Physics and Biophysics

The Physics and Biophysics Majors

Physics explores the universe from its smallest to grandest scales. From the architecture of the cosmos to the insides of nuclei, physicists investigate and seek to explain nearly everything in the natural world. For even the most complex systems, like human life and the universe, physicists search for patterns to build models and extract fundamental truths. In fact, given the overwhelming complexity of life, the use of physics to discover new insights into biology encompasses a growing branch of interdisciplinary science: biophysics. The Physics and Biophysics Department offers bachelor’s degree programs in both physics and biophysics.

The central mission of the Physics and Biophysics Department is to provide undergraduates with a rigorous, inspiring and hands-on education. Such an education involves taking a range of courses from thermodynamics to astrophysics and from quantum mechanics to biophysics. More importantly, it involves close one-on-one mentoring and advising of our students, and substantial opportunities for students to engage in cutting-edge research. All of our faculty are dedicated to involving undergraduates in every aspect of their research programs, providing students with research experiences in biophysics, soft matter, plasma physics, optics, astrophysics, foundations of thermodynamics and chemical physics. Working with faculty on independent research projects enables our students to deepen and broaden their education, become independent critical thinkers and develop sought-after skills. Student researchers interact closely with leading scientists in the field, travel and present their work at research conferences nationwide, and publish scientific papers. We encourage all students to discuss available research opportunities early in their college career and complete as many units of research as possible. Our individualized mentoring and emphasis on undergraduate research set our program apart among similar institutions and enable students to succeed in their chosen career path.

Both of our major programs prepare students for a wide range of career paths. With a physics or biophysics degree a student can pursue almost any career path that interests them. Physics graduates typically pursue: graduate school in physics, materials science, mathematics or engineering; employment in physics, engineering or data science industries; medical school; law school; or teaching. Biophysics graduates typically pursue: graduate study in biophysics, physics, medical physics, biochemistry, chemistry, or bioengineering; and employment in biotechnology and biomedical industries. The biophysics major also fulfills all of the pre-health requirements making it a superb major for students interested in pursuing an advanced health professional degree (medical, dental, veterinary).

Courses

PHYS 101 | PHYSICS AND SOCIETY

Units: 3

A discussion of the concepts which unify our experience with the physical world. Topics are presented at an introductory level for the student with little or no background in physical science. Science related topics of special interest are discussed. Examples include: alternatives for energy production and conservation; radiation, its effect and applications; and ethical decisions in the application of new scientific discoveries. Weekly lectures include demonstrations and discussions. Every semester.

PHYS 102 | PHYSICS, ENERGY, AND INFORMATION

Units: 3 Repeatability: No

Corequisites: PHYS 102L

An introduction to physics concepts and principles with tangents into related technologies and global issues. Special attention is paid to devices and networks that furnish two necessities of modern life: energy and information. No background in physical science is required.

PHYS 102L | PHYSICS, ENERGY, AND INFORMATION LAB

Units: 1 Repeatability: No

Corequisites: PHYS 102

Laboratory component of PHYS 102. Guided hands-on investigation of physics principles and related technologies.

PHYS 105 | PHYSICAL SCIENCES FOR K-8 TEACHERS

Units: 3

A laboratory/lecture/discussion class designed to lead students toward an understanding of selected topics in chemistry and physics. The course topics are selected to satisfy the Physical Science specifications of the Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (K-12). Enrollment is limited to liberal studies majors. Two two-hour laboratory sessions per week. This course is cross-listed with Chemistry 105. Fall semester.

PHYS 117 | ASTRONOMY WITH LAB

Units: 3

A survey of astronomy covering astronomical history, descriptive astronomy, planetology, stellar birth/life/death, and cosmology. This course satisfies the core curriculum physical science requirement with laboratory. Two lectures and one laboratory weekly. No science prerequisites. Fall semester.

PHYS 136 | GENERAL PHYSICS I

Units: 3 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: (MATH 130 or MATH 150)

Corequisites: PHYS 136L

A study of the fundamental principles of mechanics and wave motion, sound, and heat. Algebra and some calculus are required. Three hours of lecture weekly. Concurrent enrollment in 136L required.

PHYS 136L | GENERAL PHYSICS I LAB

Units: 1 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: PHYS 136 (Can be taken Concurrently)

A laboratory course introducing the concepts and techniques of experimental physics. Meets weekly.

PHYS 137 | GENERAL PHYSICS II

Units: 3 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: PHYS 136 and PHYS 136L and (MATH 130 or MATH 150)

Corequisites: PHYS 137L

A study of the fundamental principles of electricity and magnetism, light, and modern physics. Algebra and some calculus are required. Three hours of lecture weekly. Concurrent enrollment in 137L required.

PHYS 137L | GENERAL PHYSICS II LAB

Units: 1 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: PHYS 137 (Can be taken Concurrently)

A laboratory course introducing the concepts and techniques of experimental physics. Meets weekly.

PHYS 270 | INTRODUCTION TO MECHANICS

Units: 3 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: MATH 150 (Can be taken Concurrently) or MATH 151 (Can be taken Concurrently)

Corequisites: PHYS 270L

A study of the fundamental principles of Newtonian mechanics, kinematics, and momentum and energy conservation laws. Harmonic oscillations and wave motion will also be discussed. Three hours of lecture weekly. Concurrent enrollment in 270L required.

PHYS 270L | MECHANICS LAB

Units: 1 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: PHYS 270 (Can be taken Concurrently)

A laboratory course introducing the concepts and techniques of experimental physics. Meets weekly.

PHYS 271 | INTRODUCTION TO ELECTRICITY AND MAGNETISM

Units: 3 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: (PHYS 270 and PHYS 270L) or (PHYS 136 and PHYS 136L) and MATH 151 and PHYS 271L (Can be taken Concurrently)

A study of the fundamental principles of classical electricity and magnetism focusing on electrostatics and magnetic force. Circuits, electromagnetism, and light are also introduced. Three hours of lecture weekly. Concurrent enrollment in 271L required.

PHYS 271L | INTRODUCTION TO ELECTRICITY AND MAGNETISM LAB

Units: 1 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: PHYS 271 (Can be taken Concurrently)

A laboratory course that introduces the concepts and techniques of experimental physics. Meets weekly.

PHYS 272 | INTRODUCTION TO MODERN PHYSICS

Units: 3 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: MATH 151 and MATH 250 (Can be taken Concurrently) and PHYS 272L (Can be taken Concurrently) and (PHYS 271 and PHYS 271L) or (PHYS 137 and PHYS 137L) and PHYS 272L (Can be taken Concurrently)

An introduction to modern physics including principles and applications of quantum mechanics, atomic and nuclear physics, and special relativity. Required for all physics and biophysics majors and physics minors, and is an accepted elective for engineering students. Concurrent enrollment in 272L required. Three hours of lecture per week. Spring semester.

PHYS 272L | INTRODUCTION TO MODERN PHYSICS LAB

Units: 1

Corequisites: PHYS 272

Laboratory experiments to illustrate the topics presented in the lecture course: Introduction to Modern Physics (PHYS 272).

PHYS 301 | ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Units: 3 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: (PHYS 271 and PHYS 271L) or (PHYS 137 and PHYS 137L)

Energy is the lifeblood of civilization, but its use entails substantial environmental costs. This course examines the physics and technology of energy production, distribution and use, as well as its environmental and societal consequences. It is suitable for students having completed lower-division physics.

PHYS 307 | ASTROPHYSICS

Units: 3 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: PHYS 272 and PHYS 272L

A study of the fundamental principles of astrophysics including topics such as stellar formation, life and death, galaxy evolution, special and general relativity, and cosmology.

PHYS 314 | ANALYTICAL MECHANICS

Units: 3 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: PHYS 271 and PHYS 271L and MATH 250

Statics and dynamics are developed using vector analysis, the Hamiltonian and Lagrangian formulations. Orbit theory and chaos are among the special topics treated.

PHYS 319 | THERMAL AND STATISTICAL PHYSICS

Units: 3 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: PHYS 272

This course develops modern statistical mechanics and its application to thermodynamic principles and phenomena. Topics include ideal gases, phase transitions, stellar systems, chemical equilibrium, kinetic theory, paramagnetism, polymers and biophysics.

PHYS 324 | ELECTROMAGNETISM

Units: 3 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: MATH 250 (Can be taken Concurrently) and PHYS 272

A development of Maxwell’s equations using vector calculus. The electrical and magnetic properties of matter, solutions of boundary value problems, special relativity and radiation theory are also developed. Three lectures per week.

PHYS 330 | QUANTUM MECHANICS

Units: 3 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: MATH 250 and PHYS 272

Introduction to the fundamental properties of nonrelativistic quantum mechanics, including the Schrödinger equation in 1-3 dimensions, the mathematical formalism (involving linear algebra and partial differential equations) of quantum theory, the solution of the hydrogen atom, and elementary perturbation and scattering theory. Entanglement, Bell’s theorem, exotic states of matter, and history of physics are among the special topics discussed.

PHYS 331 | ADVANCED TOPICS IN QUANTUM PHYSICS

Units: 3

Prerequisites: PHYS 330

Applications of Quantum Theory in areas such as atomic, nuclear, solid state, and elementary particle physics.

PHYS 340 | BIOLOGICAL PHYSICS

Units: 3 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: PHYS 272

Biological physics introduces the interface between the two classic sciences. Physics principles and techniques are applied to questions and problems in biology with a focus on molecular and cellular biology. Topics will be introduced systematically, building on the fundamentals of thermodynamics up to current cutting edge research topics such as protein folding, molecular machines and brain function. Specific topics may include single-molecule biophysics, optical trapping, molecular and cellular self-assembly, gene regulation, biomaterials and biomedical imaging.

PHYS 371 | COMPUTATIONAL PHYSICS

Units: 3 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: MATH 151 and PHYS 272 (Can be taken Concurrently)

A hands-on introduction to the implementation of computational algorithms to solve problems in physics and biophysics and the interpretation of the results. Detailed topics covered will depend on instructor expertise. Topics may include solutions to ordinary and partial differential equations, linear algebra, fast Fourier transforms, numerical integration, differentiation and approximation, statistics and Monte Carlo methods.

PHYS 381W | EXPERIMENTAL BIOPHYSICS

Units: 4 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: PHYS 272 and PHYS 272L

A laboratory-based course introducing biophysics majors to interdisciplinary research techniques. Instrumentation development and experimental research explore topics of fluorescence and force spectroscopy, molecular diffusion, fluctuation-dissipation theory and viscoelasticity related to molecular and cellular biophysical systems. Students are trained in wet-lab techniques and computational methods using Matlab and Fiji. This is the primary upper-division laboratory requirement for biophysics majors and fulfills the core advanced writing and quantitative reasoning requirements. Students write and edit research reports on their experimental results at a level suitable for journal publication. The writing process also includes literature search techniques and an introduction to the peer review process.

PHYS 477 | INTRODUCTION TO FLUIDS

Units: 3 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: PHYS 272 and MATH 250

An introduction to the basic principles of fluids. This course will serve as an introduction to concepts used in physical oceanography, atmospheric science, and other disciplines in which fluids are studied or utilized. Examples of applications to a broad range of disciplines (physics, engineering, earth sciences, astrophysics, and biology) will be developed.

PHYS 480W | EXPERIMENTAL MODERN PHYSICS

Units: 4 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: PHYS 330

A laboratory-based course focused on the introduction to principles of research techniques with an emphasis on modern physics. Experiments illustrate physical phenomena pertaining to core areas of physics: quantum mechanics, atomic and nuclear physics, laser physics and plasma physics. Analog and digital data acquisition instrumentation, high-resolution optical and laser technology, and phase sensitive detection technology will be explored. This course is the required writing-intensive course for physics majors and fulfills the upper-division core writing requirement. Students write papers up to professional standards required of publication in physics research journals, learn to write mathematical prose, engage in the peer review process, and learn to code LaTeX.

PHYS 481W | EXPERIMENTAL BIOPHYSICS

Units: 4

Prerequisites: PHYS 272 and PHYS 272L and MATH 250

A laboratory-based course focused on the introduction to principles of biophysics research techniques. Instrumentation development and experimental research will explore topics of fluorescence and force spectroscopy, molecular diffusion, fluctuation-dissipation theory and viscoelasticity related to molecular and cellular biophysical systems. Students will also be trained in general wet-lab techniques and computational data acquisition and analysis using Labview and Matlab. This course is the primary upper division laboratory requirement for the biophysics major and fulfills the upper division core writing requirement. Students will write and edit research reports on their experimental results at a level suitable for journal publication. The writing process will also include literature search techniques and an introduction to the peer review process.

PHYS 487 | TECHNIQUES IN PHYSICS

Units: 1-3 Repeatability: Yes (Can be repeated for Credit)

Training and practice in those areas of physics of practical importance to the technician, teacher, and researcher. To include, but not limited to, technical methodology, preparation and technique in the teaching laboratory, and routines supportive of research. May be repeated up to a maximum of four units of credit.

PHYS 493 | SEMINAR I: THE CRAFT OF SCIENTIFIC PRESENTATION

Units: 1 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: PHYS 496

First semester of the physics and biophysics seminar series devoted to instruction on scientific presentations. Students give short presentations on topics of interest, and prepare a lengthy presentation on their research. Stress is laid on the preparation, execution, and critique of effective scientific presentations. One hour per week. Fall semester.

PHYS 494 | SPECIAL TOPICS

Units: 1-3 Repeatability: Yes (Can be repeated for Credit)

Prerequisites: PHYS 271 and PHYS 271L

Topics chosen by the instructor in areas such as: thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, solid state, hydrodynamics, quantum mechanics, plasma physics, nuclear physics, elementary particle physics, and advanced physics laboratory. May be repeated for credit if the course material is different.

PHYS 495 | SEMINAR II: FRONTIERS OF PHYSICS

Units: 1

The second semester of the seminar series focuses on exposure to current physics research in the form of informal and formal presentations, lab tours, and scientific articles on a wide range of current research fields. Students will attend physics seminars at UCSD and will meet with physicists in fields related to the seminar beforehand. To prepare for the seminars and meetings, students will read journal articles on the topic. Students will learn about a wide range of cutting-edge physics research topics such as: dark matter, global warming and alternative energy sources, biomechanics, string theory, neutrinos, etc. Meets 2-4 hours every other Thursday. Spring semester.

PHYS 496 | RESEARCH

Units: 1-3 Repeatability: Yes (Can be repeated for Credit)

An independent research project supervised by a faculty mentor in the physics department. Each student works closely with a faculty mentor to address a mutually agreed upon research problem in experimental or theoretical physics. A student seeking PHYS 496 credit must take initiative to meet with physics faculty members to learn about their research interests and possible problems to research. PHYS 496 credit requires the consent of the faculty mentor. A written report is required.

PHYS 499 | INDEPENDENT STUDY

Units: 1-3 Repeatability: Yes (Can be repeated for Credit)

CHAIR

Rae M. R. Anderson, PhD

Faculty

Michael Anderson, PhD

Theodore Dezen, PhD

Chad Kishimoto, PhD

Ryan McGorty, PhD

Linhdung Pham, PhD

Greg Severn, PhD

Daniel P. Sheehan, PhD