The applied physics undergraduate 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. For more information, please see Undergraduate Research Opportunities.
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:
APMA E4101 or PHYS GU4003: Dynamical systems
APPH E4110 or APPH E4112: Optical or laser physics
APPH E4010: Nuclear science
APPH E4301: Plasma physics
APPH E4200: Physics of fluids
PHYS GU4018: Solid State/Condensed matter physics
- APMA E4400: Biophysical modeling
In addition to these courses, courses listed in the Specialty Areas in Applied Physics can be used to satisfy this requirement with preapproval of an undergraduate 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: Applied physics laboratory. 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 course work can satisfy these elective points.
Applied Physics Undergraduate Curriculum
Specialty Areas in Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics
Both applied physics and applied mathematics students can focus their technical electives and develop a strong base of knowledge in a specialty area. There is no requirement to focus electives, so students may take as many or as few of the recommended courses in a specialty area as is appropriate to their schedules and interests. Some specialties are given below, but this is not an exclusive list and others can be worked out in coordination with the student's adviser. The courses that are often taken, or in some cases need to be taken, in the junior year are denoted with a "J."
For more information, please see Technical Electives