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 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 UC Santa Cruz 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 alternative paths 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 alternative paths 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 5A | Introduction to Physics I | 5 |
PHYS 5B | Introduction to Physics II | 5 |
PHYS 5C | Introduction to Physics III | 5 |
MATH 19A | Calculus for Science, Engineering, and Mathematics | 5 |
MATH 19B | Calculus for Science, Engineering, and Mathematics | 5 |
MATH 23A | Vector Calculus | 5 |
A minimum GPA of 2.7 must be obtained in the following courses
In addition, the following course is recommended prior to transfer to ensure timely graduation:
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
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 advisor 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, 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 are 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 applied 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 physics major, students must achieve a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 2.70 or greater in the following courses, or their equivalents:
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 the physics major requirements must be taken for a letter grade.
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.
Students who complete the Physics B.S. and the astrophysics minor cannot use any courses that satisfy the requirements for the minor as electives for the major.
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 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:
MATH 19A | Calculus for Science, Engineering, and Mathematics | 5 |
MATH 20A | Honors Calculus | 5 |
Plus one of the following courses:
MATH 19B | Calculus for Science, Engineering, and Mathematics | 5 |
MATH 20B | Honors Calculus | 5 |
Plus all of the following courses:
MATH 23A | Vector Calculus | 5 |
MATH 23B | Vector Calculus | 5 |
PHYS 5A | Introduction to Physics I | 5 |
PHYS 5L | Introduction to Physics I Laboratory | 1 |
PHYS 5B | Introduction to Physics II | 5 |
PHYS 5M | Introduction to Physics II Laboratory | 1 |
PHYS 5C | Introduction to Physics III | 5 |
PHYS 5N | Introduction to Physics Laboratory III | 1 |
PHYS 5D | Introduction to Physics IV | 5 |
Plus one of the following courses or equivalent:
ASTR 119 | Introduction to Scientific Computing | 5 |
CSE 20 | Beginning Programming in Python | 5 |
Upper-Division Courses
All of the following courses:
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 physics and a mathematics B.A. or B.S., and take MATH 107 in the year 2017 or later.
And one of these two courses:
Electives
Three courses 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.
Students who wish to go to graduate school in physics after the Physics B.S. are recommended to complete both PHYS 110B and PHYS 139B instead of one of them, and complete PHYS 116D.
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 one of the following options:
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 the following course:
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.
Physics B.S.: Freshman Academic Plan
*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 adviser.
Physics B.S. Transfer Academic Plan One
*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.
Physics B.S. Transfer Academic Plan Two
For students who have not completed the equivalent of PHYS 5D:
*Students writing a senior thesis should replace PHYS 182 with the two-quarter sequence PHYS 195A and PHYS 195B.