Undergraduate Education

The Department of Physics offers undergraduate programs leading to the following degrees:

  • BS, Physics
  • BS, Physics with Specialization in Astrophysics
  • BS, Physics with Specialization in Biophysics
  • BS, Physics with Specialization in Computational Physics
  • BS, Physics with Specialization in Earth Sciences
  • BS, Physics with Specialization in Materials Physics
  • BA, General Physics
  • BA, General Physics/Secondary Education

The physics major provides a core of basic education in several principal areas of physics, with sufficient flexibility to allow students to prepare either for graduate school or a career in industry. Since in preparing for either goal, more than the required core courses are necessary, it is important for students to meet with a physics department adviser in deciding a schedule.

The Undergraduate Program

The Department of Physics was established in 1960 as the first new department of the UC San Diego campus. Since then it has developed a strong faculty and student body with unusually diversified interests that lie primarily in the following areas:

  1. Physics of elementary particles
  2. Quantum liquids and superconductivity
  3. Solid-state and statistical physics
  4. Plasma physics
  5. Astrophysics and space physics
  6. Atomic and molecular collision and structure
  7. Biophysics
  8. Geophysics
  9. Nonlinear dynamics
  10. Computational physics

In addition to on-campus research facilities, the high-energy program uses accelerators at SLAC, CERN, and Fermi Laboratory. The astrophysics program uses facilities at Keck, Lick, and Kitt Peak Observatories.


Program Outcomes

Upon completing their undergraduate journey at our institution with a focus on physics, students will emerge equipped with a profound understanding of both classical and contemporary physics, as delineated by the curriculum requirements. Beyond mere comprehension, they will possess the adeptness to navigate novel and uncharted problems, applying foundational principles with agility and finesse. This encompasses the capacity to deconstruct and analyze complex physical inquiries, often presented in the form of real-world scenarios, as well as to derive and substantiate equations encapsulating the laws governing the cosmos. Their comprehension extends to discerning the significance and constraints of these equations, coupled with the ability to offer both qualitative and quantitative insights into diverse physical phenomena. This proficiency translates into the skill to approximate magnitudes, dissect scenarios through the application of overarching principles, and engage in textbook-style calculations to unravel intricate physics puzzles.

Moreover, graduates will have honed essential laboratory techniques, adeptness in navigating scholarly resources, and proficiency in computational tools. They will possess a familiarity with pivotal historical experiments and the profound insights they yielded, enabling them to contextualize the evolution of physics knowledge. Additionally, they will demonstrate competence in articulating their findings and analyses through both written compositions and oral presentations, effectively conveying complex physics concepts to diverse audiences.

Outlined below are the objectives encapsulating our educational mission, categorized into knowledge-based, performance/skills-based, and affective-based domains:

Knowledge-Oriented Graduates will have:

  1. Demonstrated proficiency across a wide spectrum of fundamental physics areas, encompassing quantum mechanics, classical mechanics, statistical mechanics, thermodynamics, electricity and magnetism, optics, and special relativity. Emphasizing conceptual grasp over rote memorization, they are equipped to apply these foundational principles flexibly to diverse contexts within the natural world.

  2. Possessed a comprehensive grasp of the physical principles necessary for analyzing various inquiries or subjects in physics, including novel ones, and exhibited both quantitative and qualitative insights into these principles to anticipate and comprehend phenomena. This entails familiarity with pertinent equations and physical constants essential for dissecting and understanding core physics problems.

  3. Acquired a repertoire of essential physical constants enabling them to perform straightforward numerical estimations of universal and constituent physical properties.

  4. Attained an understanding of the inner workings of modern electronic instrumentation and the methodologies behind classical and contemporary experiments, illuminating the fundamental principles underlying the universe and its components.

  5. Proficiency in utilizing computers for data acquisition and processing, alongside leveraging available software tools for data analysis.

  6. Mastery of contemporary library search tools essential for locating and retrieving scientific literature.

Skills-Focused Graduates will be capable of:

  1. Competently tackling problems by discerning their pivotal components, devising effective problem-solving strategies, estimating numerical solutions, applying pertinent techniques, verifying solution accuracy, and interpreting outcomes.

  2. Articulating physics problems and their solutions coherently using both verbal explanations and appropriately tailored equations, catering to both expert and non-expert audiences.

  3. Grasping the objectives of physics laboratory experiments, executing them accurately, and meticulously documenting and analyzing resultant data.

  4. Proficiency in handling standard laboratory equipment, contemporary instrumentation, and traditional techniques for conducting experiments.

  5. Demonstrating proficiency in conceptualizing, executing, and concluding science-based independent projects, particularly in electronics.

  6. Adherence to safety protocols and regulations while working in laboratory environments.

  7. Effectively communicating laboratory experiment concepts and findings through proficient writing and oral presentation skills.

Affective Graduates will:

  1. Demonstrate the ability to pursue career aspirations successfully in graduate or professional schools, scientific roles in government or industry, teaching positions, or related fields.

  2. Exhibit creative problem-solving skills in scientific domains, adeptness in experiment design, and a propensity for critically evaluating presented results, whether encountered in academic, journalistic, or other contexts.