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How do living things use meaningful information to survive?

A team from the Department of Physics and Astronomy has applied the theory of semantic information to a realistic model capturing attributes of living systems—and found the critical point where information matters for survival.

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Large red sphere representing a qubit.

Qubit by qubit: Optimizing silicon for quantum computing

A team of researchers including John Nichol, an associate professor of physics, has won a grant from the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research to address challenges posed by silicon spin qubits.

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View from the International Space Station with a large white arm and tube in front of a blue space backdrop.

Rochester research aboard the International Space Station

Professor Nicholas Bigelow helped develop new tools to study quantum chemistry in NASA’s Cold Atom Lab facility aboard the International Space Station

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John Nichol faces the camera with his head and shoulders near a dilution refrigerator, which he uses to study thermoelectricity at the nanoscale level.

A quantum leap in cooling atoms for better computers

A new grant will allow John Nichol and his team to study thermoelectricity to help develop more efficient quantum computers.

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Wide view of the Conesus supercomputer at the University of Rochester.

Laser Lab supercomputer ranked one of the world’s most powerful

The new supercomputer enables a four-fold increase in high-performance computing to simulate high-energy-density physics and inertial confinement fusion experiments.

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Physics and astronomy professor Machiel Blok (middle) and PhD students (L-R) Ray Parker, Mihirangi Medahinne, Liz Champion, and Zihao Wang, in front of the dilution refrigerator in Blok’s lab.

Creating superconducting circuits

In the quest to unlock the power of quantum computers, Professor Machiel Blok and his team study information processing at the infinitesimally small level of quantum mechanics.

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Majors & Minors

We offer degrees in physics and in physics and astronomy, as well as many research opportunities for undergraduates.

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Our PhD programs rank in the top twenty nationwide, according to the National Research Council.

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From subatomic particles to the structure of the Universe itself, our award-winning faculty study nature on every scale.

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In the News



The Department of Physics and Astronomy is committed to increasing the diversity of its student body, faculty, and staff. We are a partner institution in the APS Bridge and Cal-Bridge programs.

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Riccardo Betti to receive 2023 Blaise Pascal Medal in Physics

riccardo betti

The European Academy of Sciences will present the 2023 Blaise Pascal Medal in Physics to Riccardo Betti, the Laser Lab for Energetics’ chief scientist and the Robert L. McCrory Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Betti’s research involves high-temperature plasma physics with applications to nuclear fusion. He will serve as an invited speaker at the European Academy of Sciences’ Annual Symposium and Ceremony in October in Madrid, Spain. This year’s topic is “Science Multidisciplinarity in the 21st Century: The Future of Energy.”

The academy established the Blaise Pascal Medal in 2003 to recognize an outstanding and demonstrated personal contribution to science and technology and the promotion of excellence in research and education. Up to six medals may be awarded in any one year.

photo of avram milder

Avram Milder ’21 (PhD), a scientist in the Laser–Plasma Interactions Group at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics, has been selected to receive the Chiyoe Yamanaka Award at the International Conference on Inertial Fusion Sciences and Applications (IFSA). Milder has been selected for his trailblazing measurements of electron distribution functions performed at the Omega Laser Facility that has opened a new avenue for researchers exploring fundamental plasma-physics. 

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded the University of Rochester nearly $18 million over three years to design and prototype key technologies for EP-OPAL, a new facility dedicated to the study of ultrahigh-intensity laser-matter interactions. Physics professor Antonino Di Piazza is one of the co-principal investigators for the EP-OPAL project.

Professor Antonino Di Piazza

Kelly Douglass gives an interview about AAS Journal article on cosmic voids


Kelly Douglass (University of Rochester) chats about her AAS Journal article on voids, and where we can go from here given the published article.

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Life of a Cosmology Graduate Student

Zachery Brown in the lab

Growing up, I never imagined that I’d become a physicist. I always enjoyed my physics classes, but was convinced that I’d study engineering in college. Yet as a high school senior, I took an electricity and magnetism course that really caught my attention. And as it happened, I attended a small liberal arts college without an engineering program. I made the decision to major in physics instead.

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Physics, Optics, and Astronomy (POA) Library

The POA library houses a comprehensive collection of journals, monographs and online data bases, supporting the research and teaching activities of the department.

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