Physics B.S.

Information and Policies

Academic Advising for the Program

The department undergraduate adviser (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. To enroll in PHYS 5A, students must be in a proposed major that requires the Physics 5 series. (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 adviser and the Alternatives webpage. 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

Learning outcomes 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 will demonstrate proficiency in mathematics and the mathematical concepts needed for a proper understanding of physics.
  • Students will demonstrate knowledge of classical and quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics, and electromagnetism.
  • Students will show that they have learned laboratory skills, enabling them to take measurements in a physics laboratory and analyze the measurements to draw valid conclusions.
  • Students will communicate effectively, both orally and in writing, and will demonstrate that they can think critically and work independently while doing their senior thesis.

Major Qualification Policy and Declaration Process

Major Qualification

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

PHYS5AIntroduction to Physics I

5

PHYS5BIntroduction to Physics II

5

PHYS5CIntroduction 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.
  • 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.

Appeals

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 their faculty mentor. 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 may submit a petition to declare after completing the qualification policy courses. All students are required to review their academic plan with their assigned 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 Physics Department welcomes applications from community college students who have completed the necessary coursework to transfer to our program.

To be considered for admission to UC Santa Cruz in the physics major, transfer students must pass equivalents of the following courses with a cumulative GPA of 2.7 or higher:

PHYS5AIntroduction to Physics I

5

PHYS5BIntroduction to Physics II

5

PHYS5CIntroduction to Physics III

5

In addition, transfer students must achieve a minimum grade of C (2.0) in courses articulated to
MATH19ACalculus for Science, Engineering, and Mathematics

5

MATH19BCalculus for Science, Engineering, and Mathematics

5

MATH23AVector Calculus

5

Although not required for admission, transfer students are strongly encouraged to complete all general education requirements before coming to UC Santa Cruz, without which they may not be able to graduate in two years. Students are also recommended to complete the equivalent of PHYS 5D.

Students planning to transfer to UC Santa Cruz from a California community college should reference http://assist.org/ to determine which courses are equivalent to these required courses.

California community college students who are prepared for their major and achieve a certain GPA may be eligible for a transfer admissions guarantee (TAG); for more information, visit TAG.

Getting Started at UCSC as a Transfer Student

Transfer students admitted to UC Santa Cruz in the physics major who have satisfied the above screening requirements may declare the major immediately upon arrival at UC Santa Cruz. They should contact the undergraduate adviser to draw up an academic plan. Students who are proposed in a different major (other than physics (astrophysics) 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 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 senior thesis supervisor and the thesis technical adviser.

Timely Graduation and Alternative Plans

  • In order to graduate in time, it is extremely important that students start their senior thesis as early as possible, by the end of the junior year for four-year students and by the beginning of the second year for transfer students. PHYS 182 is a course that teaches students effective writing in physics for the senior thesis, but it is not the point at which the thesis should be started. 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 adviser.
  • Students who fall behind the planners should consult the Physics Department undergraduate adviser and Alternatives.
  • All the transfer major planners assume that the Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum (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:
MATH19ACalculus for Science, Engineering, and Mathematics

5

MATH20AHonors Calculus

5

Plus one of the following courses:
MATH19BCalculus for Science, Engineering, and Mathematics

5

MATH20BHonors Calculus

5

Plus all of the following courses:
MATH23AVector Calculus

5

MATH23BVector Calculus

5

PHYS5AIntroduction to Physics I

5

PHYS5LIntroduction to Physics Laboratory

1

PHYS5BIntroduction to Physics II

5

PHYS5MIntroduction to Physics Laboratory

1

PHYS5CIntroduction to Physics III

5

PHYS5NIntroduction to Physics Laboratory

1

PHYS5DIntroduction to Physics IV

5

Plus one of the following courses or equivalent:
ASTR119Introduction to Scientific Computing

5

PHYS115Computational Physics

5

CSE5JIntroduction to Programming in Java

5

CSE20Beginning Programming in Python

5

Upper-Division Courses

All of the following courses:
PHYS102Modern Physics

5

PHYS116AMathematical Methods in Physics

5

PHYS116BMathematical Methods in Physics

5

PHYS116CMathematical Methods in Physics

5

PHYS105Mechanics

5

PHYS110AElectricity, Magnetism, and Optics

5

PHYS110BElectricity, Magnetism, and Optics

5

PHYS112Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics

5

PHYS133Intermediate Laboratory

5

PHYS134Physics Advanced Laboratory

5

PHYS139AQuantum 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 and a mathematics B.A., and take MATH 107 in the year 2017 or later.

 

Programming Requirement

Students in the physics 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/EART 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

Two courses, each 5 credits or more, chosen from upper-division elective courses offered by the Physics Department or ASTR 111 - ASTR 118. In some cases, with the approval of the department, one of the elective requirements may be satisfied by an upper-division science or engineering course.

Comprehensive Requirement

The comprehensive requirement is satisfied by the submission and approval of a thesis, and the following course:

 

PHYS182Scientific Communication for Physicists

5

Disciplinary Communication (DC) Requirement

Students of every major must satisfy the upper-division disciplinary communication (DC) requirement. Students in the physics major satisfy the DC requirement by completing the senior thesis and the following course:

PHYS182Scientific Communication for Physicists

5

Planners

Physics 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) MATH 23B PHYS 5D PHYS 105
PHYS 5C & PHYS 5N CSE 20 PHYS 116C
PHYS 116A PHYS 116B  
3rd (junior) PHYS 102 PHYS 112 PHYS 133
PHYS 110A PHYS 110B  
     
4th (senior) PHYS 139A PHYS 182 Elective
Elective PHYS 134  
     

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

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.

Physics B.S. Transfer Academic Plan One

 

  Fall Winter Spring
1st (junior) MATH 23B PHYS 116B PHYS 116C
PHYS 116A PHYS 102 PHYS 105
CSE 20 PHYS 133 PHYS 134
2nd (senior) PHYS 110A PHYS 110B Elective
PHYS 139A PHYS 112  
Elective PHYS 182  

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

Physics B.S. Transfer Academic Plan Two

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

  Fall Winter Spring
1st Year MATH 23B CSE 20 PHYS 105
 PHYS 5D  PHYS 102  PHYS 133
PHYS 116A  PHYS 116B PHYS 116C
2nd Year PHYS 110A PHYS 110B PHYS 134
 PHYS 139A  PHYS 112  Elective
 Elective PHYS 182  
3rd Year