DEPARTMENT OF PHYSICS AND ASTRONOMY
Reines Hall; (949) 824-6911
William H. Parker, Department Chair
Faculty / Undergraduate Program / Graduate Program / Courses
Physics is that branch of science concerned with the study of natural phenomena at the fundamental level. Physicists study the smallest particles of matter (quarks and leptons), nuclei, and atoms; the fundamental forces; the properties of solids, liquids, gases, and plasmas; the behavior of matter on the grand scale in stars and galaxies; and even the origin and fate of the universe. Other disciplines such as chemistry, biology, medicine, and engineering often build upon the foundations laid by physics.
The Department of Physics and Astronomy offers courses for students of various interests, from those in the humanities and social sciences, to those in biological sciences, and to those in physics, engineering, and other sciences. Faculty members are conducting active research in several forefront areas of physical research, and there is student access to specialized research areas such as astrophysics, cosmology, elementary particle, plasma, condensed matter, biological, and medical physics at both advanced and undergraduate course levels. The Department offers several interdisciplinary concentrations and tracks which include courses taught by faculty in Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Engineering, and Medicine. The faculty is vigorous, innovative, and engaged in a wide variety of research, education, and university and public service activities. The Department encourages student-faculty interaction.
The goal of the undergraduate major in Physics is to develop expert problem solvers with a broad understanding of physical principles. The program is flexible and prepares students for careers in industrial research, applications programming, education, law, or business, as well as for graduate study in astronomy, biomedical physics, engineering, or physics. Annual mandatory meetings with faculty advisors assist students in selecting a program that matches their aptitudes and interests. In addition to the core Physics courses, students complete either a standard track (such as the track for future Ph.D. physicists), or one of the formal concentrations or specializations (in Applied Physics, Biomedical Physics, Computational Physics, Philosophy of Physics, Physics Education, or Astrophysics). In addition, Physics majors may find the minor in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, offered by the Department of Earth System Science, to be of interest.
The three lower-division sequences in physics are distinguished by their intended audience, their mathematical prerequisites, and the extent to which they offer preparation for more advanced courses. These aspects of the beginning courses are summarized as follows:
Physics 3: Intended audience: Premedical students, Biological Sciences majors. Prerequisites: concurrent enrollment in Mathematics 2A. Preparation for advanced courses: Physics 7D with permission.
Physics 7: Intended audience: Physical Sciences and Engineering majors. Prerequisite: concurrent enrollment in Mathematics 2. Preparation for advanced courses: Physics 51A.
Physics 12-21: Intended audience: Nonscience majors. Prerequisites: none. Preparation for advanced courses: none.
Admission to the Major
Students may be admitted to the Physics major upon entering the University as freshmen, via change of major, and as transfer students from other colleges and universities. Information about change of major policies is available in the Physical Sciences Student Affairs Office and at http://www.changeofmajor.uci.edu. For transfer student admission, preference will be given to junior-level applicants with the highest grades overall, and who have satisfactorily completed the following required courses: one year of approved calculus and one year of calculus-based physics with laboratory for engineering and physics majors.
REQUIREMENTS FOR THE B.S. DEGREE IN PHYSICS
University Requirements: See pages 54-61.
School Requirements: None.
Physics 7C-D-E with laboratory courses 7LC-LD; Mathematics 2A-B, 2D-E, 2J, 3D; Physics 50; Physics 60; Physics 61A-B*; Physics 52A-B-C; Physics 53 (or another programming course); Physics 111A-B, 112A-B, 113A, 115A, 121, and 125A; Physics 194; and five additional coherently related four-unit courses. (The five coherently related courses are normally satisfied by concentrations, specializations, and tracks.)
* For students transferring into the major after taking Physics 51A-B, Physics 51A-B will be accepted in place of Physics 61A-B.
Upper-Division Writing Requirement: Physics majors are required to satisfy the upper-division writing requirement by completing Physics 194 with a grade of C or better, followed by Physics 121 with a grade of C or better.
Concentration in Applied Physics
Requirements: The six additional coherently related courses required for the major must be in engineering and be approved by the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
Concentration in Biomedical Physics
Requirements: Biological Sciences 97, 98, and 99; Chemistry 1A-B-C, 1LC-LD, 51A-B (or H52A-B).
Concentration in Computational Physics
Requirements: Three courses in computer science (Information and Computer Science 21, 22, 23), two courses in numerical analysis plus the accompanying laboratories (Mathematics 105A-B, 105LA-LB), and one advanced computational course (Mathematics 107, 107L).
Concentration in Philosophy of Physics
Requirements: One course selected from Philosophy or Logic and Philosophy of Science 30, 104, 105A-B-C, or Mathematics 150, 151, 152; Philosophy or LPS 31; Philosophy or LPS 140; one course from History 60, 135B, 135C, or an approved alternative elective; Physics 113B; three courses selected from Philosophy or LPS 102, 121, 141A, 141B, 141C, 141D.
Concentration in Physics Education
Requirements: Physics 193; Education 55; Physical Sciences 5 and 105; four courses selected from Biological Sciences 1A (or 93, 94), Chemistry 1A-B-C, Earth System Science 1 (or 25), 7, Physics 20A-B. Physical Sciences 106 is recommended. (With this concentration, a Secondary Teaching Certification option is available; see page 470.)
Specialization in Astrophysics
Requirements: Physics 139; three astrophysics courses selected from Physics 137, 138, 144, 145; and any two upper-division Physics electives.
Honors Program in Physics
The Honors Program in Physics provides an opportunity for selected students majoring in Physics to pursue advanced work in one of the research areas of the Department. Admission to the program is based on an application normally submitted by the sixth week of the spring quarter of the junior year. Applicants must have an overall grade point average of at least 3.4 and a grade point average in physics courses of 3.5 or better. (Exceptions to these procedures and standards may be granted in unusual circumstances.) In selecting students for the program, the Department considers evidence of ability and interest in research.
Students admitted to the program participate in a year-long course, Physics H196A-B-C, which includes two quarters of research and a final quarter in which a written thesis is submitted. If this work and the student's final GPA are deemed of honors quality by the program advisor, the student then graduates with Departmental Honors in Physics.
PLANNING A PROGRAM OF STUDY
Physics 3 is a one-year course suitable for premedical students, students majoring in Biological Sciences, and nonscience majors. It surveys most of the important branches of physics. Laboratory work accompanies the course. Nonscience majors with some mathematical skill may wish to consider Physics 3 as an alternative to Physics 12 through 21.
A student who decides to major in Physics after completing Physics 3 should meet with the Department Undergraduate Advisor for placement information.
Physics 7 is an intensive four-quarter course for students in Physical Sciences and Engineering who are interested in a careful quantitative approach to macroscopic physics. Laboratory work accompanies the course.
Physics courses numbered between 12 and 21 are general education courses intended for nonscience majors. The content and format of Physics 21 may vary from year to year.
The introduction to mathematical methods (Mathematics 2E, 2J, 3D, and Physics 50), microscopic physics (Physics 61A-B), and experimental physics (Physics 52A-B-C) are normally taken in the sophomore year.
Courses numbered 100 and above are for Physics majors and other qualified students. Courses numbered between 111 and 115 emphasize the mathematical and theoretical structures that have unified our understanding of nature. It should be noted that multi-quarter courses such as 111A-B must be taken and passed in sequential order. Any student who is so inclined may take more than the minimum one quarter of advanced laboratory work. Courses numbered between 132 and 149 introduce active subdisciplines in current research. Independent research (195, 196) is strongly encouraged. In Physics 194, students learn the basics of writing about science, proper use of references and background material, presentation of research proposals, and more.
Transfer students are specifically advised to seek individual consultation with the Department Undergraduate Advisor before deciding on a program of courses.
All Physics majors must complete the core courses listed below. By the end of the junior year, each student must also select a concentration or track.
Note that alternatives to Physics major requirements can be approved upon petition to the Department and the Office of the Associate Dean. Furthermore, exceptionally prepared students are allowed to enroll in graduate-level courses; to do so requires the approval of the Department Undergraduate Advisor.
Sample Program -Physics Core Curriculum
|Mathematics 2A||Mathematics 2B||Mathematics 2D|
|Physics 7C, 7LC||Physics 7D, 7LD||Physics 7E|
|Mathematics 2E||Mathematics 3D||Physics 50|
|Mathematics 2J||Physics 61A||Physics 61B|
|Physics 52A||Physics 52B||Physics 52C|
|Physics 111A||Physics 111B||Physics 53|
|Physics 194||Physics 112A||Physics 112B|
|Physics 115A||Physics 121|
Sample Program- Physics Graduate School Track
|Physics 115A or 116|
|Physics 113B||Physics 113C||Physics 115B|
|Physics 115A or 116||Physics Elective||Physics 125B|
The Applied Physics concentration is designed to provide appropriate education to students who anticipate a career in industrial or technological research. It combines the fundamental knowledge of physical processes obtained from physics courses with the technical knowledge obtained from engineering courses. A student is required to complete six courses in the School of Engineering approved by the Physics and Astronomy Department. Examples of appropriate courses include Engineering EECS70, EECS170A and 170LA, EECS170B and 170LB, EECS170C and 170LC, EECS174, EECS188, MAE120, MAE135, and MAE147. Upon completion of the Applied Physics concentration, the student will receive a B.S. degree in Physics.
Sample Program - Applied Physics Concentration
|Junior||Engr. EECS70A||Engr. EECS70B, 70LB|
|Engr. EECS170A, LA||Engr. EECS170B, LB||Physics 206|
The Biomedical Physics concentration is designed for the student who anticipates a career in physics applied to biology and medicine, such as health physics or radiological physics, or who intends to work in a scholarly field which deals with the physical aspects of biology or medicine, such as molecular biology or physiology. Completion of requirements for the Physics major is required as are nine quarters of basic courses in biology and chemistry. Students who wish to follow the Biomedical Physics concentration are advised to seek guidance early in their college careers. The requirements are such that coordination of a program in the second year is essential.
Sample Program - Biomedical Physics Concentration
|Chemistry 1A||Chemistry 1B||Chemistry 1C, 1LC|
|Chemistry 1LD||Chemistry 51B|
|Bio. Sci. 97||Bio. Sci. 98||Bio. Sci. 99|
The Computational Physics concentration provides training for positions in software development in a wide variety of high-technology fields. For example, consider medical imaging software for magnetic resonance imaging. To write a first-rate program, one must understand the apparatus and analysis techniques (physics), use appropriate numerical techniques (numerical analysis), and employ a convenient object-oriented interface (computer science). The concentration develops this unique set of skills: physical and mathematical insight through the Physics curriculum, knowledge of modern computer programming techniques, and knowledge of numerical analysis.
Sample Program - Computational Physics Concentration
|ICS 21||ICS 22||ICS 23|
|Math. 105A, 105LA||Math. 105B, 105LB||Math. 107, 107L|
The Philosophy of Physics concentration is concerned with the study of the conceptual history of physics, the method of inquiry that has led to our best physical theories, and the structure and interpretation of the theories themselves. Students take courses in deductive and inductive logic, the philosophy and history of physics, and quantum mechanics. The emphasis on careful argument makes this concentration useful for anyone who wishes to pursue a graduate degree in philosophy or law, or for other careers that employ both verbal and quantitative analysis.
The Physics Education concentration is for students who plan a career in secondary education. An Education course, four general science courses, a research methods course, and two quarters of classroom experience complete the requirements for the concentration. Students are encouraged to take Physics 191 (outreach).
Secondary Teaching Certification Option: With additional course work and field experience offered through the UCI Cal Teach program, students who complete the concentration in Physics Education can also earn a California Preliminary Single Subject Teaching Credential. Completing the bachelor's degree, concentration, and teacher certification in four years is possible with careful, early planning. Additional courses required for teacher certification are Logic and Philosophy of Science 60; Education 109, 143A, 143B, 148, and two quarters of 158. Successful completion of Education 143A-B and 148 will be accepted in lieu of Physics 125A and 194 for Cal Teach students. For additional information about teacher certification requirements and enrollment procedures, see page 436. Interested students are strongly encouraged to contact the Physical Sciences Student Affairs Office or the Cal Teach Resource and Advising Center.
Sample Program - Concentration in Physics
with Secondary Teaching Certification Option
|Math. 2A||Math. 2B||Math. 2D|
|Physics 7C, 7LC||Physics 7D, 7LD||Physics 7E|
|Gen. Ed.||Gen. Ed.||Gen. Ed.|
|(Physics 99)||Physical Sciences 5||Gen. Ed.|
|Math. 2J||Math. 3D||Physics 50|
|Math. 2E||Physics 61A||Physics 61B|
|Physics 52A||Physics 52B||Physics 52C|
|Physical Sciences 105||Physics 193||Log. & Philo. Sci. 60|
|Physics 111A||Physics 111B||Physics 53|
|Physics 60||Physics 112A||Physics 112B|
|General Science||General Science||Physics 113A|
|General Science||Education 143A||Education 143B|
|Physics 115A||Gen. Ed.||Physics 121|
|General Science||Education 109||Gen. Ed.|
|Education 148||Education 158||Education 158|
The Astrophysics specialization is primarily taken by two types of students, those planning on going on to graduate school in astronomy or astrophysics and those planning to work in aeronautics or astrophysics-related industries or government research laboratories after receiving their bachelor's degree. It also is an excellent focus for students who anticipate careers in science journalism, teaching, science administration, or public relations. The course work includes one upper-division astrophysics laboratory (139), three of four courses in astrophysics (137, 138, 144, 145), and two or more upper-division Physics courses. Of the Physics electives, students bound for graduate school are strongly advised to include Physics 113B, 115B, and 125B. Other recommended electives include Physics 116, 132, 134A, 135, and 136.
Sample Program - Astrophysics Specialization
|Physics 116||Physics 137||Physics 144 or 145|
|Physics 113B||Physics 138||Physics 115B|
The Department offers the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Physics. These degrees are awarded in recognition of demonstrated knowledge of the basic facts and theories of physics and of a demonstrated capacity for independent research. Active programs of research are underway in particle physics, nanophysics, biophysics, medical physics, condensed matter physics, low-temperature physics, plasma physics, gravitational physics, astrophysics, and cosmology.
In general, graduate study in the physics Ph.D. program is expected to be a full-time activity. Other proposed arrangements should be approved by the Graduate Committee. The normative time for completion of the Ph.D. is six years of full-time study, and the maximum time permitted is seven years. Students may pursue the M.S. degree on either a full-time or part-time basis.
Complementing the formal courses, the Department offers regular colloquia and informal seminars. Graduate students are members of an intellectual community and are expected to participate fully in departmental activities. Attendance at colloquia is considered an essential part of graduate study. In addition, there are regular weekly research seminars in condensed matter, particle, and plasma physics, and astrophysics.
Sources of support available to graduate students include teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and fellowships. Students planning to pursue graduate work in Physics should visit the Department Web site at http://www.physics.uci.edu.
Students admitted into the graduate program in Physics and Astronomy may elect to pursue the M.S. or Ph.D. degree with a concentration in Chemical and Materials Physics, as described in a later section.
MASTER OF SCIENCE IN PHYSICS
The requirements for the M.S. degree are (1) at least three quarters of residence; (2) mastery of graduate course material, which must be demonstrated by passing, with a grade of B or better, a minimum of eight quarter courses including Physics 211, 213A-B, 214A, 215A, 223, and two other courses approved by the graduate advisor, which can include undergraduate upper-division courses in related areas, and (3) either Option A, a research project and written thesis, or, Option B, a comprehensive written examination. Students pursuing Option A typically complete three quarters of research, enrolling in Physics 295 or 296. Students following Option B should take Physics 215B.
(The requirements for the M.S. degree with a concentration in Chemical and Materials Physics differ from these.)
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY IN PHYSICS
The principal requirements for the Ph.D. degree are a minimum of six quarters of residence, passage of a written and an oral examination, and successful completion and defense of a dissertation reporting results of original research. In addition, the Ph.D. candidate must complete certain graduate course requirements. There is no foreign language requirement.
Course Requirements. Students are required to exhibit mastery of the basic sequencesClassical Mechanics, Electromagnetic Theory, Quantum Mechanics, Mathematical Physics, and Statistical Physics. A minimum of 12 quarter courses including 211, 212A, 213A-B, 214A, 215A-B, 223, at least two other courses numbered between 200 and 259, and two other courses approved by the graduate advisor, must be passed with a grade of B or better. Students are strongly encouraged to take Physics 211, 212A, 213A-B, 214A, 215A-B, and 223 in their first year of study. It is expected that students, having selected a research specialty, will ordinarily take the core courses in that subject in their second year of study. Students pursuing research in elementary particle physics ordinarily complete Physics 215C during their first year and Physics 234A-B-C and 235A-B during their second year. Students pursuing research in plasma physics ordinarily complete Physics 239A during their first year and Physics 239B-C-D their second year; Physics 249 is also recommended. Students pursuing research in condensed-matter physics ordinarily take Physics 238A-B-C during their second year; Physics 133 should be taken in the first year by those students who have not had an equivalent course. Students pursuing research in astrophysics/cosmology ordinarily complete Physics 240A during spring of their first year; 240B, C in their second year; and one or more of Physics 241B, C, D in their second or subsequent years. Students interested in medical imaging should take Physics 233 in the second year. Students pursuing research in biological physics should take Physics 230A-B in the second year. Students who have earned grades of B or better in equivalent graduate-level courses prior to entering UCI may be exempted from required courses by the graduate advisor. Equivalency will be determined by the instructor of each course for which an exemption is sought.
NOTE: The requirements for the Ph.D. degree with a concentration in Chemical and Materials Physics (ChaMP) differ from these and are outlined in a later section.
Comprehensive Examination. Progress toward the degree is assessed by a written comprehensive examination covering a broad range of fundamentals of physics at the graduate and advanced undergraduate levels. It is offered twice a year, and a student is allowed a maximum of three attempts. The first attempt must occur before the end of the fall quarter of the student's second year, and the examination must be passed by the end of spring quarter of the student's second year.
Advancement to Ph.D. Candidacy. For advancement to Ph.D. candidacy, a student must pass an oral advancement examination. It is typically taken within one year of successful completion of the comprehensive examination. To satisfy normative progress toward the degree, it must be taken by the end of the student's third year. The candidacy committee that administers this examination will contain one or two faculty members from outside the Department. This oral examination will cover material principally related to the broad and general features of the student's dissertation area.
Teaching Program. Experience in teaching is an integral part of the graduate program, and all Ph.D. students are required to participate in the teaching program for at least three quarters during their graduate careers. All new teaching assistants are required to enroll in Physics 269 and must pass in order to be allowed to TA in future quarters. Students are required to enroll in Physics 399 while serving as a TA. Lab TAs are required to enroll in Physics 395 as well as 399.
Students who are not citizens from countries where English is either the primary or dominant language as approved by the UCI Graduate Council must pass either the Test of Spoken English (TSE) or the UCI SPEAK (Speaking Proficiency English Assessment Kit) examination. One of these tests must be passed before such a student can qualify for a teaching assistantship in order to fulfill the Department's teaching requirement. The Department expects one of these tests to be passed by the end of the student's second year at UCI.
Dissertation. A dissertation summarizing the results of original research performed by the student under the supervision of a doctoral committee, appointed by the Department Chair on behalf of the Dean of the Graduate Division and the Graduate Council, will be required for the Ph.D. degree. A criterion for the acceptability of a dissertation by the Department is that it be suitable for publication in a scientific journal. The dissertation must not have been submitted to any other institution prior to its submission to the UCI Physics and Astronomy Department.
Defense of Dissertation. Upon completion of the dissertation, the student will take an oral examination, open to the public, before the doctoral committee.
CONCENTRATION IN CHEMICAL AND MATERIALS PHYSICS
This is an interdisciplinary program between condensed matter physics and physical chemistry, which is designed to eliminate the barrier between these two disciplines. Students with B.S. degrees in Physics, Chemistry, or Materials Science and Engineering, are encouraged to apply to the program. The goal of the concentration in Chemical and Materials Physics (ChaMP) is to provide students with a broad interdisciplinary education in the applied physical sciences that emphasizes modern laboratory and computational skills. The program accepts students for both the M.S. and the Ph.D. degrees. Upon admission to the program, students are assigned two faculty advisors, one from the Department of Physics and Astronomy, and one from the Department of Chemistry, to provide guidance on curriculum and career planning.
The curriculum for the M.S. program includes a summer session to assimilate students with different undergraduate backgrounds; formal shop, laboratory, and computational courses; a sequence on current topics to bridge the gap between fundamental principles and applied technology; and a course to develop communication skills. The required courses include thirteen core courses and three electives (subject to advisor approval) as follows: Core: Physics 206, 207, 228, 229A, 266; Physics 273 or Chemistry 273; Chemistry 231A or Physics 215A; Chemistry 231B or Physics 215B; Chemistry 231C, 232A-B; one course from each of the following two groups: Physics 211 or 222; Physics 133 or 238A or Chemistry 236. Electives: Physics 134A, 213C, 223, 229B, 233A, 233B, 238A, 238B, 238C, Chemistry 213, 225, 226, 232C, 233, 243, 248, 249, Engineering EECS285B, MSE259A. In addition to the required courses, M.S. students complete a master's thesis. Students are required to advance to candidacy for the master's degree at least one quarter prior to filing the master's thesis. There is no examination associated with this advancement, but the thesis committee needs to be selected and appropriate forms need to be filed. The M.S. program prepares students to compete for high-tech jobs or to begin research toward a Ph.D. degree.
Successful completion of the M.S. degree requirements qualifies students for the Ph.D. program. Progress toward the Ph.D. degree is assessed by a written comprehensive examination administered in the summer after completion of the first year of study. This examination covers comprehensive knowledge acquired in course work, and the content of the examination depends upon the student's specific area of interest.
Participants in the Ph.D. program take an examination for formal advancement to candidacy. It is typically taken within one year of successful completion of the comprehensive examination. To satisfy normative progress toward the degree, it must be taken by the end of the student's third year. The examination is comprised of two parts: (a) a written report on a topic to be determined in consultation with the research advisor and (b) an oral report on research accomplished and plans for completion of the Ph.D. dissertation.