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Why Physics at UC Merced?

Are you curious about how the world works?

Are you persistent when you can't figure something out?  Does solving a puzzle bring you satisfaction?  Do you feel joy at deducing an answer instead of memorizing facts?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, then a physicist lurks inside of you. You have the amazing attributes of a physicist inside you:

  • inquisitive
  • persistent
  • thoughtful
  • problem solver
  • conscientious
  • value the work of others
  • keen to learn and contribute yourself

Do you hope to contribute to society?

People with physics degrees are all around us and are important members of our society today; they provide knowledgeable expertise and critical thinking skills to help solve open problems.  Physicists participate in a wide range of public arenas including:

  • Politics: Angela Merkel (Former German Chancellor, PhD in physics), Jimmy Carter (Former US President and Nobel Prize Winner, studied Nuclear Physics at the Naval Academy), Steven Chu (Nobel Prize Winner and former US Energy Secretary, PhD in Physics)
  • Business: Elon Musk (founder of Tesla and SpaceX, BS in physics)
  • Computing: Gordon Moore (co-founder of Intel, minor in Physics, did postdoctoral research on at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory)
  • Space: Sally Ride (first US woman astronaut, PhD in physics), Ellen Ochoa (former astronaut and first hispanic director of the Johnson Space Center, BS in physics), and countless other astronauts and engineers
  • Arts: Brian May (lead guitarist of Queen, PhD in astrophysics), Randall Munroe (cartoonist/author, creator of xkcd, BS in Physics) 
  • Science: Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, Steven Hawking, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Francis Crick (DNA structure) and many others.

What amazing things would you accomplish as a physics major?

You will master coursework in:

  • quantum mechanics
  • electrodynamics
  • thermodynamics
  • classical mechanics
  • biophysics
  • computer science
  • applied mathematics

Perhaps more importantly than learning these specific subjects, you will learn to think about the world from first principles and make powerful conclusions from simple observations.

You will also do real world physics research: all physics majors at UC Merced do one year of research in a faculty member's lab. This opportunity is unique to the physics department and will give you hands on experience that is valuable in industry and graduate school.

You fit right in among us!

Learn more about previous physics majors.

Grow, learn and contribute to a community that values you!

Undergraduate physics students are important core members of the physics department.  The physics department has only about 3 undergraduate majors for each faculty member, and every is matched with a faculty advisor when they join the major. Your faculty advisor will help guide you as move through the major and beyond. Physics also has an active undergraduate community, with a vibrant Student Physics Society and Women in Physics Society with a devoted space in the physics department (the "H-Barn" in ACS) to meet and work.    

Incredible job opportunities await you with a physics degree!

A degree in physics teachers you to think like a scientist, giving you powerfull quantitative and reasoning skills that are in high demand across many industries.  UC Merced physics majors have gone on to become teachers, programmers, and engineers; to work for NASA; and to prestigious physics graduate programs like the University of Chicago.  Across the US, physics majors have some of the highest salaries and lowest unemployment of any major.

What you will gain with a physics degree from UC Merced?

  • Develop a deep knowledge about how the universe works. 
  • Be well prepared for life after UC Merced: graduate school or a career in fields as diverse as engineering, programming, business, research, or law.
  • Develop lifelong friendships and community support.
  • Gain hands on experience doing cutting edge research.
  • Grow your problem solving skills and focus on fundamental issues that are the core of our discipline are highly valued by employers and graduate programs. 

The curriculum

Physics emphasis tracks, with abbreviations used by registrar:

  • PHYA-Atomic, Molecular, Optical, Condensed Matter
  • PHYB-Biophysics
  • PCUS-Custom
  • PHYD-Biophysics and Soft Matter
  • PHYF-Computation and Data Science
  • PHYG-Engineering and Applied Physics
  • PHYH-Mathematical and Computational Physics
  • PHYJ-Quantum Science and Technology
  • PHYM-Mathematical Physics
  • PHYS-No Track
  • PHYY-Astrophysics
  • PHYZ-Computational and Mathematical Physics

See the Physics Advising Guide for planning your courses and the trajectory of your UC Merced experience.