The Physics Major 2012-13
The Physics Department provides a first-rate undergraduate program with excellent acceptance rates of undergraduates into top graduate schools in this country and abroad. In addition to a general physics major, the department also offers degrees in astrophysics, applied physics, and physics education. For more information about the physics program requirements, please see the Physical and Biological Sciences Undergraduate Affairs web site at undergrad.pbsci.ucsc.edu.
Study and Research Opportunities
- B.S., M.S., Ph.D., undergraduate minor, and a new combined B.S./M.S. degree
- The number of research opportunities for physics undergraduates is exceptionally high.
- The senior thesis requirement enables students to interact professionally with faculty in a research environment.
What Makes UC Santa Cruz's Physics Program Unique
We provide our undergraduate students with exceptional research opportunities due to facilities on campus such as the Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics (SCIPP), and also through scientific associations with other major research centers such as the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) and Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (SSRL), the UC Observatories, various x-ray and neutron scattering centers at national laboratories, the Advanced Studies Laboratory at NASA's Ames Research Center, and the Space Sciences Laboratory at UC Berkeley. In addition, the department's open-door policy between students and faculty is considered one of its greatest assets. Physics undergraduates have access to all professors, including the department chair, at any time during their academic career. Each physics major is also assigned their own faculty advisor, with whom they can develop a mentoring relationship during their time here.
The intellectual rigor and quantitative experience associated with a physics degree makes it a well- respected major as preparation for both scientific and other fields including:
- Computer science
- Research and development
- Technical writing
These are only samples of the field’s many possibilities.
In a recent report by the Institute for Scientific Information, UC Santa Cruz Physics' professional papers had the highest citation rate of any university physics department in the country between 1994 and 1998. Individual faculty have received numerous honors recently, including: Fellows of the American Physical Society Professors Joel R. Primack, Frank Bridges, Sriram Shastry, and David Belanger; Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Professor Primack; and Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Professor Michael Dine. In 2009, two members of the department won major prizes from the American Physical Society: the Lars Onsager Prize was awarded to Professor Shastry and the Aneesur Rahman Prize to Professor Peter Young. Professor of physics Abe Seiden (Ph.D., physics, '76) was selected to chair the Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel (P5), which advises the national program of particle physics research.
High School Preparation
High school students wanting to major in physics should come to UC Santa Cruz prepared to take calculus in their first quarter in order to concurrently take the Physics 5 series, the calculus-based physics course for physics majors. High school physics is strongly recommended but not required.
Transfer students must prepare themselves by taking courses equivalent to the lower-division requirements for the physics major. Due to the prerequisite structure for upper-division courses, it is imperative for prospective transfer students to have completed all, or as many of the lower-division requirements for the major as possible to complete the degree within a reasonable time. Transfer students must complete courses equivalent to the Physics 5 series, the calculus-based physics course for physics majors, with a GPA of 2.70 or higher before they transfer to be permitted to declare a physics major.
The Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum (IGETC) will not provide transfer students with enough mathematics and science courses to allow them to complete the program at UC Santa Cruz in two years. Prospective transfer students should visit the Physical and Biological Sciences Undergraduate Affairs web site at undergrad.pbsci.ucsc.edu for further information (see the More Information section). In addition, please see the Lower-Division Requirements section.
The required lower-division courses for the physics major are normally completed during the first two years at UC Santa Cruz, beginning immediately with Physics 5A/L in the first quarter of freshman year:
- Physics 5A/L, Introduction to Physics I with Laboratory
- Physics 5B/M, Introduction to Physics II with Laboratory
- Physics 5C/N, Introduction to Physics III with Laboratory
- Physics 5D, Heat, Thermodynamics, and Kinetics
- Mathematics 19A-B, Calculus for Science, Engineering, and Mathematics (two quarters), or Mathematics 20A-B, Honors Calculus (two quarters)
- Mathematics 23A-B, Multivariable Calculus (two quarters)
It is important that all prospective majors take Physics 5A/L and Mathematics 19A the first quarter of their freshman year in order to remain on track to complete the major in the normal time frame.
Academic advising is available from Physical and Biological Sciences Undergraduate Affairs. Academic advising concentrates on class scheduling and degree requirements, while faculty advising provides guidance on career paths, graduate school, and study strategies. Undergraduate Affairs publishes the web site at undergrad.pbsci.ucsc.edu, which contains detailed information about the degree programs, sample schedules, transferring credit, placement exams, faculty research, and opportunities in the Physical and Biological Sciences majors.
Physical and Biological Sciences
387 Thimann Laboratories
University of California, Santa Cruz
1156 High Street
Santa Cruz, California 95064