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Majors, Emphases & Minors


A degree in physics is a 4-year degree starting with calculus. All of the physics degrees and emphases require a calculus-based introductory physics sequence with labs, a course in modern physics, thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, a practical physics course, and an advanced physics course. Most degrees and emphases also require a course in classical mechanics, advanced electrodynamics, and quantum mechanics. The degrees differ in the number of semesters of each of these courses, the number and type of required practical courses, and the requirements for the depth and breadth courses. All degrees and emphases also require calculus I - III, linear algebra and differential equations. Most degrees require partial differential equations and complex variables, or equivalent.

All of the degrees and emphases in physics have similar requirements in the first two years, so it is possible to explore the major before making a final decision on the degree program or emphasis. After this time, it is still possible to change degree programs, but there are likely to be set-backs.

 

 

Degree Options


This information is accurate for the 2021-2022 academic year. All course requirements and offerings are subject to change. Meet with the undergraduate academic advisor regularly to check current requirements. For more information, explore our Undergraduate Handbook.

To declare a major or minor, contact the academic advisor.

The Physics major is designed to give students the deepest and broadest understanding of physics to lay a firm foundation for graduate work in physics or related discipline. Courses provide advanced and in-depth instruction in topics that are the most important for success in physics graduate studies.

 

Core Physics Courses
PHYS 1970 Undergrad Seminar I
PHYS 1980 Undergrad Seminar II
PHYS 2210 Physics I for Scientists & Engineers
PHYS 2215 Physisscs I Lab for Sci & Eng
PHYS 2235 Computation Lab for Physicists
PHYS 2220 Physics II for Scientists & Engineers
PHYS 2225 Physics II Lab for Sci & Eng
PHYS 3740 Intro to Quantum Theory and Relativity
PHYS 3760 Thermodyamics and Statistical Mechanics
Advanced Physics Courses
PHYS 3719/3729 Undergraduate Lab/Honors Undergraduate Lab
PHYS 3730 Computational Physics I
PHYS 4410 Classical Physics I
PHYS 4420 Classical Physics II
PHYS 5450 Intro to Quantum Mechanics

 

Advanced Physics Electives

Select two courses below:

PHYS 5110 Intro to Nuclear and Particle Physics
PHYS 5210 Intro to Gravitation
PHYS 5460 Quantum Mechanics and Statistical Mechanics
PHYS 5510 Solid State Physics I
PHYS 5520 Solid State Physics II

 

Core Math Courses
MATH 1210 Calculus I
MATH 1220 Calculus II
MATH 2210 Calculus III
MATH 2250 Differential Equations and Linear Algebra
MATH 3150 OR 5440 Partial Differential Equations for Eng OR Partial Differential Equations
MATH 3160 OR 4200 Applied Complex Variables OR Complex Variables

 

Core Chemistry Courses
CHEM 1210/1211 General Chemistry I/Honors General Chemistry I
CHEM 1215/1240 Gen ChemLab I/Honors Gen Chem Lab I
CHEM 1220/1221 General Chemistry II/Honors General Chemistry II
CHEM 1225/1241 Gen ChemLab II/Honors Gen Chem Lab II

The Physics major with an Applied Physics emphasis is intended for students who want considerable physics knowledge, but who do not plan on a research-oriented career. It is helpful for those who are planning on doing graduate research in related areas such as engineering or earth science, who are thinking about law school, or who plan on going directly into industry after graduating with their bachelor's. By reducing the total number of semesters in classical and quantum physics from four to two, the Applied Physics emphasis allows students more time for additional practical courses. Students choose advanced and practical electives to best meet their goals and interests.

Core Physics Courses
PHYS 1970 Undergrad Seminar I
PHYS 1980 Undergrad Seminar II
PHYS 2210 Physics I for Scientists & Engineers
PHYS 2215 Physics I Lab for Sci & Eng
PHYS 2235 Computation Lab for Physicists
PHYS 2220 Physics II for Scientists & Engineers
PHYS 2225 Physics II Lab for Sci & Eng
PHYS 3740 Intro to Quantum Theory and Relativity
PHYS 3760 Thermodyamics and Statistical Mechanics
 
Advanced Physics Courses
PHYS 3719/3729 Undergraduate Lab/Honors Undergraduate Lab
PHYS 3730 Computational Physics I
PHYS 5010 Classical Mechanics and Quantum Mechanics
PHYS 5020 Electricity and Magnetism and Statisical Physics
 
Advanced Physics Electives
Select one course:
PHYS 5110 Intro to Nuclear and Particle Physics
PHYS 5210 Intro to Gravitation
PHYS 5510 Solid State Physics I
 
Practical Physics Electives
Select two courses:
PHYS 3330 Digital Audio and Video
PHYS 3410 Found of Modern Optics
PHYS 3610 Electronics for Scientific Instrumentation
PHYS 3620 Data Aquisition for Scientific  Instrumentation
PHYS 4060 Observational Astronomy
PHYS 5760 Principles of Physical Measurement and Instrumentation
PHYS 4800 OR 4999 Undergraduate Research OR Senior Honors Thesis
 
Core Math Courses
MATH 1210 Calculus I
MATH 1220 Calculus II
MATH 2210 Calculus III
MATH 2250 Differential Equations and Linear Algebra
Math 3150/5440 Partial Differential Equations for Eng/Partial Differential Equations
Math 3160/4200 Applied Complex Variables/Complex Variables
 
Core Chemistry Courses
CHEM 1210/1211 General Chemistry I/Honors General Chemistry I
CHEM 1215/1240 Gen ChemLab I/Honors Gen Chem Lab I
CHEM 1220/1221 General Chemistry II/Honors General Chemistry II
CHEM 1225/1241 Gen ChemLab II/Honors Gen Chem Lab II
The Physics major with an Astronomy & Astrophysics Emphasis prepares students for graduate school in Astronomy or Astrophysics.  At its core, it is the same sequence of courses that are in the Physics Bachelor’s Degree, but the depth and breadth courses have been replaced with astronomy electives, allowing students to study astronomy as an undergraduate.  Because it is a strong physics degree, students with this degree also attend graduate school in other areas of physics, or related fields.
Core Physics Courses
PHYS 1970 Undergrad Seminar I
PHYS 1980 Undergrad Seminar II
PHYS 2210 Physics I for Scientists & Engineers
PHYS 2215 Physics I Lab for Sci & Eng
PHYS 2235 Computation Lab for Physicists
PHYS 2220 Physics II for Scientists & Engineers
PHYS 2225 Physics II Lab for Sci & Eng
PHYS 3740 Intro to Quantum Theory and Relativity
PHYS 3760 Thermodyamics and Statistical Mechanics
Core Math Courses
MATH 1210 Calculus I
MATH 1220 Calculus II
MATH 22102 Calculus III
MATH 22503 Differential Equations and Linear Algebra
MATH 3150/5440 Partial Differential Equations for Eng/ Partial Differential Equations
MATH 3160/4200 Applied Complex Variables/Complex Variables
 
Advanced Physics Courses
ASTR 3070 Foundations of Astronomy
PHYS 4410 Classical Physics I
PHYS 4420 Classical Physics II
PHYS 5450 Intro to Quantum Mechanics
Topical Astronomy Electives
Select two courses:
ASTR 4070 Extragalactic Astrophysics
ASTR 4080 Intro to Cosmology
ASTR 4090 Stellar Astrophysics
ASTR 5560 Stars and Stellar Populations
ASTR 5570 Galaxies
ASTR 5580 Cosmology
ASTR 5590 High Energy Astrophysics
 
Practical Physics Electives
Select two courses:
PHYS 3410 Found of Modern Optics
PHYS 3610 Electronics for Sci Instrument
PHYS 3620 Data Aquisition for Sci Instrumentation
PHYS 3719/3729 Undergraduate Lab/Honors Undergraduate Lab
PHYS 3730 Computational Physics I
PHYS 4060 Observational Astronomy
PHYS 4800 OR 4999 Undergraduate Research OR Senior Honors Thesis
CMP 3850 OR 3851 Dark Sky Studies: Lightscapes or Nightscapes
 
Advanced Physics or Astronomy Electives
Select one PHYS/ASTR 5000-level or higher course to fulfill this requirement.

The Physics major with a Biomedical Physics emphasis was designed by a professor in the department who holds both a PhD in Physics and an MD. The degree is designed with the intent of allowing students to complete their pre-med requirements as well as complete a degree in physics. This is an ideal degree for applying to medical school, dental school, or other medical professions. Students also use this degree program to prepare to study biophysics or medical physics. Students choose electives to best meet their goals and interests.

Core Physics Courses
PHYS 1970 Undergrad Seminar I
PHYS 1980 Undergrad Seminar II
PHYS 2210 Physics I for Scientists & Engineers
PHYS 2215 Physics I Lab for Sci & Eng
PHYS 2235 Computation Lab for Physicists
PHYS 2220 Physics II for Scientists & Engineers
PHYS 2225 Physics II Lab for Sci & Eng
PHYS 3740 Intro to Quantum Theory and Relativity
PHYS 3760 Thermodyamics and Statistical Mechanics
Core Math Courses
MATH 1210 Calculus I
MATH 1220 Calculus II
MATH 22101 Calculus III
MATH 22502 Differential Equations and Linear Algebra
MATH 46003 Mathematics in Physiology and Medicine
1Qualified students are encouraged to substitute MATH 1250-1260 for MATH 1210-1220-2210. 2Qualified students are encouraged to substitute MATH 2270-2280 for MATH 2250. 3Students may substitute MATH 3150-3160 for MATH 4600.  
Core Chemistry Courses
CHEM 1210/1211 General Chemistry I/Honors General Chemistry I
CHEM 1215/1240 Gen ChemLab I/Honors Gen Chem Lab I
CHEM 1220/1221 General Chemistry II/Honors General Chemistry II
CHEM 1225/1241 Gen ChemLab II/Honors Gen Chem Lab II
CHEM 2310/2311 Organic Chem I/Honors Organic Chem I
CHEM 2315 Organic Chem Lab I
 
Advanced Physics Courses
PHYS 3719/3729 Undergraduate Lab/Honors Undergraduate Lab
PHYS 5010 Classical Mechanics and Quantum Mechanics
PHYS 5020 Electricity and Magnetism and Statisical Physics
 
Advanced Physics Electives
Select one course from the advanced physics electives and one course from the practical physics electives: Advanced Physics Electives:
  • PHYS 4210: Optics in Bio
  • PHYS 4230: Molecular Motors
  • PHYS 4310: Physics in Biology
  • PHYS 5110: Nuclear/Particle Physics
  • PHYS 5510: Solid State Physics I
Practical Physics Electives:
  • PHYS 3330: Audio and Video
  • PHYS 3410: Modern Optics
  • PHYS 3610: Electronics
  • PHYS 3620: Data Aquisition
  • PHYS 3730: Computational Physics I
  • PHYS 4800: Undergraduate Research
  • PHYS 4999: Senior Honors Thesis
  • PHYS 5760: Physical Measurements and Instrumentation
Allied Courses
Select five credit hours from chemisty and four courses from biology. Chemistry Electives:
  • CHEM 2320/2321: Organic Chemistry II
  • CHEM 2325: Organic Chemistry II Lab
  • CHEM 3000: Quantitative Analysis
  • CHEM 3100: Inorganic Chemistry
  • CHEM 3130: Solid State Chemistry
  • CHEM 3200: Radio Chemistry
  • CHEM 5810: Nanoscience
  • CHEM 4800: Undergraduate Research
  • CHEM 4801: Honors Undergraduate Research
Biology Electives:
  • BIOL 1610: Biology
  • BIOL 2020: Cell Biology
  • BIOL 2021: Cell Science
  • BIOL 2030: Genetics
  • BIOL 2210: Human Genetics
  • BIOL 2420: Physiology
  • BIOL 3510: Biochemistry
  • BIOL 3215: Cell Biology Lab
  • BIOL 3515: Biochemistry Lab
  • BIOL 4955: Undergraduate Research
  • BIOL 4995: Honors Undergraduate Research

The Computational Emphasis is designed for students interested in focusing on computational methods in physics and astronomy. A broad range of electives allows students to customize their experience toward their interests.

Core Physics Courses
PHYS 1970 Undergrad Seminar I
PHYS 1980 Undergrad Seminar II
PHYS 2210 Physics I for Scientists & Engineers
PHYS 2215 Physisscs I Lab for Sci & Eng
PHYS 2235 Computation Lab for Physicists
PHYS 2220 Physics II for Scientists & Engineers
PHYS 2225 Physics II Lab for Sci & Eng
PHYS 3740 Intro to Quantum Theory and Relativity
PHYS 3760 Thermodyamics and Statistical Mechanics
 
Core Math Courses
MATH 1210 Calculus I
MATH 1220 Calculus II
MATH 2210 Calculus III
MATH 2250 Differential Equations and Linear Algebra
MATH 3150 OR 5440 Partial Differential Equations for Eng OR Partial Differential Equations
MATH 3160 OR 4200 Applied Complex Variables OR Complex Variables
  1Qualified students are encouraged to substitute MATH 1250-1260 for MATH 1210-1220-2210. 2Qualified students are encouraged to substitute MATH 2270-2280 for MATH 2250. 3Placement into your computer science track will depend on your previous experience.. 4ASTR 3070 is a required prerequisite for other astronomy courses.
Advanced Physics Courses
PHYS 3730 Computational Physics I
PHYS 4410 Classical Physics I
PHYS 4420 Classical Physics II
PHYS 5730 Computational Physics II
 
Computational Electives
Select one course below:
CS 3200 Intro to Scientific Computing and Data Computing
CS 3500 Software Practice
CS 3190 Foundations of Data Analysis
CS 4230 Parallel Programming
CS 5635 Visualization for Scientific Data
DS 2500  Data Wrangling
MATH 5600 OR 5610  Survey of Numerical Analysis
MATH 5740  Mathematical Modeling
 
Core Computer Science Courses
Complete one set of courses3:
CS 1400+ CS 1410+ CS 2420
CS 1420+ CS 2420+ One Additional Computational Elective
Physics and Astronomy Electives:
Select two courses in any combination from the list below or the computational electives list:
PHYS 5110 Intro to Nuclear and Particle Physics
PHYS 5210 Intro to Gravitation
PHYS 5450 Intro to Quantum Mechanics
PHYS 5460 Quantum Mechanics and Statistical Mechanics
PHYS 5510 Solid State Physics I
PHYS 5520 Solid State Physics II
PHYS 3719 Undergraduate Lab
ASTR 30704 Foundations of Astronomy
ASTR 4060 Observational Astronomy
ASTR 4070 Extragalactic Astrophysics
ASTR 4080 Intro to Cosmology
ASTR 4090 Stellar Astrophysics
 

The Physics Teaching major is intended for students who plan on becoming teachers in the secondary school system. It includes all the required courses for an endorsement in Physics through the Utah State Office of Education, a sampling of courses required for the licensure program through the Urban Institute for Teacher Education (UITE), as well as additional depth and breadth courses beneficial for physics teachers. Students in this degree program should also meet with the UITE advisors.

Core Physics Courses
PHYS 1970 Undergrad Seminar I
PHYS 1980 Undergrad Seminar II
PHYS 2210 Physics I for Scientists & Engineers
PHYS 2215 Physics I Lab for Sci & Eng
PHYS 2235 Computation Lab for Physicists
PHYS 2220 Physics II for Scientists & Engineers
PHYS 2225 Physics II Lab for Sci & Eng
PHYS 3740 Intro to Quantum Theory and Relativity
PHYS 3760 OR CHEM 3070 Thermodyamics and Statistical Mechanics OR Thermodynamics and Chemical Kinematics
PHYS 3719/3729 Undergraduate Lab
 
Core Math Courses
MATH 1050 College Algebra
MATH 1060 Trigonometry
MATH 1210 Calculus I
MATH 1220 Calculus II
MATH 22101 Calculus III
MATH 22502 Differential Equations and Linear Algebra
1Qualified students are encouraged to substitute MATH 1250-1260 for MATH 1210-1220-2210. 2Qualified students are encouraged to substitute MATH 2270-2280 for MATH 2250.
 
Core Chemistry Courses
CHEM 1210/1211 General Chemistry I/Honors General Chemistry I
CHEM 1215/1240 Gen ChemLab I/Honors Gen Chem Lab I
CHEM 1220/1221 General Chemistry II/Honors General Chemistry II
 
Advanced Physics Courses
PHYS 4410 Classical Physics I
PHYS 5140 Physics Education Research
ASTR 3070 Foundations of Astronomy
PHYS or ASTR   Any elective 3000-level or higher  (except PHYS 3111 or 3670
 
Education Courses
EDU 1010 OR SCI 3670 OR SCI 5050 Intro to Teaching OR Science Communication and Mentoring OR Science of Learning
ETHNC 25** Ethnic Studies Elective (2550, 2570, 2580, 2590)
ECS 2150 OR SCI 3900 Intro to Multi Cultural Ed OR Being Human in STEM
ED PS 3721 Adolescent Psychology
EDU 5170 Secondary Science Methods
ECS 5709 Building Family Partnership
Allied Electives Courses
Select one course:
  • ATMOS 1010: Severe and Unusual Weather
  • ATMOS 1020: Climate Change
  • ATMOS 5400: The Climate System
 
Combined BS/MEd Degree
Students interested in completing the combined BS/MEd degree in 5 years should meet with their physics and education advisors as soon as possible to create a plan to complete in a timely manner. Graduate work is completed through the Urban Institute of Teacher Education.
Honors College Requirements
2 Intellectual Traditions Courses 6
1 Honors Writing Course 3
1 Honors Science Course 3-4
Honors Electives 9
Honors Thesis (PHYS/ASTR 4999) 3
For more information about the Honors College, advising, other degree requirements, or how to apply, please visit the Honors College website.  
Department Requirements
In addition to the requirements for the physics degree, students seeking an Honors Degree must also meet the following requirements:
  • B or better in all courses required for major
  • PHYS and ASTR GPA of at least 3.5
  • Overall GPA of at least 3.5
  • Complete 9 credit hours of approved honors course work.
  For more departmental information about Honors, click here.  
Honors Courses
Courses offered by the Department of Physics & Astronomy that fill Honors elective requirements are:
PHYS 3210 Physics I for Scientists
PHYS 3220 Physics II for Scientists
PHYS 3729 Honors Undergraduate Lab
PHYS 4410 Classical Physics I
PHYS 4420 Classical Physics II
PHYS 4800 Undergraduate Researchss
PHYS 5450 Intro to Quantum Mechanics
PHYS 5460 Quantum Mechanics and Statistical Mechanics
PHYS 5510 Solid State Physics I
PHYS 5520 Solid State Physics II
ASTR/PHYS 5560 Stars and Stellar Populations
ASTR/PHYS 5570 Galaxies
ASTR/PHYS 5580 Cosmology
The physics minor is designed for students outside of the major to gain an deep knowledge and understanding of physics. Any University of Utah student with a declared major other than physics can add a physics minor. Physics minors must complete all general education and College of Science requirements and have a GPA of at least 2.0 in physics courses combined. All physics, math, and chemistry classes must be passed with at least a C- grade. The credit/no-credit option may not be elected for any course used to fulfill the degree requirements for a physics minor.  
Required Physics Courses
Select up to ten credit hours from the list below:
PHYS 2210 Physics I for Scientists & Engineers 4
PHYS 2215 Physics I Lab for Scientists & Engineers 1
PHYS 2235 Computation Lab for Physicists 1
PHYS 2220 Physics II for Scientists & Engineers 4
PHYS 2225 Physics II Lab for Scientists & Engineers 1
 
Upper Division Courses
Select six or more credit hours of upper division approved coursework, totalling 16 credit hours.   To fulfill requirement, student must take any Physics or Astronomy course numbered 3000-5999, except: PHYS 3111, PHYS 3210, PHYS 3220, PHYS 3670, PHYS 3949, PHYS 3970, PHYS 4800, PHYS 4999
Astronomy is a profound and fundamental science that has never ceased to fascinate the general public and attract the imagination of students. Any University of Utah student with a declared major other than physics can add an Astronomy minor. Astronomy minors must complete all general education and College of Science requirements and have a GPA of at least 2.0 in physics, astronomy and mathematics courses combined. All physics, astronomy and mathematics courses must be passed with at least a C- grade. The credit/no credit option may not be elected for any course used to fulfill the degree requirements for an astronomy minor.  
Required Courses
MATH 1210 Calculus I
MATH 1220 Calculus II
MATH 2210 Calculus III
PHYS 2210 Physics I for Scientists & Engineers
PHYS 2220 Physics II for Scientists & Engineers
ASTR 3070 Foundations of Astronomy
   
Elective Courses
Select three courses from the list below:
ASTR 4060 Observational Astronomy
ASTR 4070 Extragalactic Astrophysics
ASTR 4080 Intro to Cosmology
ASTR 4090 Stellar Astrophysics
ASTR 5560 Stars and Stellar Populations
ASTR 5570 Galaxies
ASTR 5580 Cosmology
Students declaring this minor must have declared a teaching major in another subject.
Required Physics and Math Courses
PHYS 2210 Physics I for Scientists & Engineers
PHYS 2215 Physics I Lab for Sci & Eng
PHYS 2220 Physics II for Scientists & Engineers
PHYS 2225 Physics II Lab for Sci & Eng
PHYS 3740 Intro to Quantum Theory and Relativity
MATH 1210 Calculus I
MATH 1220 Calculus II
MATH 2210 Calculus III
MATH 2250 Differential Equations and Linear Algebra
  ¹Qualified students are encouraged to substitute MATH 1250-1260 for MATH 1210-1220-2210. ²Qualified students are encouraged to substitute MATH 2270-2280 for MATH 2250.  
Other Requirements
EDU 5170 Secondary Science Methodss
  Select at least one course of upper division approved coursework: Any Physics or Astronomy course numbered 3000-5999, except: PHYS 3111, PHYS 3210, PHYS 3220, PHYS 3670, PHYS 3949, PHYS 3970, PHYS 4800, PHYS 4999
 
This minor is hosted by the College of Architecture and Planning, and interested students will need to meet with a Student Success Advisor in order to declare this minor. Students are required to complete at least 18 credits: 3 required courses, and 4 elective courses. You can find more details about the minor program here. Astronomy courses that fulfill these electives: ASTR 1050: The Solar System, ASTR 1060: The Universe, ASTR 3070: Foundations of Astronomy, and ASTR 4060: Observational Astronomy. MEET WITH A DARK SKIES STUDIES ADVISOR