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An Applied Physics PhD from WPI Opens Career Possibilities

WPI’s new PhD in applied physics offers a range of focus areas so you can align your research goals, interests, and career path.

WPI’s applied physics PhD program allows you to take advantage of the university’s multidisciplinary approach to amplify the reach and impact of your work using a practical and applied combination of physics and mathematics theories and engineering design principles. With five concentrations to choose from, you have the flexibility to match your research interests with the in-depth, active projects faculty members have in progress. Those collaborations elevate the work you’ll create as part of your degree program and your future career successes.

Your work here gives you the freedom to explore innovative paths and gives you real-world opportunities to apply that knowledge to a real-world problem and contribute new knowledge to the field.

Applied Physics PhD Degree - WPI Students working on a machine

The applied physics graduate program gives student researchers the faculty support and university resources needed for cross-cutting research in areas at the interface of physics and other scientific disciplines. This degree prepares you for a research and leadership career path in academia, industry, education, government, and groundbreaking discoveries at national and international laboratories.

You will choose from five concentrations to focus your research and carve out your own original knowledge. 

  • Biophysics and soft condensed matter
  • Medical physics
  • Nanoscience and technology
  • Photonics
  • Radiological sciences

Learn more about how your applied physics PhD from WPI can contribute to the field of physics and help advance your career.

Curriculum for PhD in Applied Physics

The PhD in applied physics is a 60-credit hour program that involves close collaboration with your faculty advisor and with peers and faculty in other disciplines. Program requirements are divided equally between coursework (30 credits) and dissertation research (30 credits, minimum). The curriculum will vary depending on the chosen concentration but will include relevant topics for each specialty whether it is biophysics and soft condensed matter, medical physics, nanoscience and technology, photonics, or radiological sciences.

Students in the applied physics PhD program will commit to a one-year residency requirement.


Research in the applied physics PhD program depends on the expertise of faculty, many of whom are global leaders in their specialties. Our labs and facilities provide you with the cutting-edge equipment and space you need to conduct varied research.

The university has several specialized labs at the WPI Life Sciences & Bioengineering Center at Gateway Park. Depending on your research concentration, you’ll find your work matches ongoing work at labs such as the Center for Computational Nanoscience with Computer Clusters, the photonics-focused Laboratory for Education & Application Prototypes (LEAP @ WPI/QCC), or the Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM Laboratory).

Interested in a degree that gives you a slightly different focus than the applied physics graduate program? Explore our PhD in physics.

Faculty Profiles

Izabela RC Stroe

Izabela Stroe

Associate Professor of Teaching

For me, Physics is like a sandbox. It gives me the opportunity to play and discover, test, be creative, learn something new. At the same time, I am passionate about passing the thrill of discovery to my students. Teaching is a two-way street in which both parties get enriched from each other. I welcome and embrace the partnership. I also believe that college is the biggest and best opportunity in one's life to discover one's calling and do something about it and I invite students to take full advantage of it.

Qi  Wen

Qi Wen

Associate Professor

Professor Wen is an experimental biophysicist who is interested in applying physical methods to understand biological phenomena. By measuring the mechanical properties of living cells and the mechanical interaction between cells and ECM, he aims to understand how cells convert external mechanical signals to internal biochemical signals that govern cellular function, including cell morphology, migration, and differentiation. His research will help to design novel materials for wound healing, tissue engineering, and tumor treatment.

Kun-Ta  Wu

Kun-Ta Wu

Assistant Professor

Kun-Ta Wu is an assistant professor of physics. Before joining WPI, he was a physics lecturer at Brandeis University, where he had previously been a postdoctoral associate. In his research, he investigates interactions among miscellaneous DNA and proteins. He uses proteins such as molecular motors to generate dynamics, as well as DNA to create specific, thermal-reversible interactions. With DNA and proteins, his goal is to advance our understanding of self-organization of active matter as well as to create new bio-inspired materials. He earned a PhD in physics at New York University.

Padmanabhan K. Aravind

Padmanabhan K. Aravind


In my 25 plus years at WPI, I have been actively engaged in teaching and research at a variety of levels. Our Projects Program is the place where these two activities naturally come together, and the Major Qualifying Projects (or senior theses) I have guided over the years have been among my most rewarding experiences.

Nancy A. Burnham

Nancy A. Burnham


Nancy Burnham graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1987 with a Ph.D. in Physics. Her dissertation concerned the surface analysis of photovoltaic materials. As a National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at the Naval Research Laboratory, she became interested in scanning probe microscopy, in particular its application to detecting material properties at the nanoscale.

David Christopher Medich

David Christopher Medich

Associate Professor

I perform experimental and computational (Monte Carlo) research in the field of applied nuclear physics with a focus on Medical and Health Physics. Presently my research group is investigating: 1) developing a unique technique to enable ultrahigh-resolution in-vivo functional imaging using neutrons,

2) adapting Gen. IV micro-reactors as the core of a next generation research nuclear reactor which also can supply carbon-free energy to a campus, 

3) developing a 169Yb brachytherapy source to enable localized intensity-modulated radiation therapy, and,

Douglas Todd Petkie

Douglas T. Petkie

Professor and Department Head

It is my pleasure to work with students and colleagues to elevate the impact WPI has on the world. WPI has a dynamic and energetic environment with a strong focus on experiential learning and interdisciplinary research. The balance between theory and practice and the passion everyone shares for the WPI Plan and the Project Based Curriculum makes this a truly unique place, where you get degrees for project accomplishments rather than courses completed.

An Applied Physics Masters Expands Your Professional Opportunities

Will an advanced degree help advance your career? WPI’s applied physics master's degree gives you the kind of hands-on research and in-depth knowledge you need to level up in your career. Are you already thinking about earning your physics PhD? WPI’s physics PhD curriculum challenges you to develop novel knowledge as you collaborate with our expert faculty. If you’re looking for a top applied physics graduate program, be sure to explore WPI’s physics PhD.

Interested in Exploring Undergrad Opportunities for Applied Physics?

If you’re just starting your college career and applied physics is of interest to you, WPI’s bachelor’s degree in applied physics can help you gain knowledge that can be used to solve some of the most pressing problems in the world.

Are you already majoring in a different discipline, but like physics? WPI’s minor in nanoscience will give you an understanding of how living things behave with endless opportunities ranging from the science field to commercial. Maybe you’re curious about physics salary data, job titles, and career outcomes? Or do you have specific questions like what does an applied physicist do or what can I do with an applied physics degree? Explore our career outlook for physics and get answers to all of your important questions.

Do You Teach Physics?

Are you a physics teacher who wants to show your students why physics is fun? Are you looking to learn more in the process? WPI’s Master of Science in Physics for Educators (MPED) can freshen up your physics knowledge while giving you new and innovative tools to use in the classroom.