Bypass Navigation

PHYSICS $193,310,000

The FY 2003 Budget Request for the Physics Subactivity is $191.31 million, a decrease of $2.57 million, or -1.3 percent, from the FY 2002 Current Plan of $195.88 million.

(Millions of Dollars)


FY 2001

FY 2002
Current Plan

FY 2003




Physics Research






Total, PHY






The Physics Subactivity (PHY) supports fundamental research in a broad range of physical phenomena, including support in: atomic, molecular, optical, and plasma physics; elementary particle physics; gravitational physics; nuclear physics; particle and nuclear astrophysics; and theoretical physics. Physics also supports interdisciplinary research, including: biophysics, complex systems, turbulence, and other developing interface areas associated with the core disciplines, for example the interface with information technology. The impact of physics research extends far beyond physics as a result of the discovery of new phenomena and the development of new techniques and basic tools that advance other fields, e.g., laser technology, biomedical technology, information technology, nanotechnology, energy science, including nuclear science, and many other techniques used in high technology industries.

Typical awards include funding for faculty salary support, graduate students, post-doctoral associates, instrumentation development, and other research needs. PHY supports an increasingly vigorous effort in the integration of research and education, including support of the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) and Research at Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) programs, the Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER), and important and innovative new outreach efforts aimed at improving links to K-12 teachers and students. The REU program continues to be very successful at reaching underrepresented minorities and women.

The Physics Subactivity provides support for a large part of university-based research in the physics sub-disciplines, ranging from nearly 100 percent for gravitational physics to 30-40 percent for the other physics programs. The scope of support ranges from small, single-investigator awards for research based at the awardee's home institution, to awards to major user groups with principal responsibility for experiments at major national or international user facilities. PHY also supports centers and institutes and national user facilities in elementary particle, nuclear, and gravitational physics. The user facilities represent important elements of the national infrastructure for certain subfields: in elementary particle physics, the Cornell Electron Storage Ring (CESR); in nuclear physics, the Michigan State University National Superconducting Cyclotron Facility (NSCL); and in gravitational physics, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). Center activities include: support for Physics Frontiers Centers, the first class of which include centers in the following areas: cosmological physics, gravitational physics, coherent ultrafast optical science, and the structure and origin of matter (particle and nuclear physics), the latter at an HBCU; and a new Science and Technology Center in biophotonics, applying new techniques developed in atomic, molecular and optical physics to studies of biological systems.

The Physics Subactivity supports major infrastructure within atomic, molecular, optical, and plasma (AMOP) physics such as the new Physics Frontiers Center `Frontiers of Optical, Coherent and Ultrafast Science' (FOCUS) at the University of Michigan, the Center for Ultracold Atoms at MIT, and the University of Colorado laboratory for atomic, molecular, and optical physics (JILA).

Physics tools have had an enormous impact on national security, from nuclear technologies and laser-based guidance and control systems, to radiation-hardened electronics and precision clocks for GPS (even including general relativity corrections). In the future, research in quantum information science will contribute centrally to the science of encryption and to the sorting and correlating of massive information bases - keys to future intelligence activities.

The Physics Subactivity oversees a construction project funded through the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) Account - the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) ATLAS and CMS detectors. Construction funding for the LHC detectors, begun in FY 1999, continues in FY 2003 (see the MREFC Account for additional information). LIGO, which was also funded through the MREFC Account, is expected to be fully operational in FY 2003, with all interferometers operating in coincidence (the 2- and 4-km interferometers at Hanford and the 4-km interferometer at the Livingston site).

The "quantum realm" continues as a broad area within the Physics Subactivity where there has been important progress. AMOP grantees won the 2001 Nobel Prize for Physics for achieving Bose-Einstein condensation in dilute gases, and for studies of the properties of condensates, studies that may bring revolutionary applications to nanotechnology. The FY 2003 Budget request for PHY includes:

  • A decrease of $2.76 million in research projects to a total of $129.62 million. Support for physics disciplinary research in lower priority research areas will be reduced by $3.76 million. Part of this offset will provide enhanced support for Physics Frontiers Centers (+$1.0 million), a program begun in FY 2001 to provide critical resources and needed infrastructure to exceptionally promising new areas of physics, including interdisciplinary research such as astrophysics and biological physics. The Physics Subactivity will continue to support forefront areas of physics, with some emphasis on particle and nuclear astrophysics, atom-level manipulation, quantum information science, biological physics and on advanced R&D towards next generation particle accelerators and gravitational wave detectors. Education and outreach activities will receive continued emphasis: enhancing K-12 science teacher training, integrating research and education, and broadening the role physics plays in new and emerging areas of research, including the training of young physicists.

  • An increase of $190,000 for facilities to a total of $63.69 million. This increase corresponds to: (1) termination of support for IUCF (-$3.60 million); (2) support for near-full operations of the Michigan State National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory's radioactive ion beam facility (+$0.24 million) for a total of $14.70 million; (3) increased support for LIGO (+$3.55 million) to a total of $29.50 million: $28.50 million for full operations as the lab focuses on the coincidence observations between the lab's two detector sites and an additional $1.0 million for equipment for advanced detector R&D. The funding for CESR operations will remain at $19.49 million, a figure that includes support for research and full operation of the accelerator for exploitation by the elementary particle physics and synchrotron light research communities, and for sustaining the important accelerator physics research activity at Cornell.

  • The budget for NSF includes a request of $60 million for high-energy physics. This request includes an expenditure over $2 million for research on neutrino collectors, including applications for underground research. Such research, including underground applications, will also be the subject of a major NSF workshop on neutrino research projects and a National Academy of Sciences' Report.
  Last Modified: Sep 17, 2004


Policies and Important Links


Privacy | FOIA | Help | Contact NSF | Contact Web Master | SiteMap  

National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia 22230, USA
Tel: (703) 292-5111, FIRS: (800) 877-8339 | TDD: (800) 281-8749

Last Updated:
Text Only
National Science Foundation Summary of FY 2003 Budget Request to Congress NSF Logo