Professor Emeritus Harry Noller, winner of the prestigious $3 million Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences in 2017

Subject: Physical and Biological Sciences: An Introduction

Date: February 24, 2017

I am happy to hear of your interest in the Physical and Biological Sciences Division at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Should you be admitted to the university, I want to make sure you have all the information you need to make an informed choice about physical and biological sciences at UC Santa Cruz. Every day, UC Santa Cruz scientists are redefining our understanding of the world in which we live. I recommend that you take a look at our Physical and Biological Sciences web site, where you can find information on more than two dozen major and minor degree tracks in the core science disciplines and in a variety of interdisciplinary programs.

I also want to mention some of the qualities that make UC Santa Cruz unique. Since our founding, our aspiration has been to combine the best features of an outstanding public research university with the small scale and personal atmosphere of a selective collegiate campus. In the sciences that means providing students with a chance to learn directly from world-class scientists in the classroom, the laboratory, and the field. Here are just a few examples of student opportunities to participate in research:

  • The Earth Sciences Summer Field Internship includes three weeks of field study in geologically complex regions of the White-Inyo Mountains of eastern California.

  • Every physics major -- be they physics, applied physics, astrophysics, or physics education -- works with a faculty sponsor to complete an independent research project.

  • The Marine Ecology Field Quarter allows students to spend a full quarter learning about ecology and applying their knowledge in a field research project in exotic locations such as the Sea of Cortez, the South Pacific, or the Mediterranean.

  • Regardless of their chosen degree program – astrophysics, physics, math, or planetary sciences – undergraduates studying and doing research in astronomy have access to our supercomputer lab and telescope-time generally reserved for graduate-level students on other campuses.

  • Chemistry students who complete the degree with a course in instrument analysis can become certified with the American Chemical Society (ACS), a highly selective society of chemical professionals that offers networking and career placement after graduation.

UCSC has always been a leader in undergraduate research and internships, with many undergraduates involved in basic scientific research, perhaps explaining why a NIH-NSF study showed that among public universities, UC Santa Cruz was second highest in the nation in the higher proportion of its undergraduates who go on to complete doctorates in the sciences.  

UC Santa Cruz science faculty are at or near the top among all universities when measured by the impact of their publications. We have come to Santa Cruz for many reasons, from its unique setting and quality of life to the availability of facilities such as the Long Marine Laboratory on the edge of Monterey Bay and the telescopes on Mauna Kea. But one thing we all share is a commitment to teaching some of the brightest and most promising students in California.


Paul Koch

Dean, Division of Physical and Biological Sciences, and

Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences

Please note: Replies to this e-mail are sent to the general UC Santa Cruz Admissions e-mail address. If you would like to learn more about UC Santa Cruz Admissions, please visit the MyUCSC portal at

See Also