This page describes undergraduate study
in the Department of Physics at the University of California,
Davis. Located in a vibrant college town, our department and the
campus, provide a learning and living environment reminiscent
of a traditional liberal arts college, while offering the curricular
breadth and intellectual excellence of a highly selective, major
The Department of Physics has 38 faculty members
active in teaching and research, 10 emeritus professors active
in the Department and the university, 25 research associates and
post-doctoral physicists, 112 graduate students, and over 150 undergraduates
majoring in physics and applied physics.
The Physics Department is housed in a modern
six-story building that contains laboratories, shop facilities,
faculty and student offices, and classrooms. Our neighbors include
the Crocker Nuclear Laboratory, which houses the 76-inch cyclotron;
Roessler Hall containing large lower-division classrooms and laboratory
facilities; and the Physical Sciences Library with more than 300,000
volumes in physics, astronomy, chemistry, engineering, and geology.
The Chemistry Department, Geology Department, and College of Engineering
are also neighbors. The main library is ranked among the top research
libraries in North America, containing more than 2.6 million volumes.
Strong research programs are under way in all of the major areas of physics. Thus, our courses are taught by faculty expert in the subject of the class. The teaching and research programs are supported by an up-to-date infrastructure of shops and an extensive computer network. The department is friendly and informal. We pride ourselves on our dual commitment to teaching and research.
The UC Davis Department of Physics has a long tradition of dedication to undergraduate education. The faculty are committed to teaching and are available to give physics majors individual attention. Since there are 38 faculty members and about 30 physics majors in each year, the upper-division physics classes have from 5 to 30 students. This allows ample opportunity to get to know professors and to interact with them on a one-to-one basis.
The Department has an extensive offering of
undergraduate courses. The classes are small, the professors are
dedicated, and the atmosphere is friendly. This gives a first-rate
physics education in an outstanding environment. It is excellent
preparation for employment or for further study in the top graduate
schools of the country.
The Department has an exciting honors program.
In our introductory honors physics sequence, we have integrated
modern developments in physics throughout the sequence. Freshman
year material includes chaotic motion, special relativity, cosmology,
and quantum mechanics. In addition to this earlier coverage of
twentieth-century physics, the honors sequence has the advantage
of small class size, which allows more classroom discussion and
more extensive hands-on laboratory experience.
Honors physics is intended for students with
a strong interest in physics and with a good foundation in mathematics
including advanced placement in calculus. With that preparation,
students can start studying physics in their first quarter at
UCD rather than waiting for the standard physics course to begin
in the spring quarter.
The opportunity to become involved in research
is one of the main advantages of attending a major university
like UC Davis. Students who take honors physics are well prepared
and have room in their course schedule to begin research in their
There is also an upper-division honors course,
Special Study for Honors Students.
The Department of Physics offers three degree
programs: The Bachelor of Arts in Physics, the Bachelor of Science
in Physics, and the Bachelor of Science in Applied Physics. The
A.B. in Physics provides a general coverage of classical and modern
physics while permitting a broader liberal arts education than
is possible with the other two programs. The A.B. program is
preferred for a student seeking a secondary teaching credential.
Either the B.S. in Physics or the B.S. in Applied Physics is
preferred for the student who plans to enter physics as a profession.
The B.S. in Applied Physics provides the student with a solid
introduction to a particular applied physics specialty. For the
student who plans to enter the job market after completing a B.S.,
this applied physics orientation would be an asset. Either B.S.
program provides a solid foundation in physics for the student
interested in graduate work in either pure or applied physics.
Areas of Concentration in Applied Physics
Atmospheric physics, chemical physics, geophysics, materials science, physical oceanography, quantum optics. Also there is computational physics, which is a method for physics research rather than a specific subfield. In this concentration, one gets a solid understanding of fundamental physics and develops programming skills that are used to model and simulate physical systems. This is excellent general preparation for a career that later specializes in any of many industries or fields of academic science.
There are opportunities for undergraduate physics students to work on current research projects in collaboration with faculty members and graduate students. For example, a student who worked on neural networks in high energy experimental physics went on to get a Ph.D. in theoretical high energy physics at UC Santa Cruz and is now employed as a researcher at the Fermi National Laboratory. Another who worked on software for applying parallel processing to problems in theoretical condensed matter physics is now employed at Hewlett-Packard. Students currently working on electronics hardware in the experimental high energy group are learning design and fabrication methods that are just now becoming important in industry. The department has many active research programs where a physics student can find an interesting project:
The theoretical and experimental research programs
cover the major areas of physics including elementary particle
physics, nuclear physics, condensed matter physics, gravity, and
cosmology. Our faculty are involved in the latest and most exciting
developments in physics. We also have a group developing and applying
innovative methods in physics education.
The Department has designated faculty for undergraduate
advising. These advisors can help students in planning their program
of study and with other questions related to their study of physics.
PHYSICS CLUB AND ASTRONOMY CLUB
There are active physics and astronomy clubs for undergraduate physics majors. The Physics Club is a social center for students, organizes study groups, and runs an outreach program to area high schools. The Astronomy Club provides students with access to telescopes on campus and runs a sky-viewing program for the public.
Over the years, graduates from the UC Davis Department of Physics have been successful in finding immediate employment and in continuing their study of physics at the top graduate schools in the country, including UC Berkeley, Stanford, Columbia, Yale, and Princeton. Positions in industry and in laboratories for bachelor degree recipients have been at Varian, NASA-Ames, Spectra-Physics, NEC, Lockheed-Martin, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Edwards Air Force Base, among others.
Established in 1905 as the University Farm,
Davis became a general campus of the University of California
Unique within the University
of California system, UC Davis offers a full range of undergraduate
and graduate programs, as well as professional school curricula
in law, management, medicine, and veterinary medicine. It is the
largest of the nine campuses in area (5,200 acres), second largest
in budget, and third largest in enrollment. Surrounded by rich
agricultural fields, the main campus includes a formal arboretum
intertwined by a two-mile footpath along Putah Creek. Davis is
a small, traditional, college town with over 50 miles of bicycle
UC Davis ranks 42nd out of 228 national universities
and 12th among public national universities in the 1999 annual
guide of America's best colleges, produced by U.S. News and World
Report. Even with this prominence, the campus remains dedicated
to its long tradition of excellence in undergraduate education.
While teaching and research provide students
with the academic side of their education, campus life balances
the books. Students enjoy sports, internships, outdoor recreational
activities, student government, clubs, and creative arts programs.
There is a very large and active intramural sports program. Outdoor
Adventures offers opportunities for hiking, rock climbing, rafting,
kayaking, and other activities.
A wide range of performing arts programs take
place throughout the year. The UC Davis Department of Music sponsors
concerts performed by the UCD Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Singers,
Early Music Ensemble, and Electronic Music Studio among others.
The Department of Dramatic Art annually presents five or six major
productions and a number of smaller productions. UC Davis Presents
brings internationally known artists in music, drama, dance, and
other art forms to perform on campus, and sponsors lectures by
nationally known figures.
Both the UC Davis campus and the city of Davis have a relaxed atmosphere with an abundance of open space, trees, and lawns; both maintain an informal, friendly ambiance with emphasis on the personal growth, safety, and overall well-being of students through nationally recognized student programs and city services.
The Davis campus is adjacent to the city of
Davis, which has a population of 54,000. Known as an ecologically
aware and socially innovative town, Davis boasts 50 miles of bicycle
paths and more bicycles per capita than any other city in the
United States. Residents are active in local, national, and international
political causes, in the arts, and in community organizations.
Davis directs much of its attention to enhancing the quality of
life. With students comprising about half of the city's population,
Davis is one of the California's few remaining "college towns."
In that atmosphere, the city offers bookstores, coffee houses,
movie theaters, and other entertainment and recreation oriented
Davis has a Greyhound bus terminal, Amtrak station, and the Sacramento Metropolitan Airport is an easy, 25-minute drive from downtown. Davis weather is almost uniformly mild. The spring and fall seasons are unparalleled for their clear, warm days, and while summer days are hot and dry, the nights are usually cool and comfortable. Overall, it is a most pleasant place to live, to work and to study.
Davis is located in Northern California 15 miles from Sacramento, the state capital. San Francisco is just 75 miles to the southwest. Both offer a wealth of cultural, political, and social opportunities. The beaches of the north coast are two hours to the west. The Napa Valley is about an hour's drive to the northwest. To the east, are whitewater rafting on the American River, Lake Tahoe, and the ski slopes of the Sierra Nevada.