2018-2019 Graduate Course Catalog 
    Jan 15, 2019  
2018-2019 Graduate Course Catalog

Physics, PhD

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Eric A. Schiff
201 Physics Building,


Marina Artuso, Stefan Ballmer, Steven Blusk, Mark Bowick, Duncan Brown, Simon Catterall, Walter Freeman, Jay Hubisz, Matthew LaHaye, John Laiho,  M. Lisa Manning, M. Cristina Marchetti, Alan Middleton, Liviu Movileanu, Alison Patteson, Joseph Paulsen, Britton Plourde, Carl Rosenzweig, Matthew Rudolph, Peter Saulson, Eric A. Schiff, Jennifer Schwarz, Tomasz Skwarnicki, Mitchell Soderberg, Paul Souder, Sheldon Stone, Gianfranco Vidali, Scott Watson, Denver Whittington

The Department of Physics has 28 faculty members, approximately 20 postdoctoral research associates, and about 80 graduate students. The department is housed in the modern, six-floor physics building overlooking the University’s main quadrangle. Facilities include state-of-the-art laboratory space, high-performance computing resources, and a machine shop, in addition to numerous specialized research facilities maintained by the research groups described below

The department runs a weekly colloquium series that brings scientists from the United States and abroad to the University to present research and exchange ideas. There are also several research seminar series run by the different research groups. Colloquia and seminar schedules (along with other information about our program, courses, and events) can be found on the Internet at physics.syr.edu.

Student Learning Outcomes

1. Conduct original research to develop in-depth knowledge in subfield of expertise

2. Demonstrate broad knowledge of physics at graduate level specifically quantum, classical and statistical mechanics and electromagnetism

3. Orally communicate research effectively to both specialist and general audiences

4. Communicate research effectively in writing to both specialist and general audiences

5. Demonstrate safe and efficient lab skills including error analysis, interpretation of experimental data, and laboratory techniques to conduct physics experiments

6. Apply computational skills to solve problems

Degree Programs

All entering students must take a comprehensive examination. Those who perform unsatisfactorily may be required to take and pass remedial courses. However, any associated offer of financial support is not contingent upon passing this examination.

Ph.D. in Physics

The Ph.D. degree is awarded to students who complete a minimum of 48 credits of graduate- level coursework, pass a two-part qualifying examination, pass a research oral examination on the student’s proposed research, complete a written thesis based upon original research, and pass a thesis defense examination. The coursework includes completion of seven required courses:

Approved Courses

Plus three approved courses. These may be advanced physics courses or other courses associated with the student’s degree program. PHY 663  will not count as one of the three advanced courses.

Additional Information

The student forms a committee of three faculty members who conduct a research oral examination based on the student’s proposed research. Students must maintain a B average.

Research Areas

The department has several strong research groups from which former students and post-doctoral associates have gone on to distinguished careers at universities and in industry. Graduate work in physics presently encompasses the fields described below.


Condensed Matter

Research in this area includes ongoing studies of soft matter systems, dynamical systems, granular materials, and disordered matter. Faculty study the mechanics of mesoscopic constructed materials and biological tissues. The dynamics of active matter, including reconstituted biological systems and living cells and flocks, is an active area of study. The glassy dynamical behavior and statistical physics of materials with disorder is studied, using connections with advanced algorithms to model complex systems. Flow and plastic deformation in jammed and glassy solids (as in metallic glasses, foams and granular materials) are the object of research work. Bowick, Manning, Marchetti, Middleton, Schwarz. Three postdoctoral fellows.

Particle Physics and Cosmology

Elementary particles and fields. Quantum field theory and quantum gravity. Supersymmetry and its application to quantum gravity and models of Beyond Standard Model Physics. Strongly coupled dynamics via effective field theory and lattice field theory. LHC phenomenology and lattice QCD. Inflation, the generation of density perturbations, the origin of dark matter and dark energy, baryogenesis and the cosmic microwave background radiation. Particle cosmology. Catterall, Hubisz, Laiho, Watson. Two postdoctoral fellows.

Computational Physics

Numerical studies of random surfaces, liquid membranes; study of quantum gravity as a theory of dynamically triangulated meshes; analysis of phase transitions and phase structure in disordered systems; gravitational waveforms from coalescences of astrophysical binary systems; gravitational wave data analysis; numerical simulations on parallel computers; connections between algorithms and physical principles; lattice quantum chromodynamics. Application of distributed processing to large scale quantum theory problems. Bowick, Brown, Catterall, Laiho, Marchetti, Middleton. One postdoctoral fellow.


Astrophysics of the Interstellar Medium and Planetary Atmospheres

Laboratory studies of physical and chemical processes occurring in the interstellar medium and in planetary atmospheres, including formation of molecular hydrogen and hydrogenation and oxidation reactions on interstellar and/or planetary dust grain analogues. Vidali. One postdoctoral fellow.

Biological Physics

Experimental studies of single-molecule biophysics. Methods include membrane protein reconstitution into planar lipid membranes and lipid vesicles, rational protein design, targeted chemical modification, as well as a variety of electrical and optical platforms for the analysis of transmembrane transport under a broad range of contexts. These research studies are also aimed at the design, creation, and validation of nanobiosensors for the detection of biomolecules at high temporal and spatial resolution. Movileanu.

Soft Condensed Matter

Tabletop experiments studying nonlinear and emergent behaviors in soft systems. Examples include the wrinkling, crumpling, and folding of thin elastic sheets, and the arrangements of solid particles in a sludge. These scenarios feature soft, easily deformed materials that are common in nature and industry. The overarching goal is to uncover the fundamental principles that govern their behavior when they are pushed far away from the low-energy or spatially-uniform states that they prefer. Paulsen. One postdoctoral fellow.​

High Energy Experimental Particle Physics

Experimental studies of the fundamental Electroweak and Strong interactions as manifested by the decays of beauty and charm quarks and production of other “exotic” phenomena. These studies are mostly preformed as part of the LHCb experiment at the Large Hadron Collider located at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. We are primarily interested in how new physics phenomena manifests itself in CP violating and rare B meson decays. We also perform R&D leading to advanced silicon micro-pattern detectors, such as pixel and microstrip strip sensors, and their related readout electronics. The group is also active in neutrino flavor oscillation research, using neutrino beams created at Fermilab in Chicago, Illinois. Our neutrino program involves R&D on the development of liquid argon neutrino detectors, as proposed for use in the MicroBooNE and LBNE experiments. Members of the group have discovered several new particles, including the B, Ds, Y(1D) and made the first measurements of several very important decay modes of these objects. Artuso, Blusk, Mountain, Rudolph, Skwarnicki, Soderberg, Stone, Wang, and Whittington. Four postdoctoral fellows.

Intermediate Energy Particle Physics

Use of spin degrees of freedom to study quantum chromodynamics and the Standard Model at low energies. Experiments are underway at Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) and at Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (JLAB). Holmes, Souder. 1 postdoctoral fellow

Gravitational-wave Astronomy and Astrophysics

Detection of gravitational waves with the Laser Interferometric Gravitation Wave Observatory (LIGO). Development of advanced optics and precision metrology for interferometric detectors. Characterization of the LIGO detectors. Member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. Ballmer, Brown, Saulson. Three postdoctoral fellows.

Semiconductors, Thin Films, and Solar Cells

Electronic and optical properties of unconventional semiconductors (amorphous silicon, porous titania, and silicon). Solar cell device physics. Thin-film growth (plasma, hot-wire). Hybrid organic-inorganic semiconductor devices. Surface physics (structure, kinetics, dynamics, and reactions). Schiff.

Quantum mechanics and nanoscale devices

Superconducting devices and vortex dynamics Investigations of quantum coherence in nanoscale superconducting devices and vortex systems. Quantum effects in macroscopic systems. Nanofabrication of Josephson junctions and structured vortex pinning potentials. Low temperature measurements, including dilution refrigeration. Development of qubits for quantum computing. Applications of nanoelectromechanical systems. LaHaye, Plourde. Two postdoctoral fellows.

Graduate Awards

Figures for graduate appointments represent 2018-2019 stipends.

Graduate Scholarships support graduate study for students with superior qualifications; provide, in most cases, full tuition for academic year.

Graduate Teaching Assistantships offered to most Graduate Scholarship recipients; nine months; stipend of $25,000.00 (2018-2019) and tuition scholarship up to 24 credits (8 courses). Summer assistantships may be available. The assistant spends up to 20 hours per week engaged in teaching laboratory or recitation classes and in grading and preparation.

Graduate Research Assistantships no more than an average of 20 hours of work per week; a nine-month stipend of at least $25,000.00 (2018-2019) and tuition scholarship up to 24 credits (8 courses). Summer assistantships may be available. The research assistant is normally paid for research work performed in conjunction with a faculty member and leading to the master’s or doctor’s dissertations.

Syracuse University Fellowships Tax-free stipends of $25,290.00 (2018-2019) for nine months of full-time study; tuition scholarship for a total of 30 credits during the academic year.

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