University of California Merced

Department of Physics

Follow us: FacebookTwitterYouTube

Application Deadlines / Admissions


Degree Requirements


Department Culture


Faculty / Alumni


General Information


Research Specialties and Staff

Research Specialties and Staff

University of California Merced

Specialties for Degree Program

Research specialty Degree type
(Final degree/Enroute to PhD)
Atomic, Molecular, & Optical Physics Both Both
Biophysics Both Both
Condensed Matter Physics Both Both
Nano Science and Technology Both Both
Soft Matter, Nonlinear, and Statistical Physics Both Both
Soft Matter, Nonlinear, and Statistical Physics Both Both
Solar and Energy Sciences Both Both

Departmental Research and Staff


AMO: Theory and Experiment

The ability to manipulate matter at the atomic scale and its interactions with light have led to transformative advances in atomic, molecular and optical physics (AMO). UC Merced is building a strong research emphasis in AMO. Research areas include: Photonic and electronic coupling for applications in quantum information (Ghosh, Scheibner), theoretical nonlinear dynamics for atomic and molecular systems (Mitchell, Chien), quantum optics and quantum information in nanoscale systems including superconducting quantum computing, semiconductor optics, and nanomechanics (Tian, Chien), non-imaging optics (Winston), laboratory research at the boundary between relativity and quantum mechanics (Chiao), ultrafast laser systems and their applications (Sharping), and use of optical traps to manipulate nature's nano-machines, molecular motors (Xu).
Raymond Chiao, Chih-Chun Chien, Sayantani Ghosh, Kevin Mitchell, Michael Scheibner, Jay Sharping, Lin Tian, Roland Winston, Jing Xu

Biophysics: Theory and Experiment

Biophysics is by definition an interdisciplinary science where ideas and techniques from physics are utilized to understand biological systems and phenomena. Biological materials are classed as soft materials and there is a natural synergy between these disciplines. The unique academic structure at UC Merced is especially conducive to research in biophysics with collaborations between faculty across physics, chemistry, biology, applied math and bioengineering disciplines. The biophysics group at UC Merced has a wide variety of research interests including macromolecular transport (Gopinathan) structure and function of cell membranes (Hirst) biopolymers--structure, dynamics and function (Gopinathan, Hirst) biophotonics (Sharping) bacterial physics--growth, division, motility (Gopinathan, Liu), and molecular motors and intracellular transport (Xu, Gopinathan).
Ajay Gopinathan, Linda Hirst, Bin Liu, Jay Sharping, Jing Xu

Condensed Matter: Theory and Experiment

Condensed matter physics is a branch of physical science that investigates the physical, electronic and magnetic properties of the various forms of solid and liquid matter. Materials investigated range from naturally occurring crystals to engineered micro- and nanostructures as well as more exotic condensed phases and exciting phenomena such as superconductivity and the quantum Hall effect. The condensed matter physics group at UC Merced has research programs in diverse areas, including strongly correlated systems, quantum information processing and magneto-optical phenomena (Ghosh, Chiao, Tian, Chien and Scheibner), liquid crystal physics (Hirst) optical properties of nanostructures (Ghosh, Scheibner, Strubbe), emergence of complex phenomena when transitioning from single molecule to small ensemble studies (Xu), and theoretical and computational tools for condensed-matter physics (Strubbe).
Raymond Chiao, Chih-Chun Chien, Sayantani Ghosh, Linda Hirst, Michael Scheibner, David Strubbe, Lin Tian, Jing Xu

Nonlinear and Statistical Physics, Theory

Most processes encountered in nature are inherently nonlinear, meaning that nonlinear dynamics finds applications across a wide range of disciplines from mathematics and physics to chemistry, biology, and engineering. As such, UC Merced physics faculty from various subfields share a common bond with their interest in nonlinear phenomena and statistical physics. Focus areas include: chaotic dynamics in atomic systems (Mitchell), thermal transport in DNA (Chien), collective phenomena in swarming and foraging (Gopinathan), anomalous transport in complex environments (Gopinathan), and fundamental studies of topological dynamics (Mitchell).
Chih-Chun Chien, Ajay Gopinathan, Kevin Mitchell

Soft Matter: Theory and Experiment

Soft matter science (or soft condensed matter) is the study of materials that are neither crystalline solids, nor simple liquids — they are somewhere in between. This interesting state of matter can take many forms and can be seen everywhere in the world around us. Some everyday examples of soft matter include, soaps, paints, gels, plastics, liquid crystals and most of your own body and the food you eat. We have a group of faculty interested in problems related to soft materials, from new liquid crystal composite materials, to granular media and cell membranes. Focus areas include: liquid crystals (Hirst), polymer physics and elasticity (Gopinathan), fluid dynamics and granular systems (Liu), membranes (Hirst), and experiments on geometry and topology in soft matter and fluids (Kleckner).
Ajay Gopinathan, Linda Hirst, Dustin Kleckner, Bin Liu


Affiliated faculty in other departments

Venkattraman Ayyaswamy, plasma physics; Mehmet Baykara, tribology and surfaces; Mike Colvin, biomolecular simulation; Arvind Gopinath, biophysics; Jennifer Lu, functional materials synthesis; Victor Munoz, biophysics; Alex Noy, biomaterials; Anand Subramaniam, biomaterials; Vincent Tung, energy materials synthesis; Tao Ye, bio/nano interfaces

Energy Sciences: Theory and Experiment

As the first new research university in the 21st century, UC Merced was established with the mission to address new challenges facing humanity. Physical sciences play an essential role in addressing the crucial challenge of the development of inexpensive renewable energy. Our faculty advance renewable energy research through design of novel optics for light energy collection (Winston, Ghosh) and development of novel materials for energy conversion (Ghosh, Hirst, Strubbe). The University of California Advanced Solar Technologies Institute (UC Solar) is a multi-campus research institute across the UC system. Headquartered at UC Merced, UC Solar conducts cross-disciplinary research that leads to new and improved solar energy generation technologies and educates the energy industry and the next generation of energy scholars.
Sayantani Ghosh, Linda Hirst, David Strubbe, Roland Winston

Nanoscience: Theory and Experiment

Our increasing abilities to control, understand and manipulate matter and related interactions are transforming many areas in science and technology. Such advances have been, to a large extent, enabled by the convergence of techniques and perspectives from a broad range of disciplines. The research interests at UC Merced in the field of nanoscale science and technology include directed assembly of nanostructures for information and energy transfer (Ghosh, Hirst), optical properties of nanostructures (Ghosh, Scheibner, Strubbe), quantum optics and quantum information in nanoscale systems including superconducting quantum computing, semiconductor optics, and nanomechanics (Tian, Chien), and combination of physics and biochemistry methodologies to tune the nano-machinery of molecular motors (Xu).
Chih-Chun Chien, Sayantani Ghosh, Linda Hirst, Michael Scheibner, David Strubbe, Lin Tian, Jing Xu

Special Equipment, Facilities, or Programs


Tuition / Financial / Housing


Why Choose Us?