The Optical Sciences comprise the study of the propagation and detection of light and its interaction with matter. Discoveries in optics have had a profound influence on the development of modern science and the forefront of technology, as demonstrated by more than 20 optics-related Nobel prizes between 1907 and 2014.

With the international MSc in Optical Sciences program, the Humboldt-University of Berlin, together with its cooperation partners in the Science- and Technology-Park Berlin-Adlershof, offers an excellent education in this vibrant and exciting field. We seek outstanding students with a bachelor's degree in physics or closely related field who wish to contribute to state-of-the-art optics research and development.  

Max Born Institute
for Nonlinear Optics and
Short Pulse Spectroscopy
Humboldt University of Berlin
Helmholtz Center Berlin for Materials and Energy
Weierstrass Institute
for Applied Analysis
and Stochastics
Ferdinand Braun Institute for Highest Frequency Technology
German Aerospace Center
Institute of Optical Sensor Systems

What are the Optical Sciences?

Optical Sciences study the propagation and detection of light and its interaction with matter.

First, Optical Sciences represent a dynamic area of research which, time and again, provides astonishing discoveries and fascinating fundamental insights, many of them of particularly aesthetic value; these include the discovery of energy quanta and Max Planck's black-body radiation formula, Albert Einstein's explanation of the photoelectric effect, the invention of the laser (Nobel prize 1964 for Charles H. Townes, Nikolai Basov, and Alexander Prochorov), and fundamental tests of quantum mechanics (Nobel prize 2012 for Serge Haroche and David Wineland). At the same time, Optical Sciences deliver the scientific and technological prerequisites for numerous developments in the natural and engineering sciences as exemplified by Frits Zernike's phase-contrast microscopy, the principle of holography (Nobel prize 1971 for Dennis Gabor), the technique of optical frequency combs (Nobel prize 2005 for John L. Hall and Theodor Hänsch), fiber optical systems (Nobel prize 2009 for Charles K. Kao), and super-resolution fluorescence microscopy (Nobel prize 2014 for Eric Betzig, Stefan Hell, and William Moerner). Conversely, Optical Sciences greatly benefit from the corresponding progress in the areas of optical materials, devices, and instruments such as the development of liquid crystals, CCD sensors, and blue LEDs.

The laser represents a particularly attractive example of the above-described fruitful interplay. Based on the development of the first operational Ruby-Laser in 1960 by T.H. Maiman, novel classes of light sources with hitherto unimaginable properties have been developed in record time - and they form the basis for unique techniques and applications such as laser spectroscopy, laser microscopy, laser-based material processing, and manipulation of matter. The latter includes methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light (Nobel prize 1997 for Steven Chu, Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, and William D. Phillips) and the achievement of Bose-Einstein-Condensates in dilute gases (Nobel prize 2001 for Eric A. Cornell, Carl E. Wieman, and Wolfgang Ketterle). Without lasers, broad-band data transmission, efficient optical sensors as well as modern optoelectronics are simply unthinkable. These developments have led to the coinage of the word photonics (ɸωτός, greek for light beam), i.e., the research field of harnessing light. Nevertheless, the laser itself is still the subject of intense research efforts with the goal of making accessible ever shorter pulses, higher intensities, and novel wavelength regimes.

Optical Sciences in Berlin-Adlershof

Berlin-Adlershof is one of the few centers of Optical Sciences in Germany. It features a highly diversified and internationally very visible research portfolio.

The optics research groups at the Institute of Physics of the HU Berlin are engaged in fundamental research of light-matter interaction on the nano-scale (Prof. Benson), quantum optics and metrology (Prof. Peters), theoretical atomic, molecular, and optical physics (Prof. Saenz), and the theory of light propagation and light-matter interaction in complex optical and quantum photonic systems (Prof. Busch).

Laser systems for ultra-short and -intense pulses, the characterization and shaping of such pulses, the development of corresponding measurement instrumentation for ultrafast processes and their theoretical description is the focus of research at the Max Born Institute (MBI; Profs. Elsässer and Ivanov of MBI are affiliated with the HU Berlin and Prof. Busch of HU Berlin is affiliated with MBI).

The Helmholtz Center Berlin (HZB) has at its disposal a powerful source of extreme-UV and X-ray light (BESSY II) that facilitates high-resolution microscopy, novel coherent imaging methods, and in conjunction with the so-called femtosecond laser slicing, allows for ultrafast experiments (Prof. Schneider of HZB is affiliated with HU Berlin). In addition, the HZB conducts extensive research in photovoltaics.

The Ferdinand Braun Institute (FBH) develops key technologies in the areas of microwave techniques and optoelectronics with a special emphasis on novel light sources (Prof. Peters of HU Berlin is affiliated with FBH).

The German Aerospace Center's Institute for Optical Sensor Systems (DLR OS) develops novel satellite- and rover-based optical sensors and cameras for applications in earth observation and planetary research (Prof. Hübers of DLR OS is affiliated with HU Berlin).

Within its main application area "nano- and optoelectronics" the Weierstrass Institute (WIAS) works on problems of applied mathematics with direct reference to Optical Sciences (PD Dr. Bandelow of WIAS is affiliated with HU Berlin).

Furthermore, the HU Berlin is the coordinating institution of the Collaborative Research Center 951 "Hybrid Inorganic/Organic Systems for Opto-Electronics" (CRC 951 HIOS). It aims at elucidating the basic chemical, electronic, and photonic interactions in innovative hybrid systems comprised of inorganic semiconductors, metallic nanostructures and conjugated organic materials for advanced applications.

In addition, the Science- and Technology-Park Berlin-Adlershof features "Photonics/Optics" as one of its five Technology Centers, which presently hosts some 55 small and medium-sized enterprises.

The above-described unique combination of basic and applied optics-related research in Berlin-Adlershof represents the central motivation and provides the basis for the research-oriented Master program in Optical Sciences at HU Berlin.

Living in Berlin

Berlin is one of the most attractive cities in Europe. It features a particularly diverse and dynamic cultural scene, take a look here. In addition, the Studentenwerk Berlin assists student life in many different ways such as housing, financing, and more.

Information on the MSc in Optical Sciences program

The MSc in Optical Sciences program is exclusively taught in English and prepares the students for a challenging career in the optics & photonics industry or for the pursuit of a doctoral degree. This is facilitated through several temporally overlapping stages with increasing degrees of specialization.

Stage 1 features a broad in-depth education in state-of-the-art optics knowledge with a focus on coherent light-matter interaction. This is followed by stage 2 where the student acquires specialized skills in an elective subject - these elective subjects represent the main research areas of the different research groups at Humboldt University of Berlin and the cooperating non-university research institutes in the Science- and Technology-Park Berlin-Adlershof. Finally, within stage 3 the students start into their own independent research which leads up to the final 6-month master thesis.

The corresponding modules are:

Stage 1: Optical Sciences

Stage 2: Elective Subjects

Stage 3: Independent Research

Detailed descriptions of the modules can be found here.

1. Semester
Fundamentals of Optical Sciences
2. Semester
Advanced Optical Sciences + Electives
Nonlinear Photonics Quantum Optics Short-Wavelength Optics Theoretical Optics
3. Semester
Introduction to Independent
Scientific Research
Advanced Optical Sciences Laboratory
4. Semester
Master Thesis

If you are interested in the MSc in Optical Sciences program, you find here further details on the admission requirements, links to the admission site, and information regarding financial support.

Admission Requirements

The successful admission to the MSc in Optical Science program requires a bachelor‘s degree in physics or a closely related field of science or engineering. In addition, language proficiency and profound knowledge of mathematics and physics has to be demonstrated. Specific requirements are:

Application Links

The actual process of application and the associated deadlines depend on your BSc degree:

Financial Support

The Humboldt University of Berlin does not charge tuition fees, only a semester fee of about 300€ which includes a six-month ticket for the Berlin-wide public transportation system (worth about 200€). Master students can obtain financial support by applying to university-wide advertised student assistantships. If you are interested in such a student assistantship, you should indicate so on your application cover letter.


Prof. Dr. Kurt Busch: mail