Graduate Program in Physics
KSU’s Physics Graduate program is the only one that offer the PhD degree among public universities in NE Ohio. Our program is smaller than median size for Physics PhD-granting departments nationwide, and we serve the needs of students who value small classes and individual attention, and who are not so concerned about our selection of research areas, which is obviously not as broad as in a large department. Our niche strengths in the physics of Liquid Crystals / Soft Condensed Matter and in Nuclear / Particle Physics have characteristics that are unique world-wide, and a few other areas represented in our department are smaller but thriving. Our PhD students have been taking a few months less time to graduate than the nationwide median for physics. We have an exceptional track record in diversity.
Spotlight on Alumni
Three PhD graduates who have made an exceptional impact in relation to their length of career to date:
Jack M. Wilson, PhD (1972)
2004-present: President, Univ. of Massachusetts (five-campus system).
Formerly: Distinguished Prof. & Dean of Faculty, Rensselaer; Prof., U. of Maryland; Executive Director, American Assoc. of Physics Teachers.
Greg Crawford, PhD (1991)
2008-present: Dean of College of Science, Notre Dame.
Formerly: Dean of Engineering, Brown Univ.; co-founder of two Biomedical companies.
Yiping Shao, PhD (1994)
2008-present: Assoc Prof., Dept of Imaging Physics, Univ. of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
Formerly: Prof. at SUNY Buffalo; Sr. Engineer, General Electric, NY; [Dr. Shao developed the world’s first medical imaging system combining MRI and Positron Emission Tomography.]
Long-standing areas of research in our department have important spin-offs relevant to the public good. The Liquid Crystal industry world-wide employs tens of thousands directly and many more indirectly. Some of our graduates have been direct founders of companies with up to hundreds of employees, and others hold important posts in companies of a larger scale. For specific examples, see the first link under Greg Crawford. It is worth noting that entrepreneurs in the application of science typically create high-value jobs in completely new areas, and bring new high-tech products and/or services to society, as opposed to the majority of entrepreneurs, who succeed by being more efficient and competitive in existing areas of business.
Dr. Shao above is representative of the high demand in nuclear medicine and in medical imaging for PhD graduates from our Center for Nuclear Research (CNR). NE Ohio is one of the leading areas of the country for the medical imaging industry and related technology. Since 1990, over 40% of the PhD graduates from the CNR who did not stay in academic physics took positions in the area of nuclear medicine or medical imaging.
The above-mentioned contributions to the public good focus on applied physics. Our program has a roughly 50-50 mix of pure, basic research and applied physics. The benefits to the public good from basic research are just as important, but can be more subtle, spanning culture to economics. To mention just one case-in-point: basic physics research has a good record of yielding economically important spin-offs, although they happen unpredictably. The World Wide Web was invented at CERN, Europe's premier facility for Nuclear Collisions and High Energy Physics. On those serendipitous occasions in the past when physics research uncovered basic knowledge of economic importance, the economic payback was truly enormous. One of several classic examples is semiconductor electronics. Applied research to improve vacuum tubes in the 1940s could not have led to today's electronics and computer industries – basic undirected research in solid state physics was the crucial ingredient.