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Master of Science in Instrumentation

If you really enjoy making things work.
If you really enjoy making things that  

This two-year Master's degree program prepares professionals with the technical background of physicists. It is offered at Stony Brook University to those who wish to enter a growing area of science. Our alumni have enjoyed multiple job offers, even in challenging times.

Current and Former MSI Students

Thomas Ciavatti

Thomas Ciavatti - Former MSI Student, now studying for a PhD at Cornell 

As an MSI student, I designed, built, and tested a scattering-type Scanning Near-field Optical Microscope with Terahertz (THz) frequency illumination. The combined weakness of near-field signal in general and the difficulty of generating and detecting THz made this a challenging project. The optical design had to be optimized to obtain maximum numerical aperture and the mechanical Atomic Force Microscope tip carefully selected to maximize the signal. The purpose of this instrument is to obtain spectral information of materials in the 1-4 THz range, a range not accessible to our CO 2  lasers or to a synchrotron source. The story, as often, “comes down to the development of ever more perfect eyes.” (Teilhard de Chardin,   Le Phenomène Humain)  This tip-enhanced microscopy reaches 30 nm resolution, or 10,000 times smaller than the illumination wavelength!

Mael Flament

Mael Flament - Former MSI Student, company founder: Qunnect

While working at Brookhaven National Laboratory and in the QIT group at SBU, I developed a keen interest in emerging quantum technologies. In particular, the focus of my MSI  research was quantum memories, a significant development in the field of quantum networks since it enables the storage of light while keeping it’s quantum properties and plays an essential role in quantum information transmission and processing schemes based on the use of photons, including for quantum communication networks, quantum simulators, and optical quantum computing. After the MSI , I co-founded Qunnect, a quantum startup aiming to commercialize quantum technologies that will enable future entanglement-based information networks

Enrico Rossi

Enrico Rossi - Former MSI Student, working at BNL

Applying to MSI program at Stony Brook University was a turn in my life, since, while I had a degree in Physics, the job I was working in my country was totally unrelated. The MSI program allowed me to get back in the field, giving me the opportunity of being involved in what I really like to do. The MSI curriculum can be tailored for one own’s needs, but I think its main selling point is the fact that it allowed me to work in a real project from the beginning. As part of this project, I spent more than one year at Brookhaven Laboratory, assigned to develop equipment for characterizing ultra fast silicon detectors. The job also gave me the opportunity to travel to New Mexico: I participated to a campaign at Los Alamos National Laboratory, which goal was to irradiate several silicon detector samples by a proton beam, to test their degradation in performance. 

William Tyndall

William Tyndall - Former MSI Student, now studying for a PhD at Yale

As an MSI student, I conducted research at Brookhaven National Laboratory with the cosmology and astrophysics group, and assisted in the construction and operation of a prototype radio telescope called the Baryon Mapping eXperiment (BMX). BMX is a prototype radio telescope used to measure redshifted 21cm (1420MHz) radio waves from neutral hydrogen atoms in distant galaxies. By collecting spectra of this signal along many lines of sight we hope to create a 3d map (from angle and redshift information) of baryonic matter in the low-redshift universe. This technique, called 21cm intensity mapping, has the potential to provide measurements that are independent from optical galaxy surveys while providing complimentary information.

Thomas Vidabaek

Thomas Vidabaek - Former MSI Student, now studying for a PhD at  U. Chicago

At the end of my undergraduate degree I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but knew that I enjoyed many of the hands on aspects of research and the process of creating things. The MSI program seemed like a natural fit for developing my technical skills and providing knowledge about different tools available for solving scientific problems. During my time at Stony Brook I worked with Professor Hemmick and Professor Deshpande on the development of a prototype Ring Imaging Cherenkov detector, whose technology we hope to see used in future Electron Ion Collider experiments.

Luke Chaplinsky

Luke Chaplinsky - Current MSI Student

I chose Stony Brook’s MSI program because it emphasizes the rapid development of critical laboratory skills that can be applied in any research setting. I am currently a part of the SENSEI collaboration.  SENSEI is searching for dark matter using specially developed skipper CCD’s. My current work involves building instrumentation that tests the thermal properties of the experiment’s detector module. 


Kristina Finnelli

Kristina Finnelli - Current MSI Student

I came to Stony Brook as an undergraduate physics major in 2015. During my time here, I joined a research group working on the sPHENIX project in the Nuclear Physics Department. I enrolled in the MSI program after I graduated because I wanted to continue to do experimental, hands on research. I have continued to work in this lab in the construction of the TPC, and have worked with members of Brookhaven National Lab on the project.

Pietro Iapozzuto

Pietro Iapozzuto - Current MSI Student  

Pietro Iapozzuto is a MSI student working in Plasma Wakefield Acceleration. His Project included building parts used in a plasm wakefield chamber ,and implementing a differential pumping system to be conected to the ATF Acelerator Beam line.

Sravan Munagavasala

Sravan Munagavasala -Former MSI Student, PhD student at U. Chicago

As someone that has always enjoyed the physics and building things, the MSI degree was the obvious path for me to take after undergrad. I am currently conducting my major project with Professor Rouven Essig on the SENSEI (Sub-Electron Noise Skipper-CCD Experimental Instrument) dark matter direct detection experiment. Dark matter particles with masses in the MeV-GeV range transfer enough momentum to the valence band of silicon to excite an electron. This electron cannot be precisely measured on conventional charge-coupled devices (CCD) because of the readout noise. However, SENSEI utilizes a special Silicon CCD, the Skipper-CCD, to measure these pixels with single electron sensitivity.


Xiangdong Li

Xiangdong Li - Current MSI Student

I am currently working on a project named "electric transport properties of bi-layer graphene due to mechanical strain" under the mentorship of Prof. Xu Du. In this project, I fabricate the micro-device (micron size level) from scratch, and build  new cryogenic measurement instrumentations for to this project, and eventually go through the measurement and data analysis, explore the physics behind the project.

Ian Schwartz

Ian-Schwartz - Former MSI Student, working at Edmund Optics

I received a BS in mathematics and physics from Temple University, and have always been more interested in the technical side of science. The MSI program stood out to me because it has a strong focus on equipment and many options that allow students to customize it to their interests. I began at Stony Brook in the beginning of 2019, and very early on began hands-on work in AMO. Since then, I have been working in the Metcalf Research Group on an Adiabatic Rapid Passage experiment.




Instrumentation has always been at the heart of scientific advances, and will continue to dominate in the foreseeable future. Beginning with telescopes and microscopes, and advancing through spectroscopes and oscilloscopes, such "scopes" have enabled people to "see" things beyond the limits imposed by their sensory mechanisms. The evolution went from seeing to measuring, and then the concept of instruments changed drastically. We have developed generators, accelerators, lasers, and myriad other devices that could modify objects or create events, instead of just observing them.  If you are a physical science major and more of a lab person than anything else,   then you should look at our Master of Science Degree in Physics with Concentration in Instrumentation.

The Master of Science in Physics with Concentration in Instrumentation program at Stony Brook (MSI) is designed to train professional physicists for careers in research at the frontiers of knowledge in universities, modern industries, government labs, hospitals, and other technologically oriented enterprises. Highly educated scientists at the Master's level are in great demand, and that need is expected to increase as the employment in the US is moving towards more high-tech jobs. The professional track through MSI may be especially valuable to those interested in industrial careers because it also awards a Professional Science Masters degree.


There are multiple tracks through the MSI program. The traditional track is for those students who want to pursue a purely technical career, and as such embodies the two laboratory projects: minor and major. The professional track exchanges the minor project for courses normally offered to MBA candidates, and is designed for those students who foresee some management or entrepreneurship activities in their future. It is affiliated with the Professional Science Master's degree (

General Instrumentation

This track is designed to meet the needs of modern industry, hospitals, and research laboratories for technically trained people with thorough scientific background and practical skills in designing, building, and operating scientific instruments. Such jobs are often filled by people whose education is not directed toward this particular need. Many of them presently take on-the-job training in precisely the topics this program teaches.

Professional Track

The professional track is designed to transform into the Professional Science Master's (PSM) degree, a rapidly expanding program nationwide that offers science students a professional component that may include internships and "cross-training" in business and communications (see It consists of the two years of MSI education in modern research instrumentation complemented by at least nine credits of courses in Stony Brook's College of Business, the school of Journalism or similar courses from different program (subject to approval). On the national scale, the programs have been developed in concert with industry and are designed to dovetail into present and future professional career opportunities. There are currently 345 PSM degree programs at over 157 colleges and universities nationwide. The PSM programs are supported by the Sloan Foundation, the Council of Graduate Schools, and a host of other academic and scientific organizations. More information about the business component of the track is here.

Synchrotron Radiation

This track is coordinated with the needs of NSLS II at nearby Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), and many of our graduates may find attractive job opportunities there. Students in this track should take "Applications of Synchrotron Radiation". Fellowships for tuition and stipend are available from BNL.

Accelerator Physics

This track is for students interested in accelerator instrumentation and the operation of particle accelerators. Stony Brook and BNL scientists involved in the Center for Accelerator Science and Education (CASE) will offer training through lecture courses, laboratory practice and experiments on accelerators. Students on this track are required to take "Introduction to Accelerator Physics". Fellowships for tuition and stipend are available from CASE or from BNL.


MSI Degree Requirements

For the MSI degree students must:

  • Complete thirty credits (minimum) of graduate courses (500 level or above).
  • Comlete a Master's thesis. This thesis must describe a major piece of work in scientific instrumentation and must be in a form acceptable to the Graduate School. It need not be original research in the same sense as a Ph.D. thesis, but it should be the result of an effort consistent with a full year of full-time work. The thesis should present an improvement of the state of the art in some area, the development of a sophisticated and/or automated apparatus, or some other significant laboratory project, and be presented before a committee.
  • Demonstrate proficiency in physics at the level of our present undergraduate courses PHY 335 (Junior Laboratory I), PHY 405 (Advanced Quantum Physics). Students need to have demonstrated knowledge in two of the three areas: Nuclear and Particle Physics (covered in PHY 431), Condensed Matter Physics(PHY 472) and Laser and Atomic Physics (PHY 452). This can be done: 1) by acceptance by the MSI Committee of courses taken by the student as an undergraduate, 2) by specially arranged written examination, or 3) by passing the courses appropriate to a student's background.
  • Complete a minor project for the General Instrumentation track and appropriate courses for the Professional track.
  • Take a course about research instrumentation (PHY 514)
  • Take two semesters each of graduate lab (PHY 515) and graduate seminar (PHY 598, 599)
  • Work as a Teaching Assistant in an undergraduate laboratory for at least one semester (being a TA in PHY 445 may satisfy the requirement of taking the second semester of graduate lab (PHY 515)).


In addtion to these requirements, students shall acquire those technical skills deemed necessary by their thesis supervisors. These must include, but are not limited to machining capability and computer literacy. In addition, there are many courses offered by other departments in instrumentation, materials science, etc., that might be suitable electives. Permission may be granted to reduce the number of thesis credits or to take some of them during the summer in order to allow for these electives.

Those in the professional track will take appropriate electives. Permission may be granted to reduce the number of thesis credits or to take some of them during the summer in order to allow for these electives. Tracks within the MSI program offer an opportunity to take courses in a specific area of interest, for example, Business, Accelerator Physics, or Synchrotron Radiation. Professional track students replace the minor project with 9 credits of business courses.

Sample Program

Total = 44 credits (specific courses listed are required)

(First Year Semester 1)
PHY 514 Current Research Instruments (3 credits)
PHY 515 Methods of Experimental Research (3 credits)
PHY 599 or PHY 598 Graduate Seminar (1 credit)
Electives, make-up, minor project, or business electives, depending on track choice (6 credits)

(First Year Semester 2)
PHY 515 Methods of Experimental Research (3 credits)
PHY 598 or PHY 599 Graduate Seminar (1 credit)
PHY 580 Minor project (3-6 credits), or business electives (6 credits), depending on track choice
Electives (3-6 credits)

Sample Second Year: Both Semesters PHY 595 Thesis Research (9 credits each semester) 

Application to the MSI Program

For admission to graduate study in Physics and Astronomy the following, in addition to the minimum Graduate School requirements, are required:

  • A bachelor’s degree in physics or a related field from an accredited institution.
  • A minimum grade average of B in all undergraduate coursework, and B or better in the sciences and mathematics.

In special cases, a student not meeting requirement A (or, in unusual cases, requirement B) may be admitted on a provisional basis. Upon admission, the student will be informed of the requirements that must be satisfied for termination of provisional status.

All students must submit their application to the Graduate School online and all materials such as recommendations letters and transcripts should be submitted electronically.


Information on the Master of Science Degree in Instrumentation
Professor Harold Metcalf
Department of Physics & Astronomy
Stony Brook University
Stony Brook, NY 11794-3800

Graduate Admissions, Donald Sheehan
Department of Physics & Astronomy
Stony Brook University
Stony Brook, NY 11794-3800