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College of Arts and Sciences

Physics

C121 Physics
206-543-2770
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Faculty Website
physrecp@uw.edu

Physics is the study of the behavior of matter, space, time, and fields. Using highly sophisticated experimental and mathematical techniques, physicists gather detailed measurements of phenomena - from the largest scales involving the entire universe to the smallest scales involving the most fundamental particles - to construct theories that explain how the universe and the things in it behave.

 Undergraduate Programs


Physics

C139A Physics
206-543-3862
physadvs@uw.edu

 Program of Study: Major: Physics


Program Overview

Physics is the study of the behavior of matter, space, time, and fields. Using highly sophisticated experimental and mathematical techniques, physicists gather detailed measurements of phenomena—from the largest scales involving the entire universe to the smallest scales involving the most fundamental particles—to construct theories that explain how the universe and the things in it behave. The Department of Physics at UW educates students at all levels from general education, through preparation for teaching and scientific careers, to doctoral and post-doctoral education. The department welcomes and encourages the involvement of undergraduates in research.

This program of study leads to the following credentials:
  • Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Physics: Applied Physics
  • Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Physics: Biophysics
  • Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Physics: Comprehensive Physics
  • Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Physics: Teacher Preparation
Admission Requirements
  1. Completion of PHYS 121 (or PHYS 141), PHYS 122 (or PHYS 142), PHYS 123 (or PHYS 143); and MATH 124, MATH 125, MATH 126 (or MATH 134, MATH 135, MATH 136).
  2. Enrollment in minimum one physics lecture course with course number higher than 220 during the application quarter. Completion of minimum one physics lecture course (any course number, either at UW or elsewhere) within the two quarters prior to application.
  3. Standard admission is twice a year. Application deadlines: third Friday of autumn quarter and third Friday of spring quarter.

    Winter quarter transfer admission: Students transferring to the UW in autumn or winter quarter may also apply the third Friday of winter quarter.

  4. Meeting minimum requirements does not guarantee admission. Admission is capacity constrained, based on holistic review of a student's record as follows:
    1. Personal statement which should discuss reasons for choosing a physics major and strategies for success in the major, including discussion of lessons learned from previous successes and difficulties and plans for accessing support in the major. The statement should also address how the chosen degree option (applied, comprehensive, biophysics, teaching) and submitted graduation plan (see 4.c.) are suited to life and career goals. In cases of extenuating circumstances, a personal statement may also include a petition for waiver of one of the stated minimum requirements.
    2. Academic performance as measured by GPA; grades in courses required for admission; difficulty of other courses completed; frequency of incompletes, repeated courses, and withdrawals; relevant work and life experience.
    3. Graduation plan completed in MyPlan and printed to a pdf file, submitted with the application. Preapproval of graduation plan by Physics Student Services is recommended; incoming majors must have their Graduation Plan approved no later than six weeks after acceptance into the major to avoid having a hold placed on registration.

See department website for a description of degree requirements for the four physics degree options, sample graduation plans, and suggestions of topics to include in a personal statement. Successful applicants typically have over a minimum 2.60 cumulative GPA in physics and math courses, especially those taken recently.

 Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Physics: Applied Physics


Credential Overview

The Applied Physics degree option is aimed at students who plan to enter a technical job with their physics B.S. or pursue a masters degree in engineering or data science after a grounding in physics. The Applied option replaces some of the more mathematically-based required classes of the Comprehensive option with additional laboratory and computer programming requirements, and allows for breadth via selected introductory science and/or advanced laboratory classes as allowed electives. This is an excellent option for students interested in engineering or computers, but who seek a deeper understanding of the underlying phenomena and who prefer not to specialize in a particular branch of engineering at the undergraduate level.

Recommended Preparation

Suggested First- and Second-Year College Courses: MATH 124, MATH 125, MATH 126, and one or more higher-level math or applied math courses; PHYS 121 (or PHYS 141), PHYS 122 (or PHYS 142), PHYS 123 (or PHYS 143), PHYS 224, PHYS 225, PHYS 227. (Note: MATH 134, MATH 135, and MATH 136 can be used in place of MATH 124, MATH 125, MATH 126, and MATH 208.)

These physics and mathematics courses are required prerequisites for junior-level work in physics, not only at the UW, but also at most colleges and universities in the United States. Students who do not complete them during the first two years in college either need to take more than four years to earn a degree or be limited to a minimal course of study for graduation in four years.

Completion Requirements

Minimum 89-113 credits, depending on credential/option

  1. Physics core courses (37 credits): PHYS 121 (or PHYS 141), PHYS 122 (or PHYS 142), PHYS 123 (or PHYS 143), PHYS 224, PHYS 225, PHYS 227, PHYS 294, PHYS 321, PHYS 322, PHYS 334
  2. Mathematics core courses (18-20 credits): one of the following options
    1. MATH 124, MATH 125, MATH 126, and one course from MATH 207 (or AMATH 351), MATH 208 (or AMATH 352), MATH 209 (or AMATH 353), MATH 224, or AMATH 401
    2. MATH 134, MATH 135, MATH 136 and one course from MATH 209 (or AMATH 353), MATH 224, MATH 334, or AMATH 401
  3. Additional completion requirements specified below
Additional Completion Requirements

Option specific credits (34-43 credits)

  1. PHYS 231; one course from PHYS 226, PHYS 323, PHYS 324, PHYS 328, PHYS 329; and AMATH 301 (10-11 credits)
  2. Two additional mathematical courses (6-10 credits) from PHYS 228, MATH 207 (or AMATH 351), MATH 208 (or AMATH 352), MATH 209 (or AMATH 353), MATH 224, MATH 334, MATH 335, MATH 336, or AMATH 401
  3. Advanced laboratory (6-8 credits): two courses from PHYS 331, PHYS 335, PHYS 431, PHYS 432, PHYS 433, PHYS 434, ASTR 480 (or ASTR 481)
  4. Electives (minimum 9 credits): See adviser for approved list of electives.
  5. Undergraduate capstone (3-5 credits): minimum 3 credits from any combination of PHYS 401, PHYS 402, PHYS 403, PHYS 494, PHYS 495, PHYS 496, PHYS 498, PHYS 499, ASTR 481, or ASTR 499. (ASTR 481 may count as laboratory or research).

 Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Physics: Biophysics


Credential Overview

The Biophysics Option is aimed at giving students a thorough grounding in physics, biology and chemistry, preparing them for medical school or graduate school in biophysics or bioengineering, or other careers that combine physical and biological sciences.

Recommended Preparation

Suggested First- and Second-Year College Courses: One year of introductory biology and/or chemistry; MATH 124, MATH 125, MATH 126, and one or more higher-level math or applied math courses; PHYS 121 (or PHYS 141), PHYS 122 (or PHYS 142), PHYS 123 (or PHYS 143), PHYS 224, PHYS 225, PHYS 227. (Note: MATH 134, MATH 135, and MATH 136 can be used in place of MATH 124, MATH 125, MATH 126, and MATH 208.)

The physics and mathematics courses are required prerequisites for junior-level work in physics, not only at the UW, but also at most colleges and universities in the United States. Students who do not complete them during the first two years in college either need to take more than four years to earn a degree or be limited to a minimal course of study for graduation in four years.


Completion Requirements

Minimum 89-113 credits, depending on credential/option

  1. Physics core courses (37 credits): PHYS 121 (or PHYS 141), PHYS 122 (or PHYS 142), PHYS 123 (or PHYS 143), PHYS 224, PHYS 225, PHYS 227, PHYS 294, PHYS 321, PHYS 322, PHYS 334
  2. Mathematics core courses (18-20 credits): one of the following options
    1. MATH 124, MATH 125, MATH 126, and one course from MATH 207 (or AMATH 351), MATH 208 (or AMATH 352), MATH 209 (or AMATH 353), MATH 224, or AMATH 401
    2. MATH 134, MATH 135, MATH 136 and one course from MATH 209 (or AMATH 353), MATH 224, MATH 334, or AMATH 401
  3. Additional completion requirements specified below
Additional Completion Requirements

Option specific credits (48-56 credits)

  1. PHYS 228, PHYS 324, PHYS 328, PHYS 429; one course from PHYS 226, PHYS 323, PHYS 325, PHYS 329 (17-18 credits)
  2. Chemistry (12-15 credits from the following options):
    1. CHEM 142 (or CHEM 145), CHEM 152 (or CHEM 155), CHEM 162 (or CHEM 165)
    2. CHEM 143 and CHEM 153
  3. Biology (10 credits): BIOL 180 and BIOL 200
  4. Additional chemistry and biology (6-10 credits): two courses from CHEM 223 (or CHEM 237 or CHEM 335), CHEM 224 (or CHEM 238 or CHEM 336), CHEM 428, CHEM 452 (or CHEM 456), CHEM 453, CHEM 454, CHEM 455, BIOL 220, BIOL 340, BIOL 350, BIOL 355, BIOL 401, BIOL 404, BIOL 427, BIOL 461, BIOL 467, BIOC 405, BIOC 440
  5. Undergraduate capstone: 3 credits from any combination of BIOC 499, BIOL 499, CHEM 499, GENOME 499, MICROM 499, NEUSCI 499, P BIO 499, BIOEN 499, biophysics-related projects in PHYS 498, or biophysics-related projects in PHYS 499.

 Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Physics: Comprehensive Physics


Credential Overview

The Comprehensive Physics degree option is aimed at those wishing a thorough, mathematically-rigorous grounding in physics. This degree option will prepare students for a variety of technical careers. Students aiming at graduate school in physics, astronomy, or a related field should choose this degree option. Students wishing to be accepted at a top physics graduate school should take more than the minimum requirements, take advantage of research opportunities, and do well in their classes.

Recommended Preparation

Suggested First- and Second-Year College Courses: MATH 124, MATH 125, MATH 126, and one or more higher-level math or applied math courses; PHYS 121 (or PHYS 141), PHYS 122 (or PHYS 142), PHYS 123 (or PHYS 143), PHYS 224, PHYS 225, PHYS 227. (Note: MATH 134, MATH 135, and MATH 136 can be used in place of MATH 124, MATH 125, MATH 126, and MATH 208.)

These physics and mathematics courses are required prerequisites for junior-level work in physics, not only at the UW, but also at most colleges and universities in the United States. Students who do not complete them during the first two years in college either need to take more than four years to earn a degree or be limited to a minimal course of study for graduation in four years.

Completion Requirements

Minimum 89-113 credits, depending on credential/option

  1. Physics core courses (37 credits): PHYS 121 (or PHYS 141), PHYS 122 (or PHYS 142), PHYS 123 (or PHYS 143), PHYS 224, PHYS 225, PHYS 227, PHYS 294, PHYS 321, PHYS 322, PHYS 334
  2. Mathematics core courses (18-20 credits): one of the following options
    1. MATH 124, MATH 125, MATH 126, and one course from MATH 207 (or AMATH 351), MATH 208 (or AMATH 352), MATH 209 (or AMATH 353), MATH 224, or AMATH 401
    2. MATH 134, MATH 135, MATH 136 and one course from MATH 209 (or AMATH 353), MATH 224, MATH 334, or AMATH 401
  3. Additional completion requirements specified below
Additional Completion Requirements

Option specific credits (38-46 credits)

  1. 20-22 credits from PHYS 226, PHYS 228, PHYS 324; minimum three courses from PHYS 323, PHYS 325, PHYS 328, PHYS 329, ASTR 321 (or ASTR 323), ASTR 322
  2. One additional mathematics course from the core list (3-5 credits): MATH 207 (or AMATH 351), MATH 208 (or AMATH 352), MATH 209 (or AMATH 353), MATH 224, MATH 334, MATH 335, MATH 336, or AMATH 401
  3. Advanced laboratory (6-8 credits): two courses from PHYS 331, PHYS 335, PHYS 431, PHYS 432, PHYS 433, PHYS 434, ASTR 480 (or ASTR 481)
  4. Upper division lecture electives (minimum 6 credits): See adviser for approved list of electives.
  5. Undergraduate capstone (3 to 5 credits): minimum 3 credits from any combination of PHYS 401, PHYS 402, PHYS 403, PHYS 494, PHYS 495, PHYS 496, PHYS 498, PHYS 499, ASTR 481, or ASTR 499. (ASTR 481 may count as laboratory or research).

 Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Physics: Teacher Preparation


Credential Overview

This option is aimed at those who plan to teach physics, math or other technical fields in secondary school. It is also appropriate for students aimed at a science journalism career, or other fields involving the communication of physics to a broader audience. Its distinguishing feature is the Physics 407-8-9 sequence, which is aimed at giving you the conceptual understanding and experience required to teach physics without college-level mathematics.

Recommended Preparation

Suggested First- and Second-Year College Courses: MATH 124, MATH 125, MATH 126, and one or more higher-level math or applied math courses; PHYS 121 (or PHYS 141), PHYS 122 (or PHYS 142), PHYS 123 (or PHYS 143), PHYS 224, PHYS 225, PHYS 227. (Note: MATH 134, MATH 135, and MATH 136 can be used in place of MATH 124, MATH 125, MATH 126, and MATH 208.)

These physics and mathematics courses are required prerequisites for junior-level work in physics, not only at the UW, but also at most colleges and universities in the United States. Students who do not complete them during the first two years in college either need to take more than four years to earn a degree or be limited to a minimal course of study for graduation in four years.

Completion Requirements

Minimum 89-113 credits, depending on credential/option

  1. Physics core courses (37 credits): PHYS 121 (or PHYS 141), PHYS 122 (or PHYS 142), PHYS 123 (or PHYS 143), PHYS 224, PHYS 225, PHYS 227, PHYS 294, PHYS 321, PHYS 322, PHYS 334
  2. Mathematics core courses (18-20 credits): one of the following options
    1. MATH 124, MATH 125, MATH 126, and one course from MATH 207 (or AMATH 351), MATH 208 (or AMATH 352), MATH 209 (or AMATH 353), MATH 224, or AMATH 401
    2. MATH 134, MATH 135, MATH 136 and one course from MATH 209 (or AMATH 353), MATH 224, MATH 334, or AMATH 401
  3. Additional completion requirements specified below
Additional Completion Requirements

Option specific credits (38-43 credits)

  1. 14-15 credits from PHYS 226, PHYS 228, PHYS 324; one course from PHYS 323, PHYS 328, PHYS 329
  2. Physics by inquiry (15 credits): PHYS 407, PHYS 408, and PHYS 409
  3. One additional mathematics course from the core list (3-5 credits): MATH 207 (or AMATH 351), MATH 208 (or AMATH 352), MATH 209 (or AMATH 353), MATH 224, MATH 334, MATH 335, MATH 336, or AMATH 401
  4. Advanced laboratory (3-5 credits): One course from PHYS 331, PHYS 335, PHYS 431, PHYS 432, PHYS 433, PHYS 434, ASTR 480, or ASTR 481
  5. Teaching practicum (3 credits): PHYS 401, PHYS 402, PHYS 403, or PHYS 499, working on a project that involves teaching

 Program of Study: Minor: Physics


Program Overview

Are you considering continuing your studies in Physics, but are not quite sure if you want to major in this field? Would you like to take a few more Physics classes but you worry about investing too much time on them without getting a degree? Are you a declared major in a college other than Arts and Sciences, but would like a credential that demonstrates knowledge of Physics without meeting all the A&S distribution requirements? The Minor in Physics allows you to pursue your interest by taking additional courses which are valid for the major, should you decide on that route, while achieving a benchmark which awards recognition for your effort. The minor provides a grounding in physics as it applies to interdisciplinary STEM fields such as engineering or environmental science, as well as to interdisciplinary careers such as teaching, journalism, medicine, or law.

This program of study leads to the following credential:
  • Minor in Physics

 Minor in Physics


Credential Overview

A physics minor includes a basic core of introductory classical mechanics, electricity and magnetism, waves, thermodynamics, and quantum mechanics plus three additional courses specializing in physics education, experimental physics, or mathematical physics. The minor provides a grounding in physics as it applies to interdisciplinary STEM fields such as engineering or environmental science, as well as to interdisciplinary careers such as teaching, journalism, medicine, or law.

Completion Requirements

30-36 physics credits (in addition to 15 credits of MATH 124, MATH 125, and MATH 126)

  1. Core courses: PHYS 121, PHYS 122, PHYS 123, PHYS 224, and PHYS 225
  2. One of the following options:
    1. Physics Education: PHYS 407, PHYS 408, PHYS 409 (total 36 physics credits)
    2. Experimental Physics: PHYS 231, PHYS 334, and one course from PHYS 331, PHYS 335, PHYS 431, PHYS 432, PHYS 433, or PHYS 434 (total 30 physics credits)
    3. Mathematical Physics: PHYS 227, PHYS 228 (MATH 308 required), and one course from PHYS 321 or PHYS 324 (MATH 324 required) (total 30 physics credits)
  3. Minimum grade of 2.0 required for each physics course counted toward the minor.
Additional Information

Student Outcomes and Opportunities

  • Learning Objectives and Expected Outcomes: The program is one of the largest in the nation, with approximately 80-100 majors graduating every year. Graduates may join the work force in a variety of technical occupations where analytical, computational, and problem-solving skills are highly valued, both in government and the private sector. They may also continue with further studies in physics or in other fields (such as astronomy, medicine, law, business, biology, or engineering).
  • Instructional and Research Facilities: The Physics and Astronomy Departments share a modern building which contains excellent instructional and research facilities. Undergraduate students are strongly encouraged to participate in ongoing research in the department.
  • Honors Options Available: With College Honors (Completion of Honors Core Curriculum and Departmental Honors); With Honors (Completion of Departmental Honors requirements in the major). See adviser for requirements.
  • Research, Internships, and Service Learning: Most undergraduate physics majors participate in a research experience, either on campus or off. Research internships in physics and related departments are available for both pay and course credit. Many students participate in national programs, typically the summer after their junior year. The department also maintains an exchange program with Universitat Justus-Leibig in Geissen, Germany.
  • Department Scholarships: Select scholarships available every spring upon nomination by an instructor.
  • Student Organizations/Associations: Society of Physics Students, Career Development Organization for Physicists and Astronomers

Of Special Note:

  • One year of high school physics is strongly recommended before taking PHYS 121.

 Graduate Programs


Physics


 Program of Study: Doctor Of Philosophy (Physics)


This program of study leads to the following credentials:
  • Doctor Of Philosophy (Physics And Nanotechnology And Molecular Engineering)
  • Doctor Of Philosophy (Physics And Nanotechnology)
  • Doctor Of Philosophy (Physics)
Admission Requirements

Contact department for requirements.

 Doctor Of Philosophy (Physics And Nanotechnology And Molecular Engineering)


Completion Requirements

90 credits

  1. Core/Foundation (35 credits): PHYS 513, PHYS 514, PHYS 515, PHYS 517, PHYS 518, PHYS 519, PHYS 524, PHYS 525, PHYS 505, PHYS 528
  2. Dissertation (27 credits): PHYS 800
  3. Remaining credits (28 credits): Any 500-level or above course work as approved by Graduate Program Coordinator (GPC)
  4. Exams: Written qualifying examination (typically completed before or during the second year), oral general examination for admission to candidacy, and oral final examination.
  5. Teaching experience: Courses in teaching techniques in physics, PHYS 501 through PHYS 503, are required of students holding teaching assistantships.

 Doctor Of Philosophy (Physics And Nanotechnology)


Completion Requirements

90 credits

  1. Core/Foundation (35 credits): PHYS 513, PHYS 514, PHYS 515, PHYS 517, PHYS 518, PHYS 519, PHYS 524, PHYS 525, PHYS 505, PHYS 528
  2. Dissertation (27 credits): PHYS 800
  3. Remaining credits (28 credits): Any 500-level or above course work as approved by Graduate Program Coordinator (GPC)
  4. Exams: Written qualifying examination (typically completed before or during the second year), oral general examination for admission to candidacy, and oral final examination.
  5. Teaching experience: Courses in teaching techniques in physics, PHYS 501 through PHYS 503, are required of students holding teaching assistantships.

 Doctor Of Philosophy (Physics)


Completion Requirements

90 credits

  1. Core/Foundation (35 credits): PHYS 513, PHYS 514, PHYS 515, PHYS 517, PHYS 518, PHYS 519, PHYS 524, PHYS 525, PHYS 505, PHYS 528
  2. Dissertation (27 credits): PHYS 800
  3. Remaining credits (28 credits): Any 500-level or above course work as approved by Graduate Program Coordinator (GPC)
  4. Exams: Written qualifying examination (typically completed before or during the second year), oral general examination for admission to candidacy, and oral final examination.
  5. Teaching experience: Courses in teaching techniques in physics, PHYS 501 through PHYS 503, are required of students holding teaching assistantships.

 Program of Study: Master Of Science (Physics)


This program of study leads to the following credentials:
  • Master Of Science (Physics)
  • Master Of Science (Physics) (fee-based)
Admission Requirements

Contact department for requirements.

 Master Of Science (Physics)


Completion Requirements

36 credits

  1. Core/Foundation credits (23 credits): PHYS 513, PHYS 514, PHYS 517, PHYS 518, PHYS 524, PHYS 505, PHYS 528
  2. Remaining credits (13 credits): PHYS 500-level or above course work as approved by Graduate Program Coordinator (GPC)
  3. Pass department MS Review.

 Master Of Science (Physics) (fee-based)


Credential Overview

This option is designed for students who are currently employed and whose background is in physical science, engineering, mathematics, or computer science. Admission is based on course grades in physics and related fields, adequacy of preparation in physics, and interest in areas of instruction offered in the physics department. Entering students are expected to have an undergraduate background equivalent to a BS degree in physical science, engineering, mathematics, or computer science. This program is part time, with classes offered evenings.

Completion Requirements

36 credits

  1. Core courses (12 credits): Any 3 of the following: PHYS 441 PHYS 543, PHYS 541, PHYS 544
  2. Elective courses (to meet required total):
    1. Any 400 or 500 level PHYS courses;
    2. PHYS 600 Independent study (6-25 credits)
  3. Final oral examination by a committee
  4. Submission of a final project report

Additional Information
  • Financial Aid: Most graduate students are supported by fellowships and assistantships. Applications for the PhD program are automatically considered for these fellowships and assistantships.