Masters degree joins business with physics

July 9, 1999

The University of Southern California plans to introduce a graduate programme that combines business and physics in a quest to produce managers with a high level of scientific knowledge.

The two-year master's degree in physics for business applications, which links USC's department of physics and astronomy with its school of business, is scheduled to welcome its debut class this autumn.

Although it is too early yet to gauge student interest, reaction from industry - especially in technology sectors - has been positive.

"The idea is really to increase the percentage of the workforce that is science-literate, rather than being totally focused on the knowledge of business without knowing a lot about technology," said Hans Bozler, the physics professor who is directing the programme. "The hope is that companies will make better decisions if they have more understanding of science."

In addition to recent maths and science graduates, Dr Bozler hopes to attract mid-career professionals in technology companies who want more business credentials.

Until now, Dr Bozler said, people "went ahead and got master's degrees in the traditional way, and patched things together to best help them in what they are doing".

There is a growing body of theory that relates business models to physics, a phenomenon Dr Bozler's colleagues have been studying. "There are some people, mostly at PhD level, who are working on financial models that have evolved from basically physical ideas," he said. "There is a small but growing trend of wanting to combine those fields, but even on the research level that is still an individual choice."

On the other hand, he said, more business majors have a background in the sciences or related fields. The outgoing dean of USC's own business school, for example, has a PhD in mathematics.

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