UCSB Campus

UCSB Campus

Undergraduate Education: Program Descriptions

The Physics BS requirements have been revised as of the 2012-13 academic year, and some courses have been renumbered.  To see how these changes affect you, go to the FAQ.

Course Checklist for Majors | Recommended Courses: Freshmen/Sophomores | Juniors/Seniors

There is great flexibility in paths to a degree in physics at UCSB. The standard program, which is in the College of Letters and Science (L&S), leads to either a BA or BS degree. The BS program is for those aiming for a career in physics, while the BA is a more flexible program allowing more courses from other areas. Within the BS program there are three possible schedules of courses - a standard track, an advanced track, and an honors track - leading to a degree in four years. These tracks include increasingly more electives and undergraduate research.


Freshman and Sophomore Years

The emphasis is placed on introducing the fundamental ideas of physics in both an experimental and theoretical setting. The six quarter introductory sequence takes the student through a survey which includes: mass, space, time, energy, motion, waves, sound, electricity, magnetism, light, atoms, molecules, solids, liquids, gases, plasmas and nuclei, from Newton to Einstein, from Franklin to Maxwell, from Dalton to Schrodinger and Heisenberg, from absolute to relative motion, and from certainty to probability.

Backed by a very well equipped lecture demonstration and audio-visual facility, lectures include elaborate presentations of a variety of physical phenomena. Principles of physics may be illustrated by demonstrations that range from tight-rope walking, liquid nitrogen and super balls to laser beams.

Junior and Senior Years

The core of the upper division program for the Bachelor of Science degree requires: one quarter of thermodynamics, mathematical methods, classical mechanics and advanced experimental physics, two quarters of electromagnetic theory and a year of quantum mechanics. Students will also choose among a large selection of more specialized physics elective courses to complete the remaining units required for the B.S. degree (All requirements, and a proposed schedule for the upper division program are outlined on the following pages). The B.S. degree is recommended for those intending to go on to graduate study and/or a career in physics.

The Bachelor of Arts degree program allows the upper division major more freedom in selecting a course sequence. The only restriction, beyond individual course prerequisites, is that 6 of the 42 upper division physics units required for the degree be made up of advanced laboratory courses.

In the upper division, the courses present the student with a more sophisticated and formal study of the discipline. Concepts and techniques are illustrated with reference to modern analysis and research. Together, they enable the student to connect diverse phenomena at an advanced level and to generalize to new systems and discoveries.

The upper division laboratory facilities are excellent. The electronics laboratory is individualized, and students can expect to gain a working knowledge of contemporary electronics. The advanced laboratory gives students direct experience with those experiments which were instrumental in revolutionizing modern physics.