Prospective Students Overview

Why Applied Physics?

Modern research is fundamentally transdisciplinary: it cuts across science and technology and does not consider boundaries between traditional topics. Students trained in physics are in high demand across different disciplines in science and engineering, and a physicist's training adds an effective point of view to a wide variety of scientific endeavors. ​

Applied Physics at Rice University

According to Academics Analytics, the Rice University Applied Physics Graduate Program (APP) is currently ranked in the top 10 applied physics programs in the USA based on the Scholarly Research Index, in the company of Caltech and Stanford. Housed in the Smalley-Curl Institute under the aegis of the Office of Research and jointly supported by the School of Natural Sciences and the School of Engineering, Rice University APP is nevertheless unique. Based on the long tradition of combining knowledge from multiple disciplines pioneered by scientists and engineers of the Rice Quantum Institute in the 1970s, this program offers an interdisciplinary education for students who are interested in applying fundamental physics principles to cutting-edge research problems in modern science and engineering.

Through rigorous course work, APP students acquire a solid background in physics, including quantum mechanics, solid-state physics, electrodynamics, and statistical mechanics. Students then use their knowledge in physics to address and solve cutting-edge applied research problems. Currently, APP students are actively conducting research in photonics and plasmonics, nanomaterials and nanodevices, quantum and ultracold matter, neuroengineering and biotechnology, and theory and computation.

APP students fully enjoy the exceptionally high faculty-to-student ratio of ~5:1 by considering the diverse options of research opportunities to choose from during their first semester. APP students have the opportunity to work with professors across nine departments at Rice and with faculty at four institutions in the Texas Medical Center.


Course of Study

Successful completion of the APP curriculum leads to the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Applied Physics. Students can choose their five elective courses from more than 140 options.

Master’s: Students admitted to our Ph.D. program with a bachelor’s degree are required to earn the thesis M.S. within the program before proceeding to the Ph.D. The APP does not offer a stand-alone thesis Master of Science (M.S.) degree. In addition to research, a total of 9 academic courses is required (with a GPA of 3.0 or better). Students are expected to achieve the M.S. within 3 years. The M.S. thesis is written in lieu of any qualifying exams or preliminaries.

Doctorate: Students admitted to the Ph.D. program are required to complete 90 hours of credit for coursework and research, beyond the bachelor’s degree. Four semesters of full-time study at Rice are also required. Students admitted with an approved previous M.S. degree will need to discuss specific requirements with the APP Chair for acceptance of that degree. Previous M.S. degrees are approved or denied contingent upon the approval of the APP Chair.

Financial Support

All Applied Physics graduate students at Rice University receive financial support throughout the year. Entering students are normally awarded Applied Physics fellowships, which carry a monthly stipend for the first semester and an additional grant to cover tuition. At the end of the first semester, students will affiliate with a research group and an advisor, and the advisor's department will then fund the stipend and tuition on research assistantships or numerous other research associate fellowships. Graduate applicants with exceptional qualifications also compete for prize fellowships, which award additional dollars.

More Information

Request more program information here.