The applied physics undergraduate program stresses the basic physics that underlies most developments in engineering and the mathematical tools that are important to both physicists and engineers. Since the advances in most branches of technology lead to rapid changes in state-of-the-art techniques, the applied physics program provides the student with a broad base of fundamental science and mathematics while retaining the opportunity for specialization through technical electives.

B.S. in Applied Physics

The applied physics curriculum offers students the skills, experience, and preparation necessary for several career options, including opportunities to minor in economics and to take business-related courses. In recent years, applied physics graduates have entered graduate programs in many areas of applied physics or physics, enrolled in medical school, or been employed in various technical or financial areas immediately after receiving the B.S. degree.

Opportunities for undergraduate research exist in the many research programs in applied physics. These include fusion and space plasma physics, optical and laser physics, and condensed matter physics. Undergraduate students can receive course credit for research or an independent project with a faculty member. Opportunities also exist for undergraduate students in the applied physics program to participate in this research through part-time employment during the academic year and full-time employment during the summer, either at Columbia or as part of the NSF REU program nationwide. Practical research experience is a valuable supplement to the formal course of instruction. Applied physics students participate in an informal undergraduate seminar to study current and practical problems in applied physics, and obtain hands-on experience in at least two advanced laboratory courses. For more information, please see Undergraduate Research Opportunities.

Majors are introduced to two areas of application of applied physics (AP) by a course in each of two areas. Approved areas and courses are:

In addition to these courses, courses listed in the Specialty Areas in Applied Physics can be used to satisfy this requirement with preapproval of an undergraduate applied physics adviser.


Bulletin update (7/27/2020) referring to Undergraduate Degree Tracks:

* They must include at least 2 points of laboratory courses. If PHYS UN3081 is taken as part of the first two years of the program, these technical electives need not include laboratory courses.
Technical electives must be at the 3000 level or above unless prior approval is obtained.

Specialty Areas & Technical Electives

All students must take 30 points of electives in the third and fourth years, of which 17 points must be technical courses approved by the adviser. The 17 points include 2 points of an advanced laboratory in addition to APPH E4018: Applied physics laboratory. Technical Electives must be at the 3000 level or above unless prior approval is obtained from the department. A number of approved technical electives are listed in the section on specialty areas. The remaining points of electives are intended primarily as an opportunity to complete the absolutely mandatory four-year, 27-point nontechnical requirement for the B.S. degree, but if this 27-point nontechnical requirement has been met already, then any type of course work can satisfy these elective points.

Both applied physics and applied mathematics students can focus their technical electives and develop a strong base of knowledge in a specialty area. There is no requirement to focus electives, so students may take as many or as few of the recommended courses in a specialty area as is appropriate to their schedules and interests. Some specialties are given below, but this is not an exclusive list and others can be worked out in coordination with the student's adviser. The courses that are often taken, or in some cases need to be taken, in the junior year are denoted with a "J."

For a comprehensive listing, please see:

SEAS Bulletin: Specialy Areas in APAM, Technical Electives

Double Major in Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics

Students satisfy all requirements for both majors, except for the seminar requirements. They are required to take both senior seminars, APMA E4903 and APPH E4903 (taking one in the junior year and one in the senior year, due to timing conflicts), but not the junior seminars, APMA E4901 and APPH E4901. A single course may be used to fulfill a requirement in both majors. Students must maintain a GPA at or above 3.75, and must graduate with at least 143 points, 15 above the regular 128-point requirement. These extra 15 points should be technical electives appropriate for one or both majors.

To apply, a student first obtains the approval of both the general undergraduate AP advisor and the general undergraduate AM advisor, and then the approval of the Dean.

Combined Plan Progam

Columbia Engineering maintains cooperative program relationships with institutions nationwide and with other Columbia University undergraduate divisions. These programs allow students to complete the equivalent of the First Year–Sophomore Program and transfer directly to a field of specialization in the School, beginning their study at the School as junior-level students.

Students who follow this program apply through their own school at Columbia College, Barnard College, or the School of General Studies for admission. Under this plan, the pre-engineering student studies in the appropriate college for three years, then attends Columbia Engineering for two years and is awarded the Bachelor of Arts degree and the Bachelor of Science degree in engineering upon completion of the fifth year. This five-year program is optional at Columbia, but the School recommends it to all students who wish greater enrichment in the liberal arts and pure sciences.

For more information, please see: Combined Plan Program

Minor in Applied Physics

SEAS Bulletin: Undergraduate Minors

Prospective students should consult the first- and second-year requirements for applied physics majors to ensure that prerequisites for the applied physics minor are satisfied in the first two years.

Course work counting toward the applied physics minor may not include advanced placement credits.

  1. APPH E4901: Seminar: problems in applied physics 1.0 points
  2. APPH E3200: Mechanics 3.0 points
  3. APPH E3100: Introduction to quantum mechanics 3.0 points
  4. APPH E3300: Applied electromagnetism 3.0 points
  5. MSAE E3111: Thermodynamics, kinetic theory, and statistical mechanics 3.0 points
  6. Two of the following courses: 
    APPH E4010: Introduction to nuclear science 3.0 points
    APPH E4100: Quantum physics of matter 3.0 points
    APPH E4110: Modern optics 3.0
    APPH E4112: Laser physics 3.0 points<
    APPH E4300: Applied electrodynamics 3.0 points
    APPH E4301: Introduction to plasma physics 3.0 points

Undergraduate Research

There are multiple on-campus and off-campus research opportunities for undergraduate students


Have a question? Please feel free to contact our Student Services Coordinator or reach out to an Applied Physics Undergraduate Advisor.

Undergraduate Admissions

All undergraduate students apply to Columbia Engineering through the Office of Undergraduate Admissions