The Applied Physics Department at University of Michigan offers two major functions. The first is to serve as a flagship university for the entire state of Michigan. Outside of the College of Engineering, it also serves as the academic coordinating center for the entire state. Apart from providing two science majors, the department is also involved with facilitating early foundation year courses for all other first year engineering and science majors.
The second function is the central part of the department. This is the Applied Physics Research Center. This center is home to the most prestigious physics awards in the country. The center hosts numerous workshops and educational events to increase understanding of the physical concepts behind current advances in applied physics and to help students immerse themselves in real world physics. For those students looking to expand their applied physics knowledge beyond the lab, the AMPRC is home to a first year master’s program in physical concepts.
The third function is the student’s primary laboratory. The Physical Science and Engineering Laboratory (PSL) is the primary testing and research facility for incoming students. Here, graduate students test and study emerging technologies and physical concepts in cutting-edge research projects. Over the course of their four year degree, students will perform projects on topics such as fatigue management, fluid mechanics, and even quantum computing.
As part of the core curriculum, students also have the opportunity to participate in summer internships in various departments within the College of Engineering. Internships in the Applied Physics Department include a placement at the Department of Energy’s national lab; a placement with NASA’sJet Propulsion Laboratory; and a placement with the Georgia Institute of Technology. These placement programs allow students to apply scientific principles to real world problems and give students experience applying physical concepts in the real world.
The graduate students in the PSL then proceed to the Joint Theoretical Institute for the Physical Sciences (JPISPS) for a two-year program in condensed physics. The condensed physics segment at JPISPS is devoted to teaching students how to use mathematical reasoning and experiment to solve physical problems. During this stage of study students will create their own research projects and present them to a thesis committee comprised of faculty members from across the division. The thesis committees at both the PSL and JPT offer guidance towards graduate studies in the field of applied physics.
The JPT is the major coordinating body for graduate students in the applied Physics department. For students entering the program after attending the PSL or JPT, this is the first step towards obtaining graduate status. The JPT provides oversight towards supervised work in applied physics. At the end of the graduate program, graduate students will be required to submit written examinations and to complete a placement to work in applied science research.
Students in the JPT will also be required to work one or two internships in the field. This experience will further prepare students for their published dissertation, as well as provide them with hands-on work in one of the many applied sciences areas. Internships in the field will also give students a chance to network with research scientists and research personnel.
Many graduate students choose to pursue independent research or post-doctorate studies instead of settling into applied science work in the department. In these cases, students will need to demonstrate that they have completed the requirements to qualify for independent study, and they must submit original works in peer-reviewed journals or published monographs to show their research has attained acceptable levels of both theory and experimental verification. Independent studies typically take longer to complete than the same number of coursework hours in a laboratory, and graduate students in applied physics are usually expected to spend twice as much time on independent work as on laboratory work. Students who choose to pursue independent study often pursue independent research in areas of their choice, rather than specializing in a specific area of physics.