Physics seeks to discover the fundamental regularities or “laws” that govern our universe and to apply these laws to explain the behavior of fundamental and complex systems. The Physics Department offers majors in physics, physics (astrophysics), applied physics, and physics education. These programs prepare students for graduate work in physics, astrophysics and astronomy, for engineering and other technical positions in industry, and for careers in education. With appropriate courses in other disciplines, these majors provide excellent preparation for advanced study in technical subjects such as biology, chemistry, engineering, geophysics, and the philosophy of science. The applied physics major is excellent preparation for positions in industry directly upon graduation.

For more information about the physics program requirements, please see the Physical and Biological Sciences Undergraduate Advising web site at

Degrees Offered

  • B.S.
  • M.S.
  • Minor
  • Ph.D.

Study and Research Opportunities

  • B.S., M.S., Ph.D., undergraduate minor, and a new combined B.S./M.S. degree
  • The number of research opportunities for physics undergraduates is exceptionally high.
  • The senior thesis requirement enables students to interact professionally with faculty in a research environment.
  • The California Teach program at UCSC supports student outreach, advises students, and arranges teaching internships for physics education students.

Information for First-Year Students (Freshmen)

High school students coming directly to UCSC should emphasize their math preparation with the expectation that they will take calculus in their first quarter at UCSC in order to concurrently take the Physics 5 series, calculus-based physics for physics majors.

Information for Transfers

Students transferring to UCSC as junior physics, astrophysics, or applied physics majors should have completed the equivalent of three quarters of introductory calculus-based physics with laboratory and the equivalent of three quarters of calculus. It is also desirable to have an introductory course in modern physics as well as mathematics courses in linear algebra, vector calculus, and differential equations. The Physics Department advises each junior transfer student individually upon their arrival.


  • Business and industry
  • Computer hardware and software
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Professional schools
  • Patent law
  • Physics research

These are only samples of the field’s many possibilities. 


Physics students and faculty use a number of UCSC research facilities: the Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics (SCIPP) and The UC Observatories (headquartered at UCSC). Proximity to the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory, and NASA’s AMES Research Center provides additional local research opportunities.

Awards, Honors, and Recognitions

The department has eight winners of the UCSC Excellence in Teaching Award, 14 Fellows of the American Physical Society, and three members of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Alumni Focus

Konstantin Batygin (BS 2008) won the Steck Award for best undergraduate thesis and is now an Assistant Professor of Geological & Planetary Sciences at Caltech.

Sharon Gerbode (BS 2003) did her senior thesis with Bruce Schumm, received her PhD at Cornell, and is now faculty at Harvey Mudd College.

Andrew Johnson (BS 2013) worked in SCIPP laboratory on digital data transmission for ATLAS and is now studying Petroleum Engineering in Texas.

Department Website

More Information

Physics Department Office:
Interdisciplinary Sciences Building, Rm 211

University of California, Santa Cruz
1156 High Street
Santa Cruz, California 95064
(831) 459-3744