Stanley Benedict Kowalski, PhD
Professor of Physics

Patrick A. Lee, PhD
William and Emma Rogers Professor of Physics

Young Sang Lee, PhD
Professor of Physics
(On leave)

Leonid S. Levitov, PhD
Professor of Physics

Hong Liu, PhD
Professor of Physics

Nergis Mavalvala, PhD
Marble Professor of Astrophysics

Richard G. Milner, PhD
Professor of Physics
Director, Laboratory for Nuclear Science

Christoph M. E. Paus, PhD
Professor of Physics

Miklos Porkolab, PhD
Professor of Physics
Director, Plasma Science and Fusion Center

David Edward Pritchard, PhD
Cecil and Ida B. Green Professor of Physics
(On leave, fall)

Robert Page Redwine, PhD
Professor of Physics
Director, Bates Laboratory

Gunther Roland, PhD
Professor of Physics

Paul Schechter, PhD
William A. M. Burden Professor of Astrophysics

Sara Seager, PhD
Class of 1941 Professor of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences and Physics

H. Sebastian Seung, PhD
Professor of Computational Neuroscience and Physics
(On leave)

Marin Soljacic, PhD
Professor of Physics

Iain W. Stewart, PhD
Professor of Physics

Washington Taylor IV, PhD
Professor of Physics

Max Tegmark, PhD
Professor of Physics

Samuel C. C. Ting, PhD
Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of Physics

Senthil Todadri, PhD
Professor of Physics

Vladan Vuletic, PhD
Lester Wolfe Professor of Physics
Division Head, Atomic, Biological, Condensed Matter, and Plasma Physics

Xiao-Gang Wen, PhD
Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics
(On leave)

Frank Wilczek, PhD
Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics
(On leave)

Boleslaw Wyslouch, PhD
Professor of Physics
(On leave, fall)

Barton Zwiebach, PhD
Professor of Physics
MacVicar Faculty Fellow

Martin Zwierlein, PhD
Silverman (1968) Family Career Development Professor of Physics
(On leave, fall)

Associate Professors

Allan Adams, PhD
Associate Professor of Physics

Joseph Formaggio, PhD
Class of ’56 Career Development Associate Professor of Physics

Nuh Gedik, PhD
Biedenharn Career Development Associate Professor of Physics

Pablo Jarillo-Herrero, PhD
Mitsui Career Development Associate Professor in Contemporary Technology
(On leave)

Markus Klute, PhD
Associate Professor of Physics

Leonid A. Mirny, PhD
Associate Professor of Health Sciences and Technology and Physics
Associate Member, Broad Institute

Robert Simcoe, PhD
Associate Professor of Physics

Joshua Winn, PhD
Associate Professor of Physics

Assistant Professors

William Detmold, PhD
Assistant Professor of Physics

Jeremy England, PhD
Assistant Professor of Physics
(On leave)

Matthew Evans, PhD
Assistant Professor of Physics

Anna Frebel, PhD
Assistant Professor of Physics

Liang Fu, PhD
Assistant Professor of Physics

Jeff Gore, PhD
Latham Family Career Development Assistant Professor of Physics

Aram Harrow, PhD
Assistant Professor of Physics
(On leave, fall)

Yen-Jie Lee, PhD
Assistant Professor of Physics

Jocelyn Monroe, PhD
Assistant Professor of Physics
(On leave)

Tracy Slatyer, PhD
Assistant Professor of Physics
(On leave, spring)

Jesse Thaler, PhD
Class of 1943 Career Development Assistant Professor of Physics

Nevin N. Weinberg, PhD
Assistant Professor of Physics
(On leave, fall)

Michael Williams, PhD
Assistant Professor of Physics

Paolo Zuccon, PhD
Assistant Professor of Physics

Senior Lecturers

Peter Dourmashkin, PhD
George S. F. Stephans, PhD

Lecturer

Sean Robinson, PhD
Saif Rayyan, PhD
Joylon Bloomfield, PhD

Technical Instructors

Andrew Birkel, BS
Charles Bosse, MAT
Daniel Kelleher, BS
Colin Marcus, BS
Andrew Neely, BS

Research Staff

Senior Research Scientists

Thomas William Donnelly, PhD
Earl S. Marmar, PhD
Jagadeesh S. Moodera, PhD
Frank E. Taylor, PhD
Richard J. Temkin, PhD

Professors Emeriti

Michel Baranger, PhD
Professor of Physics, Emeritus

Ulrich Justus Becker, PhD
Professor of Physics, Emeritus

George Bernard Benedek, PhD
Alfred H. Caspary Professor of Physics and Biological Physics, Emeritus

Ahmet Nihat Berker, PhD
Professor of Physics, Emeritus

Aron Myron Bernstein, PhD
Professor of Physics, Emeritus

Robert J. Birgeneau, PhD
Professor of Physics, Emeritus

Hale Van Dorn Bradt, PhD
Professor of Physics, Emeritus

Bernard Flood Burke, PhD
Professor of Physics, Emeritus

George Whipple Clark, PhD
Professor of Physics, Emeritus

Eric Richard Cosman, PhD
Professor of Physics, Emeritus

Mildred Spiewak Dresselhaus, PhD
Professor of Electrical Engineering and Physics, Emerita
Institute Professor, Emerita

Thomas H. Dupree, PhD
Professor of Physics, Emeritus

Anthony Philip French, PhD
Professor of Physics, Emeritus

Jerome Isaac Friedman, PhD
Professor of Physics, Emeritus
Institute Professor, Emeritus

Jeffrey Goldstone, PhD
Professor of Physics, Emeritus

Thomas John Greytak, PhD
Lester Wolfe Professor of Physics, Emeritus

Lee Grodzins, PhD
Professor of Physics, Emeritus

Kerson Huang, PhD
Professor of Physics, Emeritus

Karl Uno Ingard, PhD
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Physics, Emeritus

Erich Peter Ippen, PhD
Elihu Thomson Professor of Electrical Engineering and Physics, Emeritus

Roman Wladimir Jackiw, PhD
Jerrold Zacharias Professor of Physics, Emeritus

Ali Javan, PhD
Professor of Physics, Emeritus

Paul Christopher Joss, PhD
Professor of Physics, Emeritus

Arthur Kent Kerman, PhD
Professor of Physics, Emeritus

Vera Kistiakowsky, PhD
Professor of Physics, Emerita

Daniel Kleppner, PhD
Lester Wolfe Professor of Physics, Emeritus

Benjamin Lax, PhD
Professor of Physics, Emeritus

Walter Hendrik Gustav Lewin, PhD
Professor of Physics, Emeritus

J. David Litster, PhD
Professor of Physics, Emeritus

Earle Leonard Lomon, PhD
Professor of Physics, Emeritus

June Lorraine Matthews, PhD
Professor of Physics, Emerita

Ernest J. Moniz, PhD
Cecil and Ida Green Distinguished Professor of Physics, Emeritus

John William Negele, PhD
William A. Coolidge Professor of Physics, Emeritus

Stanislaw Olbert, PhD
Professor of Physics, Emeritus

Irwin Abraham Pless, PhD
Professor of Physics, Emeritus

Saul Alan Rappaport, PhD
Professor of Physics, Emeritus

Lawrence Rosenson, PhD
Professor of Physics, Emeritus

Malcom Woodrow Pershing Strandberg, PhD
Professor of Physics, Emeritus

Rainer Weiss, PhD
Professor of Physics, Emeritus

James Edward Young, PhD
Professor of Physics, Emeritus

 

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