- I am interested in plasma physics. To which department should I apply?
- Should I specialize in this one field so early in my career?
- Does Princeton offer regular admission to graduate students for studies starting in the spring term?
- The deadline for admission has passed. Can I still apply?
- How many applications do you receive?
- My undergraduate degree will be in engineering; should I apply to your program?
- Is financial support available?
- What type of work will I do for my assistantship?
- Will I be assigned to a research advisor for this work?
- You have offered me admission in September. Can I come to start my assistantship research this summer?
- How long will it take to receive my Ph.D.?
- I am a graduate student at another institution. Can I transfer to your program?
- Do you offer a Master's Degree program?
- My primary interest is in fusion technology. Should I apply to your department?
- How does the pursuit of large projects at PPPL affect the education program at Princeton?
- What housing options are available to graduate students?
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The Plasma Physics Program at Princeton is in the Department of Astrophysical Sciences. It is this Department with which the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, located at the nearby Forrestal Campus, is associated. A student whose primary academic interest is in plasma physics should apply to this Department listed as PPL. However, students in other departments may take courses in Astrophysical Sciences just as plasma physics students augment their curriculum with courses outside their own department. Especially close ties are maintained with the Department of Physics. The Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering offers plasma physics with specific orientation toward lasers and electric propulsion.
As indicated, the academic work is, in fact, not specialized but rather it is broadly based in modern physics. The study of plasma physics requires the folding together of knowledge from electricity and magnetism, atomic physics, hydrodynamics, statistical mechanics and kinetic theory, and applied mathematics. Techniques from many disciplines within theoretical and experimental physics find immediate application in plasma research and, by the same token, experience with plasmas can be transferred back to other areas in physics. But equally important — plasma physics is itself a large field, a young field, and a challenging field where success in our research will have enormous impact on, among other things, reaching a satisfactory long-term solution of the world's energy problems.
Under exceptional circumstances — depending both on the number of students already enrolled and upon the special merits of the applicant — admission may be offered to a late applicant.
We consider approximately 40 to 50 applications each year. For more detailed admission statistics, please view the Natural Sciences Department Profiles.
If your undergraduate curriculum included a reasonable number of courses in physics and mathematics, and if our program supplies the graduate training you want, yes.
We have been able to offer research assistantships to every one of our students for research carried out at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. The assistantships are for half-time work (20 hours per week) during the ten academic months of the year and cover tuition plus a stipend. Full-time assistantships are offered for the two summer months. Many students are also supported by external fellowships, to which prospective students are encouraged to apply . In addition to financial support from research assistantships, some students also work as teaching assistants (AIs) for undergraduate and graduate classes for a stipend.
Participation in current research is considered an integral part of the academic program. The assistantships are sponsored by the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), and the work is carried out there. Traditionally, students in their first year join one of PPPL's experimental physics groups and participate in research which is at the forefront of knowledge in plasma physics. In the second year, students do similar research, but with an emphasis on theoretical or computational plasma physics.
No. Students are free to pursue a research project with any scientist at PPPL or on the main Princeton campus, as long as both parties agree to the arrangement. When you arrive, we will also give you a list of possible research opportunities, and you will be able to speak to each prospective advisor before committing to a first year project.
Yes. We encourage incoming students to come early, so that they may learn something about PPPL and about plasma research before classes start. In the past, incoming students have been able to start as early as July.
Typically, the first two years consist mainly of academic work plus assistantship research. After passing Generals (usually at the end of the second year), thesis research begins, with most thesis projects taking about four years. The median time-to-degree for the Program is approximately 6.2 years. More detailed time-to-degree information can be found in the Natural Science Department Profile.
Transfer of schools could introduce a delay in receiving your Ph.D. You will still be required to take, after at least one year of residence at Princeton, the General Examinations in our Department. After that, your thesis will probably take at least another two years.
No. A Master of Arts degree can be awarded as an incidental degree upon passing the General Examination.
The academic program in the Department is very much physics oriented. A student strongly interested in both the physics and the technology of plasmas could supplement his plasma curriculum with engineering courses from other departments at Princeton. In addition, the construction of the new large machines at PPPL involves much state-of-the-art engineering, and could be a fertile field for doctoral research. However, a student whose primary interest is in fusion-reactor research technology might well consider the program, dedicated to this topic, currently at Princeton in the Department of Chemical Engineering.
While students are available to pursue unique research opportunities on the National Spherical Torus Experiment (NSTX), the Lab has refocused in the past decade to pursue a wider spectrum of research in plasma physics using several smaller devices. There are many research opportunities available to students both on the NSTX and on these smaller devices.
All students admitted to the Program are guaranteed housing through the housing department, provided that they submit a completed housing application by the admission reply deadline date of April 15. University housing is allocated by a housing draw and a room-retention system after your first year. Most students choose to live at the Graduate College in their first year at Princeton, and then move to an off-campus apartment in later years. The University also provides graduate housing through a number of apartments, but space is very limited. Construction on the new Lakeside graduate community, which will replace the Hibben and Magie graduate apartments, has begun and is expected to be completed in the summer of 2014.