Physics and Astronomy

College of Science and Engineering
Dean: Sheldon Axler

Department of Physics and Astronomy
TH 334
415-338-1659
Fax: 415-338-2178
E-mail: physics@stars.sfsu.edu
Chair: James Lockhart

Graduate Coordinator: Susan M. Lea

Faculty

Professors—Bland, Chen, Cool, Golterman, Greensite, Lea, Lockhart, Neuhauser

Associate Professor—Marzke

Assistant Professors—Fischer, Lepeshkin

Adjunct Professors—Adler, Barsony,  Lipschultz, Marcy, McCarthy

Lecturers—Koskelo, Pommier, Stanford, Waxman

Programs

B.A. in Physics
B.A. in Physics: Concentration in Astronomy
B.S. in Physics
B.S. in Physics: Concentration in Astrophysics
Minor in Astronomy
Minor in Physics
M.S. in Physics


Program Scope

The Physics and Astronomy Department offers strong undergraduate and graduate programs in physics, astronomy, and astrophysics which are designed to prepare students for a variety of careers in science, technology, and teaching, as well as for graduate study. The goal is to educate versatile physicists and astronomers who combine a solid knowledge of theory with real-world skills in problem solving, data acquisition and analysis, and computer-based simulation and analysis. The department specializes in the "hands-on" approach so important in the 21st century.  Students at all levels are encouraged to work on a research project under the direction of a faculty supervisor. The projects may involve experimental laboratory work, astronomical observations and data analysis, or theoretical modeling using analytical and computational approaches.

The Bachelor of Arts in Physics is suited for students whose career goals involve the combination of physics with other fields such as education, engineering, business, or humanities. This program provides excellent preparation for middle school or high school teachers, technical writers, technical salespeople, and technicians. This program stresses education in physics fundamentals with some additional advanced courses, laboratory, and computer work. The B.A. in Physics can be combined with a minor in business, engineering, art, or humanities to prepare students for careers that cross disciplinary lines.

The Bachelor of Arts in Physics: Concentration in Astronomy program is similar to the B.A. in Physics, but with upper division work concentrated in astronomy. This program also provides excellent preparation for middle school or high school teachers and technical writers, as well as observatory or planetarium staff.

The Bachelor of Science in Physics is designed to educate students who plan to pursue education in physics or related fields (M.S. or Ph.D. programs), or who plan to seek employment at physicists, scientific associates, or technical staff members in industry, national laboratories, or academic laboratories. This program combines the education in physics fundamentals of the B.A. program with additional advanced courses, laboratory, and computer work, and more specialized work in a specialty such as solid state physics, optical physics, or computational physics. Students in this program are strongly encouraged to gain research experience. Graduates should have the fundamental mathematical, scientific, and learning skills to enable them to be lifelong learners who can rapidly master new scientific and technical developments. A satisfactory score on an exit examination is required.

The Bachelor of Science in Physics: Concentration in Astrophysics is similar to the B.S. in Physics program, but with significant upper division work in astronomy, as appropriate for students planning employment or graduate study in the area of astrophysics. A senior project with thesis is required.

The Minor in Physics and Minor in Astronomy programs are available for students desiring a coherent program in physics or astronomy but one not as extensive as the B.A. It provides an excellent background for prospective secondary school teachers who wish to teach in physics or astronomy as well as in their major area, or for engineers who want additional depth in areas such as solid state physics or optical physics.

The goal of the Master of Science in Physics is to provide a solid, in-depth background in theoretical and experimental physics, appropriate for students pursuing further education in the field via Ph.D. programs in physics, astronomy, or certain engineering fields, or for those seeking employment as physicists/astronomers in physics/astronomy-related jobs and professions; e.g., as technical associates, laboratory physicists, physics or astronomy data analyzers, engineers, or in education as instructors in junior or community colleges. This program combines advanced education in core physics topics with additional advanced courses, laboratory and computer work, and more concentrated work in a specialty such as solid state physics, quantum optics, astrophysics, or computational physics. Students in this program are strongly encouraged to gain research experience.

UNDERGRADUATE PROGRAMS IN PHYSICS AND ASTRONOMY

High school preparation for these programs should include two years of algebra, one year of geometry, one-half year of trigonometry, one year of chemistry, and one year of physics. Some experience in computer programming is valuable. All students, especially those who have not completed a substantial chemistry course in high school, are strongly urged to take CHEM 115 and 215-216 in their first year of college.

It is suggested that students in these programs consult with their adviser before selecting courses to meet General Education requirements. Unnecessary repetition of elementary topics might be avoided by careful selection of courses. A plan of study prepared in consultation with a department adviser is prerequisite to entry into upper division study. Students who are considering teaching physics at the secondary school level should see a credential adviser in the Physics and Astronomy Department before planning the major since specific courses and a competency assessment are required for admission to the credential program.

Bachelor of Arts in Physics

On-line course descriptions are available.

Lower Division Prerequisites Units
MATH 226-228 Calculus I-III (4 each) 12
PHYS 220/222 General Physics with Calculus I/Laboratory (or PHYS 221/222, Honors) 4
PHYS 230/232 General Physics with Calculus II/Laboratory (or PHYS 231/232, Honors) 4
PHYS 240/242 General Physics with Calculus III/Laboratory (or PHYS 241/242, Honors) 4
Total lower division prerequisites 24
Upper Division Requirements
PHYS 320 Modern Physics I 3
PHYS 321 Modern Physics Laboratory I 2
PHYS 330 Analytical Mechanics I 3
PHYS 360 Electricity and Magnetism I 3
PHYS 370 Thermodynamics 3
PHYS 490 Physics Project Laboratory (2) 2
One of the following:1 3
MATH 374 Advanced Calculus  
PHYS 385 Introduction to Theoretical Physics
Upper division electives on advisement (PHYS 460 recommended) 9
Total upper division requirements 28
Total units for the major 52

Bachelor of Arts in Physics: Concentration in Astronomy

Lower Division Prerequisites Units
MATH 226-228 Calculus I-III (4 each) 12
PHYS 220/222 General Physics with Calculus I/Laboratory (or PHYS 221/222, Honors) 4
PHYS 230/232 General Physics with Calculus II/Laboratory (or PHYS 231/232, Honors) 4
PHYS 240/242 General Physics with Calculus III/Laboratory (or PHYS 241/242, Honors) 4
CSC 209
   or
CSC 210
Computer Programming for Scientists and Engineers
 
Introduction to Computer Programming2
3
Total lower division prerequisites 27
Upper Division Requirements
ASTR 320 Stars, Planets, and the Milky Way 3
ASTR 321 Observational Astronomy Laboratory 2
ASTR 410 Galaxies and Cosmology 3
ASTR 470 Observational Techniques in Astronomy 2
PHYS 320 Modern Physics I 3
PHYS 321 Modern Physics I Laboratory 2
One of the following: 1 3
MATH 374 Advanced Calculus  
PHYS 385 Introduction to Theoretical Physics
Upper division electives in astronomy 2
Upper division electives in astronomy, physics, mathematics, or related sciences (Recommended: PHYS 480) 5
Total upper division requirements 25
Total for major 52

Bachelor of Science in Physics

Lower Division Prerequisites Units
MATH 226-228 Calculus I-III (4 each) 12
PHYS 220/222 General Physics with Calculus I/Laboratory (or PHYS 221/222, Honors) 4
PHYS 230/232 General Physics with Calculus II/Laboratory (or PHYS 231/232, Honors) 4
PHYS 240/242 General Physics with Calculus III/Laboratory (or PHYS 241/242, Honors) 4
CSC 209
   or
CSC 210
Computer Programming for Scientists and Engineers
 
Introduction to Computer Programming2
3
Total lower division prerequisites 27
Upper Division Requirements
PHYS 320 Modern Physics I 3
PHYS 321 Modern Physics Laboratory I 2
PHYS 330 Analytical Mechanics I 3
PHYS 360 Electricity and Magnetism I 3
PHYS 457 Principles of Electronics 4
PHYS 460 Electricity and Magnetism II 3
PHYS 370 Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics 3
PHYS 430 Quantum Mechanics I 3
PHYS 490 Physics Project Laboratory 2
PHYS 491 Advanced Laboratory II 1
One of the following: 3
MATH 245 Elementary Differential Equations and Linear Algebra  
MATH 376 Ordinary Differential Equations
One of the following: 3
MATH 374 Advanced Calculus  
PHYS 385 Introduction to Theoretical Physics
Upper division electives in astronomy, physics, mathematics, or related sciences 11
Total upper division requirements 44
Total for major 71

Bachelor of Science in Physics: Concentration in Astrophysics

Lower Division Prerequisites Units
MATH 226-228 Calculus I-III (4 each) 12
PHYS 220/222 General Physics with Calculus I/Laboratory (or PHYS 221/222, Honors) 4
PHYS 230/232 General Physics with Calculus II/Laboratory (or PHYS 231/232, Honors) 4
PHYS 240/242 General Physics with Calculus III/Laboratory (or PHYS 241/242, Honors) 4
CSC 209
   or
CSC 210
Computer Programming for Scientists and Engineers
 
Introduction to Computer Programming2
3
Total lower division prerequisites 27
Upper Division Requirements
ASTR 410 Galaxies and Cosmologies 3
ASTR 420 Introduction to Astrophysics 3
ASTR 470 Observational Techniques in Astronomy 2
ASTR 697 Senior Project 3
One of the following: 3
MATH 245 Elementary Differential Equations and Linear Algebra  
MATH 376 Ordinary Differential Equations
One of the following: 3
MATH 374 Advanced Calculus  
PHYS 385 Introduction to Theoretical Physics
PHYS 320 Modern Physics I 3
PHYS 321 Modern Physics I Laboratory 2
PHYS 330 Analytical Mechanics I 3
PHYS 360 Electricity and Magnetism I 3
PHYS 460 Electricity and Magnetism II 3
PHYS 370 Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics 3
PHYS 430 Quantum Mechanics 3
PHYS 485 Theoretical Physics 3
Electives chosen from PHYS 325, 331, 431, 440, 475, 480, ASTR 320, 321, 490, 699 (Recommended: ASTR 320) 4
Total upper division requirements 44
Total for major 71

MINOR IN PHYSICS

Program Units
PHYS 111/112
   and
PHYS 121/122
General Physics I/Laboratory (3/1)
 
General Physics II/Laboratory (3/1)
8-12
   or
PHYS 220/222
   and
PHYS 230/232
   and
PHYS 240/242
General Physics with Calculus I/Laboratory (3/1)
 
General Physics with Calculus II/Laboratory (3/1)
 
General Physics with Calculus III/Laboratory (3/1)
Upper division electives on advisement (PHYS 320, 325, 370, 385 recommended) 12
Total for minor 20-24

MINOR IN ASTRONOMY

Program Units
PHYS 111/112
   and
PHYS 121/122
General Physics I/Laboratory (3/1)
 
General Physics II/Laboratory (3/1)
8-12
   or
PHYS 220/222
   and
PHYS 230/232
   and
PHYS 240/242
General Physics with Calculus I/Laboratory (3/1)
 
General Physics with Calculus II/Laboratory (3/1)
 
General Physics with Calculus III/Laboratory (3/1)
ASTR 320 Stars, Planets, and the Milky Way 3
ASTR 410 Galaxies and Cosmologies 3
Upper division electives on advisement 6
Total 20-24

MASTER OF SCIENCE IN PHYSICS

Students wishing to be admitted to the Master of Science in Physics should have completed an undergraduate major in physics, with a 3.0 grade point average in physics and mathematics courses. Students whose undergraduate degree is in another field may be admitted to conditionally classified status, but additional undergraduate-level course work will be required to make up the deficiency. Contact the graduate coordinator for further details.

The department does not offer a graduate program in astronomy or astrophysics, but students interested in those areas can utilize their graduate electives within the M.S. in Physics to obtain a suitable background.

Group I: Core Courses Units
PHYS 701 Classical Mechanics 3
PHYS 706 Quantum Mechanics 3
One of the following: 3
PHYS 703 Electromagnetic Theory  
PHYS 704 Electricity and Magnetism I
Group II: Graduate Physics Electives
Elective graduate physics courses with numbers in the range from PHYS 700-729 and 740-785 only (note that PHYS 730, 897, 898, and 899 do not count in this category) or ASTR 770. 9
Group III: General Electives
Elective advanced upper division or graduate courses in physics or appropriately related subjects, selected on advisement and with approval of graduate coordinator (note that PHYS 730, 897, 898, and 899 count in this category). 12
Group IV: Thesis and/or Oral Examination
PHYS 898
   or
Master's Thesis and Oral Defense of Thesis (units to be included in Group III)  
Master's Comprehensive Oral Examination
Minimum total 30

NOTE: Degree total to include no more than six units of PHYS 897 and 899 together, nor more than four units of PHYS 730.

Progress toward Degree. Classified graduate students who do not successfully complete two courses per year toward their Graduate Approved Program are subject to disqualification.

Examinations. The Oral Defense of Thesis is delivered to the student's advisory committee and includes responses to questions from the committee on subjects related to the thesis topic. The Master's Comprehensive Oral Examination is delivered to the student's advisory committee and covers all areas of theoretical and experimental physics deemed appropriate by the committee. The Oral Defense of Thesis or Master's Comprehensive Oral Examination may be repeated once, under conditions specified by the committee, upon petition by the student.

Prior to submitting a Graduate Approved Program, M.S. students must pass a written examination on undergraduate-level physics. The requirement may be satisfied by achieving a satisfactory score on either the Physics Advanced Graduate Record Examination or a departmental examination.


Footnotes

  1. It is also recommended that students take MATH 245 or MATH 376.
  2. Additional upper division elective units in astronomy, mathematics, or physics may be substituted for CSC 209 or CSC 210 by students proficient in computer programming, subject to approval by the department chair.


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