So I have a bit of a dilemma. I'm an American. I graduated with a BS in Electrical Engineering and worked for the past two years in the RF field. I'm heading to school this fall to get my master's. A somewhat unusual step, but I want to gently re-enter academia and improve my chances at getting into a good PhD program (undergrad was good, but not spectacular). Overall my goals are:

  1. "Master" classical electromagnetism
  2. Learn semiconductor devices design and fabrication
  3. Get publications (I will be working with metamaterials)

Essentially I want to master the classical side of physics, dip my toe into quantum physics, and then for my PhD do research in solid state/device physics. The closer to basic science I get, the better. My university has plenty of classes on the semiconductor device design/fabrication and I know how I can fit that into my schedule. The problem is:

  1. Can I apply to an applied physics program without filling the gaps in my physics knowledge prior to applying (statistical mechanics, solid state physics, etc.)?
  2. Does the answer to question 1 change if I apply to a European university?

2 Answers 2


I won't comment on Europe. The difference between a PhD in electrical engineering, applied physics, or solid state physics is often very small. There is no reason not to try switching between those fields when you start your PhD.

To successfully apply for a PhD program, you should fill gaps in your knowledge. You will likely need to obtain a good Physics GRE score and pass qualifying exams for programs in the US. Exact practices vary, but you'll find most students have gaps in their knowledge that they need to fill. Also, many of the students will have forgotten quite a bit of that material before they finish their PhDs.

  • Thank for this. I have a question about the order in which to take physics classes. I know I will need to take: Classical Mechanics (Physics 1&2 doesn't really suffice, I think), Classical Emag( the more advanced portions, Quatnum Mechanics, Statistical Mechanics, and Solid State Physics. Is there an order I should do these? Are there any topics that I left off? Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 18:12
  • Electromagnetism first. Otherwise it doesn't matter much. Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 0:06

The simple to your Q. 1 would be yes. You can apply for Applied Physics Program but keep in mind that you need to take more classes as compared to usual Master's program because you need to fulfil prerequisites first.

Do not apply to European University if you can go to American one. Because the Business environment in US is way more favourable to any degree as compared to Europe.

  • 1
    I highly doubt that the second part of this answer is true or good advice. Firstly, you cannot generalise European and American universities like this. A "European university" can mean something very different depending on whether it is in the UK, in Germany, in Italy or somewhere else. Similarly, there are big difference between US universities. Secondly, OP explicitly mentioned their interest in basic science, not business-oriented degrees. Also, the EU/US question was asked in reference to where it would be possible to apply for OP and not where the better universities are.
    – jfeis
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 11:21
  • I agree with jfeis. The second part of this answer is nothing but a personal opinion.
    – Pseg
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 13:21
  • @Pedro yes it's a personal opinion. Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 4:52

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