Following the rapid expansion of the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) after WWII in the years of 1945-1951, Congress authorized NPS to confer advanced academic degrees and the transfer to the present site in Monterey in 1951-1952. The Physics Department has played an important role in the development of the school.
The department offered an Ordnance Engineering/Special Physics Curriculum in fundamentals of Nuclear Physics with the aim of educating officers in the capabilities and limitations of nuclear weapons. This three year curriculum was among the first curricula at NPS accredited by the Engineering Council for Professional Development in 1955. In addition, the department had expertise and taught courses in applied optics and acoustics in the Operation Analysis, the Mine Warfare, and the Engineering Electronics/Acoustics Curricula.
This mix of expertise in acoustics, applied electromagnetics/optics and nuclear weapons and their effects in the Physics Department has remained strong during the last forty years. The department has continued support of the education of officers in the Ordnance Engineering curricula with their distinct interdisciplinary character.
As technology in these areas has developed, the department adapted vigorously to stay abreast of these developments in order to incorporate new technologies with potential weapon system applications into the Ordnance Engineering Curricula.
During the 1970s, four distinct flavors of Weapon Engineering Curricula evolved. Acoustics was concentrated into an Engineering Acoustics Curriculum (UX #535), which was administrated jointly with the Electrical Engineering Department and led to a degree of M.S. in Engineering Acoustics.
A separate Weapon Systems Science Curriculum (WS #531) evolved with concentration in Optics/Electro-Optics leading to a M.S. in Physics. A derivative of this with concentrations in Signal Processing, Computer Science, Mechanical Engineering or Aeronautical Engineering became the Weapon System Technology Curriculum (WT #530) leading to degrees in engineering.
This latter curriculum was the most interdisciplinary and reflected much of the spirit and flavor of the older Ordnance Engineering Curricula. The Nuclear Weapons and Weapons Effects Curriculum declined during the 1970s due to a lack of interest by the Navy but was reinstituted in 1980 as curriculum #532, WN, and has a strong applied physics flavor, leading to an M.S. in Physics containing courses on the physics of directed energy weapons.
In addition, the department has a significant role in the initiation and later execution of the first interdisciplinary operational curricula, the ASW Curriculum, the Electronic Warfare Curriculum and more recently the Space Systems Engineering and Space Systems Operations Curricula.