Department of Applied Physical Sciences


Sean Washburn, Associate Chair for Graduate Studies


Nancy L. Allbritton (BME and Chemistry) Signaling in Single Cells, Microfabricated Systems for Cellular Analysis

Joseph M. DeSimone (Chemistry) Polymeric Materials Synthesis

Greg Forest (Mathematics) Flow and Structure of Complex Polymeric Fluids, Weakly Compressible Transport Phenomena, Solitons and Optical Fiber Applications, Inverse Problems for Material Characterization, Modeling of Transport in Multiphase Porous Media

Jianping Lu (Physics and Astronomy) Theoretical Studies of Materials

Laurie E. McNeil (Physics and Astronomy) Structure-Property Relations, Optical Spectroscopy

Thomas Meyer (Chemistry) Inorganic Chemistry, Solar Energy Conversion and Artificial Photosynthesis

Peter Mucha (Mathematics) Complex Systems, Networks, Complex Fluids

Lu-Chang Qin (Physics and Astronomy) Synthesis and Structure of Nanomaterials

J. Michael Ramsey (Chemistry) Analytical Chemistry, Microfabricated Chemical Instrumentation, Microfluidics, Nanofluidics

Michael Rubinstein (Chemistry) Molecular Models of Polymers

Edward T. Samulski (Chemistry) Liquid Crystals and Liquid Crystal Polymers

Sergei S. Sheiko (Chemistry) Dynamics of Single Molecule on a Surface

Richard Superfine (Physics and Astronomy) Interfacial Ordering of Molecules

Russell Taylor (Computer Science) Advanced Computer Graphics, Data Rendering, Novel Microscopy Instrumentation

Frank Tsui (Physics and Astronomy) Synthesis of Artificially Structured Materials

Sean Washburn (Physics and Astronomy) Quantum Transport, Mechanical and Electrical Response of Nanostructures.

Yue Wu (Physics and Astronomy) Quasicrystals, Nanocrystals, Nanotubes and Molecular Motion in Polymers

Otto Zhou (Physics and Astronomy) Synthesis, Properties and Applications of Nanomaterials

Associate Professors

Rene Lopez (Physics and Astronomy) Optical Materials, Photonic Structures, Photovoltaics

Nalin Parikh (Physics and Astronomy) Ion Beam Modifications and Analysis

Wei You (Chemistry) Organic and Polymer Synthesis, Organic Solar Cells, Molecular Electronics, Organic Spintronics

Assistant Professors

Scott Warren (joint APSc with Chemistry) Supramolecular and Solid-state Chemistry for Materials Design

The Department of Applied Physical Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is an interdisciplinary graduate program that includes faculty from chemistry, mathematics, physics and astronomy, chemistry, and various departments across the university to engage in research and training in applications of the physical sciences. The primary areas of emphasis in the program are optical and electronic materials, nanomaterials, polymers, and biomaterials. Students pursuing M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in materials science begin their studies with a core curriculum covering the fundamentals of materials, including their structures, surfaces, fabrication, thermodynamics, and materials science laboratory techniques. They continue with elective courses offered by the curriculum or the other departments as appropriate to their area of research concentration. Graduate students engage in research under the supervision of one of the participating materials science faculty in the Department of Applied Physical Sciences.

Research Interests

The four areas of research emphasized in the program are electronic, nano, polymer, and biomaterials. These four areas are not discrete, however, as research projects in electronic polymers, nonlinear optics of polypeptides on surfaces, liquid crystals, and wear in polyethylene artificial joints demonstrate. Individual faculty members may have research interests in more than one of the primary areas, and may collaborate with others to address all four. For detailed information on the graduate program, please contact the graduate student coordinator at 919-962-4703 or

Degree Requirements

The Ph.D. degree requirements include completion of a suitable set of courses, cumulative written comprehensive exams, a preliminary doctoral oral exam, an original research project culminating in a dissertation, and a final oral exam. The M.S. degree requirements include completion of a suitable set of courses, cumulative written comprehensive exams, a research project, and a final oral exam. The general regulations of The Graduate School govern credit hour, residency, and examination requirements.


All graduate students must pass the following courses or appropriate ones approved by the curriculum, or must have passed their equivalents elsewhere: APPL 470, APPL 473, and MTSC 615, 720, 730, and 735. Each student also takes additional courses offered by the curriculum or participating departments, as appropriate for his or her area of study.

Comprehensive Exam

M.S. students must pass three core exams and one specialty exam. Ph.D. students must pass four core exams and two specialty comprehensive exams. Topics for the specialty exams will be research areas represented in the materials science program at UNC–Chapel Hill; core exams cover the fundamental knowledge of materials science. All students are required to complete the comprehensive exam by the end of their second year.

Preliminary Doctoral Oral Exam

Students are required to select a research adviser during the first year in graduate school and a thesis committee before they take the preliminary doctoral exam. To pass the preliminary doctoral oral exam, students must present and successfully defend their Ph.D. research proposal to the dissertation committee by the end of the third year.

Facilities and Equipment

Students and faculty in the curriculum have access to the following central facilities located in various departments: NMR (2), computer modeling and computer graphics, confocal microscopy, electron microscopy (SEM, TEM, and STEM), FIB, glass shop, machine shop (2), laser lab, mechanical testing, mass spectroscopy, and X-ray diffraction. In addition, a variety of equipment is located in individual research laboratories. This includes equipment for thermal analysis; polymer synthesis; FTIR, UV-Vis, Raman, and photoluminescence spectroscopy; ellipsometry; CVD; MBE; thermal oxidation; AFM; electrical measurements; nonlinear optics; and low temperatures and high pressures. Facilities at North Carolina State University in Raleigh and MCNC in Research Triangle Park are also available.

Fellowships and Assistantships

Teaching assistantships are available to qualified graduate students. The duties of teaching assistants include teaching laboratory sections, assisting in the supervision of advanced laboratories, teaching recitation sections, and grading papers. Summer support is generally available. Research assistantships are also offered.

Courses for Graduate and Advanced Undergraduate Students


420 Introduction to Polymer Chemistry (CHEM 420) (3). See CHEM 420 for description.

421 Synthesis of Polymers (CHEM 421) (3). See CHEM 421 for description.

422 Physical Chemistry of Polymers (CHEM 422) (3). See CHEM 422 for description.

423 Intermediate Polymer Chemistry (CHEM 423) (3). See CHEM 423 for description.

470 Fundamentals of Materials Science (CHEM 470) (3). See CHEM 470 for description.

472 Chemistry and Physics of Electronic Materials Processing (CHEM 472, PHYS 472) (3). See PHYS 472 for description.

473 Chemistry and Physics of Surfaces (CHEM 473) (3). See CHEM 473 for description.

491L Materials Laboratory I (PHYS 491L) (2). See PHYS 491L for description.

492L Materials Laboratory II (PHYS 492L) (2). See PHYS 492L for description.

520L Polymer Chemistry Laboratory (CHEM 520L) (2). See CHEM 520L for description.

573 Introductory Solid State Physics (PHYS 573) (3). See PHYS 573 for description.


615 Structure of Solids (3). Crystallography, reciprocal lattices, Bloch waves, band structure, electronic wave functions, phonons, thermal expansion. Superlattice structures, including liquid crystals. Overview of properties of ceramic, amorphous, polymeric, and composite materials.

Courses for Graduate Students


715 Visualization in Science (COMP 715, PHYS 715) (3). See COMP 715 for description.

720 Materials Fabrication (3). Permission of the department. Introduction to materials fabrication techniques. Includes single crystal growth, thin film deposition, synthesis of quantum dots and nanotubes/nanowires, dielectric and electron emissive materials, nanocomposites, bioceramics, and energy storage materials.

730 Statistical Thermodynamics (3). Permission of the instructor. Theory of ensembles and interactions in statistical mechanics. Classical and quantum statistics. Applications to simple systems: ideal gas, heat capacity of solids, blackbody radiation, phase transitions.

735 Techniques in Materials Science (3). Permission of the department. Lecture and laboratory in materials analysis techniques, including optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction, fluorescence, nuclear magnetic resonance, Raman spectroscopy, thermal analysis, XPS, channeling and RBS.

740 Advanced Biomaterials (BMME 740) (3). See BMME 740 for description.

750 Kinetics, Diffusion, and Phase Transitions of Materials (3). Reaction kinetics in bulk materials. Mass transport, microstructural transformations, and phase transitions in condensed phases. Atom diffusion in solids. Spinodal decomposition.

810 Device Physics and Electronic Properties of Solids (3). Prerequisites, APPL 470 or PHYS 573, MTSC 615, and 730. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisites. Survey of crystal structure, bandstructure, transport. Overview of FETs, heterostructures, light emission, dissipation, noise, integrated circuits, solar cells, and ceramics. Emphasis on physical sources of device behavior.

820 Optical Properties of Solids (3). Prerequisites, APPL 470 or PHYS 573, and PHYS 415. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisites. Reflection, waveguides, nonlinear optics, optical switching, photorefraction, optical storage. Optical coupling to electronic states, device applications, optical computing.

830 Ion–Solid Interactions (3). Prerequisite, APPL 470 or PHYS 573. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisite. Interatomic potentials, range distribution, radiation damage, annealing, secondary defects, analytical techniques, silicon-based devices, implantation in compound semiconductors, and buried layer synthesis. Ion implantation in metals, ceramics, polymers, and biomaterials.

840 New Technologies and Device Architecture (3). Prerequisites, APPL 470 or PHYS 573, MTSC 615, and 730. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisites. Survey of novel and emerging device technologies. Resonant tunneling transistors, HEMT, opto-electronic devices and optical communication and computation, low-temperature electronic, hybrid superconductor devices.

871 Solid State Physics (PHYS 871) (3). See PHYS 871 for description.

872 Solid State Physics (PHYS 872) (3). See PHYS 872 for description.

891 Special Topics in Material Science (1–3). Permission of the department. Current topics in materials science, including electronic and optical materials, polymers, and biomaterials.

992 Master's (Non-Thesis) (3).

993 Master's Research and Thesis (3). Permission of the department.

994 Doctoral Research and Dissertation (3). Permission of the department.