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), and applied physics. 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 (astrophysics) program requirements, please see the program description in the General Catalog.
Study and Research Opportunities
- B.S., M.S., Ph.D., undergraduate minor, and a combined B.S./M.S. degree
- The number of research opportunities for physics undergraduates is exceptionally high.
- Within upper-division classes we offer a wide array of labs, including astronomical labs where students operate UC telescopes, and computational labs where students write their own codes.
- 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 Science Education.
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
- Professional schools
- Patent law
- Physics and astronomy research
These are only samples of the field’s many possibilities.
Astrophysics students and faculty use a number of UCSC research facilities: The Theoretical Astrophysics Santa Cruz (TASC) Institute, University of California Observatories (headquartered at UCSC), and the Supercomputing Laboratory for Undergraduates (SLUG). Lick Observatory, home to the first automated planet-finding telescope, provides additional local research opportunities.
Awards, Honors, and Recognitions
The Physics 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. The Astronomy Department includes five members of the National Academy of Sciences, six members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the Mexican Academy of Sciences, and an honorary member of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Konstantin Batygin (BS 2008) won the Steck Award for best undergraduate thesis and was recently hired as a professor at Caltech.
Melinda Soares (BS 2014) started UCSC as a single mother, did outstanding work, and is now a graduate student at Princeton University.
Ricardo Fernandez (BS 2011) was the first in his family to attend college. He transferred to UCSC and is now in an astrophysics Ph.D. program at Columbia University.
General Catalog Information
Physics Department Office:
Interdisciplinary Sciences Building, Rm 211
University of California, Santa Cruz
1156 High Street
Santa Cruz, California 95064