Who are we?

New Years 2023 Party

2023 New Year's Celebration in the Geo/Physics Building Atrium.

Leigh Smith at Grand Canyon

Prof. Leigh M. Smith, Department Head of Physics

Welcome to the Department of Physics at the University of Cincinnati!  We are a research intensive department which has degree programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. We have BS and BA programs in both Astrophysics and Physics or you can add a Minor in Physics to your existing degree. Many of our undergraduates double major in Mathematics, or get degrees in both Physics and Astrophysics. We have approximately 120 undergraduates in our department, and most of our students engage in research over the summers and also during the academic year. We offer graduate MS and PhD degrees with most students (we have approximately 55 graduate students) receiving awards which cover both tuition and living expenses (our present graduate stipends are $27k/year). We receive external funding over $3.3 million each year which funds active research groups in High Energy Physics Theory and Experiment, Astrophysics, Condensed Matter Physics Theory and Experiment, and Physics Education Research. Many of our students engage in research at major international laboratories or observatories around the world (CERN in Switzerland, KEK in Japan, Fermilab in Illinois, and BICEP3 at the South Pole) and in space (James Webb, Hubble, and Chandra satellites), and also in laboratories in the Geology/Physics building. We are located on the bottom four floors of the Geology/Physics Building with faculty offices on the fourth floor, graduate student offices, Physics Learning Center, and computer labs on the third floor, and research labs on floors one and two.

History of the Department

11 inch Refractor Telescope

11 inch refractor telescope at Cincinnati Observatory installed at Mount Adams in 1845.

The University of Cincinnati began in 1819, which was the same year that Cincinnati was incorporated as a City and had a population of 9000 people. Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel was born in Lebanon, OH, in 1810, and attended West Point from 1825-1829, and served there as Assistant Professor of Mathematics. He moved to Cincinnati in 1832 and became a lawyer and was instrumental in the formation of the law school at the University of Cincinnati in 1833. In 1836, he became Professor of Mathematics, Astronomy and Philosophy, and almost immediately worked tirelessly to bring a modern telescope to Cincinnati. He raised money through a series of popular lectures and purchased in Germany what was then the third largest refractor telescope in the world. He started the Cincinnati Observatory in 1845. In 1871, the Cincinnati Observatory became part of UC. Ormond Stone became director of the Cincinnati Observatory in 1875, and was one of the advisers to Herbert Couper Wilson who was awarded the first PhD at the University of Cincinnati in 1886. The Department of Physics began in 1883 with the arrival of Thomas French who received his PhD at the University of Heidelberg under Gustav Kirchhoff.

Louis T. More arrived in the department after receiving his PhD in 1895 from John Hopkins University and became head of the Physics department, and then Dean of the College of Arts and Letters, and finally Dean of the graduate school. The departments of Astronomy and Physics and the Cincinnati Observatory were merged together in 1979.

Prof. Boris Podolsky

Boris Podolsky (R) and Paul Dirac (L)

Paul Dirac (left) speaking to Boris Podolsky (right) at Xavier University Conference on Quantum Mechanics in 1962.

In 1934, Louis T. More visited the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University searching for faculty members to join the University of Cincinnati. Albert Einstein and Paul Dirac both reccomended that he consider strongly Boris Podolsky who was just finishing a paper with Albert Einstein and Nathan Rosen (the famous EPR Paper) which was one of the first descriptions of the importance of Quantum Entanglement. In his recommendation letter, Einstein wrote:

"I am happy to be able to tell you that I estimate Podolsky’s abilities very highly. His clear mind enables him to express every matter in the field of physics in a clear and original way. In addition, he is an independent investigator of unquestionable talent. I have just finished a piece of research with him and another colleague, and have had ample opportunity to learn to appreciate Podolsky’s knowledge and ability."

Boris Podolsky was appointed Assistant Professor of Mathematical Physics by Louis T. More in 1935.  He was one of the most prominent faculty members of the Department of Physics. Most recently the Podolsky-Wyatt chair in Physics was established by a generous endowment provided by Philip Wyatt.