Feb 21, 2024
Requirements for the Physics Major (PHYS)
Physics Requirements (79-82 units): To receive the B.S. in Physics, students must adhere to all UC Merced and School of Natural Sciences General Education and Courses Required Outside of Natural Sciences and Engineering. The Physics major consists of 21 courses (11 lower division and 12 upper division) designed to give all students a common foundation of core knowledge specific to the discipline.
Lower Division Major Requirements [41-42 Units]
Upper Division Core Physics Courses [20 Units]
Minicourses [8 Units]
The minicourses are half-semester courses designed to round out a student’s core training in physics. Physics majors are required to take all four of these minicourses.
Upper Division Physics Electives [6-8 Units]
Students are required to complete two upper division physics electives. Appropriate nonphysics courses may be substituted for the physics electives, with faculty approval, as part of an emphasis track.
Senior Thesis Research [4 Units]
All students are required to complete a senior thesis consisting of independent research performed under the tutelage of a faculty advisor. Typically, this research is the culmination of a student’s emphasis track (see below). The thesis advisor may be a faculty member in either physics or another discipline, allowing for the possibility of cross-disciplinary research projects. To complete the thesis, a student must take (at least) 2 units of PHYS 195 and 2 units of PHYS 196, typically in the fall and spring, respectively, of the senior year.
Students are encouraged to choose their electives to form an emphasis track in an area of physics or interdisciplinary study. The established emphasis tracks are: Atomic/Molecular/Optical (AMO) Physics; Mathematical Physics; and Biophysics. Students may also propose and design their own customized emphasis tracks, with the assistance of their faculty advisors. A customized track must consist of at least 12 units. Typically, the track includes the three upper division physics electives and culminates with the student’s senior thesis (PHYS 195/PHYS 196). Other upper division courses may be substituted for the two physics electives if they are deemed appropriate to the track. Any customized emphasis track must be approved by the student’s faculty advisor at least two semesters prior to completion of the degree. A student may also choose not to participate in the track program at all, although the senior thesis and two physics electives are still degree requirements.
Below are the requirements for students who wish to select their Physics electives to form an established emphasis track:
Note that students are not required to follow an established track. Modifications to the suggested tracks may be made with faculty approval, and customized tracks may also be developed.
To be admitted to the Physics major transfer students must meet the following requirements:
Applicants will, at the time of admission have completed at minimum each of the following courses (or their equivalent) with a “C-” or better:
Applicants must have a minimum overall GPA of 2.8 in transferable courses. Any outstanding General Education and Major preparation coursework will be completed at UC Merced. Students should also consult the Information for Prospective Students link on the School of Natural Sciences website naturalsciences.ucmerced.edu for more information.
Physics Program Learning Outcomes
Graduates from the Physics B.S. program will have demonstrated the following:
- Physical Principles. Students will be able to apply basic physical principles—including classical mechanics, electricity and magnetism, quantum mechanics, and statistical mechanics—to explain, analyze, and predict a variety of natural phenomena.
- Mathematical Expertise. Students will be able to translate physical concepts into mathematical language. Furthermore students will be able to apply advanced mathematical techniques (e.g., calculus, linear algebra, probability, and statistics) in their explanations, analyses, and predictions of physical phenomena.
- Experimental Techniques. Students will be able to take physical measurements in an experimental laboratory setting and analyze these results to draw conclusions about the physical system under investigation, including whether their data supports or refutes a given physical model.
- Communication and Teamwork Skills. Students will be able to clearly explain their mathematical and physical reasoning, both orally and in writing, and will be able to communicate and work effectively in groups on a common project.
- Research Proficiency. Students will be able to formulate personal research questions that expand their knowledge of physics. Students will be able to apply sound scientific research methods to address these questions, either by researching the current literature or developing independent results.
Sample plans of study for the Physics degree may be found in the School of Natural Sciences website naturalsciences.ucmerced.edu.