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Physics (Astrophysics) B.S.

Information and Policies

Academic Advising for the Program

The department undergraduate advisor (physicsadvising@ucsc.edu) works closely with students interested in pursuing the major to ensure that they begin the program immediately and follow the appropriate steps toward its completion.

Getting Started in the Major

Students begin the major with PHYS 5A, after having completed MATH 19A or equivalent. (Students who take PHYS 6A instead of PHYS 5A, and do very well in it, may contact the department chair for permission to enter the major.) Students are strongly encouraged to begin their major coursework in their first quarter. Those who start later should consult the department undergraduate advisor and Alternatives. Students who do not begin the lower-division requirements during their first year will have difficulty completing the program within four years.

High school students coming directly to UC Santa Cruz should emphasize their mathematics preparation with the expectation that they will take calculus, MATH 19A, before their second quarter at UC Santa Cruz in order to take the Physics 5 series in time. Students who come to UC Santa Cruz with credit for MATH 19A will be able to start the Physics 5 series in the first quarter. The courses in the PHYS 5 and PHYS 6 series are offered multiple times per year.

Program Learning Outcomes

Program learning outcomes (PLO) summarize the most important knowledge, skills, abilities, and attitudes that students are expected to develop over the course of their studies. The program learning outcomes communicate the faculty’s expectations to students, provide a framework for faculty evaluation of the curriculum based on empirical data, and help improve and measure the impact of implemented changes. Students graduating with a B.S. in Physics (Astrophysics) will demonstrate:

PLO 1. Ability to solve problems using concepts in classical and quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics and electromagnetism.

PLO 2. Proficiency in mathematics and the mathematical concepts needed for a proper understanding of physics.

PLO 3. Ability to take measurements in a physics laboratory and analyze the measurements to draw valid conclusions.

PLO 4. Ability to communicate scientific content effectively, both orally and in writing.

Major Qualification Policy and Declaration Process

Major Qualification

To qualify to declare the physics (astrophysics) major, students must achieve a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 2.70 or greater in the following courses, or their equivalents:

PHYS 5AIntroduction to Physics I

5

PHYS 5BIntroduction to Physics II

5

PHYS 5CIntroduction to Physics III

5

When determining qualification to declare the major:

  • All courses must be taken for a letter grade.
  • If PHYS 5A is satisfied with AP credit based on an AP examination score of 5, students may substitute a grade of A for PHYS 5A when calculating their cumulative GPA.
  • If PHYS 5C is satisfied with AP credit based on an AP examination score of 5, students may substitute a grade of A for PHYS 5C when calculating their cumulative GPA.

  • Students with two or more grades of NP, C-, D+, D, D-, or F in the major qualification policy courses are not eligible to declare even if the courses are retaken and the grades replaced.

Students who achieve a GPA of 2.66 or higher (but less than 2.70) in the three courses may declare the major if they receive a B or better in PHYS 5D.

Appeal Process

Students who are informed that they are not eligible to declare the major may appeal this decision by submitting a letter to the department chair by the later date of either 15 days from the date the notification was sent, or one week after the start of instruction during the quarter after the final relevant grade was received (generally in PHYS 5C or PHYS 5D). They also must arrange to meet with one of the faculty mentors listed for Declaring the Major. Within 15 days of receipt of the appeal, after consulting with the faculty mentor, the department chair will either finalize the denial of admission or specify further conditions for admission, and will notify the student and their college of the decision. For more information about the appeal process, see Appeal Process.

How to Declare a Major

Students should submit a petition to declare as soon as they complete the major qualification requirements or reach their declaration deadline quarter (whichever comes first).

Students petitioning when the campus declaration deadline is imminent (i.e., in their sixth quarter, for students admitted as frosh), will either be approved, denied, or provided with conditions (e.g., completion of some courses with certain grades) that will be resolved within at most one more enrolled quarter, even if they have not completed major qualification courses.

All students are required to review their academic plan with a faculty mentor prior to declaring the major. For instructions on petitioning to declare, go to Declaring Your Major.

Transfer Information and Policy

Transfer Admission Screening Policy

The following courses or their equivalents are required prior to transfer, by the end of the spring term for students planning to enter in the fall:

PHYS 5AIntroduction to Physics I

5

PHYS 5BIntroduction to Physics II

5

PHYS 5CIntroduction to Physics III

5

MATH 19ACalculus for Science, Engineering, and Mathematics

5

MATH 19BCalculus for Science, Engineering, and Mathematics

5

MATH 23AVector Calculus

5

A minimum GPA of 2.7 must be obtained in the following courses
PHYS 5AIntroduction to Physics I

5

PHYS 5BIntroduction to Physics II

5

PHYS 5CIntroduction to Physics III

5

In addition, the following course is recommended prior to transfer to ensure timely graduation:
PHYS 5DIntroduction to Physics IV

5

Prospective students are also encouraged to complete the Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum (IGETC) or to complete all UC Santa Cruz general education requirements before matriculation.

Getting Started as a UCSC Transfer Student

Transfer students admitted to UC Santa Cruz in the physics (astrophysics) major who have satisfied the above screening requirements may declare the major immediately upon arrival at UC Santa Cruz. They should contact the undergraduate advisor to draw up an academic plan. Students who are proposed in a different major (other than physics or applied physics) and have advanced standing when they come to UC Santa Cruz require permission from the department to change into the major.

Letter Grade Policy

All courses used to satisfy the physics (astrophysics) major requirements must be taken for a letter grade, except the programming requirement.

Double Majors and Major/Minor Combinations Policy

Students who complete a major sponsored by the Physics Department cannot complete a second major sponsored by the Physics Department or a physics minor.

Honors

The department awards "honors" (3.5 grade point average or better) and "highest honors"(3.8 grade point average or better) to top graduating students each year. The department also awards "honors" for outstanding work on the senior thesis, made upon the recommendation of the faculty thesis advisor.

Timely Graduation and Alternative Plans

  • Students planning a senior thesis should find a faculty thesis advisor as early as possible, but no later than the beginning of the senior year for four-year students or the beginning of the second year for transfer students. For further information about the senior thesis, see Senior Thesis.
  • Students who join a major program of the Physics Department with some of the required courses completed, or have room in their program for additional courses, should consult with the Physics Department undergraduate advisor.
  • Students who fall behind the planners should consult the Physics Department undergraduate advisor and Alternatives.
  • All the transfer major planners assume that IGETC has been completed in community college, or has been partially completed and can be finished while at UC Santa Cruz (including summers).

Requirements and Planners

Course Requirements

Lower-Division Courses

Choose one of the following courses:
MATH 19ACalculus for Science, Engineering, and Mathematics

5

MATH 20AHonors Calculus

5

Plus one of the following courses:
MATH 19BCalculus for Science, Engineering, and Mathematics

5

MATH 20BHonors Calculus

5

Plus all of the following courses:
MATH 23AVector Calculus

5

MATH 23BVector Calculus

5

PHYS 5AIntroduction to Physics I

5

PHYS 5LIntroduction to Physics I Laboratory

1

PHYS 5BIntroduction to Physics II

5

PHYS 5MIntroduction to Physics II Laboratory

1

PHYS 5CIntroduction to Physics III

5

PHYS 5NIntroduction to Physics Laboratory III

1

PHYS 5DIntroduction to Physics IV

5

Plus one of the following courses or equivalent:
ASTR 119Introduction to Scientific Computing

5

CSE 20Beginning Programming in Python

5

PHYS 115Computational Physics

5

ASTR 119 recommended. PHYS 115 does not teach programming, but it assumes a knowledge of programming. Students should only take the course if they have learned basic programming elsewhere. Therefore, completion of PHYS 115 is sufficient to fulfill the programming requirement. 

Upper-Division Courses

All of the following courses:
PHYS 102Modern Physics

5

PHYS 116AMathematical Methods in Physics

5

PHYS 116BMathematical Methods in Physics

5

PHYS 116CMathematical Methods in Physics

5

PHYS 105Mechanics

5

PHYS 110AElectricity, Magnetism, and Optics

5

PHYS 110BElectricity, Magnetism, and Optics

5

PHYS 112Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics

5

PHYS 133Intermediate Laboratory

5

PHYS 139AQuantum Mechanics I

5

MATH 21 and MATH 24 can substitute for PHYS 116A.

PHYS 116C is waived for students who are pursuing a dual major in physics (astrophysics) and mathematics B.A., and take MATH 107 in the year 2017 or later.

Plus one of the following options:
Either this course

PHYS 135
/ASTR 135
Astrophysics Advanced Laboratory

5

or these courses

PHYS 135A
/ASTR 135A
Astrophysics Advanced Laboratory

3

PHYS 135B
/ASTR 135B
Astrophysics Advanced Laboratory

2

or this course

ASTR 136Advanced Astronomy Laboratory

5

Capacity in the lab courses is limited, and they should be taken as early as possible.

Programming Requirement

Students in the physics (astrophysics) B.S. major have to satisfy a computer programming requirement by taking one of the courses listed in the major requirements given above. Of these courses, ASTR 119 teaches programming and simple applications. PHYS 115 does not teach programming; it assumes basic programming ability in Python, C++ or a similar language and discusses numerical techniques relevant to physics. The other courses listed teach programming. Students may also satisfy the computer programming requirement by demonstrating their knowledge of programming to a faculty member designated by the Physics Department. For instructions on how to demonstrate your programming skills, go to Completing the Major.

Electives

Complete three courses, each 5 credits or more, chosen from the following:

ASTR 111Order-of-Magnitude Astrophysics

5

ASTR 112Physics of Stars

5

ASTR 113Introduction to Cosmology

5

ASTR 117High Energy Astrophysics

5

ASTR 118Physics of Planetary Systems

5

ASTR 257Observational Astronomy

5

PHYS 129Nuclear and Particle Astrophysics

5

PHYS 137Advanced Optics Laboratory

5

PHYS 171
/ASTR 171
General Relativity, Black Holes, and Cosmology

5

EART 160Planetary Science

5

EART 162Planetary Interiors

5

EART 163Planetary Surfaces

5

EART 164Planetary Atmospheres

5

AM 107
/PHYS 107
Introduction to Fluid Dynamics

5

Disciplinary Communication (DC) Requirement

Students of every major must satisfy the upper-division disciplinary communication (DC) requirement. Students in the physics (astrophysics) major satisfy the DC requirement by completing one of the following options:

Either this course

PHYS 182Scientific Communication for Physicists

5

or these courses

PHYS 195ASenior Thesis I

5

PHYS 195BSenior Thesis II

5

Students interested in doing a senior thesis should have found a faculty thesis advisor by the beginning of their senior year. They should contact physicsadvising@ucsc.edu or their faculty mentor if they need assistance.

Comprehensive Requirement

The comprehensive requirement is satisfied by completing one of the following options:

Either this course

PHYS 135
/ASTR 135
Astrophysics Advanced Laboratory

5

or these courses

PHYS 135A
/ASTR 135A
Astrophysics Advanced Laboratory

3

PHYS 135B
/ASTR 135B
Astrophysics Advanced Laboratory

2

or this course

ASTR 136Advanced Astronomy Laboratory

5

Planners

Physics (Astrophysics) B.S.: Freshman Academic Plan

  Fall Winter Spring
1st (frosh) MATH 19A
(or MATH 20A)
MATH 19B
(or MATH 20B)
MATH 23A
  PHYS 5A & PHYS 5L* PHYS 5B & PHYS 5M
     
2nd (soph) PHYS 5C & PHYS 5N MATH 23B PHYS 105
PHYS 5D PHYS 116B PHYS 116C
PHYS 116A ASTR 119  
3rd (junior) PHYS 110A PHYS 110B PHYS 133
PHYS 102 PHYS 112 Elective
     
4th (senior) PHYS 135A PHYS 135B PHYS 182**
PHYS 139A Elective  
Elective    

*Students who complete the equivalent of MATH 19A before coming to UCSC can take the PHYS 5A, PHYS 5B, PHYS 5C courses and the MATH 19B, MATH 23A, MATH 23B courses in their first year.

**Students writing a senior thesis should replace PHYS 182 with the two-quarter sequence PHYS 195A and PHYS 195B.

In addition to the specific courses shown in this planner, a student must complete courses satisfying the ER, CC, IM, TA, PR and PE general education requirements.

Students looking for an alternative pathway through the major should consult the physics advisor.

Physics (Astrophysics) B.S.: Transfer Academic Plan One

  Fall Winter Spring
1st (junior) MATH 23B ASTR 119 PHYS 105
PHYS 102 PHYS 116B PHYS 116C
PHYS 116A PHYS 133 Elective
2nd (senior) PHYS 110A PHYS 110B PHYS 182*
PHYS 139A PHYS 112 Elective
PHYS 135A PHYS 135B  
Elective    

*Students writing a senior thesis should replace PHYS 182 with the two-quarter sequence PHYS 195A and PHYS 195B.

This planner assumes that a student has completed PHYS 5D and general education requirements.

Students who wish to do a more demanding senior thesis or seek greater flexibility in choosing electives may consider delaying graduation.

Physics (Astrophysics) B.S.: Transfer Academic Plan Two

For students who have not completed the equivalent of PHYS 5D.

  Fall Winter Spring
1st Year MATH 23B PHYS 102 PHYS 105
PHYS 5D PHYS 116B PHYS 116C
PHYS 116A ASTR 119 PHYS 133
2nd Year PHYS 110A PHYS 110B ASTR 136 or PHYS 135
PHYS 139A PHYS 112 Elective
PHYS 182* Elective Elective

*Students writing a senior thesis should replace PHYS 182 with the two-quarter sequence PHYS 195A and PHYS 195B.