Graduate Program Applied Physics

Posters on the wall that explain several theories and concepts of applied physics.

Applied Physics Doctorate Overview

Show your physics mastery and make your theories known with a Doctoral Degree in Applied Physics. On the Ph.D. track, you will build upon what you’ve learned through the master’s program and hone your original research to solve real-world problems.

With a Ph.D. in Applied Physics at PSU, you will have the time, faculty access, and research support to experiment and explore applications for your theories. You will also benefit from access to incredible support resources for professional development, including support for developing skills in classroom instruction and grant writing.

Degree Details

Applied Physics Doctorate: Why PSU?

As a Ph.D. student in Applied Physics, you will take a group of core courses that provides you with an advanced foundation in quantum mechanics, classical mechanics, electrodynamics, and experimental methods in applied physics. Building upon this foundational knowledge, the doctoral track offers students the opportunity to set out in pursuit of proving their theories and finding practical applications that will better the world.

The following three pathways are consistent from the master’s to the PhD program: Nano and Materials Science, Atmospheric Sciences, and Biophysics:

  1. Nano and Materials Science is an exploration in structures and materials on the scale of nanometers as well as an interdisciplinary approach to investigating the properties of matter. Courses include Solid State Physics, Solid State Devices, Applied Optics, and Microelectronic Device Fabrication.
  2. Atmospheric Sciences is the study of the interactions between the atmosphere and other systems using both experimental and computational approaches. Electives include Atmospheric Physics, Alternative Energies, Statistical Mechanics, and Environmental Fluid Mechanics.
  3. Biophysics is the application of physics to investigate biological phenomena. Electives include Cellular and Molecular Biophysics, Biochemistry, Statistical Mechanics, and Molecular Genetics.

You'll also benefit from our Science Support Shop and our close ties with local industry and other departments, including electrical and civil engineering, chemistry, environmental science and management, geology, and biology.

Portland State is home to the Center for Electron Microscopy and Nanofabrication, a signature research facility of the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnology Institute, a collaboration between Oregon's research universities, Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, and industry partners.

What can I do with a Doctorate in Applied Physics?

Physicists are employed by almost all industries, and a Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Portland State will provide you with the knowledge, skills, and experience you need to succeed no matter where your career takes you. Unlike traditional physics programs, studies in applied physics concentrate on the actual application of research to develop new technology and solve engineering problems in industry.

Many of our students who graduate with a Ph.D. in Applied Physics go on to work in technical industries, holding positions such as systems software engineer, applications developer, senior research scientist, and product design engineer. Recent graduates have been hired at Hitachi, Intel, Mantis-Sigma, Nike, Apple, ESI, Nanometrics, Molecular Vista, Greatbatch Medical.

A number of our Ph.D. graduates are also instructors or faculty at local schools, including Portland Community College, Portland State University, Clackamas Community College, and the University of Portland.

Featured Courses

  • PH 631 Electromagnetic Fields and Interactions I
  • PH 632 Electromagnetic Fields and Interactions II
  • PH 624 Classical Mechanics
  • PH 664 Statistical Mechanics
  • PH 585 Experimental Methods in Applied Physics


  • PH 590 Cellular and Molecular Biophysics
  • PH 573 Alternative Energies
  • PH 564 Applied Optics
  • PH 546 Microelectronic Device Fabrication
  • PH 679 Advanced Atmospheric Physics


Portland State University is fully accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).