Top American Universities In Physics

Physicists seek to understand the nature of the universe.

Finding a top-rated physics program can be a daunting task. U.S. News and World Report ranks schools according to a number of criteria, the most important of which is surveys completed by prominent faculty members and physicists working in the field. Research funding, awards and research facilities are also important criteria. There are a number of universities that can be considered among the best in the nation. These schools were chosen based on U.S. News and World Report rankings for 2008.

California Institute of Technology

The California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech) is one of the most prominent and productive physics programs in the nation. According to a Reed College study, Cal Tech outproduced all other physics programs from 1995 to 2004 in the number of doctoral degrees in physics granted. Cal Tech was also rated the third best physics program in the nation by U.S. News and World Report for 2008. Cal Tech is known for its interdisciplinary approach to research and offers degree concentrations in the areas of plasma research, computational physics, nanostructured materials, biophysics and along with gas and fluid mechanics. Cal Tech offers students a unique opportunity for study because of its collaboration with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab.

California Institute of Technology

1200 E. California Blvd.

Pasadena, CA 91125

(626) 395-6811

Stanford University

Founded in 1891, the Stanford University Physics Department was among the first departments at the university. Stanford rated second among all physics programs nationwide for 2008 according to the U.S. News rankings. According to the departmental website, the faculty “includes five Nobel Laureates, fifteen members of the National Academy of Science and nine members of the National Academy of Engineering.” Stanford’s physics department is known for its interdisciplinary approach to research. At the undergraduate level students can either major or minor in physics, but also have the option of pursuing a B.S. in physical science or a B.A. degree in teaching physical science. Graduate degree programs are what has earned Stanford its fame. Students are allowed to pursue research in nearly any area of interest so long as it is done under the direction of a faculty adviser. Major areas of emphasis include quantum mechanics, low temperature physics, astrophysics and condensed matter physics. Stanford is the home of eight prominent research centers including the Stanford Institute for Theoretical Physics and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.

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Stanford University Physics Department

Main Office, Varian Physics room 108

382 Via Pueblo Mall

Stanford, CA 94305-4060

(650) 723-4344


The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is generally one of the first programs to come to mind when listing top physics programs. U.S. News and World Report rated MIT as the top-rated physics program in the United States. MIT continually makes lasting contributions in the fields of plasma physics, nuclear and particle physics, condensed matter, astrophysics and atomic physics. MIT is also known for its interdisciplinary approach to the field of physics that allows students to pursue nearly any area of research they desire. The university is renowned for its faculty members who are leaders in the academic community. The university as a whole is heavily imbued with the study of physics, as seen in the fact that all students, regardless of major, are required to take at least two semesters of physics in order to graduate.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Department of Physics, 4-315

77 Massachusetts Ave.

Cambridge, MA 02139-4307

(617) 253-4841