Department of Physics

TODD B. PITTMAN, Graduate Program Director

DEMOZ, BELAY, Ph.D., University of Nevada; Atmospheric physics and chemistry, meteorological observations
FRANSON, JAMES D., Ph.D., California Institute of Technology; Quantum optics, quantum information, fundamentals of quantum theory
HAYDEN, L. MICHAEL, Ph.D., University of California, Davis; Photo-refractive and electro-optic properties of polymers, non-linear optics, terahertz science, imaging
JOHNSON, ANTHONY, Ph.D., City College of the City University of New York; Non-linear optics, photonics, fast optical phenomena
MARTINS, J. VANDERLEI, Ph.D., University of Sao Paulo, Brazil; Atmospheric physics, aerosols, clouds, instrument development, in situ and remote sensing
ROUS, PHILIP J., Ph.D., Imperial College of Science and Technology and Medicine, U.K.; Theoretical physics, surfaces, interfaces, nano-structures
SHIH, YANHUA, Ph.D., University of Maryland, College Park; Non-linear and quantum optics, laser physics
TURNER, T. JANE, Ph.D., University of Leicester, U.K.; X-ray astronomy, active galactic nuclei

Associate Professors
GEORGANOPOULOS, MARKOS, Ph.D., Boston University, high energy astrophysics, active galactic nuclei, relativistic jets, extragalactic background light.
GEORGE, M. IAN, Ph.D., University of Leicester, U.K.; X-ray astronomy, active galactic nuclei, quasars, photoionized gas
GOUGOUSI, THEODOSIA, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh; Thin films, surfaces and interfaces, Atomic Layer Deposition.
HENRIKSEN, MARK J., Ph.D., University of Maryland, College Park; X-ray astronomy, astrophysics
KRAMER, IVAN, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley; Theoretical physics, mathematical modeling techniques
PITTMAN, TODD B., Ph.D., University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Quantum optics, quantum information, non-linear optics
SPARLING, LYNN C., Ph.D., University of Texas; Atmospheric physics, dynamics and modeling
TAKACS, LASZLO, Ph.D., Lorand Eotvos University, Budapest; Mechanical alloying, X-ray diffraction
WORCHESKY, TERRANCE L., Ph.D., Georgetown University; Electro-optic effects in III-V semi-conductors

Assistant Professors
KESTNER, JASON, Ph.D., University of Michigan; Theoretical physics, semiconductor quantum dots, cold atoms, quantum information
Zhai, Pengwang, Ph.D., Texas A&M University; Light scattering, radiative transfer, and remote sensing in coupled atmospheric and ocean systems
ZHANG, ZHIBO, Ph.D., Texas A&M University; Remote Sensing, Cloud Physics, Aerosol-Cloud-Precipitation Interactions.

Research Faculty: Professors
STROW, L. LARRABEE, Ph.D., University of Maryland, College Park; Infrared molecular spectroscopy, atmospheric physics

Research Faculty: Associate Professors
KOCHUNOV, PETER, Ph.D., University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio; MRI, quantitative imaging, imaging genetics.

Affiliated Faculty: Professors
REMER, LORRAINE, Ph.D. University of California, Davis; Aerosols, remote sensing and climate change.

Affiliated Faculty: Associate Professors
DAVIS, DAVID S., Ph.D., University of Maryland, College Park; Multi-wavelength studies of galaxies
HOBAN, SUSAN, PhD, University of Maryland, College Park; Planetary Science, Comets, Dust in the Solar System, STEM Education
MCCANN, KEVIN, Ph.D., Georgia Institute of Technology; Atmospheric physics, atomic and molecular scattering
OLSON, WILLIAM, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin; Modeling of cloud processes
POTTSCHMIDT, KATJA, Ph.D., University of Tuebingen, Germany; High energy astrophysics, accreting X-ray binary stars
VARNAI, TAMAS, Ph.D. McGill University, Canada; Cloud heterogeneities

Affiliated Faculty: Assistant Professors
ENGEL, DON, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania; Computational physics, molecular biophysics, statistical artificial intelligence.
DE-SOUZA-MACHADO, SERGIO, Ph.D., University of Maryland, College Park; Atmospheric spectroscopy, plasma physics
JOHNSON, BENJAMIN, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin; Cloud modeling, radiative transfer, remote sensing
YUAN, TIANLE, Ph.D., University of Maryland, College Park; atmospheric and oceanic sciences

Degrees Offered

M.S., Ph.D.

Program Overview

The Department of Physics offers graduate programs leading to the MS and PhD degrees in physics. The Department is located in the 78,000 sq. ft. Physics building (built in 1999), which contains numerous research and teaching labs, offices, classrooms, a machine shop, and a physics library. Research in the UMBC Physics Department is centered in 4 main areas: condensed matter physics, quantum optics and quantum information science, astrophysics, and atmospheric physics. Faculty members are engaged in both theoretical and experimental research in these areas.

Detailed information about UMBC Physics Department research and facilities can be found at

Program Admission Requirements

The admission process is competitive, with selections determined by an Admissions Committee comprised of faculty members of the Department of Physics. The number of available admission slots varies from year to year based on faculty and financial resources. Applicants are required to submit undergraduate transcripts, 3 recommendation letters, a personal statement, and scores from the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) General Test. The GRE Subject Test in Physics is highly recommended.

Financial Aid

All full-time PhD students are supported by 12-month Teaching Assistantships, Research Assistantships, or Research Fellowships. These include a stipend, tuition coverage, and health benefits.

Degree Requirements

Master of Science (M.S.)

Students may choose between a thesis option MS degree or non-thesis option MS degree. A minimum of 30 credits is required for either option. At least 18 of these 30 credits must be taken at the 600-level or higher.

All students must complete the core curriculum of PHYS 605 (3 credits) and either PHYS 601 (3 credits) or PHYS 424 (3 credits) taken for graduate credit. These two core courses must be passed with a grade of "B-" or higher. Students must also take two semesters of PHYS 698 (1 credit each).

Students selecting the thesis option MS must complete a further 16 credits of lecture coursework approved by the Graduate Program Director, and a minimum of 6 credits of PHYS 799. In addition, students must write and defend a thesis before a Master's Thesis Examination Committee formed in accordance with Graduate School policies.

Students selecting the non-thesis option MS must complete a further 22 credits of lecture coursework approved by the Graduate Program Director, write a scholarly paper, and pass the written Qualifying Exam at the MS level. The Qualifying Exam must be passed within the first two years of the program.

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Course Requirements

The PhD degree requires a minimum of 52 credits consisting of 7 core courses: PHYS 601, PHYS 602, PHYS 605, PHYS 606, PHYS 607, PHYS 701, PHYS 707 (3 credits each), three graduate elective courses (3 credits each), PHYS 690 (1 credit), three semesters of PHYS 698 (1 credit each), and a minimum of two semesters of PHYS 899 (9 credits each). Each of the 7 core courses must be passed with a grade of "B-" or higher.

Qualifying Exam

The written Qualifying Exam consists of 4 sections: Classical Mechanics, Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics, Quantum Mechanics, and Electricity and Magnetism. Each section is graded separately; if a student fails one or more sections, then he/she is only required to repeat those sections. The Qualifying Exam is offered in January and August each year. Students must pass all 4 sections of the Qualifying Exam by the beginning of their 4th semester in the program.

Preliminary PhD Committee and PhD Proposal

Students must secure a tenure-track member of the Department of Physics faculty to serve as their PhD research Advisor. In consultation with their PhD Advisor, students form a Preliminary PhD Committee consisting of the PhD Advisor and at least two other faculty members of the Department of Physics. At least two of the members of this committee must be tenure-track faculty. The Preliminary PhD Committee must be formed by the end of the 5'th semester in the program.

Students must present a PhD research Proposal to their Preliminary PhD Committee. The PhD Proposal consists of two parts: a written proposal, and an oral presentation of the proposal.

PhD Candidacy and PhD Dissertation

After completing all required coursework (except PHYS 899), the Qualifying Examination, and the PhD Proposal, a student is eligible to be considered for PhD Candidacy. Based on the recommendation of the Preliminary PhD Committee, the full faculty of the Department of Physics will vote on the student's admission to PhD Candidacy. All students must be voted into PhD Candidacy by the start of their 4'th year in the program.

After admission to PhD Candidacy and completion of the doctoral research, students are required to write and defend a PhD Dissertation before a Final PhD Committee formed in accordance with Graduate School policies. The Chair of this committee must be a tenure-track member of the Department of Physics.


PHYS 470
Techniques in Experimental Physics [3]

Design and execution of physical experiments. Advanced theory of error, principles of experimental design, techniques of engineering and construction of apparatus.

PHYS 601
Quantum Mechanics I [3]

Postulates, one-dimensional problems, angular momentum, three-dimensional problems, perturbation theory, interaction of quantum systems with the electro-magnetic field, fine structure, hyper-fine structure and the Zeeman effect, the ground state of helium, Kronig-Penny model, applications to solid-state physics and to laser physics.

PHYS 602
Statistical Mechanics [3]

Review of statistical mechanics of ideal systems, non-ideal gases, phase transitions, Monte Carlo methods, non-equilibrium systems.

PHYS 603
Introduction to Materials [3]

An introductory overview of the material properties of condensed matter, with particular emphasis on a description of the micro-structure of solid materials. A student wishing to obtain a broad overview of the theory and applications of condensed matter physics may take this course in conjunction with the complementary solid-state physics course, PHYS 604. Topics include atomic arrangements in crystalline and amorphous materials; experimental techniques for observing structure down to nanometer scales; point and line defects, their motion and importance; and the differences between bulk and surface arrangements. The thermodynamics of solutions, multi-phase equilibria and phase transformations. Interfaces, nucleation and growth in bulk materials and at surfaces. The course ends with a discussion of the production and properties of technologically important materials, such as semi-conductor thin films and multi-layers, rapidly solidified amorphous materials and materials with useful magnetic and/or optical properties.

PHYS 604
Solid-State Physics I [3]

A survey of the physics of metallic, semi-conducting and insulating solids, with particular emphasis on the electronic and vibrational properties of crystals. This course can serve as the first part of a complete two-semester survey of the quantum theory of matter (with PHYS 704). A student wishing to obtain a broad overview of the theory and applications of condensed matter physics may take this course in conjunction with the complementary Physics of Materials course (PHYS 603). The first part of the course concerns the classical theory of the electronic and thermal behavior of metallic solids and the development of the quantum mechanical description of free-electron metals. The failure of the free-electron model leads a discussion of crystal structure, the reciprocal lattice and X-ray crystallography. The one-electron band theory of crystals is developed within the nearly free electron and tight-binding approximations and is applied to the theory of cohesion of simple and transition metals. The electronic properties and device applications of semi-conducting crystals are discussed. The course concludes with a review of the classical and quantum theory of lattice vibrations. Prerequisites: PHYS 601 and PHYS 602.

PHYS 605
Mathematical Physics [3]

Group theory, non-linear differential equations, integral transforms, integral equations, numerical methods.

PHYS 606
Classical Mechanics [3]

Lagrangian and Hamiltonian mechanics, normal modes, phase space, non-linear mechanics, numerical methods, stability.

PHYS 607
Electromagnetic Theory [3]

Maxwell's equations, electromagnetic waves in dielectrics, metals and crystals, wave guides, radiation, potentials, and multipoles.

PHYS 609
Modern Optics [3]

Geometrical optics: matrix representation of Gaussian optics, optical instruments and aberrations. Wave properties of light: interference, coherence, Michelson interferometer. Fourier optics: diffraction theories, theory of image formation and optical transfer functions holography. Crystal optics: polarization, double refraction, Jones calculus, dielectric tensors, optical activities, electro- and magneto-optical effects and second harmonic generation.

PHYS 610
Quantum Electronics [3]

Introduction to quantum theory of electromagnetic fields, interaction of radiation with matter, laser physics, non-linear optics, parametric amplifiers, noise, phase-conjugation, detection of radiation. Co- or prerequisites: PHYS 601 and PHYS 607.

PHYS 613
Thermodynamics of Materials [3]

First and second laws, entropy, Gibbs free energy, chemical potential, reactions between gases and condensed phases, behavior of solutions, adsorption, calculation of equilibrium phase diagrams, phase transitions, critical phenomena. Prerequisite: PHYS 603.

PHYS 614
Introduction to Surface Physics [3]

A graduate-level introductory survey of the physics of solid surface. Both clean surfaces and adsorption systems will be discussed. A review of both theoretical and experimental techniques will be included. Topics include surface crystallography and characterization, surface electronic structure, electronic excitations and optical properties, thermodynamics and phase transitions, surface kinetics and dynamics, reactions at surfaces, epitaxy and growth. Analytical techniques include low-energy electron diffraction (LEED), high-resolution electron energy-loss spectroscopy (HREELS), UV photo-emission and inverse photo-emission (UPS, IPES), scanning tunneling microscopy (STM), auger spectroscopy (AES) and ion scattering. Prerequisite: PHYS 601 or PHYS 424.

PHYS 615
Introduction to Nano-Physics and Nano-Structures [3]

Introductory survey of physics at the nanometer scale, exploring the physical basis of phenomena that appear when the linear dimension of an object or device shrinks below a micron. In addition, the course will discuss the experimental techniques used to construct and characterize nano-structures such as quantum wells, quantum wires, quantum dots, metallic and rare-gas clusters, C60 and carbon nano-tubes. Prerequisite: PHYS 601 or PHYS 424.

PHYS 618
Semi-conductor Electro-Optic Devices [3]

A lecture/laboratory course in semi-conductor device physics and the modeling, design and fabrication of electro-optic devices. Carrier drift, diffusion, recombination, p-n junctions and metal-semi-conductor junctions are examined. Waveguides and laser cavities are modeled. Cleanroom facilities and fabrication processing are used to create photodetectors, waveguide modulators and semi-conductor lasers. Prerequisite: Consent of instructor.

PHYS 621
Atmospheric Physics I [3]

Composition and structure of the Earth's atmosphere, application of thermodynamics to atmospheric problems, development of the fundamental equations of fluid motion, applications to synoptic scale atmospheric circulations, boundary layer effects, global circulation and other selected topics. Note: This course replaces the course PHYS 621: Atmospheric Physics and Optics. Prerequisites: PHYS 602 and PHYS 605.

PHYS 622
Atmospheric Physics II [3]

Physical meteorology, including atmospheric aerosols and cloud physics; introduction to atmospheric radiative transfer, including blackbody theory, Kirchoff's law, description of molecular absorption, Rayleigh and description of Mie scattering; simple solutions to the radiative transfer equation; and other selected topics, time permitting (e.g., atmospheric electricity, climatology, atmospheric chemistry). Prerequisites: PHYS 621, PHYS 601, PHYS 602, PHYS 605 and PHYS 607.

PHYS 627 Atmospheric Physics Measurements [3]
Design, simulation, and execution of experiments in atmospheric physics and earth sciences using teaching and research instrumentation. The students will be exposed to the processes of development, construction, calibration, and application of instrumentation for the measurement of relevant parameters of the atmosphere in the field and in the laboratory. Students will also use state of the art instrumentation from the atmospheric research laboratories connected to the department.

PHYS 631
Astrophysics Physics I [3]

Introduction to the emission, absorption and scattering of radiation by matter in astrophysical environments, illustrated using recent results from the astrophysical literature. Topics include radiative transfer, statistical mechanics, local thermodynamic equilibrium, emission and absorption line diagnostics in common use and the effects of dust. These physical processes will be applied to stellar atmospheres, the interstellar medium, HII regions, supernova remnants, active galactic nuclei and clusters of galaxies. Prerequisites: PHYS 601 and PHYS 605.

PHYS 632
Astrophysics Physics II [3]

An introduction to gas dynamics within astrophysical environments with a focus on the interactions of matter and radiation with electromagnetic fields on macroscopic scales. Topics include single-fluid theory, differential motion, equilibria of self-gravitating masses and gravitational collapse, viscosity and fluid instabilities, shears, turbulence and shocks, magneto-hydrodynamics and plasma physics. Prerequisites: PHYS 631 and PHYS 602.

PHYS 640
Computational Physics [3]

Application of computers and numerical methods to physical models. Boundary value problems, Monte Carlo techniques and modeling.

PHYS 650
Special Topics in Applied Physics [1-4]

Courses will cover a specialized topic in some field of current interest in applied physics and will be taught by regular and visiting faculty.

PHYS 671
Introduction to High-Resolution Spectroscopy [3]

An introduction to molecular spectroscopy from the microwave to the ultraviolet. Molecular vibrations and rotations and the physics of spectral line shapes will be studied in some detail. Experimental techniques and applications of molecular spectroscopy to astronomy, remote sensing of the Earth's atmosphere and other fields will be studied. Prerequisite: PHYS 601.

PHYS 672
Survey of Techniques in Materials Research [3]

Electron microscopy (TEM and SEM), energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, diffraction using X-rays, electrons and neutrons, photo-electron and Auger spectroscopy, Rutherford backscattering and nuclear techniques. Prerequisites: PHYS 603 and PHYS 604.

PHYS 690
Professional Techniques in Physics [1]

Topics include preparing research presentations and posters, using research data bases, writing proposal and preparing budgets and developing resumes.

PHYS 698
Physics Seminar [1]

Each graduate student will attend and discuss a weekly research seminar.

PHYS 701
Quantum Mechanics II [3]

Scattering theory, operator techniques, many particle systems, density matrix, second quantization, quantization of the electromagnetic field and applications. Prerequisite: PHYS 601.

PHYS 704
Solid-State Physics [3]

Electronic properties of solids, semi-conductors, super-conductors and electron-phonon interactions. Prerequisite: PHYS 604.

PHYS 705
Mathematical Physics [3]

The second course in a two-semester mathematical physics sequence. Functions of a Complex Variable: Singularities, multivalued functions, principal branch and branch cuts. Differentiability and Cauchy-Riemann equations, analyticity and the Laurent expansion. Contour integration and the calculus of residues. Analytic Continuation, integral transforns, and the Gamma function. Applied Statistics and Probability: Sets, combining sets, independent and conditional probability, Bernnoulli trails, the Central Limit Theorem, the Law of large numbers, Bayes theorem, Random variables, distributions, correlations Stochastic processes, stationary processes, spectral analysis (Fourier analysis), Markoff processes, noise and an introduction to detection theory, Sampling, error propagation, curve fitting, hypothesis testing.

PHYS 707
Advanced Electromagnetic Theory [3]

Boundary-value problems, derivation of macroscopic properties, plasma physics, radiation from moving charges, advance topics in radiation, wave guides and cavities. Prerequisite: PHYS 607.

PHYS 710
Quantum Optics [3]

Properties of the electromagnetic field, coherent states, squeezed states, Bloch- Maxwell equations and photon optics. Prerequisites: PHYS 601 and PHYS 607.

PHYS 721
Atmospheric Radiative Transfer [3]

This course introduces the student to formal radiative transfer theory, which is simplified quickly for application to Earth's atmosphere. The physical processes, which contribute to absorption and scattering in the Earth's atmosphere, are examined. Topics include molecular absorption via vibration-rotation transitions and spectral line formation in homogeneous atmospheres. Raleigh and Mie scattering theory are covered, as well as their application to radiative transfer in clouds and aerosol-laden atmospheres. The importance of radiative transfer to the heat balance of the Earth and implications for weather and climate will be examined. If time permits, various parameterizations and approximation schemes for atmospheric radiative transfer will be developed. Prerequisites: PHYS 621 and PHYS 622, PHYS 604 and PHYS 607, PHYS 602 and PHYS 605.

PHYS 722
Remote Sensing of the Earth's Atmosphere [3]

Techniques for the passive and active remote sensing of the state and composition of the Earth's atmosphere. Fundamentals of radiative transfer as applied to remote sensing. Introduction to measuring radiation and designing passive and active instruments, theoretical background and algorithmic considerations for the passive and active sensing of aerosol and cloud properties, atmospheric profiles of temperature, humidity and trace gas concentration and the state and composition of the surface. Prerequisite: PHYS 721.

PHYS 731
Atmospheric Dynamics [3]

Overview of conservation laws, principles of rotating fluids, basic fluid flows and approximations to the primitive equations; description of the dynamics of mid-latitude synoptic systems, baroclinic waves and fronts using idealized models and basic approximations; dispersion, propagation, and energetics of atmospheric waves documented over different temporal and spatial scales of motion; survey of non-hydrostatic cloud and mesoscale convective systems. Prerequisites: PHYS 621 and PHYS 622.

PHYS 732
Computational Fluid Dynamics [3]

Basic concepts and theory of numerical solutions to partial differential equations will be taught, with an emphasis on those related to fluid dynamics. A major application of computational fluid dynamics (CFD), numerical weather prediction and climate simulation will be introduced. Prerequisite: PHYS 731.

PHYS 741
Inverse Methods and Data Analysis [3]

This course provides an overview of the mathematical methods used in inverse problems of remote sensing and in atmospheric data analysis. Methods based on estimation theory and variational principles will be presented. Topics include conditional mode and conditional mean estimation, linear and nonlinear least squares and applications to remote sensing and atmospheric data analysis. Prerequisites: PHYS 621, PHYS 622 and STAT 355: Introduction to Probability and Statistics for Scientists and Engineers.

PHYS 799
Master's Thesis Research [2-9]

Master's thesis research under the direction of a faculty member. Note: A total of six credits is required. Normally, a student registers for three credits per semester. Prerequisite: Permission of instructor.

PHYS 898
Pre-Candidacy Doctoral Research [3-9]

PHYS 899
Doctoral Research [9]

Doctoral dissertation research under the direction of a faculty member. A minimum of 18 credit hours are required for the Ph.D. Prerequisites: Must be a doctoral candidate and have permission of instructor.