As a premier research department, the University of Chicago does world-class research on a broad spectrum of subjects. A distinguishing feature of Chicago's department is our commitment to surmount disciplinary barriers in our pursuit of research goals. This commitment dates back to the Manhattan Project of World War II. At that time, a diverse team from nuclear physics, metallurgy and chemical engineering scored a major success on an urgent national problem. From this effort came the realization that the organization of doctoral education by disciplines was not necessarily optimal for the advancement of knowledge. Thus the university created a network of research institutes, coexisting with the academic departments such as physics. Research is done under the aegis of the Institutes (including the initial two, the Enrico Fermi Institute and the James Franck Institute) and the Centers; degrees are granted by the Departments. The University of Chicago established formal affiliations with Argonne National Laboratory, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the Marine Biological Laboratory to strengthen and build upon the institutions' combined eminence in research and education. More information on research institutes and centers and affiliated laboratories can be found here.
The interdisciplinary spirit of the physics department extends to the training of Ph.D. students. Ten to twenty percent of physics PhD's are supervised by members of other academic departments, chiefly the Astronomy & Astrophysics Department, the Chemistry Department, and the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering. A significant number of physics PhD committees include at least one member in another academic discipline. The faculty's commitment to dialog and collaboration with other disciplines is now deeply rooted and ingrained.