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Dec 20, 2011

New Master's Program in Applied Physics at Southern will Impact Workforce Development

Program will provide an educational pathway for individuals seeking applied research and management positions in the state’s high-tech industries.

The Board of Regents for Higher Education (BOR) today licensed a master of science (M.S.) degree program in applied physics at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven. This new graduate program will promote workforce development in Connecticut by providing an educational pathway for individuals seeking applied research and management positions in the state’s high-tech industries, while providing a source of trained professionals for technology employers.

“This is great news for Southern, and for students in Connecticut who want to further their physics education in two critical sectors in our state,” said Board of Regents Interim President Robert Kennedy. “I commend the Board of Regents for approving this program, and congratulate Southern for crafting this interdisciplinary, cutting-edge program.”

The M.S. program in applied physics has two tracks — materials science/nanotechnology and optics/optical instrumentation — intended to develop the state’s workforce in the established optics industry, as well as in the emerging nanotechnology sector. The program will begin in fall 2012 and be licensed through Dec. 31, 2014. Currently, Yale University is the only institution in Connecticut to offer a graduate program in applied physics.

Elliott Horch, SCSU associate professor of physics, will be the graduate program coordinator. “The program was designed in two tracks to align with the needs in the region’s high-tech industry,” said Horch. “Our graduates will be adaptable to leading-edge technology development and able to fill leadership roles in research and development throughout the state.”

The program is interdisciplinary between SCSU’s School of Business and departments of Physics, Chemistry and Computer Science with courses aligned to meet industry needs. The M.S. in applied physics program is in the model of the Professional Science Master’s (PSM) degree program that includes science training combined with management, marketing and entrepreneurship, making graduates highly marketable within Connecticut’s technology sector.

DonnaJean Fredeen, dean of SCSU’s School of Arts and Sciences, said the program addresses current workforce needs as Connecticut becomes a knowledge economy. “In addition to the technical background, students are going to have a much better understanding of the business process, project management and how to take a product to market,” she said.

The M.S. in applied physics program was initially developed in consultation with an industrial advisory committee that will continue to guide the program as it matures. Companies represented on the Advisory Board include Smiths Detection, Phonon Corp., Nights Inc., Sikorsky and Zygo Corp. Horch said companies – such as Zygo Corp. in Middlefield and Goodrich Optical Systems in Danbury – have manufactured optical systems for many years. “We felt the optical track represents an established industry in Connecticut and our graduates can help sustain this industry,” said Horch, who specializes in optics, electro-optics and interferometry.

Professor Christine Broadbridge, chairperson of the Department of Physics said SCSU has a good working relationship with the state’s businesses and the department’s existing collaboration with Yale University creates a synergy with the new M.S. in applied physics program. The National Science Foundation recently awarded a $13 million grant to Yale University and SCSU to establish a Center of Excellence for Materials Research and Innovation also known as a Materials Research Science and Engineering Center.

Broadbridge said SCSU graduates of the M.S.in applied physics program will have immediate impact on companies who hire them, serving the needs of high quality engineers and scientists in Connecticut.

“This program will have a substantial impact on workforce development as we train future manufacturing leaders for established businesses and emerging technologies,” said Broadbridge — a leading researcher in nanotechnology, recognized by state government as a key area of economic opportunity. “Southern students stay in Connecticut and these programs prepare them for jobs that benefit both them and the state,” said Broadbridge.