APPH E4901 & E4903 Applied Physics Seminar

Fall 2019 Theme: Entrepreneurship in Applied Physics and Starting a Tech Start-Up


General Theme Grading Syllubus GRE Student Presentations Links


Welcome to the APPH E4901 & E4903 Applied Physics Seminar class information site.

Most Wednesdays from 11:40 AM to 12:55 PM in Room 414 Pupin. Pupin 414 is located one floor below the entry-level of the Pupin Building.

APPH E4901x Applied Physics Seminar 1 pt. Discussion of specific and self-contained problems in areas such as applied EM, physics of solids, and plasma physics. Topics change yearly. This course is usually reserved for third-year students majoring in Applied Physics.

APPH E4903x Applied Physics Seminar 2 pt. Involves students in all of the discussions that are part of APPH E3401, but also involves the preparation of a formal term paper or presentation on a research topic of the student's choice. This course is usually reserved for graduating seniors majoring in Applied Physics.

Topics change every year and are designed to introduce students in to current research in applied physics.


This year's themes are Entrepreneurship and High-Tech Startups.

The importance of applied physics in advancing commercialized products and starting business was featured in the November 2014 issue of Physics World. This year also coincided with the Nobel Prize in Physics being awarded to Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura "for the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes which has enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources." These technology advancements drove rapid commercialization with applications in consumer electronics and lighting. Because LED lighting is efficient and relatively low cost, the LED lighting is business exceeds $8BUSD and is expected to grow beyond $50BUSD by 2025.

Applied physics is central to many innovations with commercial applications. Applied physicists are natural innovators. This semester we'll discuss examples of applied physics entrepreneurship and learn from innovators stories of business startups and commercialization.

In preparation for this seminar, you should read over useful background materials. Please check out the following links:


This year's theme is motivated by two opportunities: (i) Columbia University's significant activity from every part of campus, and (2) my research interest in developing fusion power and the growing interest in high-risk venture funding to fund the technology developments that could lead to clean unlimited energy.

Look at some of the many activities at Columbia University where you can get involved with innovation, design, and entrepreneurship:

  • Columbia Entrepreneurship Design Studio, located in Room 430 of the Riverside Church (645 W 120th street, New York, NY 10027), offers "design sprints," "studio hours," "short courses," and projects for both beginners and experts.
  • The Columbia Startup Lab (CSL) for innovation start-up teams haing at least one founding member who has graduated from Columba University.
  • Startup Columbia (the annual entrepreneurship festival!)
  • Columbia "Technology Challenge" where students and Columbia alumni compete for funding support by presenting business model plans wityh a focus on product development, innovative design, and new technologies. See the 2018 winner announcement here.
  • Look at the "startup directory" associated with Columbia University students, faculty, and alumni.
  • Columbia Fast Pitch Competition 2019 (Thursday, November 21, 2019 from 5:30-8:30pm). Fast and furious, Fast Pitch is Columbia’s elevator pitch competition. Teams must sell their customers and our judges in 60 seconds or less. Winning teams will be judged to be the most concise, complete, and compelling. Attendance is free, the experience is priceless.

Fusion energy science technology has advanced sufficiently that private and corporate ventures are funding start-ups to commercialize fusion tech. Among the most recent startups include Commonewealth Fusion Systems, founded upon knowhow in magnetic confinement and superconducting magnets developed at MIT. These efforts benefit from the world's largest international applied energy research effort, called ITER, by advancing higher-risk approaches. See Dan Clery's article in Science, 26 April 2017, 356, p 360, Private fusion machines aim to beat massive global effort. Below shows industrial partners in the Fusion Industry Association.

GRE Practice

This year the GRE Subject Test in Physics can be taken on Saturday, October 26. A very good score on your GRE Physics Exam will significantly improve your graduate school admission options.

We'll practice GRE Physics problems on Monday, 11:45 to 12:25, beginning September 23. We'll discuss those high-leverage questions that have a relatively low percentage of correct answers.

Please take a look at Professor Jeremy Dodd's advice for the Physics GRE Exam.

Here is this year's Physics GRE Practice Exam.

Some past year exams include:


This is a lunch-time seminar, and grading is based on participation. For those taking E4903x, your grade will also be determined by your research topical presentation.


This Web Site is a basic resource for APPH E4901 & E4903.

Copies of lecture notes will be available for download in Adobe PDF formats.

A preliminary lecture plan is llisted below. I anticipate changes as we move along. Some topics may require more lecture time, and some will require less. Depending on your interests and comments, we may change some of the topics in the last third of the course.

Lecture Dates Topics
Sept 4

Introduction to the 2019 Applied Physics Seminar.

Read More push than pull by Jesko von Windheim 2014 Phys. World 27 (11) 35 and Blue LED research wins Nobel Prize, by Hamish Johnston 2014 Phys. World 27 (11) 6.

Sept 11

Introducing the "Fast-Pitch" Competition and Discussion of More push than pull, by Jesko von Windheim 2014 Phys. World 27 (11) 35

Prof. Chris Wiggins, co-founder and co-organizer of hackNY (, a nonprofit which since 2010 has organized once a semester student hackathons and the hackNY Fellows Program, a structured summer internship at NYC startups, and the Chief Data Scientist at The New York Times.

Prof. Wiggin's presentation is titled "Entrepreneurship, Science, and Columbia".

Sept 18

Building your "Fast Pitch"

APAM Fast Pitch Proposals and Notes

and introduction to Ivy Schultz, Director of Entrepreneurship Programs at Columbia's SEAS. Read (and scan) the Columbia University Entrepreneurship Flyer.

Sept 25

Dr. Richard Post (Columbia PhD Applied Physics 1973) co-founded and served as CEO of Applied Science and Technology - Astex and founded and served as CEO of NEXX Systems. Read MKS acquires ASTeX for $300 million, EE Times, (October 2000).

Oct 2

Gregory S. Maskel, Technology Licensing Officer, Columbia Technology Ventures

Oct 9

Prof. Nanfang Yu is an expert in mid-infrared and far-infrared optics and optoelectronic devices, active plasmonics and metamaterials with gain media, reconfigurable metainterfaces based on phased optical antenna arrays, biophotonics, and biologically inspired flat optics. Together with Prof. Yuan Yang and Jyotirmoy Mandal, a doctoral student in Yang's group they demonstrated that simple plastics and polymers, including acrylic, silicone, and PET, are excellent heat radiators and could be used for passive daytime radiative cooling (PDRC).

Oct 16

Applied Physics Fast-Pitch 3: working together, combining markets, and developing a common plateform for multiple users

Dr. Eric M. Vieira, Director of Strategic Collaborations at Columbia's SEAS.

Oct 23

Prof. Michal Lipson is the inventor of over 45 issued patents. Since 2014, every year, she has been named by Thomson Reuters as a top 1% highly cited researcher in the field of Physics.

(Annual Meeting of the APS-DPP @ Fort Launderdale FL)

Oct 30



Nov 6

Dr. Bob Mumgaard (second from right) is CEO of Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS), a fusion energy startup company spinout of MIT. As CEO, Mumgaard drives company’s vision to accelerate the path to commercial fusion energy by managing its strategic partnerships and technical approach. A believer in the power of technical and organizational innovation to facilitate the breakthroughs needed to combat climate change, Mumgaard and the CFS team are working in collaboration with MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) to realize the holy grail of renewable energy: fusion. (For more information contact CFS:

Nov 13

Dr. Don Smith is co-founder and former Co-Chairman of Energetiq Technology, Inc. and previously Chief Technical Officer & Vice President by MKS Instruments, Inc.

Presentation: "Development of Applied Physics Products in Start Up Companies" 


Nov 18

Fast-Pitch Presentations, Comments, Questions, and Discussions

Draft Technical Details for top three Fast-Pitch Concepts 


Nov 20

Fast-Pitch Presentations, Comments, Questions, and Discussions

Rules and Guidelnes for the Fast Pitch Competition

Contestants are given no more than 60 seconds to pitch their business. In the most compelling way possible, describe the industry or market segment, the target customer audience, and why the product or service is better than alternatives.

Nov 21

Columbia Fast Pitch Competition 2019 (Thursday, November 21, 2019 from 5:30-8:30pm).

Dec 2

Final Wrap-up and Discussion

Senior Presentations

All students in APPH E4903 will make a formal "elevator pitches" for a proposed research plan and lead efforts of the class to present a final business plan.

Based on class feedback and student voting, three start-up business concepts were selected to compete in this year's Fast Pitch Competition. All students contributed to each of the business plans and fast-pitch presentations.

The final three start-up concepts are listed below:

Student Team
Company Name
Fast-Pitch Concept Presentation Slides
James Borovilas
Joseph Lee
Quantum Data Defender Quantum Data Defenders Fast-Pitch.pdf 
QDD Presentation (mp4)
Ari DeArriz
Alexander Herron
Marco Miller
Issac Ruble
Xuxin Zhang
Drone Zone Drone_Zone_Fast_Pitch.pdf
DZ Presentation (mp4) 
Unisue Divine
Zicheng Liu
Sunand Raghupathi
HyperGlass HyperGlass Fast Pitch.pdf 
HyperGlass Presentation (mp4)

Congratulations to all three teams.  

Quantum Data Defender (presented by Joseph Lee and James Borovilas) were selected as 2nd Place Undergraduate Winners!

Useful Links and References

Professor Michael E. Mauel
Department of Applied Physics
Columbia University

Go to Prof. Mauel's HomePage