Physics Major, Biophysics Specialization

Program Requirements

  • Total units required: 46-48

Required Introductory Courses

Majors in physics 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

or (recommended for majors):

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

Required Courses

Majors in physics are required to complete the following courses:

Physics 217Introduction to Quantum Physics3
Physics 322Physical Measurement Laboratory3
Physics 411Mechanics3
Physics 421Electricity and Magnetism3
Total Units12

They must also complete one additional upper-level laboratory course, chosen from the following:

Physics 316Optics and Wave Physics Laboratory3
Physics 321Electronics Laboratory3
Physics 360Biophysics Laboratory3
Physics 427Introduction to Computational Physics3
Physics 435Nuclear and Radiochemistry Lab3

Upper-level courses: Majors are required to complete a minimum of 21 units of advanced courses (300 level or higher) in Physics, excluding Physics 341, Physics 342, Physics 441Physics 442, Physics 499 and Physics 500. These 21 units may include courses listed above and may also include one upper level engineering class chosen from the following:

ESE 351Signals and Systems3
ESE 429Basic Principles of Quantum Optics and Quantum Information3
ESE 436Semiconductor Devices3
ESE 438Applied Optics3
ESE 441Control Systems3
ESE 482Digital Signal Processing3
ESE 531Nano and Micro Photonics3
ESE 532Introduction to Nano-Photonic Devices3
ESE 582Fundamentals and Applications of Modern Optical Imaging3
MEMS 3410Fluid Mechanics3

Students must receive letter grades for these advanced courses, and the course must be completed with a grade of at least a C-.

Math courses required for the physics major:

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 I, Math 132 Calculus II, and Math 233 Calculus III.

Math courses recommended for the physics major:

Science-breadth requirement: Majors must select three of the following courses to satisfy the science-breadth requirement. One of the three courses must be Chem 103 Advanced Placement Chemistry I, Chem 104 Advanced Placement Chemistry II, Chem 105 Principles of General Chemistry I, Chem 106 Principles of General Chemistry II, Chem 111A General Chemistry I, Chem 112A General Chemistry II, Chem 401 Physical Chemistry I or Chem 402 Physical Chemistry II.

Biol 2960Principles of Biology I4
Biol 2970Principles of Biology II4
Chem 103Advanced Placement Chemistry I3
Chem 104Advanced Placement Chemistry II3
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 have received credit for Chem 103 Advanced Placement Chemistry I and Chem 104 Advanced Placement Chemistry II can use them toward the science-breadth requirement.

Requirements for the Biophysics Specialization

Physics majors may concentrate in the subfield of biophysics by taking the following courses (as part of their distribution requirements): 
Physics requirement:
Physics 463Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics3
One of the following:
Physics 350Physics of the Brain3
or Physics 450 Physics of the Brain
Physics 355Physics of Vision3
or Physics 455 Physics of Vision
One of the following:
Physics 354Physics of Living Systems3
or Physics 454 Physics of Living Systems
Physics 453Topics in Theoretical Biophysics3
Physics 481Critical Analysis of Scientific Data3
Physics 509Nonlinear Dynamics3
Physics 563Topics in Theoretical Biophysics3
Biology requirements:
Biol 2960Principles of Biology I4
Biol 2970Principles of Biology II4
Total Units8

Note: Students who want to have the biophysics track displayed on their transcript must inform the Department of Physics at least one semester before their graduation date. Contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies with any questions.

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