MIT Physics Department

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The Physics Department at MIT has over 120 faculty members. It offers academic programs leading to the S.B., S.M., Ph.D. and Sc.D. degrees.

As of 2006, the department counts four Nobel Prize winners among its faculty: Samuel C.C. Ting (1976), Jerome I. Friedman (1990), Wolfgang Ketterle (2001) and Frank Wilczek (2004). A few other former faculty members have also been so honored: Clifford Shull (1994), Henry Kendall (1990), Steven Weinberg (1979) and Charles H. Townes (1964). MIT Physics alumni who have received the Nobel Prize for Physics are Adam Riess (2011), George Smoot (2006), Eric A. Cornell and Carl E. Wieman (2001), Robert B. Laughlin (1998), William D. Phillips (1997), Burton Richter (1976), John Robert Schrieffer (1972), Murray Gell-Mann (1969), Richard Feynman (1965) and William Shockley (1956).

Academics[edit]

Undergraduate academics[edit]

There are two paths to earning an S.B. in physics from MIT. The first, "Course 8 Focused Option", is for students intending to continue studying physics in graduate school.

The second, "Course 8 Flexible Option" is designed for those students who would like to develop a strong background in physics but who do not necessarily want to pursue graduate work in the field.[citation needed] It is an excellent preparation for further study in medicine, law, engineering, business, etc.

Introductory physics[edit]

All undergraduate students at MIT, regardless of their major, are required to take two semesters of introductory physics (or receive equivalent transfer credit). The first semester is centered on Newtonian Mechanics, the second on Electromagnetism. The two classes are taught at different levels of sophistication:

The standard introductory courses, intended to give science and engineering majors a solid grounding in introductory physics. It is currently taught in the TEAL format.
An equivalent version of 8.01 that lasts three weeks longer, into the January Independent Activities Period. Intended for students with a weaker background in calculus and/or physics. It is currently taught in a primarily lecture-based format.
The spring semester version of 8.01, taught in a small-class environment.
These classes are taught at a higher level than 8.01/8.02; a certain degree of mathematical maturity is assumed. It is currently taught in a lecture-based format.

Course 8 focused requirements[edit]

In addition to the General Institute Requirements, students must complete these classes:

  • 8.03 Physics III (Wave Mechanics)
  • 18.03/18.034 Differential Equations
  • 8.033 Relativity
  • 8.04 Quantum Physics I
  • 8.044 Statistical Physics I
  • 8.05 Quantum Physics II
  • 8.06 Quantum Physics III
  • 8.13 Experimental Physics I
  • 8.14 Experimental Physics II
  • 8.ThU Thesis

Students are also required to take two additional classes offered by the Department of Mathematics that are above the 18.03 level. Students are often recommended to take 18.04 (Complex Variables) and 18.06 (Linear Algebra).

The department also requires two additional physics subjects, one of which has to be the following:

  • 8.07 Electromagnetism II
  • 8.08 Statistical Physics II
  • 8.09 Classical Mechanics II

Course 8 flexible requirements[edit]

Along with the General Institute Requirements, 8-B students must also take:

  • 8.03 Physics III (Wave Mechanics)
  • 18.03/18.034 Differential Equations
  • 8.04 Quantum Physics I
  • One of the following subjects:
    • 8.05 Quantum Physics II
    • 8.20 Introduction to Special Relativity
    • 8.033 Relativity
  • A laboratory class
    • 8.13 Experimental Physics I
    • A laboratory subject of similar rigor in another department
    • An experimental research project
    • An experimentally oriented summer externship
  • At least one subject offered by the department in addition to the ones listed above.
  • Three subjects that form an intellectually coherent unit in some area (e.g. Nanotechnology, Biophysics, Astronomy, etc.)

Graduate academics[edit]

Candidates for admission to MIT's graduate level physics programs are expected to have the equivalent background of an MIT undergraduate physics education. Exceptions are made, however, those students are expected to bring their proficiency up to MIT standards during their course of study.

MIT offers both masters and doctoral level degree programs in physics.

Requirements for the Master of Science in Physics[edit]

In addition to the General Institute Requirements, a candidate must present a masters thesis that represents his or her independent research work. This work must be carried out under the supervision of a physics department faculty member.

Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy or Doctor of Science in Physics[edit]

At MIT, the Ph.D. and Sc.D. are interchangeable. In addition to fulfilling the General Institute Requirements, a student must enroll in basic graduate subjects and pass general examinations.

There are no specific subjects the student must study, but he or she is required to take two courses in the candidates's field of research specialization, and two that are outside it.

Candidates must pass two written examinations on general physics material and an oral examination in a specialized field no later than their seventh term after they initially enroll for graduate study at MIT.

Finally, the candidate must submit a doctoral dissertation that contains a substantial piece of original research, under the supervision of a member of the physics department faculty.

Current members of the faculty[edit]

Professors[edit]

Assistant professors[edit]

Professors emeriti[edit]

Former members of the faculty[edit]

Notable alumni[edit]

Name S.B. Ph.D. Notability
Eric A. Cornell 1990 Bose-Einstein Condensate,
Nobel Prize in Physics (2001)
Richard Feynman 1939 Quantum Electrodynamics,
Nobel Prize in Physics (1965)
Murray Gell-Mann 1951 Quarks,
Nobel Prize in Physics (1969)
Gerald Guralnik 1958 Co-discoverer of Higgs mechanism and Higgs boson in 1964 with C.R. Hagen, SB'58, SM '58, PhD '62
J. J. Sakurai Prize for Theoretical Particle Physics (2010)[1]
Professor of Physics, Brown University
C. R. Hagen 1958 1963 Co-discoverer of Higgs mechanism and Higgs boson in 1964 with Gerald Guralnik, SB'58
J. J. Sakurai Prize for Theoretical Particle Physics (2010)[2][3]
Professor of Physics, University of Rochester
J. David Jackson 1949 Classical Electrodynamics (textbook)
Shirley Jackson 1968 1973 President of RPI
Jay Last 1956 One of the Shockley Semiconductor "traitorous eight"
Robert B. Laughlin 1979 Fractional Quantum Hall Effect,
Nobel Prize in Physics (1998)
Ronald McNair 1976 One of the Challenger astronauts
Robert Noyce 1953 One of the Shockley Semiconductor "traitorous eight",
Co-inventor of the integrated circuit,
Co-founder of Intel
William D. Phillips 1976 Laser Cooling,
Nobel Prize in Physics (1997)
Burton Richter 1952 1956 Discovery of the J/ψ particle,
Nobel Prize in Physics (1976)
John Robert Schrieffer 1953 BCS theory,
Nobel Prize in Physics (1972)
William Shockley 1936 Co-inventor of the transistor,
Nobel Prize in Physics (1956)
George Smoot 1966 1970 Structure of cosmic microwave background radiation,
Nobel Prize in Physics (2006)
Carl E. Wieman 1973 Bose-Einstein Condensate
Nobel Prize in Physics (2001)

References[edit]

External links[edit]