Graduate physics student holding a magic marker in front of mathematical formulas on whiteboard

Applied Physics, MS

The UMass Boston Applied Physics Master’s Program is built around the idea that physics is an approach to thinking about and solving problems rather than a specific set of skills. Our goal is to train students in this approach and give them a general toolbox of techniques that will allow them to pursue quantitative problems, regardless of the specific fields in which they find themselves. To that end, the curriculum for the program is a balance of theoretical and experimental courses, simultaneously sharpening students understanding of phenomena, the theoretical models that explain them, the measurements that illuminate them, and, most importantly, the connections between the phenomena, the measurements and the models.

This generalist approach serves a broad spectrum of student needs. As a result, we seek students from a range of backgrounds. Some of our students come to us straight out of undergraduate physics programs, unsatisfied with their bachelor's level understanding but not necessarily ready to commit to the five to ten years of a PhD program. Others come from the Massachusetts technical community where they have found that their further professional advancement is hindered by their lack of a post graduate degree, experiencing the so called parchment ceiling. Many foreign students use our program to normalize their training to American academic standards on their way to PhDs at other institutions, bridging between the academic systems of their home countries and that of the United States. And, we also serve students who are moving between fields: students who having trained in one discipline and wish to transition to physics.

Our goal as a program is to provide opportunity to the full range of students for whom a master’s degree in applied physics is an essential step along their path to a fulfilling career.


The primary requirement for admissions into the Applied Physics Master’s Program is evidence that the student will be successful in the program. Since we accept students from a range of backgrounds, there is no specific set of courses that is absolutely required as a prerequisite for admission. However, familiarity with Physics at the level of upper level undergraduate work is expected. Standardized tests are useful in establishing student's general level of academic preparation. While the GRE Physics subject test is not required, it is strongly recommended, particularly for foreign students as it allows for normative comparisons. Foreign students are required by the university to take an English language exam (TOEFL or IELTS) and score above a minimum level. Three letters of recommendation are required. For students who have been away from academia for some time, it is acceptable to use letters from professional colleagues or supervisors. At least one letter should address the applicant's academic preparedness. Applications are submitted to the University of Massachusetts Boston Office of Graduate Admissions. All applications must be complete before they can be acted on by the Department of Physics.

Questions about the program and its requirements for admissions can be emailed to Physics. We begin reviewing applications on October 15 for Spring admission and on March 15 for Fall.


Physics advances through the interplay of experiment and theory. To be an effective experimentalist, you need to be able to work through and understand the details of how the theories connect to measurements. To be a relevant theorist, you need to be familiar with the possibilities and limitations inherent in experimental measurements. The Applied Physics Master’s degree requires all students to balance their studies between the two. Each student is required to complete three theoretical courses, three experimental courses and one elective, of their choice, from either category.

In addition each student must pursue a research project where they employ the skills learned through their coursework. The research can be done as a project supervised by a faculty member, resulting in a short Master’s thesis, or as an off campus internship. The results of the project must be presented formally to the department as a whole.

In order to broaden the range of classes taught, most courses are taught once every two years. This allows Master’s students the opportunity to take each of the offerings during their time in the program.  Quantum Mechanics and Math Methods are exceptions to this, being offered every year because they are foundational for all of the other subjects.

Experimental Courses:

PHYSIC 600  Electronic Instrumentation I: Analog

PHYSIC 601  Electronic Instrumentation II: Digital

PHYSIC 602  Laser Optics Laboratory

PHYSIC 610  Topics in Medical Imaging

PHYSIC 632  Advanced Laser Optics (with Lab)

PHYSIC 636  Nanophotonics

PHYSIC 640  Scientific Computation and Visualization

PHYSIC 645  Cancer Biophysics

Theory Courses:

PHYSIC 571  Integrated Mathematics and Physical Science for Teachers

PHYSIC 572  Integrating the Sciences through Energy

PHYSIC 611  Theory of Classical Mechanics and Fluid Mechanics

PHYSIC 612  Electromagnetic Theory

PHYSIC 613  Quantum Mechanics, Atomic, and Molecular Physics

PHYSIC 614  Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics

PHYSIC 616  Mathematical Methods for Physicists

PHYSIC 623  Quantum Mechanics: Scattering and Many-Body Physics

PHYSIC 635  Physics on the Back of an Envelope (Estimation in Physics)

PHYSIC 637  Introduction to Stochastic Processes

PHYSIC 638  Quantum Measurement Theory