Frequently Asked Questions

What do I do if...


I am not a Physics major but want to become one.

If you are a College of Letters and Science (L&S) major, please email the Physics Undergraduate Advisor. Please note that students with a GPA below a 2.0 will not be accepted in to the major. If you are an Engineering major, you need to speak with the Engineering Advising office for release into L&S.


I would like to switch Physics majors (BS to BA or vice versa).

It is the same procedure as above. If you are already a Physics major, all you need to do is the Physics Undergraduate Adviser.


I would like to double major.

You need to check with each department you are proposing to double major in. then email the Physics Undergraduate Adviser.

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I would like to double major in two different colleges.

Please speak with an adviser in each of the colleges/departments.


I would like to find out about GE requirements.

We only handle major requirements. You should visit the College of Letter & Science advising website or make a QLESS appointment to see a college adviser.


I have a question about the content in a course I am taking.

It would be a good idea to speak with your instructor or teaching assistant about course-work related issues.

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I am a transfer student. Where do I get more help and information?

Check out our Undergraduate Transfer Page for information you need.


I am a transfer student who needs help getting transfer work substitutions.

Please email a physics adviser an unofficial copy of your  transcripts if you are transferring from a California community/ city college. A syllabus is needed for every physics and math course taken if you took courses outside of Califonia, went to a private school, or enrolled in UC/Cal State University. In some instances, your course work may need to be evaluated by a faculty advisor, and a Petition for Degree Requirements is necessary. If you need coursework other than Physics evaluated, please email the same materials to the other departments and make sure you copy, Cc, the physics advisors as well.

A note about Physics 21-25:  This series is in general much more difficult than coursework at a junior college, and our upper division courses are geared toward students who have completed the more difficult series. In this case, you may feel more comfortable auditing part of the Physics 20 series. We want you to succeed, so please ask us for help if you need it!


I want to enroll in a minor.

Please email a physics adviser about your interest in the Physics or Astronomy and Planetary Sciences minor. Five units of overlap may occur between a major and minor. Please note that Phsyics majors may not minor in Physics, but may minor in Astronomy and Planetary Science. It is always a good idea to meet with an advisor to make sure you are on the right track and have met all requirements. Once your requirements are fulfilled, the advisor will send you a clearance form via DocuSign. Fill it out and your minor will appear on your diploma. Your GPA must remain at a 2.0 or better in all upper division minor courses and overall. It is your responsibility to alert the undergraduate advisor during the quarter for which you are graduating of your intention to graduate with a minor on your diploma.

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I am graduating. Is there anything I need to do?

Please use GOLD to run a progress check and a major progress check. You may also email a Physics advisor for a major check and/or check with a College of Letters and Science advisor for a progress check.There is nothing worse than finding out a week before you walk in the Commencement Ceremony that your requirements have not been fulfilled. It is your responsibility to make sure that you have completed everything!


I took the Physics 1-2-3-4-5 series instead of the Physics 21-22-23-24-25 series because I was previously a different major.

In many cases, this would be fine depending on how well you did in the Physics 1-2-3-4-5 courses. In some cases where students have not been successful with Physics 1-2-3-4-5, we strongly recommend looking at other majors. The Physics 20 series are difficult; it is designed to prepare students for the rigorous upper division curriculum. If a student cannot complete the Physics 1-5 series, then the Physics major may not be the best choice. A Petition for Degree Requirements is always necessary for this (or any) substitution not listed on the major sheet. Many times we may recommend that you audit the 20 series to prepare yourself for what you will encounter later in the Physics career.

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I took Physics 6A-B-C + labs because I was previously a different major.

We will not substitute Physics 6A/L-B/L-C/L for Physics 21-22-23-24-25+ labs. In this case, you would have to enroll in Physics 21-22-23-24-25 + labs for study credit only through the College of L&S. You will not graduate if you do not take the required series. Please make an appointment with a physics adviser for more information.


I want to take a Graduate Level Course and have it count toward my degree requirements.

Complete a petition for an undergraduate to Enroll in a Graduate Level Course, obtain the instructor's signature, then email it to the Physics Graduate Adviser for additional instructions or information and approval.


I want to take a course overseas.

Course(s) would need to be articulated. Please email the Physics EAP Adviser and attach a course syllabus and course description for evaluation. This should be done prior to studying aboard, as there is no guarantee that the course you complete is transferable to the major. See the College of Letters and Science information page for more, non-physics help. Also, please check out the Physics EAP page.

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I need help with my Physics course.

For lower division courses, the Physics Department offers the use of the Physics Study Room (PSR) located on the first floor of Broida, Room 1019. Any undergraduate physics student can come here to study or get help with homework during the period of 8:30 AM - 4:30 PM during the regular academic year. For help with upper division courses, it is best to see the TA assigned to your course, as he or she would be best prepared to answer questions. This allows the lower division TA's to remain open and free for students needing assistance in lower division courses. You can also seek help at CLAS for lower division work - http://www.clas.ucsb.edu/. The resources are out there -- it is up to you to harness them!


I am interested in Physics Outreach or the Physics Circus.

Students interested in the Physics Circus should consult the instructor in charge of the Circus that year. It changes from year to year, so check with Department website or the schedule of classes for that quarter. Other outreach opportunities are also available.


I want to pursue Physics Research.

This decision will prove valuable to you as you embark on the Physics path. Normally, students are not encouraged to pursue research until they have taken a few courses at UCSB. That way, you make initial connections with some faculty through courses, and will feel less intimidated. Start with a faculty member that you know, who you feel comfortable with approaching. See if there is any lab work available for undergraduates. If that does not work, peruse the Physics website for faculty in fields that you find interesting. Start by emailing them. Research is highly recommended for motivated students planning on continuing to graduate school, or who are interested in a Physics related profession. If all else fails, speak with your faculty advisor who may be able to point you in a good starting direction.

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I want to do an internship off campus.

First, you should speak with your faculty advisor. It is possible to do an internship somewhere off campus, or even with a different faculty member on campus. Bring your project for approval to your faculty advisor/research sponsor. Once approved, you may be instructed to enroll in a Physics research course. This will help guarantee that you receive course credit for any work you complete. Next, check with the College of Letters and Science for regulations to make sure that there are no liability issues with you working off campus. If everything checks out, you will be enrolled at UCSB for units through a faculty sponsor or advisor. Once the quarter is complete, your supervisor will need to report to your advisor/sponsor in order for a grade to be submitted.


I have a complaint about a faculty member, TA or staff member.

Depending on the problem, you may want to seek the advice of an advisor. In general, it is good to try to talk to that person first. If that does not work, or you are uncomfortable doing that, it may be a good idea to make an appointment with the Chair of the Department for consultation. We take complaints very seriously, and evaluate each case. Confidentiality is also an extreme priority, so you may remain anonymous.

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I have taken Physics AP exams - what Physics credit do I receive?

Many students have taken Physics AP exams in High School. The breakdown of the exams is found in the General Catalog. It states that:

For a score of 3, 4, or 5:
Physics B Exam = UCSB Physics 10 or Natural Sciences 1A
Physics C Exam (Mechanics) = UCSB Physics 6A (not 6AL)
Physics C Exam (Electricity and Magnetism) = UCSB Physics 6B (not 6BL)

We don't give credit for Physics 1 or 21 via AP exams, however you will find that you will be well prepared for Phys 21 in fall quarter or winter quarter. If you did exceptionally well in the Physics C exams and your major requries the Physics 1-5 series, you may want to think about taking the Physics 20 series instead. The Physics 20 series are taught at a more advanced level than the Physics 1-5 series.

Credit for Physics labs are not given through the Physics Department. Consult your major department for information on Physics 6AL and/or Physics 6BL substitutions.

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