NSBP Sections

There are 16 Physics Sections of NSBP.  These sections help plan symposia at our annual conference as well as other meetings, workshops, and mini-courses.  They help keep the general membership aware of new and ongoing funding for research and training in the respective sub-fields.  Each section is a forum for networking and information exchanges including student advising and mentoring as well as research collaboration.

Acoustics (ACOU)

Acoustics is a branch of physics concerned with the study of sound (mechanical waves in gases, liquids, and solids).  Because mechanical waves are so ubiquitous, acoustics is by nature an inter-disciplinary field, drawing people from widely differing backgrounds.  Any scientist that studies acoustics is called an acoustician.

Physical acousticians study the fundamental classical and quantum processes involved in wave generation and propagation in matter, including using sound to generate light (sonoluminescence),  heat (thermoacoustics), or electricity (piezoelectricity);  or using sound to study and manipulate the physical properties of matter.  Other branches of acoustics include aeroacoustics, architectural acoustics, bioacoustics, medical acoustics, musical acoustics, psychoacoustics, seismology, underwater acoustics, and several more.

Astronomy and Astrophysics (ASTRO)

Astronomers make observations and classifications of everything outside of the Earth’s atmosphere, including planets, stars, interstellar medium, asteroids, and galaxies; and they classify and attempt to explain the properties and relationships of those celestial objects.

Astrophysics is the branch of astronomy that tries to explain the physical properties (luminosity, density, temperature and chemical composition), phenomena, and interactions of astronomical objects in terms of  known physical  laws.

Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics (AMO)

Atomic, molecular and optical physicists study the fundamental behavior of neutral atoms, ions, electrons, and simple molecules, and their interaction with electromagnetic radiation.  Their results enable advances in many other areas of science through the development of methods to control, manipulate and produce new material and optical properties through the precise interactions of light and matter.

Chemical and Biological Physics (CBP)

Chemical physicists apply mathematical, computational and experimental physical methods to understand chemical systems, from individual atoms to large assemblies of molecules and complex materials. They are concerned with the behavior of the individual atoms and particles all the way up to their collective behaviors.

Biophysicists extend the application of physical methods to understanding the structure, behavior and mechanisms of biomolecules, cells and whole living systems.

Condensed Matter and Materials Physics (CMMP)

Condensed matter physics is concerned with the macroscopic and collective behavior of matter.  Condensed matter includes not only conventional solids and liquids, but also exotic states like superfluids, Bose-Einstein condensates, and nanostructures.  The dividing line between condensed matter and materials physics may well depend on size (number of atoms and molecules in a given system and their spatial extent), energy scale, and application.  Issues in materials physics are generally more macroscopic and applied than in condensed matter physics.

Cosmology, Gravitation, and Relativity (CGR)

Cosmology is the branch of physics and astrophysics that deals with the study of the physical origins of the universe and the nature of the universe on its very largest scales.  Some of the work of cosmology seeks to explain the very moment of the beginning of the universe when all mass and energy was concentrated at a point-link singularity.  Here cosmology involves quantum theory and has a connection to particle physics.  Other work in cosmology is concerned with gravitation and the expansion of the universe.

Earth and Planetary Systems Sciences (EPSS)

Earth and planetary systems scientists study the processes of systems (or "spheres") that impact environments of the Earth and other planets: lithosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, cryosphere, troposphere, stratosphere, and all the way out to the exosphere.  They encompass the study of physics, chemistry, geology and biology of the planet from the deep core to outer space.

The physics subfields of Earth and planetary systems sciences include geophysics, geophysical fluid dynamics, atmospheric physics, ocean physics/physical oceanography, space physics, environmental physics.  Other subfields include aeronomy, meteorology, climatology, tectonics, seismology, gravity and magnetism, and petrology.

Fluid and Plasma Physics (FPP)

Fluids are materials that deform under shear stress, i.e., will transport momentum.  Fluid physicists study the fundamental relationships between shear stresses, material deformation and the resulting flow properties.   This extends from molecular interactions to large-scale material, energy and momentum balances.

Plasmas are the most common phase of matter, being present in common household and industrial appliances, weather phenomena and in outer space.   Plasmas are conductive assemblies of charged particles, neutrals and fields that exhibit collective fluid-like effects. Thus, in addition to transporting momentum, plasmas carry electrical currents and generate magnetic fields.

Health Physics (HEA)

Health physicists are concerned with the issues surrounding radiation safety. Their work advances the understanding, evaluation, and control of the potential risks from radiation relative to the benefits.  Health physicists work for corporations including hospitals, academic institutions, national laboratories, government and other organizations.

History, Policy and Education (HPE)

Understanding the history of physics and the field's impact on society is important for public support.  Conversely, understanding the role of public opinion on the physics profession can help explain the direction of physics research itself.  Historians of physics study the people, institutions and social contexts that are important in the evolution of physics.

As physics plays a pre-eminent role in national security, energy, environment, and economic growth,  the science is often at the base of public policy.  Beyond unleashing or harnessing nature to benefit humans, mathematical and physical models are often used profitably in understanding and predicting the outcomes of policy options.

Education policy at all levels, e.g., K-12 teacher preparation, certification and pay, curriculum standards, student financial aid, diversity and immigration, is especially important to the health of physics.  Physicists have a leading role in determining the policies and pedagogy of all of science education, and in developing educational technologies.

Mathematical and Computational Physics (MCP)

Mathematical and computational methods are important tools at predicting, describing and designing complex behavior of physical systems.  While mathematical physicists develop new mathematical methods to solve physical problems, computational physicists often develop new computational methods, including hardware and associated computer technology to quickly and efficiently solve problems.

Medical Physics (MED)

Medical physicists study and design the use of particle beams, acoustic and electromagnetic radiation in the delivery of health care.  They are involved in radiological imaging, e.g., mammography CT, MR, ultrasound, as well as directed therapy, e.g., laser ablation, thermal treatment, stereotactic radiosurgery and brachytheraphy.  Medical physicists are also responsible for federal and state regulatory compliance of facilities where radiation and beam therapy is used.

Nuclear and Particle Physics (NPP)

Nuclear physicists study the structure and dynamics of atomic nuclei including their stability (forces) and decay (radioactivity). Nuclear processes play an important role in nuclear energy production, magnetic resonance imaging, and even in materials physics.

Particle  physics is concerned with the interior structure and behavior of the atomic nucleus.  Nuclei contain several types of particles called hadrons which are composed of elementary particles called quarks and gluons.  Very strong forces hold the hadrons together in nuclei, and very high energies are required to separate them.  Thus the study of fundamental particles is necessarily associated very large particle accelerators.

Photonics and Optics (POP)

Photonics and optics are the quantum and classical study, respectively,  of generating, understanding and harnessing electromagnetic radiation in all regions of the electromagnetic spectrum.  Studies in optics and photonics include light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems.  Because electromagnetic radiation is so ubiquitous and comes in so many forms, optics and photonics have many applications and relationships to just about every other area of physics.

Physics Education Research (PER)

Physics education research is interested in developing a better understanding of how students come to understand physics and how to teach it more effectively.  Physicists in this field use the tools of cognitive dynamics, instructional communication theory, and careful assessment techniques to design and measure student outcomes from engagements with physics instruction. Physics education research differs from traditional education research in that the emphasis is not on educational theory or methodology in the general sense, but rather on student understanding of physics.

Technology Transfer, Business Development and Entrepreneurism (TBE)

Often the results of physics research can be commercialized.  In many cases whole new industries have emerged from basic physics advances.  Moving knowledge from the lab to the marketplace is wrought with legal and financial issues, and specially trained lawyers, scientists and business analysts are often involved in successful ventures.

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