The ultimate discovery machine: The Large Hadron Collider deep underground in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo courtesy of CERN

The Ohio State University Department of Physics is one of the university’s largest and most diverse departments conducting world-class research. It is a top-25 physics department in the country, providing the fundamental core curriculum for all of the sciences at Ohio State. 

At a Glance

By the Numbers

  • 436 Undergraduate majors
  • 210 Graduate Students
  • 37 Postdoctoral researchers and research scientists
  • 55 Faculty

Degree Programs

  • BS, Physics
  • BS, Engineering Physics
  • Physics minor
  • PhD, Physics

Research Areas

  • Astrophysics and Cosmology
  • Atomic, Molecular and Optical Experiment and Theory
  • Biophysics
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Cold Atom Physics
  • High Energy Physics
  • Nuclear Physics
  • Physics Education

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC)

The Large Hadron Collider, at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), is the world’s highest energy accelerator used by physicists to study the smallest known particles—the fundamental building blocks of all things. It is made up of intersecting rings 27 km in circumference and spans the border between Switzerland and France about 100 meters underground.

Ohio State is the only institution in the United States collaborating on three of the four largest LHC experiments, ALICE, ATLAS and CMS, to analyze the myriad of particles produced by the collisions in the accelerator. 

New Horizons in Physics Prize

Astronomy and physics professor Christopher Hirata is the first faculty member from Ohio State to receive a New Horizons in Physics Prize, an award given alongside the annual Breakthrough Prizes, which have come to be known as the “Oscars of science.” Hirata received the prize in recognition of his “fundamental contributions to understanding the physics of early galaxy formation and to sharpening and applying the most powerful tools of precision cosmology.” His work focuses on dark matter and dark energy, which are believed to control how galaxies form and how the universe expands, and his research has drawn together elements of big data, device engineering and theoretical physics.

The Scarlet Laser Lab

The Science Center for Advanced Research on Lasers and Engineered Targets. We are one of only a handful of universities in the nation to have such an ultra-intense laser facility. The faculty in the High Energy Density Physics group focuses on experiments using basic laser physics that will help advance breakthroughs in fusion energy, cancer therapy and national security. 

Student Excellence

Three physics undergraduates received National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Fellowships, an undergraduate was selected for the Winston Churchill Scholarship — one of only 14 in the country — another undergraduate was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship; two graduate students received NSF Graduate Research Fellowships. 22 students have been named Goldwater Scholars.

Community Outreach

Summer day camp for high school girls entering 10- 12th grades. Participants get hands-on experience with equipment and software and learn about physics research.

The Scientific Thinkers program is designed to be a continual effort at Parkmoor and Innis Elementary Schools, and Mansion Day School, Columbus elementary schools, to bring scientists into first through fifth grade classrooms. This program strives to help the students at these schools enjoy science and gain confidence in their abilities as students and scientific thinkers through a collaborative effort of teachers and Ohio State students teaching inquiry-based science.

There are three main aspects to the in-class methods-Meet a Scientist, Be a Scientist, and Learn about other Scientists. These are realized through weekly classroom visits by volunteers from the Department of Physics and other science and engineering departments.

The Center for Emergent Materials and the Center for Cosmology and AstroParticle Physics team up as students and teachers from local Columbus schools explore hands-on activities including magnetism and computer activities as well as comets and other astronomy related activities. Participants begin the morning by having breakfast with scientists and a visit to the planetarium; the rest of the morning is spent engaging in hands-on science activities.


Houses leading efforts in studies of dark energy, dark matter, the origin of cosmic structure and the highest energy particles in the universe.

An NSF funded Materials Research Science and Engineering Center focusing on integrated research on emergent materials and phenomena in magnetoelectronics, creating new paradigms in computing and information storage.

ENCOMM is an interdisciplinary center with the goal of nucleating, fostering, and supporting collaborative teams in the area of materials research at OSU. ENCOMM's mission is carried out through three principle activities:

  1. Support for open-access research infrastructure as well as technical and administrative staff in Nanosystems Laboratory (NSL) to provide critical research capabilities for a large and diverse group of internal and external users, which are essential for the success of many research projects including major block grants such as NSF MRSEC, DARPA, MURI and quantum initiatives.
  2. Managing the integrated Materials Research Seed Grant Program (MRSGP) jointly funded by CEM, ENCOMM and IMR; MRSGP supports high-risk, high-reward novel ideas and team research projects, so they can be competitive for external grants, particularly block funding.
  3. Hosting ENCOMM seminars given by internal and external speakers to foster interdisciplinary interactions and team building with the potential for germinating new research directions and forming new research teams.