Frequently Asked Questions

How do the 2012 changes to the Physics B.S. affect me?

Beginning with the 2012-13 academic year the Physics B.S. requirements have been changed. All majors entering their Junior year in 2012 or later will follow the new requirements. It is intended that pre-2012 Juniors follow the original requirements, but these students have the option of fulfilling the new requirements instead.  On the Course Checklist and the Recommended Junior/Senior Courses pages both the new and old programs are listed.
As of 5/9/12 the UCSB Catalog has not yet been updated to reflect these changes.  The revised major sheet for 2012 Juniors can be found here.
Some courses have been renumbered and their syllabi adjusted.  The following pairs of courses can be substituted, in either direction, for purposes of fulfilling prerequisites and B.S. requirements, and repeats:

Phys 101=Phys 100B; Phys 102=Phys 100A; Phys 103=Phys 105A; Phys 104=Phys105B.

Intermediate Mechanics, Phys 103, is an important course for introducing students to the methods of Upper-Division physics, and it is a prerequisite for Advanced Mechanics, Phys 104.  Most students will take this course, but those who have received grades of A- or above in all Lower-Division mechanics courses (Phys 20, 21, and 22) may be permitted to skip Phys 103; you should speak to the undergraduate advisor before registration for Fall.
The course Phys 110C has been discontinued, and much of its content is in the revised syllabus for Phys 110AB.  Phys 110AB is now a prerequisite for Optics, Phys 141.

What do I do if...


I am not a Physics major but want to become one.

If you are a College of Letters and Science (L&S) major, you should seek the advice of the Physics Undergraduate Advisor in Broida 3019C. Once the major change petition is completed, and you have been accepted, the advisor will obtain the signature of the Department Chair and send it along to L&S for final approval. Students with a GPA below a 2.0 will not be accepted in to the major. If you are an Engineering major, you need to speak with the Engineering Advising office for release into L&S.


I would like to switch Physics majors (BS to BA or vice versa).

If you are already a Physics major, all you need to do is complete a Change of Major Petition with the Physics Undergraduate Advisor.


I would like to double major.

You need to check with each department you are proposing to double major in. Bring a copy of your new student profile and unofficial transcripts to the new department you wish to enroll with. You will fill out a change of major petition and the department chair from each department will need to approve it, after the undergraduate advisors approve your change. Keep in mind that each department is different, and may have a different way of handling major change petitions.

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I would like to double major in the College of Engineering and in L&S.

Go to the Engineering Office and speak to the academic advisor there. If they approve your double major, they will help you initialize paperwork to "release" you into the Physics major, or accept you into an engineering major. Then you should see the Physics advisor for additional help. You should then make your way to the L&S to talk about what kinds of general education requirements you would have to fulfill.


I would like to find out about GE requirements.

We only handle major requirements. You should visit the College of L&S advising website or go to Cheadle Hall, Room 1117 and speak with an advisor.


I have a question about the content in a course I am taking.

It would be a good idea to speak with your faculty advisor about course-work related issues.

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I am a transfer student. Where do I get more help and information?

Check out our Undergraduate Transfer Page for information you need.


I am a transfer student who needs help getting transfer work substitutions.

Come to the Physics Department with syllabi, new student profiles and/or transcripts. Make sure you have transcripts for every course you would like credit for. Syllabi are helpful in case the course descriptions we find are lacking in information. A general rule of thumb: If you are coming from out of state, a private California school, or a UC/Cal State Campus, bring a syllabi. If you are unsure, check with the Department. In some instances, your course work would need to be evaluated by a faculty advisor, and a Petition for Degree Requirements is necessary. If you need course-work other than Physics evaluated, you should bring the same materials to the other departments. They will then fill out a recommendation for evaluation that can be used in the Petition for Degree Requirements process.

A note about Physics 20-25: If you are looking for credit for any/all of the Physics 20 series, make sure to check with the faculty advisor. The Physics 20 series is in general much more difficult than coursework at a Junior College, and our upper division courses are geared toward students who have completed the more difficult series. In this case, you may feel more comfortable auditing/enrolling in part of the Physics 20 series. We want you to succeed, so please ask us for help if you need it!


I want to enroll in a minor.

You should seek the advice of the Department you wish to minor in. If it is Physics or Astronomy and Planetary Sciences, speak to the Physics Undergraduate Advisor about determining which courses will overlap in the minor and major. Students do not declare a Physics/Astro minor, although it is always a good idea to meet with a staff advisor to make sure you are on the right track. Once your requirements are fulfilled, the staff advisor completes a clearance form, and your minor will appear on your diploma. Your GPA must remain at a 2.0 or better in all upper division minor courses and overall. It is your responsibility to alert the undergraduate advisor during the quarter for which you are graduating of your intention to graduate with a minor on your diploma.

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I am graduating. Is there anything I need to do?

Make sure you speak with your Physics advisor for a major check as well as the College of Letters and Science advisor for a degree check.There is nothing worse than finding out a week before you walk that your requirements have not been fulfilled. It is your responsibility to make sure that you have completed everything!


I took the Physics 1-2-3-4-5 series instead of the Physics 20-21-22-23-24-25 series because I was previously a different major.

In many cases, this would be fine depending on how well you did in the Physics 1-2-3-4-5 courses. In some cases where students have not been successful with Physics 1-2-3-4-5, we would take another look at the choice of major you are pursuing. The Physics 20 series is a difficult one that is designed to prepare students for the rigorous upper division curriculum. If a student can not complete the Physics 1-5 series, then Physics 20 and the Physics major may not be the best choice. A Petition for Degree Requirements is always necessary for this (or any) substitution not listed on the major sheet. Many times we may recommend that you audit the 20 series to prepare yourself for what you will encounter later in the Physics career.

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I took Physics 6A-B-C + labs because I was previously a different major.

We will not substitute Physics 6A/L-B/L-C/L for Physics 20-21-22-23-24-25+ labs. In this case, you would have to enroll in Physics 20-21-22-23-24-25 + labs for study credit only through the College of L&S. You will not graduate if you do not take the required series. Please consult with a faculty advisor for more information.


I want to take a Graduate Level Course and have it count toward my degree requirements.

Complete a petition for an Undergraduate to Enroll in a Graduate Level Course, found at the Registrar's Office. Depending on the course, it may be possible to use it toward your major. In this case, a Petition for Degree Requirements would be necessary.


I want to take a course overseas.

You should get, from the college of your choice, a copy of a syllabi and course description, as well as the name of the book you will be using, in order to evaluate whether or not the course would transfer to your major. The course would be evaluated and a Petition for Degree Requirements should be completed. This should be done before you go away, as there is no guarantee that the course you complete is transferable to the major. See the College of Letters and Science information page for more, non-physics help.

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I need help with my Physics course.

For lower division courses, the Physics Department offers the use of the Physics Study Room (PSR) located on the first floor of Broida, Room 1019. Any undergraduate physics student can come here to study or get help with homework during the period of 8:30 AM - 4:30 PM during the regular academic year. For help with upper division courses, it is best to see the TA assigned to your course, as he or she would be best prepared to answer questions from you. This allows the lower division TA's to remain open and free for students needing assistance in lower division courses. You can also seek help at CLAS for lower division work - http://www.clas.ucsb.edu/. The resources are out there -- it is up to you to harness them!


I am interested in Physics Outreach or the Physics Circus.

Students interested in the Physics Circus should consult the instructor in charge of the Circus that year. It changes from year to year, so check with the Department or the schedule of classes for that quarter. Other outreach opportunities are also available.


I want to pursue Physics Research.

This decision will prove valuable to you as you embark on the Physics path. Normally, students are not encouraged to pursue research until they have taken a few courses at UCSB. That way, you make initial connections with some faculty through courses, and will feel less intimidated.Start with a faculty member that you know, who you feel comfortable with approaching. See if there is any lab work available for undergraduates. If that does not work, peruse the Physics website for faculty in fields that you find interesting. Contact them directly to make appointments, or to see if they are in the market for hiring undergraduates. Research is highly recommended for motivated students planning on continuing to graduate school, or who are interested in a Physics related profession. If all else fails, speak with your faculty advisor who may be able to point you in a good starting direction.

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I want to do an internship off campus.

First, you should speak with your faculty advisor. It is possible to do an internship somewhere off campus, or even with a different faculty member on campus. Bring your project for approval to your faculty advisor/research sponsor. Once approved, you may be instructed to enroll in a Physics research course. This will help guarantee that you receive course credit for any work you complete. Next, check with the College of Letters and Science for regulations to make sure that there are no liability issues with you working off campus. If everything checks out, you will be enrolled at UCSB for units through a faculty sponsor or advisor. Once the quarter is complete, your supervisor will need to report to your advisor/sponsor in order for a grade to be submitted.


I have a complaint about a faculty member, TA or staff member.

Depending on the problem, you may want to seek the advice of an advisor. In general, it is good to try to confront the person you are having a conflict with. If that does not work, or you are uncomfortable doing that, it may be a good idea to make an appointment with the Chair of the Department for consultation. We take complaints very seriously, and evaluate each case. Confidentiality is also an extreme priority, so you may remain anonymous.

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I have taken Physics AP exams - what Physics credit do I receive?

Many students have taken Physics AP exams in High School. The breakdown of the exams is found in the General Catalog. It states that:

For a score of 3, 4, or 5:

Physics B Exam = UCSB Physics 10 or Natural Sciences 1A

Physics C Exam (Mechanics) = UCSB Physics 6A (not 6AL)

Physics C Exam (Electricity and Magnetism) = UCSB Physics 6B (not 6BL)

We don't give credit for Physics 1 or 20 via AP exams, however you will find that you will be well prepared for Phys 20 in fall quater or Physics 1 in the winter quarter. If you did exceptionally well in the Physics C exams and your major requries the Physics 1-5 series, you may want to think about taking the Physics 20 series instead. The Physics 20 series is more indepth and taught at a more advanced level than the Physics 1-5 series. Check the schedule of classes and consult the instructor of the course for more information.

Credit for Physics labs are not given through the Physics Department. Consult your major department for information on Physics 6AL and/or Physics 6BL substitutions.

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