The graduate physics program at Cornell is multidisciplinary, broad and congenial, and has access to superb facilities.
Cornell University has always understood that the world does not apportion neatly into one discipline or another. That may be why Cornell, an Ivy League university where the pursuit of new knowledge is given free rein, has initiated many areas of multidisciplinary research. Yes, there are departments and faculties with familiar names at Cornell, but the walls between disciplines are so low that you can move easily in all directions.
If multidisciplinary collaboration is one attribute of Cornell’s graduate program in physics, the breadth of its curriculum and faculty is another. Of the nation’s best-regarded physics departments, Cornell is comfortably mid-sized. The faculty is comprised of more than 40 active professors, plus 20 emeritus professors (many of whom remain active in research), and half a dozen adjunct professors. Faculty members advise approximately 65 post-docs and research associates and 180 graduate students-with, on average, 30 new graduate students entering each year.
Given its stature, the physics department at Cornell surprises many people by its low-key congeniality. It is the sort of place where people talk to one another in the halls. Among graduate students, relationships are more cooperative than competitive. Graduate students play intramural sports together, go to ballroom dancing classes and form musical ensembles. As one prospective student recently said to his Cornell hosts, “You can’t be graduate students. You all seem far too happy.”
The strength of the Physics Department is complemented by major research facilities. Graduate students who want to learn to make use of these facilities will find willing mentors among faculty members, research associates, technicians and other staff members. By expressing an interest, a graduate student can learn to take apart and rebuild a particle accelerator, produce highest-quality images on a tunneling electron microscope, or fabricate a silicon chip that will be a substrate for growing nerve cells.