May 30, 2024  
2003-2004 Graduate Catalog 
2003-2004 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Engineering Physics

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Experimental research is being conducted in the following areas: the physics and chemistry of surfaces, including microsensors, catalysis, adhesion, thin film growth, surface crystallography, phase transitions, tribology, and development of new instrumentation; liquid crystals; environmental nuclear radiation; health physics; biophysics, including sensitive specific heat measurements, the biophysics of membranes and macromolecules; low temperature physics, including superconductivity; optical, x-ray, and radio observations of galaxies and clusters of galaxies; general relativity; physics education, investigating student learning. Theoretical work includes studies of galactic formation and stability, atomic and solid state theory, semi-conductors, non-linear systems, pattern formation, chemically-driven microscopic motors and pumps, radionuclide transport theories, statistical mechanics, equilibrium and nonequilibrium phase transitions, and surface physics.

Cooperative Research

Cooperative research projects involving students in Physics degree programs have been conducted with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in studies of semiconductor devices and sensor technology; the Department of Chemistry in optical and resonance studies on anticancer compounds and polymers on metallic surfaces; the Institute for Quaternary Studies in studies of glaciology; the Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Molecular Biology in studies of nucleic acids; the Departments of Geological Sciences and Civil and Environmental Engineering in natural radioactivity in the environment; and the Departments of Biological Sciences and Geological Sciences in acid rain studies.

A major interdisciplinary research organization at the University is the Laboratory for Surface Science and Technology in which research opportunities exist in high technology areas related to surfaces, interfaces, and thin film materials. Specific information is available at

Research Facilities

The Department’s machine shop, electronic shop, and many specialized facilities essential to the experimental research programs listed above, are available. In addition, the University’s IBM 3090 Computer with vector processing in conjunction with the Cornell University Supercomputer Network is available for suitable research activities. A network of Sun and Linux PC workstations for data reduction and numerical simulation is available to students working in the area of astrophysics, particularly (but not exclusively) in the construction of realistic models of galactic dynamics. There is a cluster of computers in the department available for student use and individual computers in most graduate student offices.

The Laboratory for Surface Science and Technology has facilities for thin film synthesis, processing, and characterization; scanning probe microscopies; optical and electron spectroscopies; X-ray and electron diffraction; sensor device testing and electronic characterization; gas absorption and desorption analysis; Class 1000 clean room for microelectronic device fabrication.

Degree Programs

Programs of study leading to the degrees of Master of Science, Master of Engineering (Engineering Physics), and Doctor of Philosophy are offered through the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Master of Science

The program of graduate study for the master’s degree, which normally requires two academic years on a half-time basis, is developed around an original investigation, the results of which are presented as a thesis.

Of the minimum of 30 semester hours required for the Master of Science degree, 24 are devoted to courses in physics and such allied fields as other sciences, mathematics, and engineering. However, the following courses or their equivalents, which are offered every year, must be included: PHY 501 Mechanics; PHY 502 Electrodynamics I, and PHY 503 Quantum Mechanics I.

Master of Engineering (Engineering Physics)

A minimum of 30 semester hours is also required for the Master of Engineering (Engineering Physics) degree. Of the total of 24 required course hours, nine hours must be selected from a meaningful engineering course sequence. In addition, nine hours must be selected from three of the following courses: PHY 501 Mechanics, PHY 502 Electrodynamics I, PHY 503 Quantum Mechanics I, and PHY 510 Graduate Laboratory. A thesis is optional but is strongly encouraged. The thesis may be completed in either the Physics Department or the engineering department in which the engineering course sequence is taken. Satisfactory completion of the non-thesis option requires 36 hours of course credits.

Doctor of Philosophy

Typically a total of 5-6 years are needed to complete the Ph.D. degree for a student who enters the program with a bachelor’s degree. This time is approximately equally divided between course work and thesis research. A thesis presenting the results of an original investigation in a specialized area of physics is an essential feature of the program. Requirements also include passing the comprehensive examination, normally attempted during the third year of study beyond the bachelor’s degree.

The program of study for each student in the Ph.D. program includes a minimum of 42 course hours. The following courses, or their equivalents, are required of all students: PHY 501 Mechanics; PHY 502 Electrodynamics I; PHY 574 Methods of Theoretical Physics; PHY 503 Quantum Mechanics I; PHY 603 Quantum Mechanics II; PHY 512 Statistical Mechanics; PHY 510 Graduate Laboratory. In addition, students must take at least one advanced course in the areas of these required courses and at least one course in areas distinct from the areas of these required courses, for a total of three such courses.


In addition to satisfying the general admission requirements of the Graduate School, candidates for advanced degrees in physics should have completed at least 16 semester hours in physics beyond the introductory course and have studied mathematics at least through differential equations. Candidates who have majored in other physical sciences or mathematics are encouraged to apply. A candidate’s preparation for graduate study in physics or astronomy can be strengthened by taking selected undergraduate courses for graduate credit.

Financial Assistance

Teaching assistantships are available for the academic year and include remission of tuition for up to nine credit hours per semester and three credit hours in the summer session. These appointments provide for approximately half-time teaching and half-time study. Teaching assignments usually involve six contact hours per week. Summer support is usually available for students in the program.

The University of Maine supports a number of University fellowships and tuition scholarships. Research assistantships are also available in some of the areas of investigation listed above.


Applications are accepted at any time for admission in the Fall (September), the Spring (January), or the Summer (June) semester. Application materials can be obtained from the Graduate School, 5782 Winslow Hall, Room 2, Orono, ME 04469-5782, e-mail at, or downloaded from the web site

Additional Information

Individual faculty may be contacted via their email addresses above. The department’s home page is

Alternatively, the Graduate Coordinator can be reached by regular mail at Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469, by telephone at (207) 581-1016, or by FAX at (207) 581-3410.

Graduate Faculty

Susan R. McKay, Ph.D. (M.I.T., 1987), Professor and Chair. Condensed matter theory, phase transitions and critical phenomena, systems with quenched disorder, spin glasses, random-field ferromagnets, systems far from equilibrium, pattern formation, non-linear systems, and chaos. (e-mail:

R. Dean Astumian, Ph.D. (Texas-Arlington, 1983), Professor. Design of microscopic mechanical and electrical pumps and motors powered by non-equilibrium isothermal chemical reactions. (e-mail:

David J. Batuski, Ph.D. (New Mexico, 1986), Associate Professor. Observational cosmology, large-scale structure in the universe, dynamics of galaxy clusters, interacting galaxies and radio sources. (e-mail:

Karl D. Bishop, Ph.D. (Syracuse, 1992), Assistant Professor, Bucknell University. Nuclear magnetic resonance, biochemistry.

Kenneth R. Brownstein, Ph.D. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1966), Professor. Quantum mechanics and electromagnetic theory. (e-mail:

Neil F. Comins, Ph.D. (University College, Cardiff, 1978), Professor. Galactic formation, structure, stability, evolution stellar stability, observational astronomy (optical, radio), computational astrophysics general relativity, and astronomy education. (e-mail:

Charles T. Hess, Ph.D. (Ohio, 1967), Professor. Alpha and gamma spectroscopy, x-ray fluorescence, environmental radioactivity, radon in water and air, and health physics. (e-mail:

Peter H. Kleban, Ph.D. (Brandeis, 1970), Professor. Member of the Laboratory for Surface Science and Technology (LASST). Theory of phase transitions, surface science, and electron spectrometers. (e-mail:

Robert J. Lad, Ph.D. (Cornell, 1986), Professor. Director of the Laboratory for Surface Science and Technology (LASST). Surface physics and chemistry, ceramic materials, interfaces, thin films and gas-surface interactions. (e-mail:

James McClymer, Ph.D. (Delaware, 1986), Associate Professor. Digital imaging and light scattering from equilibrium and nonequilibrium phase transitions in liquid crystals. (e-mail:

Richard A. Morrow, Ph.D. (Princeton, 1963), Professor. Semiconductor theory and defects in GaAs. (e-mail:

Donald B. Mountcastle, Ph.D. (Virginia, 1971), Associate Professor. Molecular biophysics, structure and function of biological and model membranes, cooperative interactions, microcalorimetry, and thermodynamics.(e-mail:

Charles W. Smith, Ph.D. (Ohio, 1968), Professor. Low temperature experimental physics, superconductivity, point contact spectroscopy, and condensed matter physics. (e-mail:

William N. Unertl, Ph.D. (Wisconsin, 1973), Professor. Member of the Laboratory for Surface Science and Technology (LASST). Surface physics and chemistry, atomic force microscopy electron spectroscopy, surface structure, friction and adhesion. (e-mail:

Michael C. Wittman, Ph.D. (Maryland, 1998), Assistant Professor. Director of the Laboratory for Research in Physics Education (LRPE). Investigating student learning (wave physics, quantum mechanics, electricity and magnetism), research-based curriculum development and dissemination, modeling student reasoning in physics. (e-mail:

Research and Associate Graduate Faculty

David P. Feldman, Ph.D. (California-Davis, 1998), Professor, College of the Atlantic. Nonlinear dynamics, information theory, statistical mechanics.

David Frankel, Ph.D. (Stanford, 1978), Senior Research Scientist, Laboratory for Surface Science and Technology. Surface science and vacuum technology.

Cooperating Graduate Faculty

Jayendra C. Rasaiah, Ph.D. (Pittsburgh, 1965), Professor. Statistical mechanics of electrolytes and polar fluids, computer simulation studies of solutions, fluctuation-dominated kinetics in heterogeneous media, theory of electron transfer reactions, and molecular biophysical chemistry.

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