The course of study leading to a doctorate in applied physics is flexible, individualized, and limited only by a student’s interests. 

The interdisciplinary nature of applied physics enables students to enroll in courses offered by departments throughout the university, including physics, chemistry, biological sciences, astronomy, electrical and computer engineering, computer science, mathematics, and materials science. Students who wish to do so may also take courses in a variety of nonscientific topics such as music, business, and foreign languages.

Core Curriculum Requirements

A student’s core curriculum must include courses that provide a basic understanding of experimental physics and that lead to competence in the following five major areas of study: applied mathematics, classical mechanics, electrodynamics, statistical mechanics, and quantum mechanics. The advanced experimental laboratory course is required of all Ph.D. students. A student normally takes from 16 to 22 credit hours of core coursework to establish the requisite competence, completing the necessary courses usually by the end of the second term of study.

Specialty Courses

During the first four terms, students also take classes in another scientific or engineering discipline that is their chosen minor. Additionally, students may take advantage of courses from across the campus to broaden their knowledge, explore areas of interest from other disciplines, and to gain further knowledge to assist in their thesis research. Some students continue to enroll in courses for their entire stay as graduate students, while most begin to concentrate solely on thesis research during their third year in the program.

For a complete listing of courses offered at Cornell, please consult Courses of Study.