Department of Physics and Biophysics

The Department of Physics and Biophysics at the University of San Diego is deeply committed to offering first-rate undergraduate physics education in a liberal arts environment--including small class sizes, individualized attention and the ability to do one-on-one research with faculty.

Courses in physics and biophysics allow students to explore the interactions of matter and energy from the simplicity of a molecule or a swinging pendulum to the complexity of nuclear fusion, galaxy formation, cell signaling and the human brain. Bachelor's degrees in physics and biophysics provide students with robust quantitative problem solving and reasoning skills. Students also gain invaluable research experience that trains them in cutting-edge experimental techniques. This powerful education is essential to not only scientists and engineers, but to every member of society as we move towards a more technological world. 

Learn about the Physics and Biophysics majors (PDF)  

Get information on department tutoring.

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Department Anti-Racism Statement

The Department of Physics and Biophysics supports the statement condemning racism made recently by the American Physical Society. The killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, Tony McDade and Breonna Taylor highlight the anti-Black racism in our society. Racism is systemic in our society, in academia and in physics. (RYAN) Social media campaigns like #BlackandSTEM, #BlackInAstro and #BlackintheIvory reveal the anti-racist work that needs to be done in our discipline and in academia. We also acknowledge that, as the particlesforjustice.org authors write, the effects of racism are "compounded for people who are also, for example, women, trans, non-binary, queer, Indigenous to the lands occupied by the United States and Canada, Latinx, Muslim, Jewish, disabled, and/or undocumented." 

We recognize that Black Lives Matter, that our predominantly white faculty did not attain their positions in a meritocracy, and that change is necessary. Therefore, the actions that our department will take immediately include:

  1. Assess and revise our recruitment strategies to increase diversity in both our faculty and our students.
  2. Review department statistics on gender and race demographics and, when possible, publicly release these statistics to be transparent about inequalities in our department.
  3. Raise funds to support underrepresented students as research assistants and tutors as well as to enable them to attend conferences by the National Society of Black Physicists, the National Society of Black Engineers and the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science. 
  4. Review and revise our curriculum to support the success of underrepresented students.
  5. Increase the diversity in our department’s Distinguished Speaker Series. 
  6. Revise our mentoring and advising practices to create a more inclusive and supportive environment for all students.
  7. Encourage all instructors to attend workshops through the Rainbow Educator Program
  8. Explicitly recognize that an important and valued area of physics and biophysics research is the culture and climate of our discipline.
  9. Make the incorporation of inclusive teaching practices an important element of our faculty promotion process.

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About Physics About Physics Physics is the most fundamental of the sciences, exploring the universe from its smallest to grandest scales. Physics attempts to understand nature in both its greatest simplicity and its most uncontrollable complexity. Physicists are model-builders of everything from the architecture of the cosmos, to the substructure of the nuclei, the complexity of life, and even the hidden patterns of the stock market.
About Biophysics About Biophysics Biophysics lies at the intersection of physics, biology and chemistry. It focuses on applying the understanding, methods and quantitative skills gained in physics to a vast array of biological systems in order to gain new insights into biological problems ranging from brain function, vascular networks, and DNA synthesis to biomedical devices, drug delivery and aquatic animal migration.

Why Choose Physics at USD?

Cutting-edge Faculty and Student Research

Our faculty conduct nationally-recognized research in a variety of exciting areas including astrophysics, soft matter, plasma physics, molecular and cellular biophysics, fluid mechanics, biomaterials, optics, and thermodynamics. Undergraduates have the unique opportunity to contribute to these research endeavors through faculty-mentored research projects. Our faculty involve undergraduates in all aspects of their research, and student researchers often have opportunities to present at national conferences and co-author publications in leading peer-reviewed journals. Students also gain invaluable experience working with cutting-edge technologies and equipment in faculty research labs and advanced laboratory courses. These hands-on research experiences and robust skills training are rare at the undergraduate level, and have proven invaluable in preparing our students for a wide range of career paths and graduate school opportunities.

Commitment to Inclusion and Diversity

The Physics and Biophysics Department is deeply committed to providing a safe, welcoming, and supportive environment for students, faculty and staff of all races, gender identities, ethnicities, sexual orientations, socioeconomic backgrounds, and physical abilities. A diversity of backgrounds, perspectives, and ways of thinking is essential to the advancement of scientific knowledge and the holistic education of our students. Therefore we strive to nurture, promote and increase the inclusion of students, faculty and staff who are typically underrepresented in the sciences. We actively work towards identifying barriers to implementing this change, and leading institutional and community efforts to bringing about such change.

Small Class-Sizes, Long-Lasting Connections

Class sizes in the physics department are limited to 40 students, and upper-division courses can have as few as four students. These small class sizes allow faculty to tailor courses to best serve the interests of the students. The close interactions among our majors and the faculty cultivate lasting relationships that go beyond the classroom and often lead to career connections, alumni networking and, of course, letters of recommendation.

One-on-One Faculty Interactions

Our small department size and the requirement that all students conduct research cultivates close one-on-one faculty-student interactions and mentoring relationships. Physics and biophysics majors meet regularly with their academic faculty advisors to design their course schedules and discuss summer and post-graduation opportunities. Majors in upper-division courses have ample opportunity for one-on-one faculty guidance in and out of the classroom to enhance learning. Finally, each of our majors works one-on-one with a faculty mentor to conduct cutting-edge independent research projects.

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