Physics

The Physics Major program explores how the universe operates, from subatomic scales to the intergalactic. Physics majors learn to recognize the fundamental principles that underlie all physical phenomena and question the phenomena that still mystify us.

Students of physics become model-builders of everything from black holes, to artificial intelligence, to the hidden patterns of the stock market. The collective knowledge, skills and experiences students gain through the physics program make them highly competitive for prestigious scholastic awards, graduate school admissions, and employment at leading technology and engineering companies.

Physics Coursework

Physics majors have the opportunity to take a range of classes from quantum mechanics and astrophysics, to optics and fluid mechanics, to computational physics. A strong foundation in physics, mathematics and computational methods enables physics majors to succeed in their upper-division courses. Our advanced laboratory course prepares students to conduct independent research and write scientific papers. Our independent research and capstone experiences enable students to explore the frontiers of physics research, learn valuable scientific communication skills, and develop quantitative problem-solving skills. Students also have the freedom to choose from a wide range of upper-division physics courses to complete their program of study, allowing them to shape the major to best fit their interests and aspirations.

Engineering Physics Pathway

For students interested in engineering, we offer a 5-year Pathway to earn a BA in Physics and a BS/BA in Mechanical Engineering. Requirements and Recommended Plan of Study for this Pathway are described in detail in the Course Catalog.  

Physics Education Pathway

For students interested in pursuing K-12 education, we offer a 4-year pathway to earn a BA in Physics as well as a single-subject teaching credential and preparation for the California Subject Examination for Teachers (CSET). Requirements and Recommended Plan of Study for this Pathway are described in detail in the Course Catalog.  

 

Physics Research

Physics majors learn about the frontiers of physics research, and explore their own research questions. Physics faculty do research on a range of cutting-edge topics including astrophysics, materials technology, plasma science, adaptive optics, computational physics, high-energy physics, alternative energy, biochemical engineering, and molecular and cellular biophysics. Physics majors are encouraged to start conducting faculty-led research on these topics as early as their freshman year. Undergraduate researchers learn first-hand where the limits of humanity’s scientific understanding lie and how to push those limits outward. Student researchers learn experimental, computational and theoretical research techniques, and gain first-hand experience with advanced physics instrumentation including optical tweezers, light-sheet and confocal microscopes, tunable diode lasers, pulsed NMR, and vacuum chambers. Many of our majors have opportunities to travel and present their work at research conferences, publish scientific papers, and network with leading scientists in the field.

 

Life after Physics

Because physics majors comprise only 2% of all STEM bachelor’s degrees awarded each year, our majors stand out and are sought out by a wide variety of graduate programs and companies. Many of our majors pursue graduate programs in physics, engineering, computer science, materials science, and astronomy. Immediately after graduation, physics majors are also highly successful in obtaining jobs in engineering, data science, finance, information technology, and education.

Students completing the Engineering Physics Pathway are particularly competitive for positions at premier engineering firms.

Students who complete the Physics Education Pathway are immediately employed as high school or junior high physics teachers.