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Applied Physics B.S.

Information and Policies

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 graduating with a B.S. in Applied Physics 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.

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: Frosh

Before coming to the University of California, Santa Cruz:

High school students coming to UC Santa Cruz, as frosh should emphasize their mathematics preparation with the expectation that they will take the first calculus course, MATH 19A, before their second quarter at UCSC. Students who come to UCSC with credit for MATH 19A will be able to start the Physics 5 series in the first quarter. PHYS 5A is offered in the fall and winter quarters each year. Students with a score of 5 on the AP Physics C Mechanics and AP Physics C Electricity and Magnetism examinations are exempt from taking PHYS 5A and PHYS 5C respectively, and the associated lab courses. 

After coming to UC Santa Cruz:

This major is highly course intensive and sequential;  students who intend to pursue this major must begin taking classes for the major in their first quarter at UCSC.

Incoming students in the Physics major should complete the Math Placement process as early as possible, so that the placement is posted before enrollment begins.For more information, please review the Math Placement website.

In their first term, students should enroll in the highest course in the following sequence that they are eligible for: MATH 2, MATH 3, MATH 19A, MATH 19B, MATH 23A, MATH 23B. Students should not take MATH 11A or MATH 11B. Graduating in four years is still possible for a student who places into MATH 2 or MATH 3; the department undergraduate adviser and the department's Alternatives webpage should be consulted.

Students who come to UC Santa Cruz with credit for MATH 19A, and have room in their schedule, should take PHYS 5A and PHYS 5L (unless they have a score of 5 on the AP Physics C Mechanics examination) in their first term. Those who come to UCSC with credit for MATH 19B and PHYS 5A and PHYS 5L, and have room in their schedule, should take PHYS 5C and PHYS 5N (unless they have a score of 5 on the AP Physics C Electricity & Magnetism examination) in their first term. The Physics Department tries to match incoming students who are interested with research opportunities, if they are available.

Students who for some reason do not start the courses for the major in their first term should consult the department undergraduate adviser and the Alternatives webpage. 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 who do not begin the lower-division requirements during their first year will have difficulty completing the program within four years. 

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

This major also has a concentration in computational physics. Students interested in this concentration are encouraged to complete the equivalent of CSE 20 prior to transfer.

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.

Students entering UC Santa Cruz in the winter quarter must complete
PHYS 5DIntroduction to Physics IV

5

MATH 23BVector Calculus

5

In addition to the requirements for students entering in the fall quarter. (This is true for years when winter admission is open.) 

Getting Started in the Major: Transfer Students

Transfer students admitted to UC Santa Cruz in the applied 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.

Incoming transfer students should enroll in the following courses in their first term:

  • PHYS 5D, unless they have credit for the course, in which case PHYS 102;
  • MATH 23B, unless they have credit for the course, in which case they may enroll in PHYS 116A or an elective or general education course;
  • ASTR 119, unless they have knowledge of the Python programming language and basic statistics, in which case they may enroll in PHYS 133 after obtaining a permission code. 

Students who have completed courses that should be equivalent to PHYS 5D or MATH 23B but is not formally articulated as such should contact the undergraduate adviser to have their courses evaluated. 

Transfer students entering UC Santa Cruz in the winter quarter should meet with the undergraduate adviser upon arrival to draw up an academic plan.

Students who are proposed in a different major (other than physics or physics (astrophysics)) and have advanced standing when they come to UC Santa Cruz require permission from the department to change into the major.

Major Qualification Policy and Declaration Process

Major Qualification

To qualify to declare the Applied Physics 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 or approve admission to the major, 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.

Letter Grade Policy

All courses used to satisfy any of the applied physics major requirements must be taken for a letter grade, except the chemistry course.

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 adviser.

Timely Graduation and Alternative Plans

  • Students planning a senior thesis should find a faculty thesis adviser 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 adviser.
  • Students who fall behind the planners should consult the Physics Department undergraduate adviser and Alternatives.
  • All the transfer major planners assume that 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).

Standard Applied Physics Major

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:
CHEM 1AGeneral Chemistry

5

CHEM 1BGeneral Chemistry

5

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

5

CSE 20Beginning Programming in Python

5

ASTR 119 is strongly recommended.

Upper-Division Courses

All of the following courses:
PHYS 102Modern Physics

5

PHYS 116AMathematical 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 134Physics Advanced Laboratory

5

Students may take ECE 135/ECE 135L instead of PHYS 110A and PHYS 110B. This is not recommended for students who wish to pursue graduate studies in physics.

PHYS 133 is offered all three terms. PHYS 134 is offered in the winter and spring terms. Capacity in the lab courses is limited, and they should be taken as early as possible.

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

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

Electives

Complete three courses chosen from the following, at least one of which has to be a Physics Department course:

PHYS 115Computational Physics

5

PHYS 120Polymer Physics

5

PHYS 137Advanced Optics Laboratory

5

PHYS 139AQuantum Mechanics I

5

PHYS 139BQuantum Mechanics II

5

PHYS 157Frontier of Quantum Materials

5

PHYS 150
/CSE 109
Quantum Computing

5

PHYS 152Physics and Machine Learning

5

PHYS 156Applications of Quantum Materials

5

PHYS 160Practical Electronics

5

PHYS 180Biophysics

5

AM 107
/PHYS 107
Introduction to Fluid Dynamics

5

CHEM 163BChemical Thermodynamics

5

EART 121The Atmosphere

5

EART 172
/OCEA 172
Geophysical Fluid Dynamics

5

ECE 101Introduction to Electronic Circuits

5

ECE 130Introduction to Optoelectronics and Photonics

5

ECE 136Engineering Electromagnetics

5

Or other courses with approval of the undergraduate faculty advisor.

Students interested in going to graduate school in physics should consider completing the Physics B.S. instead of the Applied Physics B.S. Students who wish to go to graduate school in physics after the Applied Physics B.S. are recommended to complete PHYS 110A and PHYS 110B instead of ECE 135 and ECE 135L, complete PHYS 116D in addition to the major requirements, and complete PHYS 139A and PHYS 139B

Disciplinary Communication (DC) Requirement

Students of every major must satisfy the upper-division disciplinary communication (DC) requirement. Students in the applied physics 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 adviser 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 the following course:

PHYS 134Physics Advanced Laboratory

5

Planners

The tables below are for informational purposes and do not reflect all university, general education, and credit requirements. See Undergraduate Graduation Requirements for more information.

Applied Physics B.S.: Freshman Academic Plan

Plan 1: For students who place into MATH 19A or MATH 20A.

  Fall Winter Spring
1st (frosh) MATH 19A
or MATH 20A
MATH 19B
or MATH 20B
MATH 23A
    PHYS 5B & PHYS 5M
  PHYS 5A & PHYS 5L CHEM 1A or CHEM 1B 
2nd (soph) PHYS 5C & PHYS 5N ASTR 119 PHYS 105
PHYS 5D PHYS 116A PHYS 116C
MATH 23B    
3rd (junior) PHYS 102 PHYS 110B PHYS 134
PHYS 110A PHYS 112 Elective 
PHYS 133    
4th (senior) Elective PHYS 182** Elective
     
     

*Students who complete the equivalent of MATH 19A before coming to UC Santa Cruz 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 adviser.

Applied Physics B.S.: Transfer Academic Plan One

  Fall Winter Spring
1st (junior) MATH 23B PHYS 133 PHYS 105
PHYS 102 PHYS 116A PHYS 116C
ASTR 119 Elective  
2nd (senior) PHYS 110A PHYS 110B PHYS 134
CHEM 1A or CHEM 1B PHYS 112 Elective
Elective PHYS 182*  

*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.

Applied 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 PHYS 102 PHYS 105
PHYS 5D Elective PHYS 133
ASTR 119 PHYS 116A PHYS 116C
2nd Year PHYS 110A PHYS 110B Elective
CHEM 1A or CHEM 1B PHYS 112 PHYS 182*
Elective PHYS 134  

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

Computational Physics Concentration

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 both of the following courses:
CSE 20Beginning Programming in Python

5

CSE 30Programming Abstractions: Python

7

A test-out option is available for CSE 20.

Upper-Division Courses

All of the following courses:
PHYS 102Modern Physics

5

PHYS 116AMathematical Methods in Physics

5

PHYS 116CMathematical Methods in Physics

5

PHYS 105Mechanics

5

PHYS 110AElectricity, Magnetism, and Optics

5

PHYS 112Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics

5

PHYS 112Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics

5

STAT 131Introduction to Probability Theory

5

PHYS 115Computational Physics

5

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

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

Electives

Complete three courses chosen from the following, of which at least one should be PHYS 150 or PHYS 152.

PHYS 150
/CSE 109
Quantum Computing

5

PHYS 152Physics and Machine Learning

5

PHYS 110BElectricity, Magnetism, and Optics

5

PHYS 139AQuantum Mechanics I

5

AM 148GPU Programming for Scientific Computations

5

BME 205Bioinformatics Models and Algorithms

5

CHEM 264Computational Materials

5

EART 124Modeling Earth's Climate

5

BME 205 has several prerequisites which are not major requirements.

This concentration is not intended for students who wish to go to graduate school in physics. A student who wishes to do so should take PHYS 139A, PHYS 139B, PHYS 110B and PHYS 116B, as part of the major requirements or in addition to them.

Disciplinary Communication (DC) Requirement

Students of every major must satisfy the upper-division disciplinary communication (DC) requirement. Students in the applied physics 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 adviser 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 the following course:

PHYS 115Computational Physics

5

Planners

The tables below are for informational purposes and do not reflect all university, general education, and credit requirements. See Undergraduate Graduation Requirements for more information.

Computational Physics Concentration: Freshman Academic Plan

Plan 1: For students who place into MATH 19A or MATH 20A.

  Fall Winter Spring
1st (frosh) MATH 19A
or MATH 20A
MATH 19B
or MATH 20B
MATH 23A
    PHYS 5B & PHYS 5M
  PHYS 5A & PHYS 5L CHEM 1A or CHEM 1B 
2nd (soph) PHYS 5C & PHYS 5N   PHYS 105
PHYS 5D CSE 20 PHYS 116C
MATH 23B PHYS 116A CSE 30
3rd (junior) PHYS 102 PHYS 112 STAT 131
PHYS 110A    
     
4th (senior) PHYS 182** PHYS 115  Elective
 Elective Elective  
     

*Students who complete the equivalent of MATH 19A before coming to UC Santa Cruz 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 adviser.

Computational Physics Concentration: Transfer Academic Plan One

  Fall Winter Spring
1st (junior) MATH 23B CSE 20 PHYS 105
PHYS 102 PHYS 116A PHYS 116C
    CSE 30
2nd (senior) PHYS 110A PHYS 115 STAT 131
PHYS 182* PHYS 112 Elective
Elective
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.

Computational Physics Concentration: 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 CSE 20 CSE 30
  PHYS 116A PHYS 116C
2nd Year PHYS 110A PHYS 115 Elective
PHYS 182* PHYS 112 STAT 131
Elective   Elective

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