More Information - Applied Physics MS

Physics M.S. Opens Door to Cutting-Edge Technology

Southern’s Master of Science degree in applied physics is designed to promote workforce development in Connecticut by providing an educational pathway for individuals seeking applied research and management positions in the state’s high-tech industries, while providing a source of trained professionals for technology employers. “This is great news for Southern, and for students in Connecticut who want to further their physics education in two critical sectors in our state,” says Board of Regents President Robert Kennedy. “I commend the Board of Regents for approving this program, and congratulate Southern for crafting this interdisciplinary, cutting-edge program.”  The M.S. program in applied physics has two tracks — materials science/nanotechnology and optics/optical instrumentation — intended to develop the state’s workforce in the established optics industry, as well as in the emerging nanotechnology sector. The program will begin next fall and be licensed through Dec. 31, 2014. Currently, Yale University is the only other institution in Connecticut to offer a graduate program in applied physics.

Elliott Horch, associate professor of physics, will be the graduate program coordinator. “The program was designed in two tracks to align with the needs in the region’s high-tech industry,” says Horch. “Our graduates will be adaptable to leading-edge technology development and able to fill leadership roles in research and development throughout the state.”  The program is interdisciplinary between the School of Business and departments of Physics, Chemistry and Computer Science, with courses aligned to meet industry needs. The M.S. in applied physics program is in the model of the Professional Science Master’s (PSM) degree, which includes science training combined with management, marketing and entrepreneurship, making graduates highly marketable within Connecticut’s technology sector. DonnaJean Fredeen, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, says the program addresses current workforce needs as Connecticut becomes a knowledge economy: “In addition to the technical background, students are going to have a much better understanding of the business process, project management
and how to take a product to market.”

The M.S. in applied physics program was initially developed in consultation with an industrial advisory committee that will continue to guide the program as it matures. Companies represented on the Advisory Board include Smiths Detection, Phonon Corp., Nights Inc., Sikorsky and Zygo Corp.  Horch says companies such as Zygo Corp. in Middlefield and Goodrich Optical Systems in Danbury have manufactured optical systems for many years. “We felt the optical track represents an established industry in Connecticut and our graduates can help sustain this industry,” says Horch, who specializes in optics, electro-optics and interferometry.  Christine Broadbridge, chairwoman of the Department of Physics, says Southern has a good working relationship with the state’s businesses and the department’s existing collaboration with Yale University creates a synergy with the new M.S. in applied physics program. The National Science Foundation recently awarded a $13 million grant to Yale University and Southern to establish a Center of Excellence for Materials Research and Innovation, also known as a Materials Research Science and Engineering Center.  Broadbridge says that graduates of the applied physics program will have immediate impact on companies that hire them, serving the needs of high quality engineers and scientists in Connecticut. “This program will have a substantial impact on workforce development as we train future manufacturing leaders for established businesses and emerging technologies,” says Broadbridge, who is a leading researcher in nanotechnology, a field recognized by state government as a key area of economic opportunity.  “Southern students stay in Connecticut and these programs prepare them for jobs that benefit both them and the state,” Broadbridge says.

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