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About Overview

Spilker Engineering & Applied Sciences Building


Applied Physics is a graduate department in the School of Humanities and Sciences. It is one of three elements—Applied Physics, Physics, and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory—in the broader physics community at Stanford.


Over the past 50 years at Stanford, our department has acted nimbly and evolved rapidly to combine diverse approaches at the boundaries of physics, engineering and biology, to both create and leverage new research opportunities. We seek out and develop new areas of physics with broad impact on science, engineering and society through research and education.  We believe that the key to our success as a department, both in the past and going forward, lies in strongly encouraging intellectual agility and interdisciplinarity through the creative mixing of ideas from the physical sciences, engineering, and biological sciences. Indeed, many of the ideas and inventions to emerge from the department have made revolutionary contributions to telecommunications, biotechnology, and to our abilities to visualize microscopic matter, explore the cosmos and test fundamental physical principles. It is difficult to categorize the scope of research in AP - beyond Edward Purcell’s definition of “widely applied physics” - it is as much an approach and a process as it is a set of goals. 

While the department is relatively small, it has nine National Academy of Science and four National Academy of Engineering members in addition to one MacArthur Foundation Fellow and several Packard Foundation Fellows. Moreover, in the past ten years, three members of the department served as the president of the American Physical Society, four have served as president of the Optical Society of America, and one as president of the Biophysical Society. Of the 27 “prolific inventors” identified among our ~2000 faculty members by Stanford’s Office of Technology Licensing in 2004, 5 were affiliated with Applied Physics. Our department has also provided significant on-campus leadership; many of our members have served as Associate Deans, Deans of H&S, and Deans of Research.