The Department of Physics offers a full complement of courses leading to the Ph.D. degree. Typically about 60 full-time graduate students are enrolled. Our graduate students come from all over the world (map). The department recognizes that faculty research activity is an essential ingredient in sustaining excellence in teaching. Faculty members carry out experimental and theoretical research in many subfields, and the results are communicated in refereed journals, in conferences and seminars, and in books. Much of the research is funded by federal grants.
The active participation of graduate students in research is integral to these efforts and is a major component of their education. The mission is to understand the fundamental origin and the mathematical description of physical phenomena. Graduate students learn to conduct original scientific research in physics.
In addition to the research areas listed below we have affiliated efforts in accelerator physics (in cooperation with Jefferson Lab) and materials characterization (in cooperation with NASA-Langley Research Center). The Physics Department maintains strong links with the W&M Applied Science Department and students can work on projects there as well.
Atomic and Optical Physics
Experimental research areas include intense laser-matter interaction, femtosecond laser physics and the study of biological systems using AMO techniques. Several laser systems are in use within Small Hall. The theory program includes the study of classical trajectories and chaos in atomic and molecular systems and their correlation with quantum mechanics.
Theoretical plasma physics and nonlinear dynamics
Research in this area includes the development of high-performance computational algorithms for classical and quantum turbulence, theoretical studies of wave propagation in plasmas, and various aspects of nonlinear signal processing.
Condensed Matter Physics
There are active experimental and theoretical programs in superconductivity, magnetism, thin film deposition, carbon nanomaterials, nuclear magnetic resonance and ultrafast laser studies of materials. A new ultra-high field NMR facility with a 17.6 Tesla magnet, available at only a handful of other schools, provides opportunities for structure and dynamics studies in physical and biological materials.
Nuclear and Hadronic Physics
William & Mary has an active program in nuclear and hadronic physics, complemented by its proximity to Jefferson Lab. This state-of-the-art facility provides a high-energy electron beam used primarily for studying the substructure of the proton and neutron at the quark and gluon level. Current experimental and theoretical research is focused on understanding the basic properties of the nucleon, including the origin and distribution of its spin, charge and magnetic moment. Also at Jefferson Lab, the experimental nuclear physics group is preparing for an upcoming experiment that will search for physics beyond the standard model at the TeV scale.
High Energy Particle Physics
Particle physics research is aimed at possible new physics that lies beyond the current standard model of known elementary particles and their interactions. Theoretical research includes work on grand unified theories, super-symmetry, extra spatial dimensions and cosmology. The experimental high energy group is active in the search for neutrino oscillations using a neutrino beam produced at Fermilab, currently the largest proton-antiproton collider in the world. The department maintains labs for detector construction and testing, a polarized target lab and a computing farm for large-scale data analysis.