Introduction

Engineering Physics is an amalgam of physics, mathematics and electrical engineering courses. The program at IIT Bombay emphasizes on making students familiar with basic knowledge of physics along with a good background in engineering disciplines. It is closer to the basic sciences than most of the other engineering departments.

What is Engineering Physics all about ?

The curriculum has a number of courses which introduce you to a wide variety of fields in pure Physics as well as applied Physics. The core courses cover basic areas such as classical and quantum mechanics, electromagnetic theory, photonics, relativity, and thermodynamics along with introductory courses to the various fields. If you are disposed to move towards mathematics, you have the opportunity to do so, as we are the engineering branch with the most core math courses for UG’s. We do 4 electronics labs and some electrical engineering courses, so if your interests are inclined towards electronics or electrical engineering in general, you could take a minor in Electrical Engineering. Since this program equips you with several tools of mathematics and statistics, finance has become a lucrative option that is known to be open to our students. The take home message therefore is, that after completing your degree at IIT-B you are armed with the knowledge to choose whatever you wish to do in future.

Coming to the actual courses, besides compulsory courses students are also required to take up electives, which provide a student with the liberty to choose courses of their own choice, subject to a few guidelines. These electives further allow a student to explore their area of interest with more specialised courses on solid state physics, quantum computing and general theory of relativity, to name a few. Laboratory courses cover the basic techniques used in all the fields coupled with a knowledge in electronics which is an essential asset to every experimentalist. The department has necessary state-of-the-art labs. The professors are enthusiastic and approachable and one can go to them for first hand experience in real-life research. The nearby Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre organize regular seminars and colloquia on different fields of contemporary research, and also provide opportunities for students to work on research projects. Engineering Physics, being a (relatively) small department is a rather close-knit community, and seniors are known to be very friendly and helpful. In that spirit, we have regular department events and semester department trips.

B.Tech + M.Tech Dual Degree with specialization in Nanoscience, and Integrated MSc in Physics

In their 3rd year, EP B. Tech students have the option of switching to the Dual Degree program. The Dual Degree students at IIT-B, in addition to courses with B. Tech students for the broad fields mentioned above, do a specific set of courses related to nanoscience. The courses encompass the basic physics behind the phenomena at nanoscale and specific studies of materials like Graphene and Carbon-nanotubes, their synthesis and the nanofabrication processes. In addition, there are lab courses aimed at giving students hands-on experience on nanoscale techniques like Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM), X-Ray Diffraction (XRD), Scanning Tunneling Microscopy (STM) etc. In their final year, all students do a year-long intensive project related to the field of nanoscience, as part of their curriculum.

EP B. Tech students are also given an option of converting to integrated MSc (total 5 years) in physics, with the aim of allowing motivated students to specialize in fields other than nanotechnology (e.g. HEP, CMP, etc.).Recently, this option has been formalised with a prescribed set of additional courses to be completed for earning the integrated MSc degree. These include 6 additional courses and a year-long MSc project in a field of the student’s choice.

Core specializations

The major fields covered in the Engineering Physics programme at IITB are as follows:

High Energy Physics

High Energy Physics (HEP) is the study of some of the most basic questions about the existence of our universe: the nature of the elementary constituents of matter and energy, and the interactions between them. We have courses related to both theoretical and experimental aspects of HEP. Theory in HEP involves concepts in nuclear and particle physics with applications of Quantum Mechanics. The experimental part of HEP involves designing and building experiments to detect and identify particles through particle detectors and accelerators. Analysis of data from particle physics experiments also forms a large part of Experimental HEP. The discovery of the Higgs Boson by the LHC at CERN is a perfect example of a combination of theory and experiment in HEP. Many of the professors at IIT-B are collaborators at places like CERN and Fermilab and are involved in some of the world’s largest and most famous experiments.

Condensed Matter Physics

Matter exists in many fascinating forms. Metals, insulators, semiconductors, ferromagnets to name a few common ones and superconductors, topological insulators to name a few exotic ones. Condensed matter physics (CMP) is the study of various such forms of matter. The department runs various courses on introductory condensed matter physics, statistical physics and quantum mechanics to introduce students to the field. Experimental condensed matter physics deals with experiments on matter to look for new behaviour and then to explain it. Condensed matter physics is also used extensively in the electronic device industry.

At IIT-B, we have strong ongoing research in both theoretical and experimental condensed matter physics. Our department has several well equipped labs for experimental CMP. For those interested in the physics aspect of the semiconductor and electronic industry, we work on electron transport in novel materials (Graphene, thin films), from quantum dots, wires and wells to electron spin dynamics in solid state systems like defects in diamond and Silicon. We have the Center for Excellence in Nanoelectronics (CEN) as a central facility at IIT-B, which is one of the best nanofabrication facilities in India.

Biophysics and Non Linear Dynamics

Soft condensed matter physics has a large overlap with the exciting new field of biophysics, with the goal being to understand universal behaviour shared by all similar systems, using techniques drawn from the physical disciplines of statistical and continuum mechanics. This includes the study of membranes, polymers and various other complex biological systems. Some professors also work collaboratively with the Biosciences and Bioengineering department of the institute.

Non-linear dynamics studies the time evolution of more complex systems where we go beyond the basic first order term. It is used to model non linear dependencies, and these can give surprisingly chaotic or counterintuitive results. It has applications not just in biological physics but also in research areas as diverse as turbulence, population dynamics and finance.

Optics and Photonics

Optics, as the name suggests, deals with study of light. It answers the questions about nature and behaviour of light in various environments and mediums. Photonics is a relatively recent branch of optics which came into being after Laser was invented. In photonics we deal with optical phenomena occurring due to interaction of light with various forms of matter. This leads to many interesting and beautiful phenomena and a great range of applications like fiber-optics, optoelectronics, optical switching etc. It also deals with metamaterials which can lead to revolutionary applications like an invisibility cloak! At IIT-B we have dedicated labs with advanced lasers for experiments in photonics, with intense research being done in theoretical and experimental aspects of both optics and photonics.

Quantum Information and Computing

The field of quantum information and computing is all about leveraging the quantum nature of the world for efficient computation. Moving away from classical Boolean logic which runs the computing industry today, quantum computing introduces quantum analogs, qubit and quantum gates in its essence. Theoretical proposals for quantum algorithms which can be exponentially faster that their classical counterparts for certain problems such as integer factorization have brought this field to prominence in the last 30 years. At IIT-B, theoretical research is directed towards quantum thermodynamics and understanding the interplay between entanglement and heat of nanoscale devices such as qubits. On the experimental side, research is on building qubits in semiconductor quantum dots and nanowires.

Astrophysics, Cosmology and Gravity

Astrophysics in itself is a vast field, dealing with the physics and evolution of extraterrestrial objects, ranging from planets and asteroids in our solar system to stars and planetary systems in galaxies light years away. Data from various ground and space based telescopes enables us to make surprisingly accurate predictions about these objects. Cosmology is a field combining the mystery of astrophysics and the rigour of mathematics to investigate the evolution of the universe to its current state, comprising of visible matter, light, dark matter and dark energy. Gravitational waves is a new and extremely useful probe into unveiling the mysteries of our universe. At IIT-B, research in astrophysics is focussed on time domain astronomy : identifying and understanding astronomical objects that brighten up for a short time, such as supernovae and gamma ray bursts. Cosmology research deals with the distribution and interactions of dark matter in the universe. Gravitational waves are also studied at IIT-B, which is home to a LIGO scientist.

Visit here for more extensive descriptions : http://www.phy.iitb.ac.in/en/research.

Future Prospects

As mentioned earlier, doors are very much open by the time you graduate from IITB.
  1. Graduate School in Physics : The significant number who have found a true passion for physics in the four/five years here, end up in some of the top graduate schools of the world, and go on to work as postdoctoral researchers and eventually respected professors in India and around the world.
  2. Electrical Engineering Core: For those interested in engineering, there’s also the option of working at companies which require a good knowledge of both physics and the engineering background given by our course experience with electrical devices like semiconductors, transistors, FPGAs etc.
  3. Graduate School in Applied Physics : One can also do a PhD in Applied Physics which would provide you with more technical knowledge.
  4. Finance and Consulting : In the past, after realizing physics might not be for them, some people have also taken up start-ups, finance and consulting jobs. We are also at an advantage for those jobs which can require math, since in addition to the math courses we do, there is a variety of applied math used in our core courses and electives.

Final Word

In conclusion, the Engineering Physics program at IIT Bombay is designed to give students the knowledge, technical expertise and interest to pursue a career in Physics or to take up Research & Development across various fields, and also the intelligence and dedication to do well in any other area, so make your choice wisely!

[1] Here are links to the B. Tech. Curriculum and the DD curriculum. The additional requirements for switching from EP B.Tech to integrated M.Sc are listed here.

[2] Here is a facebook post informing people about EP at IIT-B.