Focus areas for a BS degree in engineering physics
Nanoengineering: The emerging field of nanoengineering aims to establish new paradigms in design, fabrication, and modeling of materials and devices that are structured at the extremely small scales, that is, the atomic molecular/nano scale. The laws of physics enter new regimes at this scale, and conventional engineering rules need to be completely re-evaluated in order to enable previously unattainable properties and performance in applications that include sensors, actuators, lasers, quantum computers, power generation, and ultrastrong materials. The particular focus in this curriculum is on nanostructured materials, their structural and mechanical properties, and their applications.
Plasma science and engineering: Plasma is the fourth state of matter — a gas so hot (>104 degrees Kelvin) that the electrons are dissociated from nuclei in an electrically active medium. Key applications of plasmas in engineering physics at UW-Madison include: fusion of light nuclei in a magnetized plasma for an environmentally benign new energy source, and plasma processing of semiconductors and other materials. The fusion program is part of a large, well-funded campus-wide activity. Its emphasis is on innovative magnetic confinement concepts — spherical torus (Pegasus; EP), reversed field pinch (MST; Physics), and quasi-symmetric torus (HSX; ECE) — and includes the cross-departmental Center for Plasma Theory and Computation (CPTC; EP, ECE and Physics) and Fusion Technology Institute (FTI). The plasma processing area is fostered by the interdisciplinary Center for Plasma Aided Manufacturing. It focuses on processing of semiconductors for computer chips (major fraction of processing steps), plasma chemistry, and plasma source ion implantation (for processing the surface of materials).
Scientific computation: Advances in computing technology over the last decade have allowed for the computational simulation of physical systems to offer a realistic alternative to physical experimentation to gain fundamental insights. As such, scientific computing has become a third branch of scientific exploration, in many ways at the confluence of the other two, theory and experimentation. While scientific computing is a broad and varied field, in the UW-Madison Department of Engineering Physics, scientific computing is an essential part of research in radiation transport, radiation hydrodynamics, fusion plasma physics, and fission reactor systems. Students in this focus area will graduate with direct experience in one of these research fields while developing skills to apply to many other fields in physics and engineering.