Introduction

 

Origin

Purdue University's Strategic Plan proposes a new vision of how a university should view itself and how its expertise should be organized to better solve the world's most interesting and pressing problems. This vision pose a strong challenge for concerned faculty to devise new and innovative plans to realize this vision. To implement this courageous plan, Physics, the cornerstone that has traditionally defined the essence of new scientific disciplines, needs to develop focus on applied physics. The Applied Physics Laboratory approach creates incentives that encourage those faculty members with interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research interests to participate in new and innovative educational and research activities.

The Applied Physics Laboratory has goals that are distinct from those of the general physics department and the schools of engineering. In many ways engineering can be considered an incremental enterprise, taking known systems and effects to improve or extend their application or reach. Pure physics on the other hand is focused on the uncovering and the elucidation of new physical phenomena. The distinct goals of applied physics are to take new physical phenomena and apply them in wholly new ways to solve important problems that are faced by government, industry and society. At its essence, applied physics solves difficult problems in innovative ways, using the principles established from different scientific disciplines as required. The goal of our applied physics program is the equivalent of a traditional liberal arts degree in science, a cornerstone for a broadly based scientific education for the coming century.

Applied Physics is rooted in the fundamental truths and basic concepts of the physical sciences but is concerned with the utilization of scientific principles in practical devices and systems, and in the application of physics in other areas of science. "Applied" is distinguished from "pure" by a subtle combination of factors such as the motivation and attitude of researchers and the nature of the relationship to the technology or science that may be affected by the work.

 

 

Mission

The great changes taking place worldwide since the end of the cold war require every department to re-evaluate its traditional roles in society. As scientists, we must acquire a heightened sensitivity to the needs of society, our nation and the global community. This requires us to move ideas formed in the research laboratory towards solutions of real world problems. The Applied Physics Laboratory forms an important and necessary link in this cycle and works directly to accomplish these goals, completing the cycle from laboratory ideas to improved products for society. The laboratory will serve Purdue University with facilities and leadership that transcend traditional academic boundaries, foster an innovative interdisciplinary environment for learning, discovery and engagement that will lead to intellectual excitement, scientific achievement, and new economic growth opportunities within the state.

 

 

Vision

The goals of the Laboratory are to function as an interface or link between the latest research ideas developed at research laboratories within a major research institution (Purdue University) and totally new product/process developments. The Laboratory will facilitate the advanced manufacturing of highly technical products that are not incremental and would not occur in a commercial setting without seminal input from an Applied Physics Laboratory.

The importance of this interfacing function can be understood after realizing that virtually all companies and government agencies have a narrow focus to provide a service or a product directly to a costumer or customer base. As a consequence, it is unlikely that a company will be familiar with the latest research efforts, have laboratory equipment or personnel to check the validity of the latest research, or test if the latest research truly can be applied to an envisioned new product. It is highly unlikely that most companies would take the risk on a new technology or expend the large investment required without first-level optimization in a laboratory setting. When viewed in this way, the interfacing function provided by the Applied Physics Laboratory is thus essential to insure entrepreneurial success within a given geographical region. this symbiotic relationship to emerging new enterprises thus insures and sustains the long-term success of the Department.

As an example, Purdue University has an excellent infrastructure for research and the research laboratories are at the forefront of a number of fields. These laboratories constitute a major investment in time and financial resources. The Applied Physics Laboratory serves as a direct link between the researcher, the latest research results, and the latest laboratory equipment and companies wishing to commercialize new, cutting edge technology.
 

Undergraduate Research

Those undergraduates that join the work at APL receive a world-renowned science education with a liberal arts mixture that emphasizes the importance of communication skills and an awareness of the social, political, and economic ramifications of science and technology. It is not enough to be technical in our modern society, students must be aware of the great issues facing our world and develop a deep understanding of the limits of technology, lest we waste society's resources in a search for impractical technical solutions that do not exist. This is a combination of science and the arts produces graduates who are realistic, with a broad outlook, and are technically able and prepared to apply their knowledge solving the exciting problems that face our global community. APL science graduates are role models for education in the coming century; APL also creates and promotes learning opportunities that educate and train postdoctoral fellows, graduate and undergraduate students in the new paradigm of integrated cross-disciplinary approaches and technologies.

One of the hallmarks of the Applied Physics Laboratory is its ability to relate well to the students across the multitude of fields requiring physics in their educational arsenal. APL provides a learning atmosphere for the generation of novel concepts and ideas as well as a receptive environment for fostering non-traditional views.

Each undergraduate at APL is expected to complete a thesis project under the direction of one the Applied Physics Laboratory faculty. This one-on-one interaction is the hallmark of the Purdue Applied Laboratory program and distinguish our graduates in the very competitive job market that exists today.

 

 

Applied Nuclear and Particle Physics

Nuclear and particle physics have been exciting fields of discovery during the past century. They have given us insight into the working of the Sun and the birth of the universe. The tools and techniques that have been developed and the deep knowledge of physical processes these fields have produced are useful in a host of applications. We believe that problems such as humanitarian land mine detection, detection of hazardous waste materials, medical imagining, and diagnosis and new detector development are areas ripe for investigation and possible commercialization.


 

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