Chemical Physics and Engineering

Chemical physics focuses on understanding the behavior and properties of molecular scale systems based on fundamental quantum mechanical and statistical mechanical principles. The drive of modern technology towards ever smaller scale devices has lead naturally to increased interdisciplinary activity in this field as physicists and physical chemists seek to understand the electronic and optical properties of organic and other complex molecules, as well as exotic new materials such as nanotubes and nanocrystals. At the same time, advances in theoretical methods and experimental techniques have lead researchers to seek a more fundamental understanding of basic chemical reactions and the function of biological and other complex molecular systems.

The chemical physics program at the University of Rochester seeks to foster interdisciplinary interactions between researchers actively engaged in problems involving molecular or nanometer length scales. It provides a firm academic foundation for an expanding range of professional careers that require knowledge of both physics and chemistry.

Current research areas include the:

  • Manipulation and control of atomic motion using light pressure forces and the laser cooling and trapping of atoms and molecules (Professor Bigelow)
  • Electrical and optical properties of organic semiconductors, particularly conjugated polymers, and the properties of polarons and how they contribute to conduction in polymers and in DNA (Professor Conwell)
  • Physical and chemical phenomena at solid surfaces and interfaces (Professor Gao)
  • Photochemical physics of molecules involved with photosynthesis and the mechanisms of transfer of solar excitation energy, and charge transfer in molecular wires (Professor Knox )
  • Electronic and optical properties of nanotubes and nanocrystals (Professor Krauss)
  • Prediction of RNA structure from its sequence (Professor Mathews)
  • Physics, chemistry, and materials science for making optoelectronic devices from organic materials (Professor Rothberg)
  • Scaling behavior of polymers and other clustered molecules, classical and quantum transport in complex environments, and kinetic models of surface growth (Professor Shapir)
  • Structural behavior of gold nanorods (Professor Teitel)

The program offers PhD and master's degrees in physics or in chemistry, with a specialty in chemical physics. It is intended for students with undergraduate degrees in chemistry or physics as well as students with majors in mathematics or engineering and strong backgrounds in chemistry or physics.

Admission into the program is through the regular graduate admission process in the Department of Chemistry or the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Individually tailored curriculum will be made for students in the program with the agreement of the chemical physics faculty subject to the approval of the primary department.

Students would have joint advisors in each department to be agreed upon by the faculty. They would be encouraged to take at least one course not in their home department.

Chemical Engineering and Physics

Complementary to understanding the fundamental behavior of molecular and nanosized systems is the fabrication and integration of such components into organized mesoscopic or macroscopic structures. Understanding the growth or self-assembly of such structures, and their resulting properties, has led to new interdisciplinary interactions between physicists, chemists and chemical engineers.

Two of the faculty from the chemical physics program, professors Shapir and Rothberg, hold joint appointments in the Department of Chemical Engineering. Further opportunities for students to conduct research in this interdisciplinary area are available with other members of the chemical engineering faculty.

These include, Professor Chen (self-organization of organic materials for optoelectronics), Professor Chimowitz (fluids in porous media and nanoscale membranes; supercritical fluids), Professor Jorne (electrochemistry; electrodeposition of nanoscale structures), Professor Yang (magnetic nanoparticles; nanofabrication by self-assembly) and Professor Yates (colloids and interfaces; nanoparticle/polymer composites).