Careers in Applied Physics
Applied physics is the application of the science of physics to helping human beings and solving their problems. It differs from engineering because engineers solve well-defined problems. Applied physicists use physics or conduct physics research to develop new technologies or solve engineering problems.
For example, medical physicists in radiation therapy departments of hospitals measure and calculate the radiation doses given to cancer patients. Research on improving dosimetry for the treatment plans of cancer patients is considered an applied physics job.
Caltech, Stanford, Columbia, Johns Hopkins, Cornell, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the University of Maryland all have departments dedicated to the subject. The applied physics career opportunities at these institutes of higher education and each generally indicates the particular area of physics that is being applied. Universities, private laboratories, and government laboratories do research in the areas where there is the most interest and activity and applied physics jobs are plentiful as a result. Fiber optics, astrophysics, vacuum tunneling, nondestructive testing, acoustics, semiconductors, laser and quantum optics, and condensed matter are booming fields at present. These areas of study are often integrated with allied disciplines such as electrical engineering, engineering material science, inorganic and organic chemistry, and biology.
All of these areas of research represent potential careers in applied physics in a number of smaller fields. Condensed-matter physics, for example, includes the study of crystalline solids, liquids, supercooled liquids like glass, amorphous materials like ceramics, and polymer compounds. The study of such materials has made possible revolutionary breakthroughs in a number of engineering fields, such as transistors, semiconductor-based lasers, and fiber-optic communication devices. To give another example, the study of nondestructive testing of engineering materials has made it possible for engineers to test heavy engineering structures without having to cause any damage or loss. Polymer technology has made possible ultra-light, bullet-proof uniforms for soldiers in action and lightweight aircraft parts.