UW-Madison Departments Related to Physics

Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

The atomic and molecular physics group does some work in atmospheric physics; however, most activity on the campus is in the Meteorology Department which has several active programs of interest to physicists: measurements of the earth's heat balance via sensors on a satellite, use of synchronous satellites to sense continuously on a global basis the parameters necessary for accurate weather forecasting, laser propagation through the atmosphere and work in the theory of radioactive transport in a cloudy atmosphere, scattering of microwave radiation in the troposphere, and studies of the use of electromagnetic waves for remotely sensing the oceans.

Geology and Geophysics

Geophysics, the physics of the earth, involves gravity measurements to determine the mass distribution in the earth, seismic and low-frequency electromagnetic waves to measure the subsurface structure, and heat flow and magnetic field measurements to give insight into the nature of the dynamic earth. Most geophysics research is centered in the Department of Geology and Geophysics. For further information, write to: The Director, Geophysical and Polar Research Center, Department of Geology and Geophysics.

History and Philosophy of Physics

The department has no formal program in this area, but there is a strong History of Science Department on the campus, with an active program in history of physics, and students have taken joint Ph.D. degrees in Physics and History of Science.

Institute for Environmental Studies

The University has an Institute for Environmental Studies which carries out an extensive program of research and instruction involving many disciplines, including physics. Examples of physics-oriented research programs at the Institute include development of remote sensors for environmental conditions, studies of dissipation of heat from nuclear power plants, and theoretical studies of the effect of small atmospheric particles on the earth's albedo. Students admitted to the Physics Department may elect to undertake Ph.D. research in this area, under the supervision of an interdisciplinary committee.

Soil and Environmental Physics

The broad area of interest is the movement and interaction of energy, water, solutes, and gases in the soil-plant-air systems comprising the earth's land surfaces. Within this broad area, special interests here are two-fluid flow and hysteresis in porous media, physics of swelling and cracking soils, coupled movement of heat and water in the top layer of soil, movement of water from soil to root systems: optics of sunlight penetration into plant canopies; and modeling of the soil-plant-air components of watersheds. The last is directed toward improved ecological insight and toward predictive models for land-use planning. Collaborative work is active in the soil physics group of the Department of Soil Science. Broadly related work in porous media, watershed hydrology and rheology is active in the Departments of Civil Engineering and Chemical Engineering.

Theoretical Chemistry

There is a strong Theoretical Chemistry Institute with an active research program in the application of quantum mechanics to atomic and molecular problems and in statistical mechanics. The chemistry department members are: A. Yethiraj, P.R. Certain, F. Weinhold, J.E. Harriman, E.L. Sibert and J.Skinner. There is a degree program in theoretical chemistry with requirements distinct from the degree in chemistry.
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