Astrophysics Major

Program Requirements

  • Total units required: 52-59

Students must complete all course work for the astrophysics major with a grade of at least a C-.

Required Introductory Courses

Majors in astrophysics are required to complete a series of introductory courses.

They may take either:

Physics 191Physics I3
Physics 191LPhysics I Laboratory1
Physics 192Physics II3
Physics 192LPhysics II Laboratory1
Total Units8

or (recommended for majors):

Physics 193Focused Physics I4
Physics 193LFocused Physics I Laboratory1
Physics 194Focused Physics II4
Physics 194LPhysics II Laboratory1
Total Units10

Required Courses

In addition, majors in astrophysics are required to complete the following courses:

Physics 217Introduction to Quantum Physics3
Physics 312Introduction to Astrophysics3
Physics 322Physical Measurement Laboratory3
Physics 411Mechanics3
Physics 421Electricity and Magnetism3
Total Units15

One additional laboratory course must be chosen from the following:

Physics 316Optics and Wave Physics Laboratory3
Physics 321Electronics Laboratory3
Physics 427Introduction to Computational Physics3
Physics 435Nuclear and Radiochemistry Lab3

Required Advanced Courses

In addition to the above requirements, students who are earning the astrophysics major are required to complete three advanced electives (300 level and above). Students who declare an astrophysics major and who complete both Physics 125A Solar System Astronomy and Physics 126A Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmology will be required to complete two advanced electives (300 level and above). They will choose courses from the following list. Students must receive letter grades for these advanced courses.

Physics 446Galactic Astrophysics3
Physics 456Stellar Astrophysics3
Physics 460X-ray & Gamma-ray Astrophysics3
Physics 476Astrophysics3
Physics 478From Black Holes to the Big Bang3
Physics 3330Planets and Life in the Universe3

They must also complete one additional course from the preceding list of five courses or one from the following list of courses:

EEPS 353Earth Forces4
EEPS 407Remote Sensing3
Physics 422Electricity and Magnetism II3
Physics 474Introduction to Particle Physics3
Physics 477Physics of Finite and Infinite Nuclear Systems3
Physics 547Intro to Elementary Particle Physics3
Physics 558Relativistic Astrophysics3
MEMS 3410Fluid Mechanics3

Required Math Courses

Math 131Calculus I3
Math 132Calculus II3
Math 217Differential Equations3
Math 233Calculus III3
Total Units12

Students who have completed Math 203 Honors Mathematics I and Math 204 Honors Mathematics II will have fulfilled the requirement for Math 131 Calculus IMath 132 Calculus II, and Math 233 Calculus III

Science-Breadth Requirement

Majors must select one of the following courses to satisfy the science-breadth requirement:

Chem 105Principles of General Chemistry I3
Chem 106Principles of General Chemistry II3
Chem 111AGeneral Chemistry I3
Chem 112AGeneral Chemistry II3
Chem 151General Chemistry Laboratory I2
Chem 152General Chemistry Laboratory II2
Chem 401Physical Chemistry I3
Chem 402Physical Chemistry II3
Chem 445Instrumental Methods: Physical Chemistry3
CSE 131Introduction to Computer Science3
CSE 132Introduction to Computer Engineering3
CSE 247Data Structures and Algorithms3
EEPS 202Introduction to Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Science3

Students who receive Advanced Placement credit or the equivalent of advanced placement credit (indicated with the use of CHEM 103 Advanced Placement Chemistry I and/or CHEM 104 Advanced Placement Chemistry II by the Chemistry department) may use those credits toward the science-breadth requirement.

Additional Information

Senior Honors

Students are encouraged to work toward Latin honors (i.e., cum laude, magna cum laude, and summa cum laude). To qualify, students must meet the academic requirements of the College and successfully complete a suitable project under the supervision of a faculty member in the department. The project, whether experimental or theoretical, should demonstrate the student's capacity for independent work. Honors candidates must apply to the Undergraduate Studies Committee no later than the the first day of classes of their senior year. The application should include a description of the proposed project, co-signed by the supervising professor. A written report of the completed work must be submitted to the committee by a March deadline. By enrolling in Physics 499, students may earn up to 6 units of credit for the honors project.

The physics department also offers physics majors the possibility to earn departmental distinctions. These distinctions require the same grade point average cutoffs as Latin honors but are calculated exclusively from the grades in physics courses (i.e., all courses with the prefix L31). Three levels of distinction are offered: 1) highest distinction; 2) high distinction; and 3) distinction. The highest and high distinctions require at least one semester of undergraduate research and a senior thesis describing the results; these distinctions are limited to the top 15% (highest distinction) and the top 15% to 50% (high distinction) of the physics majors in their senior year as ranked by their GPA in the physics courses. Students who meet the GPA cutoff but who do not undertake undergraduate research and a senior thesis may only receive the third level of distinction.

Transfer Credit and Study Abroad

Students may transfer up to 9 credits of advanced course work (300+ level) to satisfy major requirements by taking comparable physics courses at another institution. Prior approval by the department is needed. Online or other distance learning courses are not eligible for transfer credit.

Contact Info