MSI Program

Master's Degree in Modern Research Instrumentation

Department of Physics & Astronomy at Stony Brook University offers a Master's degree to students who have completed a program of study of modern research instrumentation. The curriculum includes both a sequence of courses and a thesis describing a state-of-the-art instrument built by the student in one of our research laboratories. The program features close faculty supervision in our modern facilities equipped with sophisticated instrumentation that includes analog and digital data acquisition systems, radio frequency, optical and microwave apparatus, specialized microscopy instrumentation, microcircuit fabrication facilities, automated measurement and control systems, high power pulsed and CW lasers, and more. Students in any of the tracks may find that there are also opportunities for work on instrumentation in other departments including those at Brookhaven National Laboratory and the University Hospital and Health Sciences Center.

Today's Needs

This special course of study is open to students holding a Bachelor's degree in physical science or engineering who wish to pursue a career in today's high technology research and development laboratories. It is designed to meet the needs of modern industry, hospitals, and research laboratories for technically trained people with very thorough scientific background. The professional track provides alternative career options in management, finance and regulatory compliance. Such jobs are often filled by over-qualified or under-qualified people whose education is not directed toward this particular need. Many of these people presently take on-the-job training in precisely the topics this program teaches. Its graduates are therefore highly desirable in almost every technologically oriented enterprise in the country.

The professional track prepares students for science careers in business, government, or nonprofit organizations, where workforce needs are increasing. Job market projections indicate that most new jobs will be created in business and industry, not in the academic world. While employers still need scientists with advanced technical expertise, they also want people who can write, communicate, manage, and lead. All enterprises with a technological component need people who have deep scientific knowledge as well as skills to apply that knowledge in management, policy, communication, or law. The professional track of MSI is designed to provide precisely this kind of background.

Hands On Experience

MSI students are drawn from a very large pool of Bachelor degree holders in physical science or engineering who wish further training toward a scientific or technical profession, but not to become Ph.D.'s. At first, students may be supported by the department as teaching assistants in undergraduate courses. Later, they work in well-equipped research laboratories such as the laser spectroscopy labs, low temperature facility, electron micro-lithography facility, x-ray microscopy apparatus, surface and associated ultrahigh vacuum facility, helium liquefier, high energy research labs at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) and elsewhere, and our beam lines at the National Synchrotron Light Source at BNL. New opportunities are emerging at the nascent NSLS-II and CFN at BNL.

Common to all of these facilities are sophisticated analog and digital supporting electronic instruments too numerous to list. Many possess high vacuum equipment and computerized information processing systems. The department has a Laser Teaching Center that is particularly well-suited for MSI projects in this rapidly expanding technology. In addition, the students receive training in our modern machine shop, welding facility, electronics center, and advanced technology laboratory.

Opportunities for Graduates

Graduates with the MSI degree are neither highly specialized physicists with Ph.D. degrees, nor are they technicians with limited potential for diversification and growth. Instead, they are professional scientists whose understanding of fundamental physical phenomena enables them to adapt to a wide variety of challenges in modern technical institutions. The curriculum is designed to meet the needs of students learning about the design, construction, testing, and operation of sophisticated instrument systems. Those in the professional track have a broader base that may include training in management, finance, and personnel issues. Candidates are required to demonstrate a knowledge of physics (by written and/or oral examination), to spend at least one semester as a teaching assistant in an undergraduate laboratory, to take required and elective courses, and to complete both a major project and either a minor project or a sequence of business courses (see sample here).