As a premiere research department, the University of Chicago does world-class research on a broad spectrum of subjects. Below, you will find descriptions of research areas and the faculty involved in them. 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; degrees are granted by the Departments. The initial two institutes involving physicists are now called the Enrico Fermi Institute and the James Franck Institute.
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 chemists and astronomers. 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.