Physics

Graduate Student Affairs:
Room 2551 Mayer Hall Addition

Undergraduate Student Affairs:
Room 2581 Mayer Hall Addition

Chair’s Office:
120 Urey Hall Addition

http://physics.ucsd.edu

All courses, faculty listings, and curricular and degree requirements described herein are subject to change or deletion without notice. Updates may be found on the Academic Senate website: http://senate.ucsd.edu/catalog-copy/approved-updates/.

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.

The Undergraduate Program

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

A grade point average of 2.0 or higher in the upper-division major program is required for graduation. A course can only count towards one of the major requirements. All courses (lower- and upper-division) required for the major must be taken for a letter grade. Students must receive a grade of C– or better in any course to be counted toward fulfillment of the major requirements. In exceptional cases, students with a grade point average in the major of 2.5 or greater may petition to have one grade of D accepted.

Shang-keng Ma Award

The Department of Physics presents the Shang-keng Ma Memorial Award at commencement each year to a graduating physics student who has shown exceptional ability and promise during the UC San Diego undergraduate years. The award was established in 1984 to commemorate the contributions of Professor Ma to the UC San Diego Department of Physics and to the field of theoretical condensed matter physics.

John Holmes Malmberg Prize

The John Holmes Malmberg Prize is presented annually at commencement to a graduating physics student who is recognized for potential for a career in physics and a measure of experimental inquisitiveness. This prize was established in 1993 in memory of Professor Malmberg who pioneered the use of nonneutral plasmas for sophisticated tests of plasma equilibrium, wave, and transport effects. He was an involved teacher of undergraduate and graduate students and was active in departmental and campus affairs.

Physics Major (BS)

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.

In the junior year, the emphasis is on macroscopic physics; the two principal physics subjects are electromagnetism and mechanics. The mathematics and computer background required for the physics program is completed in this year.

In the senior year, a sequence of courses in quantum physics provides the student the modern view of atomic and some aspects of subatomic physics and the principal analytical methods appropriate in this domain. The relation of the microscopic to the macroscopic world is the subject of courses in thermodynamics and statistical physics, with illustrations drawn from gas dynamics and solid-state physics. Upper-division laboratories teach students the essentials of physical measurement and building advanced equipment, as well as other aspects of experimental science.

The following courses are required for the physics major:

Lower Division

Recommended

Alternative

1. Physics 4A-B-C-D-E

1. Physics 2A-B-C-D

2. Physics 2CL and 2DL

2. Physics 2CL and 2DL

3. Chemistry 6A or a programming course (see department website for list of acceptable courses)

3. Chemistry 6A and a programming course (see department website for list of acceptable courses)

4. Mathematics 20A-B-C-D-E-F

4. Mathematics 20A-B-C-D-E-F

Upper Division

  1. Physics 100A-B, 105A, 110A, 120, 130A-B, 140A, and an additional laboratory course from the lab group: 122, 124, 133, 164, 173
  2. Two courses from either the theoretical or experimental pre-grad-school sequence
    Theoretical pre-grad-school sequence: Phys 100C, 105B, 110B, 130C, 140B
    Experimental pre-grad-school sequence: Phys 100C, 110B, 124, 130C, 140B
  3. Restricted electives: Three upper-division (four-unit) or graduate courses in physics or mathematics (only one). Courses in other science disciplines may be substituted by petition.

For students wishing to prepare for graduate school it is important that all courses in either the theoretical or experimental pre-grad-school sequence be taken. Mathematics 120A is also recommended.

Suggested Schedule (pre-graduate school)

FALL

WINTER

SPRING

JUNIOR YEAR

 

Phys 100A

Phys 100B

Phys 120

Phys 105A

Phys elective3

Phys 130A

Phys 110A

Phys 105B2

 

SENIOR YEAR

 

Phys 140A

Phys 140B2

Phys lab1

Phys 130B

Phys elective3

Phys elective3

1Any course from lab group listed above

2Any two courses from the theoretical or experimental pre-grad-school sequence listed above

3Any restricted elective as described above

Suggested Schedule (career in industry)

FALL

WINTER

SPRING

JUNIOR YEAR

 

Phys 100A

Phys 100B

[pre-grad]2

Phys 105A

Phys elective3

Phys 120

Phys 110A

[other]4

Phys 130A

SENIOR YEAR

 

Phys 140A

[pre-grad]2

Phys elective3

Phys lab1

Phys elective3

[other]4

Phys 130B

[other]4

 

1Any course from lab group listed above

2Any course from either pre-grad-school sequence listed above

3Any restricted elective as described above

4Any other course as approved by adviser (optional)

Physics Major with Specialization in Astrophysics (BS)

The astrophysics specialization is appropriate for students who would like to gain an in-depth understanding of modern astronomy and astrophysics, and/or who wish to prepare for graduate school in astronomy or astrophysics. It is similar to the standard physics major with electives being chosen from astronomically oriented courses. A wide variety of technical, academic, and professional careers are possible for students who choose this specialization.

The following courses are required for the physics major with specialization in astrophysics:

Lower Division

Recommended

Alternative

1. Phys 4A-B-C-D-E

1. Phys 2A-B-C-D

2. Phys 2CL and 2DL

2. Phys 2CL and 2DL

3. Chem 6A or a programming course (see department website for list of acceptable courses)

3. Chem 6A and a programming course (see department website for list of acceptable courses)

4. Math 20A-B-C-D-E-F

4. Math 20A-B-C-D-E-F

Upper Division

  1. Physics 100A-B, 105A, 110A, 120, 130A-B, 140A and an additional laboratory course from the lab group: 122, 124, 133, 164.
  2. Two courses from either the theoretical or experimental pre-grad-school sequence.
    Theoretical pre-grad-school sequence: Phys 100C, 105B, 110B, 130C, 140B
    Experimental pre-grad-school sequence: Phys 100C, 110B, 124, 130C, 140B
  3. It is recommended that students take three courses from the astrophysics sequence—Physics 160, 161, 162, 163, 164—but any three courses selected from the following list are acceptable:
    Physics 160. Stellar Astrophysics
    Physics 161. Black Holes
    Physics 162. Cosmology
    Physics 163. Galaxies and Quasars
    Physics 164. Observational Astrophysics Research Lab
    ECE 120. Solar System Physics
    MAE 180A. Spacecraft Guidance 1
    Physics 223. Stellar Structure and Evolution; with consent of instructor
    Physics 224. Interstellar Medium; with consent of instructor
    Physics 226. Galaxies & Galactic Dynamics; with consent of instructor
    Physics 227. Cosmology; with consent of instructor
    Physics 228. High-Energy and Compact Objects; with consent of instructor

Example Schedule

FALL

WINTER

SPRING

JUNIOR YEAR

 

Phys 100A

Phys 100B

Phys 120

Phys 105A

Phys 105B2

Phys 130A

Phys 110A

   

SENIOR YEAR

 

Phys 140A

Phys 140B2

Phys lab1

Phys 160

Phys 161

Phys 162

Phys 130B

   

1Any course from lab group listed above

2Any course from either pre-grad-school sequence listed above

Physics Major with Specialization in Biophysics (BS)

The Department of Physics offers an undergraduate program that prepares students for careers in biophysics. This program leads to a BS, Physics with Specialization in Biophysics. As a terminal degree, it is an excellent education for students who wish to work in the biotechnology industry. It also provides an ideal background for students who plan to attend graduate or professional school in biological or biomedical fields.

This program is intended for students with a strong interest in bringing the concepts and technical advances from the physical sciences to bear on issues in biology. The curriculum is chosen to prepare students as rigorously-trained but broad-minded generalists, so that they may attack problems in the biological, biochemical, and biomedical sciences with the tools and confidence that come from rigorous training in the physical sciences.

The curriculum for Physics Major with Specialization in Biophysics is designed to allow premedical students to complete all necessary courses for admission to medical schools.

The lower-division program for physics majors with specialization in biophysics includes basic courses in biology and chemistry as well as physics. Although the sequence Physics 4A through 4E is strongly recommended, students have the choice of petitioning the department to substitute the sequence Physics 2A through 2D.

The following courses are required for the physics major with specialization in biophysics:

Lower Division

Recommended

Alternative

1. Phys 4A-B-C-D-E

1. Phys 2A-B-C-D

2. Phys 2CL and 2DL

2. Phys 2CL and 2DL

3. Chem 6A-B-C and Chem 7L

3. Chem 6A-B-C and Chem 7L

4. Math 20A-B-C-D-E-F

4. Math 20A-B-C-D-E-F

5. Biology, BILD 1 and BILD 2

5. Biology, BILD 1 and BILD 2

The upper-division program includes advanced courses in physics, including two core lecture courses and one core laboratory course in biophysics, as well as organic chemistry.

Upper Division

  1. Physics 100A, 105A, 110A, 120, 130A, 140A, 173, 175
  2. Physics 176 or 177 or 178
  3. Chemistry 140A
  4. Additional electives, to achieve a count of twelve upper-division courses in the major, may be selected from biology, chemistry, and physics.

Premedical students will need to take two additional quarters of organic chemistry (Chemistry 140B and 140C), one quarter of organic chemistry laboratory (Chemistry 143A), and one quarter of an upper-division biology course. In addition, some medical schools also require a quarter of biochemistry (Biology BIBC 100 or Chemistry 114A). The premedical requirements may be used to satisfy upper-division elective requirements.

As a guide to prospective students, we consider a schedule of required classes for a Muir College student.

Suggested Schedule

FALL

WINTER

SPRING

FRESHMAN YEAR

 

Math 20A

Chem 6B

Chem 6C

Chem 6A

Math 20B

Math 20C

 

Phys 4A

Phys 4B

SOPHOMORE YEAR

 

Chem 7L

Math 20D

Math 20F

Math 20E

BILD 1

BILD 2

Phys 4C

Phys 2CL

Phys 2DL

 

Phys 4D

Phys 4E

JUNIOR YEAR

   

Phys 100A

Chem 140A

Phys 120

Phys 105A

Elec

Phys 130A

Phys 110A

 

 

SENIOR YEAR

   

Phys 140A

Biophysics Elec

Elec

Phys 175

 

Phys 173

BS in Physics with Specialization in Computational Physics

The computational physics specialization is designed to support a broad range of career development tracks, so students may pursue (1) a terminal BS for gainful employment in information technology and high-tech industry, (2) preparation for graduate studies in computational science with an MS, and (3) graduate work in physics with strong interest in computational physics. This flexibility is afforded by a wide array of restricted electives which allows students to design much of their own program (subject to adviser’s approval) while simultaneously maintaining the essential physics-based curriculum. Academic advising will be provided by physics faculty in the Computational Physics Specialization Program to assist students in designing their optimal career development track in the flexible curriculum.

The following courses are required for the physics major with specialization in computational physics:

Lower Division

  1. Physics 4A-B-C-D-E or Physics 2A-B-C-D1, Physics 2CL-DL
  2. Mathematics 20A-B-C-D-E-F
  3. Chemistry 6A
  4. A programming course (see department website for list of acceptable courses)

1The 2A-B-C-D sequence is an allowed substitute by petition.

Upper Division

  1. Physics 100A-B, 105A-B, 110A, 120, 130A-B, 140A
  2. Two courses from Physics 122, 141, 1421
  3. Six restricted electives from following groups:
    Physics 100C, 110B, 124, 130C, 140B, 173, other upper-division physics courses: Mathematics 170A-C, 179, 183, CSE 12, 30, 80. Substitute elective courses (upper-division science, mathematics, engineering, or other) with adviser’s approval.

1Students will choose two required courses from the group Phys 122, Phys 141, Phys 142, and either will drop the third, or take it as one of the six restricted electives.

Suggested Schedule (restricted electives not shown)

FALL

WINTER

SPRING

JUNIOR YEAR

 

Phys 100A

Phys 100B

Phys 120

Phys 105A

Phys 105B

Phys 130A

Phys 110A

   

SENIOR YEAR

 

Phys 140A

Phys 141

Phys 142

Phys 130B

 

 

Phys 122

 

 
Career Track Examples with Restricted Electives

The program of electives is intended to be flexible, and can be tailored to the student’s needs and interests in consultation with the academic adviser.

Graduate School Theorist with Computational Interest Track for students with an interest in theoretical physics-based computational science:

Physics 100C, 110B, 130C, 140B

Graduate School Experimentalist with Computational Interest Track for students with an interest in experimental physics-based computational science:

Physics 100C, 124, 142

Mathematics 183

CSE 80

Information Technology Track for students with an interest in physics-based software oriented applications:

Physics 100C, 140B

CSE 12, 30, 80

Numerical Science/Engineering Application Developer Track for students with an interest in physics and engineering applications of numerical algorithms:

Physics 100C, 140B

Mathematics 170A-C

High Tech Instrumentation Track for students with an interest in physics-based instrumentation:

Physics 100C, 124, 140B

Mathematics 183

CSE 12, 80

Physics Major with Specialization in Earth Sciences (BS)

The upper-division program for physics majors with specialization in earth sciences is essentially the same as the standard physics major augmented by courses in earth sciences offered through the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Students may wish to incorporate a small portion of the major program into their lower-division studies, for example, SIO 50.

The following courses are required for the physics major with specialization in earth sciences:

Lower Division

  1. Physics 4A-B-C-D-E and 2CL-DL; or Physics 2A-B-C-D and 2CL-DL (Physics 4 sequence is strongly recommended.)
  2. Chemistry 6A-B and 7L
  3. Mathematics 20A-B-C-D-E-F

Upper Division

  1. Physics 100A-B, 105A, 110A-B, 120, 130A, 140A, and an additional laboratory course from the lab group: 122, 124, 133, 164, 173
  2. Two courses from either the theoretical or experimental pre-grad-school sequence.
    Theoretical pre-grad-school sequence: Phys 100C, 105B, 110B, 130C, 140B
    Experimental pre-grad-school sequence: Phys 100C, 110B, 124, 130C, 140B
  3. SIO 50, 102, 103, 120
  4. Restricted Electives: Three earth sciences courses in the SIO department (upper-division or graduate level) to be chosen with the approval of the SIO undergraduate program adviser.

Suggested Schedule

FALL

WINTER

SPRING

JUNIOR YEAR

 

Phys 100A

Phys 100B

Phys 120

Phys 105A

Phys 110B

Phys 130A

Phys 110A

SIO 102

 

SIO 50

   

SENIOR YEAR

 

Phys 140A

SIO 120

Phys lab1

SIO 103

Restr elec

Restr elec

[pre-grad]2

[pre-grad]2

Restr elec

1Any course from lab group listed above

2Any course from either pre-grad-school sequence listed above

Physics Major with Specialization in Materials Physics (BS)

The materials physics specialization is designed to support a broad range of options, so students may pursue (1) a terminal BS, or prepare for (2) graduate work in materials science, or (3) graduate work in physics. This flexibility is afforded by a wide range of restricted electives, which allows students to design much of their own program while simultaneously maintaining the essential physics-based curriculum. Academic advising will be provided by the department to assist the student in navigating through the many options. This BS program also serves as the entry to the integrated five-year BS/MS program.

Lower Division

  1. Physics 4A-B-C-D-E or Physics 2A-B-C-D, Physics 2CL-DL
  2. Chemistry 6A-B*
  3. Mathematics 20A-B-C-D-E-F
  4. Programming experience (see department website for list of acceptable courses)

*Students who anticipate taking Chemistry 120A-B for the restricted electives requirement are strongly advised to take Chemistry 6C.

Upper Division

  1. Physics 100A-B, 105A-B, 110A, 120, 124, 130A-B, 140A, 133, 152A-B
  2. Four restricted electives, to be chosen from Chemistry 120A-B; Mathematics 120A; ECE 103, 134, 135A-B, 136, 136L; MAE 160, 110A; or any upper-division physics course

Suggested Schedule (restricted electives not shown)

FALL

WINTER

SPRING

JUNIOR YEAR

 

Phys 100A

Phys 100B

Phys 120

Phys 105A

Phys 105B

Phys 130A

Phys 110A

   

SENIOR YEAR

 

Phys 140A

Phys 152A

Phys 152B

Phys 130B

Phys 124

Phys 133

Restricted Electives: Example

As examples of restricted electives, a student opting for a terminal BS (Option 1) might choose to take MAE 160, ECE 103, 136, and Physics 122. Students preparing for graduate work in materials science (Option 2) might consider MAE 160, ECE 103, 134, and a fourth elective. Students preparing for graduate work in physics (Option 3) might consider Physics 100C, 110B, 140B, and a fourth elective. The program of electives is intended to be flexible, and can be tailored to the student’s needs and interests in consultation with the academic adviser.

See “Contiguous Bachelor’s/Master’s Degree Program in Materials Physics.”

General Physics Major (BA)

This program covers the essential topics in physics and provides a broadly based education in the natural sciences. Starting with lower-division courses in mathematics, physics, computing, biology and/or chemistry, students proceed to upper-division mechanics, electricity and magnetism, thermal physics, quantum physics, and a physical measurements laboratory course. In addition, students take sixteen units of upper-division elective courses in the natural sciences or mathematics.

While the BA program is suitable for students who pursue a terminal degree in physics or use it as a preparation for other professional careers, it is not intended for those who wish to proceed to the PhD in physics. The latter should enroll in the BS program.

The following courses are required for the general physics major:

Lower Division

  1. Physics 2A-B-C-D and 2CL-DL
  2. Mathematics 20A-B-C-D-E-F
  3. Three restrictive elective courses in science and engineering (a list of acceptable courses is given below)

Upper Division

  1. Physics 100A-B, 105A, 110A-B, 120, 130A, 140A or Chemistry 127 or 131
  2. Restricted Electives: Sixteen units of upper-division courses in science and engineering (excluding mathematics)
Suggested Schedule

FALL

WINTER

SPRING

JUNIOR YEAR

 

Phys 100A

Phys 100B

Phys 120

Phys 105A

Phys 110B

Phys 130A

Phys 110A

   

SENIOR YEAR

 

Phys 140A or

Restr elec

Restr elec

Chem 127 or 131

Restr elec

 

Restr elec

   
Approved Lower-Division Elective Courses

One course in computing chosen from the following list:

MAE 03. Introduction to Engineering Graphics and Design

CSE 30. Computer Organization and Systems Programming

(Physics 105B, Mathematical and Computational Physics may be substituted if desired.)

Plus two of the following courses:

BILD 1. The Cell

BILD 2. Multicellular Life

BILD 3. Organismic and Evolutionary Biology

Chem 6A. General Chemistry

Chem 6B. General Chemistry

Chem 6C. General Chemistry

General Physics/Secondary Education Major (BA)

The general physics/secondary education major prepares students to teach physics and physical science in secondary schools. It covers essential topics in physics while providing breadth in chemistry and earth science. The major also includes three quarters of field experience in local schools, where you will work closely with a mentor teacher and high school students. This experience makes you more competitive for the UC San Diego Master’s and Teaching Credential Program or other credential programs and can substantially reduce the length of the UC San Diego Master’s and Teaching Credential Program.

This degree is particularly suitable for students pursuing a Single Subject Physics Credential. Students in other physics major programs who wish to explore teaching as a career should consider the UC San Diego science education minor. If you are interested in earning a California teaching credential from UC San Diego, contact the Education Studies Department (EDS) for information about the prerequisite and professional preparation requirements. It is recommended that you contact EDS as early as possible in your academic career. The following courses are required for the general physics/secondary education major:

Lower Division

Recommended

Alternative

1. Phys 4A-B-C-D-E

1. Phys 2A-B-C-D*

2. Phys 2CL and 2DL

2. Phys 2CL and 2DL

3. Chem 6A-B-C and 7L

3. Chem 6A-B-C and 7L

4. Math 20A-B-C-D-E-F

4. Math 20A-B-C-D-E-F

5. SIO 50

5. SIO 50

*Students taking 2A-D are encouraged to take 4E as well.

Upper Division

  1. Physics 100A-B, 105A, 110A-B, 120, 130A
  2. Select a total of at least eight units from upper division chemistry course offerings.
  3. EDS 129A-B-C

Suggested Schedule

FALL

WINTER

SPRING

JUNIOR YEAR

Phys 100A

Phys 100B

Phys 120

Phys 105A

Phys 110B

Phys 130A

Phys 110A

Chem elec.

Chem elec.

SENIOR YEAR

EDS 129A

EDS 129B

EDS 129C

Engineering Physics Program

The engineering physics program is offered jointly by the Departments of Physics, MAE, and ECE, and is administered by the Department of ECE. (See “ECE, BS Engineering Physics.”)

Minor in Physics

Students may arrange minor programs or programs of concentration in physics by consulting with the Department of Physics Student Affairs Office, Room 2581 Mayer Hall Addition, and their college for specific requirements. The Department of Physics requires at least twenty-eight units, of which at least twenty units must be upper division. All courses must be taken for a letter grade. Lower-division transfer courses are permitted.

Honors Program

The Department of Physics offers an Honors Program for students who demonstrate excellence in the major. Students interested in the Honors Program should consult the Student Affairs Office. Eligibility for the Honors Program includes completion of all required lower-division physics courses, ten upper-division physics courses, and a GPA of a least 3.50 in the physics major.

The Honors Program consists of a minimum of eight units of Honors Thesis Research (Physics 199H), an Honors Thesis, and the presentation of the research to faculty and peers at UC San Diego’s Undergraduate Research Conference or an Undergraduate Seminar. Admission to the Honors Program is contingent upon the prior approval of the Honors Thesis research topic by the vice chair for education.