Physics 5335 (Semiconductor Physics)
Motivations for the Study of Semiconductor Physics

Semiconductor Physics can be loosely defined as the study of the materials that are important for modern technology.
As we'll see in this course, the microscopic physics of of semiconductor materials is much, much more than that! It is a very important branch of the broader discipline of Solid State Physics, which is itself defined as the study of the microscopic properties of the dense assembly of electrons formed by placing atoms very close  together in a solid. Solid State Physics is a very large, very broad physics sub-field and Semiconductor Physics is a large sub-subfield of it. In some ways, all of Solid State Physics research, including Semiconductor Physics research can be thought of as the opposite of Particle Physics research. Solid State Physics deals with the microcsopic properties of large COLLECTIONS of particles. By contrast, Particle Physics focuses on the properties of INDIVIDUAL particles. Particle physicists tend to break composite objects up into their constituent building blocks, while Solid State Physicists (& Semiconductor Physicists) are interested in what fundamentally New Properties emerge when these building blocks are grouped together in various ways. There are obviously several Technological & Basic Physics motivations to study Semiconductor Physics, as well as to study Solid State Physics in general.
Technological Motivations
An obvious, very important motivation for the study of Semiconductor Physics is the fact that the microscopic properties it deals with are responsible for the majority of modern technology. These properties determine the material mechanical strength, how they interact with light, how they conduct electricity, etc. So, Semiconductor Physics is an important subject for technology, because it gives guidance on how to design the circuits needed for modern electronic devices. Of course, this field gave us both the Transistor & the Semiconductor Chip! For these reasons, Semiconductor Physics has been traditionally linked to Materials Science, Chemistry and Engineering. Recently, it has also developed overlaps with Biology, Biochemistry, Biotechnology and Medicine. So, many current research questions in Semiconductor Physics are still at the frontiers of applied science and next-generation technologies.
Basic Physics Motivations
Another important motivation for studying Semiconductor Physics is the fact that the basic, fundamental physics needed to understand the microscopic properties of these materials is very interesting. Further, to understand these properties, the ideas and methods of quantum mechanics must be used. In fact, the Physics of Semiconductors is VERY deeply quantum mechanical. For this reason, Semiconductor Physics has sometimes been called the best "laboratory" for studying subtle quantum mechanical effects. This course is a chance for students to see quantum mechanical ideas & methods applied to cases where their technological consequences are so important. Two examples of MANY, for which Solid State Physics discoveries have revealed very interesting fundamental physics are the observations & explanations of Superconductivity (important for solids in general) & the Fractional Quantum Hall Effect (very important for semiconductors). Both of these have exotic quantum mechanical explanations. A very strong indicator that Solid State Physics in general and Semicondutor Physics specifically has led (and continues to lead!) to the understanding of many very interesting basic physics phenomena is the fact that
More than 40% of the Physics Nobel Prizes in the past 40 years
(& 50% of those in the past 10 years!) have been for work in Semiconductor Physics!
The Solid State Physics Research Area
Many of you are likely taking this course because it is related to your research area. If so, I believe that you've chosen a very good,  interesting field! LARGE amounts of new physics is discovered in this area all of the time. For example, the American Physical Society's (APS) Division of Condensed Matter Physics or DCMP ("Condensed Matter" is ~ the same as "Solid State") is, BY FAR, the largest APS division! Roughly a third of the ~ 50,000 APS members belong to DCMP. Another APS division is the Division of Materials Physics or DMP ("Materials Physics"  is ~ the same as "Applied Solid State"), which was started 20 or so years ago. The DMP is rapidly growing & may eventually become similar in size to the DCMP. (Many people belong to both!). BY FAR, the largest annual APS meeting is the joint meeting of DCMP & DMP. It is held each March (it's called the "March Meeting"!). The 2014 March Meeting (Denver, Colorado) had ~7,000+ people & ~5,000+ papers!
NOTE! No matter what their research area, every Physics graduate student should join the APS!
The first year's membership is FREE to students & the following student years are highly discounted!
Graduate students working in Solid State, Condensed Matter, Semiconductors, or Materials Physics should also consider joining the Materials Research Society (MRS)! The MRS is a large professional organization, with a very interdisciplinary membership. This reflects tha fact that people with many different backgrounds are doing various kinds of materials research. For example, it has members with backgrounds in Physics, in Chemistry, & in various types of Engineering.

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