Courses of Study 2016-2017 
    May 19, 2024  
Courses of Study 2016-2017 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Applied and Engineering Physics

In the College of Engineering .

Course Offerings 


L. Pollack, director; C. Xu, director of undergraduate studies; G. Fuchs, director of graduate studies; D. Muller, director of Master of Engineering Program; J. D. Brock, R. A. Buhrman, H. G. Craighead, C. J. Fennie, G. D. Fuchs, L. F. Kourkoutis, B. R. Kusse, G. Lambert, M. Lindau, R. V. E. Lovelace, J. A. Moses, D. Muller, L. Pollack, F. W. Wise, C. Xu. Adjunct faculty: D. H. Bilderback, S. Heinekamp, T. Stiadle, L. Turner,  Senior research associate: E. J. Kirkland. Lecturer: L. Wickham

Engineering Physics:

Offered by the School of Applied and Engineering Physics

Contact: 261 Clark Hall, (607) 255-0638,

The Engineering Physics (EP) major is designed for students who want to pursue careers of research or development in applied science or advanced technology and engineering. Its distinguishing feature is a focus on physics and math fundamentals, both experimental and theoretical, that are at the base of modern engineering and research and have a broad applicability in these areas. By choosing areas of concentration within this major, students may combine this physics base with a good background in a conventional area of engineering or applied science.

The industrial demand for EP B.S. graduates is high, and many students go directly to industrial positions where they work in a variety of engineering or developmental areas that either combine, or are in the realm of, various more conventional areas of engineering. Recent examples include bioengineering, computer technology, electronic-circuit and instrumentation design, energy conversion, environmental engineering, geological analysis, laser and optical technology, microwave technology, nuclear technology, software engineering, solid-state-device development, technical management, and financial consulting. A number of EP graduates go on for advanced study in all areas of basic and applied physics as well as in a diverse range of areas in advanced science and engineering. Examples include applied physics, astrophysics, atmospheric sciences, biophysics, cell biology, computer science and engineering, electrical engineering, environmental science, fluid mechanics, geotechnology, laser optics, materials science and engineering, mathematics, mechanical engineering, medical physics, medicine, nuclear engineering, plasma physics, oceanography, and physics. The major can also serve as an excellent preparation for medical school, business school, or specialization in patent law.

The EP major fosters this breadth of opportunity because it stresses both the fundamentals of science and engineering and gives the student direct exposure to the application of these fundamentals. Laboratory experimentation is emphasized, and ample opportunity for innovative design is provided. Examples are ENGRI 1110 /MSE 1110 - Nanotechnology for Global Health and a Sustainable World ; ENGRI 1200 /AEP 1200 - Introduction to Nanoscience and Nanoengineering ; ENGRD 2640 /AEP 2640 - Interfacing the Digital Domain with an Analog World  (a recommended sophomore engineering distribution course); AEP 3300 - Modern Experimental Optics  , AEP 3630 - Electronic Circuits  (a sophomore/junior course); PHYS 4410 - Advanced Experimental Physics ; and AEP 4380 - Computational Engineering Physics  (a senior computer laboratory).

Students who plan to affiliate with the EP major are advised to arrange their common curriculum with their developing career goals in mind. They are encouraged to take PHYS 1112  or PHYS 1116  during their first semester (if AP credits permit); we do not recommend accepting AP credit for PHYS 2213  and instead encourage qualified students to enroll in PHYS 2217 . We encourage students to satisfy the technical writing requirement with the engineering distribution course ENGRD 2640 . EP students need to take only one engineering distribution course, since AEP 3330 , taken in the junior year, counts as the second one. EP students are advised to take AEP 3630  (taking ECE 2100  and ECE 2300 , 4 credits each, also can satisfy AEP 3630 , for which ECE 2100  can count as an advisor approved elective and ECE 2300  as AEP 3630 ) in the spring semester of the sophomore year. Students with one semester of advanced placement in math and who have received at least A– in MATH 1920  may wish to explore accelerating their math requirements and enroll in AEP 4210  and AEP 4220  in the sophomore year. For advice on this option, consult with the AEP Director of Undergraduate Studies.

In addition to the requirements of the Engineering Common Curriculum,* the major requirements are as follows:

Additional Requirements:

Six major-approved electives (18–23 credits), of which five must be technical upper-level courses (3000 or above).

Total major credits=58 credit hours minimum:


*The Engineering Common Curriculum suggests that freshmen take only four courses each semester. This course load is fully consistent with the requirements of the EP major, but freshmen with strong preparation are encouraged to consider taking an additional course during one or both semesters so that they may have additional flexibility to develop a strong, individualized educational program in their later years and allow options such as a semester or year abroad or early graduation.

Two of the 4 credits of PHYS 4410  required for the B.S. degree in EP can be satisfied by completing AEP 3300 /PHYS 3330  or ASTRO 4410  . The remaining 2 credits of PHYS 4410  can then be satisfied by taking PHYS 4400  for 2 credits, provided that the experiments completed in PHYS 4400  do not overlap with those in AEP 3300 /PHYS 3300 or ASTRO 4410 .  If a student chooses this option, AEP 3300 /PHYS 3300 or ASTRO 4410  may also count as a technical elective, provided the remaining three technical electives are 4 credits each.

Choosing elective courses:

The EP major provides the students with a strong opportunity to develop individualized programs of study to meet their particular educational and career goals. These can include the pursuit of a dual major or the development of a broad expertise in a number of advanced technical and scientific areas. With at least eight electives in the sophomore, junior, and senior years, EP majors are encouraged to work closely with their advisor to develop a coherent academic program that is consistent with those goals. For students who look toward an industrial position after graduation, the electives should be chosen to widen their background in a specific area of engineering. A different set of electives can be selected as preparation for medical, law, or business school. For students who plan on graduate studies, the electives provide an excellent opportunity to explore upper-level and graduate courses and to prepare for graduate study in any one of a number of fields. Students are advised to consult with their EP advisor, a professor active in their area of interest, or the Director of Undergraduate Studies of the School.

Electives need not be all formal course work: qualified students are encouraged to undertake independent study under the direction of a member of the faculty (AEP 4900 ). This may include research or design projects in areas in which faculty members are active.

Up to three “4900” courses may be used as a major approved electives. These courses must be taken during the student’s last four semesters as an undergraduate. Any additional “4900” credits may be used as “advisor-approved electives.”

The variety of course offerings and many electives provide flexibility in scheduling. If scheduling conflicts arise, the school may allow substitution of courses nearly equivalent to the listed required courses.

Academic Standing:

Students are expected to pass every course in which they are registered, to earn at least C– in specifically required courses, and to attain a semester GPA ≥ 2.3 each semester. Students are required to take a minimum of 12 credit hours per semester.

Engineering Physics Honors Program Requirements:


The Bachelor of Science degree with honors will be conferred upon those students who, in addition to having completed the requirements for a bachelor degree, have satisfactorily completed the honors program in the School of Engineering Physics and have been recommended for the degree by the honors committee of the department. An honors program student must enter with and maintain a cumulative GPA ≥ 3.5 or must be eligible for one of the cum laude distinctions at the time of graduation.


The student must complete the following two requirements, resulting in at least 9 credits of work beyond the minimum required for graduation in EP.

  1. Enroll in AEP 4910  over two semesters for the purpose of completing an independent research project or senior thesis under the supervision of a Cornell engineering or science faculty member. For a 4910 project to satisfy the research component of an honors project, it must have substantial physical science content. The minimum enrollment is to be 2 credits in the first semester and 4 credits in the second. The level of work required for a successful completion of this project or thesis is to be consistent with the amount of academic credit granted.
  2. Complete an additional technical course at the 4000 level or above, for at least 3 credits.


All interested students must complete a written application no later than the end of the third week of the first semester of their senior year, but are encouraged to make arrangements with a faculty member during the second semester of their junior year. A student must be in the program for at least two semesters before graduation. Most often, these 4910 courses are taken during the student’s senior year, after completion of the EP junior-year curriculum. Students may apply for honors after early completion of AEP 4210  and AEP 4220 . However, for the project to be considered for honors, the proposal must be approved within three weeks of the start of the seventh semester.


Before enrolling in AEP 4910  the honors candidate must submit a brief proposal outlining the topic and scope of the proposed project or thesis and a faculty supervisor’s written concurrence to the associate director for undergraduate studies. This proposal will be reviewed by the AEP Honors Committee and either approved or returned to the candidate to correct deficiencies in the proposal. The proposed research project or senior thesis is to consist of a research, development, or design project and must go beyond a literature search. This proposal must clearly describe a self-contained, independent project that can be completed within two semesters. The final steps in completing the honors project are a written and oral report. The written report is to be in the form of a technical paper with, for example, an abstract, introduction, methods section, results section, conclusions section, references, and figures. This report will be evaluated by the faculty supervisor and the chair of the AEP Honors Committee and at least one other departmental faculty member, along with the other honors candidates. The final research project course grade will be assigned by the faculty supervisor, following the oral presentation and after consultation with the chair of the honors committee. A minimum grade of A– is required for successful completion of the honors requirements.