Graduate Studies

The Harvard Department of Physics consists of more than 50 faculty members, 220 graduate students, 150 undergraduate concentrators, and 260 research scholars. We offer students innovative educational and research opportunities with renowned faculty in state-of-the-art facilities, exploring fundamental problems involving physics at all scales. Our primary areas of experimental and theoretical research are atomic and molecular physics, astrophysics and cosmology, biophysics, chemical physics, computational physics, condensed-matter physics, materials science, mathematical physics, particle physics, quantum optics, quantum field theory, quantum information, string theory, and relativity.

Our talented and hardworking students participate in exciting discoveries and cutting-edge inventions such as the ATLAS experiment, which discovered the Higgs boson; building the first 51-cubit quantum computer; measuring entanglement entropy; discovering new phases of matter; and peering into the ‘soft hair’ of black holes.

Our students come from all over the world and from varied educational backgrounds. We are committed to fostering an inclusive environment and attracting the widest possible range of talents. Our recently-established Committee on Inclusion is charged with enhancing diversity and helping students feel welcome in the department and in the physics community at large (where diversity pertains to race, ethnicity, nationality, color, creed, religion, age, disability, economic background, sexual orientation, and gender identity, among other social identities). We also hold regular lunches, meet-ups, and other social events for students from historically underrepresented groups that provide enjoyable social breaks as well as opportunities for networking and community building.

In January, 2017, Harvard Physics hosted its first Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP). The graduate students and postdocs who organized the 2017 CUWiP held at Harvard also developed, designed, and held the first-ever SPIN UP (Supporting Inclusion of Underrepresented People) workshop, with the intention of providing a supportive space for women and femme folk physics students who are members of racial and ethnic minorities, are members of gender and sexual minorities, have physical, mental, or learning disabilities, come from low-income backgrounds, are first-generation college students, or are members of other underrepresented or underserved communities. We hope that SPIN UP workshops will become a regular feature of future CUWiP conferences or perhaps evolve into their own larger event.

We have a flexible and highly responsive advising structure for our PhD students that shepherds them through every stage of their education, providing assistance and counseling along the way, helping resolve problems and academic impasses, and making sure that everyone has the most enriching experience possible.The graduate advising team also sponsors alumni talks, panels, and advice sessions to help students along their academic and career paths in physics and beyond, such as “Getting Started in Research,” “Applying to Fellowships,” “Preparing for Qualifying Exams,” “Securing a Post-Doc Position,” and other career events (both academic and industry-related).

We offer many resources, services, and on-site facilities to the physics community, including our electronic instrument design lab and our fabrication machine shop. Our historic Jefferson Laboratory, the first physics laboratory of its kind in the nation and the heart of the physics department, has been redesigned and renovated to facilitate study and collaboration among our students.

Members of the Harvard Physics community participate in initiatives that bring together scientists from institutions across the world and from different fields of inquiry. For example, the Harvard-MIT Center for Ultracold Atoms unites a community of scientists from both institutions to pursue research in the new fields opened up by the creation of ultracold atoms and quantum gases. The Center for Integrated Quantum Materials, a collaboration between Harvard University, Howard University, MIT, and the Museum of Science, Boston, is dedicated to the study of extraordinary new quantum materials that hold promise for transforming signal processing and computation. The Harvard Materials Science and Engineering Center is home to an interdisciplinary group of physicists, chemists, and researchers from the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences working on fundamental questions in materials science and applications such as soft robotics and 3D printing.  The new Black Hole Initiative, the first center worldwide to focus on the study of black holes, is an interdisciplinary collaboration between principal investigators from the fields of astronomy, physics, mathematics, and philosophy. And the recently launched Quantitative Biology Initiative aims to bring together physicists, biologists, engineers, and applied mathematicians to understand life itself.

We support and encourage interdisciplinary research and simultaneous applications to two departments is permissible. Prospective students may thus wish to apply to the following departments and programs in addition to Physics:

If you are a prospective graduate student and have questions for us, or if you’re interested in visiting our department, please contact inquire@physics.harvard.edu.