The Physics Major & Minor
The standard Physics track is excellent preparation for graduate school in physics, engineering, and closely related scientific fields. The Physics track is also designed to support the various options of the pre-engineering program and is excellent preparation for medical school.
The Applied Physics track is designed to prepare students for employment in industrial research and development laboratories, technical consulting firms, and technically oriented government agencies immediately upon graduation. The Applied Physics track is not recommended for those intending to pursue graduate degrees in either physics or engineering, but would be a good choice for students interested in patent law.
The Physics major (either the Physics track or the Applied Physics track) is an outstanding liberal arts degree that develops critical thinking skills that are in high demand by employers in the private and public sectors. Graduates of the Physics Department work in a wide variety of careers, including faculty in universities, medical schools, and high schools; employed by companies such as IBM and Northrop-Grumman; and employed by government agencies such as the Department of Energy and NASA.
Note: Course offerings are listed below the degree requirements chart, and course sequencing can be found in The Physics Major's Handbook.
I. GENERAL EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS - 10 units
II. MAJOR REQUIREMENTS - 11 units
One of the following laboratory-based courses:
III. COLLATERAL REQUIREMENTS - 3 units
*Students not prepared to take MATH141P will be allowed to substitute MATH130/MATH131Q.
Applied Physics Track
I. GENERAL EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS - 10 units
II. MAJOR REQUIREMENTS - 11 units
Any three of the following laboratory-based or internship courses:
III. COLLATERAL REQUIREMENTS - 3 units
*Students not prepared to take MATH141Q will be allowed to substitute MATH130/MATH131Q.
IV. RECOMMENDED COURSES
Minor in Physics
I. DEPARTMENT REQUIREMENTS
II. COLLATERAL REQUIREMENTS
*Students not prepared to take MATH141Q will be allowed to substitute MATH130/MATH131Q
...is a starting point for the advising sessions you will have with your academic advisor. It maps out various paths through the major, depending upon your interests and career goals.
Physics Department Course Offerings:
PHYS 111P/111Q The Solar System (1 course unit).
An introduction to astronomy that highlights the observational foundations for modern theories. Topics include motions of celestial objects, eclipses, historical development, the nature of light, telescopes, properties and evolution of the solar system. Mathematics (computations and basic algebra) is used extensively throughout the course in problem sets, laboratories and exams; the relevant mathematical techniques are reviewed and practiced to aid students who lack confidence in their mathematical skills. Weekly labs emphasize the important role of observation and measurement in improving understanding and validating theories. No prerequisites. Offered every other year.
PHYS 112P/112Q Stars, Galaxies and Cosmology (1 course unit).
An introduction to astronomy that highlights the observational foundations for modern theories. Topics include the Sun, stellar properties, stellar evolution including black holes and neutron stars, the Milky Way, galactic evolution, and the structure, history and future of the universe. Mathematics (computations and basic algebra) is used extensively throughout the course in problem sets, laboratories and exams; the relevant mathematical techniques are reviewed and practiced to aid students who lack confidence in their mathematical skills. Weekly labs emphasize the important role of observation and measurement in improving understanding and validating theories. No prerequisites. Offered every other year.
PHYS 114P/114Q The Science of Music (1 course unit).
An introduction to the physics of sound and music. Topics covered include the production, propagation, and reception of sound (physical acoustics), and the physics of musical instruments (musical acoustics).Mathematics (computations and very basic algebra) is used extensively throughout the course in problem sets, laboratories and exams; the relevant mathematical techniques are carefully reviewed and practiced to aid students who lack confidence in their mathematical skills. Three lectures and one laboratory per week. No prerequisites.
PHYS 121P/121Q, 122P/122Q College Physics I & II (1 course unit each).
An introduction to the broad fields of physics: mechanics, heat, wave motion, optics, electromagnetism and modern physics. Three lectures and one laboratory per week. High school algebra is used extensively. Prerequisite for PHYS 122: PHYS 121.
PHYS 141P University Physics I (1 course unit).
Calculus-based introductory physics for physics, pre-engineering, mathematics and other science majors. Topics include mechanics, waves, sound and heat. Four lectures and one laboratory per week. Corequisite: MATH 141, or MATH 131 with permission of instructor.
PHYS 142P University Physics II (1 course unit).
This is the second course in the calculus-based introductory sequence for physics. Topics include electrostatic and magnetostatic fields, dc and ac circuits, electromagnetic radiation, and optics. Four lectures and one laboratory per week. Prerequisite: PHYS 141; Corequisite: MATH 142 or permission of instructor.
PHYS 243 Modern Physics (1 course unit).
This course is the third and final course in the introductory sequence of courses. It introduces the fields of physics that were first developed in the twentieth century, and that continue to evolve today. Topics include special relativity, the quantum theory of light, the structure of the atom, elementary wave mechanics, the properties of nuclei, and the properties of elementary particles. Three lectures and one lab per week Prerequisite: PHYS 142. Corequisites: MATH 243 or permission of instructor, and PHYS 380.
PHYS 304 Mathematical Methods in Physics (1 course unit).
This course introduces the mathematical tools that are required for many of the upper-level physics courses. The course emphasizes recognizing the equations that appear repeatedly in many different areas of physics and understanding their solutions. Topics include ordinary differential equations of first and second order, series solution of differential equations, vector analysis, Fourier series, partial differential equations, boundary value problems, Laplace and Fourier transforms, calculus of variations, and functions of a complex variable. Five lectures per week. Prerequisite: MATH 243.
PHYS 312 Laboratory Techniques (1 course unit).
A study of experimental techniques and apparatus. Topics include an introduction to laboratory software, statistical analysis of data, error analysis, cryogenics, vacuum techniques, radiation safety and detection, and signal processing. One lecture and two laboratory periods per week. Prerequisite: PHYS 243. Corequisite: PHYS 380.
PHYS 322 Mechanics I (1 course unit).
This course revisits the Newtonian mechanics learned in University Physics, but it harnesses more sophisticated mathematical tools that allow a much richer set of physical problems and phenomena to be studied. Topics include Newton's laws, dynamics of particles, statics of rigid bodies, noninertial reference frames, and gravitation and central forces. Prerequisite: PHYS 141. Corequisites: PHYS 304 or permission of then instructor, and PHYS 380.
PHYS 332 Electricity and Magnetism (1 course unit).
This course further develops the basic principles of electricity and magnetism introduced in University Physics by harnessing symmetry arguments and vector calculus for derivations and problem solving. Topics include electric fields and potentials, capacitance and dielectrics, magnetic flux and magnetic materials, and electromagnetic induction. Prerequisites: PHYS 142 and PHYS 304 or permission of instructor. Corequisite: PHYS 380.
PHYS 343 Quantum Mechanics I (1 course unit).
This course revisits the wave mechanics that was introduced in Modern Physics, but it examines the theory more thoroughly and applies it to much more sophisticated problems. Topics include the Schrodinger equation, infinite and finite steps, barriers and wells, harmonic oscillators, and the hydrogen atom. Prerequisites: PHYS 243 and PHYS 304. Corequisite: PHYS 380.
PHYS 352 Optics (1 course unit).
This course covers basic optical theory, examining both geometric optics (the ray model) and physical optics (wave theory).Many of the optical phenomena and instruments discussed in the lectures are examined in the laboratory. Topics include thin lenses, thick lenses via matrix methods, optical instruments, interference and interferometers, polarization, diffraction, lasers, holography, Fourier optics, and non-linear optics. Prerequisite: PHYS 142.
PHYS 356 Electronics (1 course unit).
This is an introductory course in laboratory electronics covering both analog and digital circuits. Many of the circuits discussed in the lectures are built and tested in the laboratory. Topics include ac circuits, transistor circuits, amplifiers, and linear and digital integrated circuits. Prerequisite: PHYS 142.
PHYS 362 Thermophysics (1 course unit).
This is an introductory course in thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. The topics that are studied include: heat transfer, general gas laws, equations of state, phase diagrams, the laws of thermodynamics, engines, refrigerators, entropy, Maxwell's thermodynamic relations, microcanonical, canonical and grand canonical ensembles, and statistical distribution laws. Prerequisites: PHYS 243 and PHYS 304 or permission of instructor. Corequisite: PHYS 380.
PHYS 380 Physics Colloquium (0 course units) (Pass/Fail only).
Physics Colloquium is a corequisite for many physics courses numbered 200 or higher. Physics majors should register for it every semester even if they happen to not be in one of the courses explicitly requiring it as a corequisite. The class will meet once a week and will be the venue for most student presentations assigned as a part of other physics courses. Other activities may include presentations given by faculty or visiting speakers, or discussions of current events that are of interest to the physics community.
PHYS 385, 485 Independent Study (0.5 or 1 course units).
Study of selected topics or laboratory research under the guidance of a professor.
PHYS 390 Special Topics in Physics (1 course unit).
Topics determined by student interest and the availability of staff. Examples include: computational physics, digital electronics, and physical acoustics. Prerequisite: permission of instructor.
PHYS 397 Internship in Physics (0.5 or 1 unit). (Letter-graded or Pass/Fail).
This course allows students in the Physics or Applied Physics tracks to complete an internship experience in an approved research/development setting. Examples include industrial research and development laboratories, technical consulting firms, and national laboratories or other technically oriented government agencies. Students will be required to maintain a laboratory notebook (consistent with any proprietary requirements) and will present a colloquium talk on their internship work. A letter of evaluation from the student's supervisor will also be required. Typically, full unit internships require approximately 120 hours for the semester. Specific requirements will be presented by way of a contract signed by the students. If this internship is used to fulfill a major requirement in the applied physics track, it must be letter-graded and for a full unit of credit. Prerequisites: permission of department head and instructor and PHYS 312.
PHYS 412 Advanced Laboratory Techniques (1 course unit).
This is a continuation of PHYS 312 intended for students who are interested in pursuing graduate study in physics or a career working in the laboratory. One lecture and two three-hour laboratory periods per week. Prerequisite: PHYS 312 or permission of instructor. Corequisite: PHYS 380.
PHYS 422 Mechanics II (1 course unit).
This is a continuation of Mechanics I. Topics include the mechanics of continuous media, dynamics of rigid bodies, and an introduction to the Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formulations of mechanics. Prerequisite: PHYS 322. Corequisite: PHYS 380.
PHYS 432 Electromagnetic Theory (1 course unit).
This is a continuation of Electricity and Magnetism which includes a more sophisticated look at electrostatics and magnetostatics using more advanced problem solving techniques. It then examines the behavior of electromagnetic waves arising from Maxwell's equations. The course concludes with a brief introduction to relativistic electromagnetism. Prerequisite: PHYS 332. Corequisite: PHYS 380.
PHYS 443 Quantum Mechanics II (1 course unit).
The concepts of quantum mechanics are reexamined using the Dirac formalism, which is used for essentially all advanced work in quantum mechanics. The Dirac formalism is introduced and applied to simple systems. Approximation techniques (time independent and time dependent perturbation theory, the variational principle, and WKB approximation) are applied to more complex systems. Nuclear scattering theory via the Born approximation is also discussed. Prerequisite: PHYS 343. Corequisite: PHYS 380.
PHYS 490 Special Topics in Physics (1 course unit).
Topics determined by student interest and the availability of staff. Examples include: atomic, nuclear and particle physics, solid state physics, astrophysics, and general relativity. Prerequisite: Permission of instructor.
PHYS 497 Senior Project Proposal (1/2 course units) (Pass/Fail only).
Students are matched with a faculty mentor, and then guided through the process of developing, writing, and orally presenting a proposal for their senior project. The work done in this class will be part of the portfolio that is assigned a letter grade at the end of Senior Seminar (PHYS 499). Corequisite: PHYS 380.
PHYS 498 Senior Project Research (1 course unit).
Students perform the laboratory work for their senior project. The class will meet once a week to discuss progress, plans, and any difficulties that have arisen. Prerequisite: PHYS497. Corequisite: PHYS 380.
PHYS 499 Senior Project (1/2 course unit).
Students report the results of their senior project in a number of formats including a poster, a short conference talk, and a 40-minute oral presentation and defense. The grade received at the end of this class will evaluate the portfolio of work accumulated in both this course and Senior Project Proposal (PHYS 497). Prerequisite: PHYS 498. Corequisite: PHYS 380.