Physicists, in their relentless attempt to understand the laws that govern the functioning of Nature, develop knowledge, methodologies and techniques that find important, sometimes decisive, applications in other scientific disciplines, in industry, in society. The discovery of X-rays has revealed the amazing possibility of obtaining images of the internal structure of the human body (and not only); understanding the cycles of nuclear reactions that power the Sun and the stars will lead us, in the near future, to the production of energy through nuclear fusion; the web, by now a founding part of our world, has been conceived at CERN, the world's largest physics laboratory, to allow groups of scientists far from each other to easily exchange large amounts of data; the study of atmospheric circulation makes it possible to predict, with increasing but still insufficient precision, future weather conditions and the effects of climate change; biophysics reveals the very delicate and complex mechanisms that make our cells work.
All these are examples of "applied physics", i.e. the use of the physicist's own knowledge and research methodology to tackle unresolved problems in other areas, with an innovative, rigorous and multidisciplinary approach.
In the Department, applied physics research is organised in three main areas: