Undergraduate Program in

PHYSICS

© Photos by Jack Liu


Why study physics?

What career opportunities are there for physics majors?

Remarks of a former student.

What can the Department of Physics offer you?

Course of study

Credit by exams (AP, IP)

Is there financial aid?

What about an engineering degree?

Who will be studying physics along with me?

Faculty research interests.

Need more information?


University of Oregon

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Click here for a PDF version of the Undergraduate Program in Physics advising handout.

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Why study physics?

Physics students learn how the laws of nature can be used to explain the many phenomena of our world. Most students are excited to find that elementary principles, many of which are learned in introductory physics courses, may be used to solve seemingly complex problems. This ability to apply the simple principles that underlie complex problems will serve students well in the interests and careers they pursue after graduation.

What career opportunities are there for physics majors?

A solid grounding in the liberal arts, which includes good communication skills, both written and oral, is an asset sought by most employers. Graduates with a major in physics find employment in the various areas of physics and other physical sciences; in technological and health industries; in financial services; and in computer science, library science, education, communication, law, and medicine. In some of these areas advanced study may be necessary.

Many students who earn a bachelor's degree in physics continue their studies towards a graduate degree in physics or a related field of natural science or engineering. Students who have demonstrated their abilities with a good record in an undergraduate physics program are favorably considered for admission to professional schools. Current information about the job market for physics degree holders, see the American Institute of Physics job information site. For more information about careers in Physics, see the American Physical Society's Careers in Physics web page.

The University of Oregon provides a Career Mentoring Program that connects UO students seeking career information with alumni and community professionals working in the field(s) of the student's interest.

The problem-solving and analytical skills learned as a physics student will serve you well in any career you choose.
My experiences in the high-energy physics laboratory were the highlight of my academic experiences at the University of Oregon. I had contact with professors and exposure to a research environment, which solidified my intentions to go to graduate school and explore my own research interests. The valuable experience I got using state-of-the-art laboratory equipment has proved useful to me in graduate school.

The greatest benefit of my laboratory work was that it allowed me to learn about a wider range of subjects than my courses covered. When I first approached David Strom, an assistant professor in the Department of Physics, about doing an undergraduate thesis, I was considering going into electrical engineering in graduate school, but I was concerned about my minimal background in electronics.

Dan Marks graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the university's Clark Honors College with a major in physics.

 

 

He helped me choose a thesis topic that not only taught me more about physics, but gave me the opportunity to learn more about electronics. Part of my thesis required me to construct a device to conduct measurements on low-noise amplifiers.

While I have since chosen to pursue optics in graduate school, the lessons I learned working on my thesis have proved invaluable in preparing me for the work I do now.

What can the University of Oregon Department of Physics offer you?

The department's faculty is committed to giving majors a solid foundation in the basics of physics and to teaching students the analytical and problem-solving skills that are essential to any career.

Physics classes typically comprise fifteen to twenty-five students, an optimal size that guarantees individual attention. These courses are taught by faculty members who bring their research interests into the classroom.

The thirty-four faculty members in physics have diverse research interests that range from astrophysics to materials science. The faculty is awarded more than $4 million in external research grants each year. Whenever possible, undergraduates are offered the chance to participate in vigorous faculty research programs.

Willamette Hall, a spacious new facility, was designed specifically for the physics department. Its introductory physics laboratories are equipped with microcomputers to aid students in data acquisition and analysis. Significant funding from grants has provided up-to-date equipment for advanced laboratories in laser optics, electronics, and instrumentation.

Physics Reading Room

The department's reading room offers a comfortable place for undergraduates to study and share ideas.

Physics Honors Baccalaureate and Undergraduate Research for Honors

The Physics Honors Baccalaureate program provides the opportunity to graduate with honors in physics while meeting either of the following two conditions:

by maintaining a 3.50 GPA or better in upper-division physics courses (46 or more hours, at least 40 of which are taken for grades)

by undertaking research within the department or in a related discipline, writing a thesis on a research topic and defending it (while maintaining a 3.30 GPA or better under similar conditions as above).

It is adviseable to undertake an undergraduate research project while enrolled as a physics major regardless. In general, students should seek admission to a NSF REU summer research program to follow their second year within the major. These involve travel elsewhere, and applications are usually due in December through February. Upon return to UO, a student would seek research in a UO lab with the help of the physics undergraduate advisor. This research might start by reading seminal papers on a particular subject and discussing them with a potential undergraduate research advisor. In many instances this is followed by lab work involving construction of experiment apparatus, and/or programming computer control of experiments and interfacing to retrieve and analyse data, though other types of work are also possible. Finally, the student would write up an undergraduate thesis during their last year in the program, under the supervision of their advisor. Students then defend their thesis in front of two research faculty, to include their advisor. The thesis can count, also, for completion of requirements for graduation from the Robert D. Clark Honors College, providing they meet the requirement of the college as well.

The Physics Honors Baccalaureate information form and registration form are availble as PDF files.

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Physics while enrolled in the Robert D. Clark Honors College

Students enrolled in the Robert D. Clark Honors College are encouraged to consider majoring in Physics. The Course of Study for this option involves advance planning. A sample Course of Study is given here. Here is a PDF file of a sample program.

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Course of study

The Physics Department offers a special introductory sequence designed for physics majors. This sequence provides an excellent opportunity for incoming majors to begin their physics studies with ample individual attention. Class sizes are typically 15 to 25 students at all levels in the physics major program.

The course requirements and suggested electives for graduate school bound students are shown in the chart below.

Sample Physics Major Program (for Graduate School Bound Students)

 

 

Major Core     Minimum of BS

 

Recommended Enhancements

 

Required            Related Subjects

 

Required    University

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First      Year

Foundations                 of Physics I (251,252,253)

Physics Lab. 1 (290 each term)

15 credits

 

 

 

Calculus and Chemistry

20 credits

 

Composition

8 credits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second Year

Foundations of Physics II  (351,352,353)

Intermediate Lab (390)

16 credits

 

 

 

Differential Equations and                        Several Variable Calculus

12 credits

 

Group -satisfying courses from Arts and Letters and Social Sciences  

(16 credit hours        in each)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Third     Year

Electricity, Magnetism & Electromagnetism (412,413, 422)

Mechanics (411)

6 cr. hours upper-division labs

22 credits

 

Electives in Physics  (from Electromagnetism, Optics, Math. Methods & Astrophysics)

 

 

Electives in Mathematics

(from Complex Variables, Partial Diff. Equations,  Linear Algebra)

 

Multicultural Courses

(2 courses)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fourth   Year

Quantum Physics (414,415,417)

12 credits

 

Physics Laboratories (from Electronics, Optics Advanced Lab)

 

 

 

 

Students who will seek employment in the technical arena with a bachelor's degree in physics can follow the Applied Emphasis Track, outlined below:

Sample Physics Major Program (for Applied Emphasis Students)

 

 

Major Core     Minimum of BS

 

Recommended Enhancements

 

Required            Related Subjects

 

Required    University

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First      Year

Foundations                 of Physics I (251,252,253)

Physics Lab. 1 (290 each term)

15 credits

 

 

 

Calculus and Chemistry

20 credits

 

Composition

8 credits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second Year

Foundations of Physics II  (351,352,353)

Intermediate Lab (390)

16 credits

 

 

 

Differential Equations and                        Several Variable Calculus

12 credits

 

Group -satisfying courses from Arts & Letters and Social Sciences  

(16 credit hrs. each)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Third     Year

Electricity & Magnetism (412,413)

Intro. Quantum Mech. (354)

Analog & Digital Electronics (431,432)

20 credits

 

Electives in Physics  (from Electromagnetism, Optics, Math. Methods & Astrophysics)

 

Electives in Mathematics

(from Complex Variables, Partial Diff. Equations,  Linear Algebra)

 

Multicultural Courses

(2 courses)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fourth   Year

Classical & Modern Optics (424,425)

Design of Experiments (481)

6 cr. hours upper-division labs

18 credits

 

Physics Laboratories (from Physics Instrumentation, Modern Optics Lab, Advanced Lab)

 

 

 

 

Sample Physics Major Program for Students Enrolled in the Robert D. Clark Honors College

 

 

Physics Major Core     Minimum of BS

 

Robert D. Clark Honor College

 

Required and Optional           Related Subjects

 

Undergraduate Research Activities

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First      Year

Foundations                 of Physics I (251,252,253)

Physics Lab. 1 (290 each term)

15 credits

 

 

Honors College Literature (HC 221H, 222H, 223H)

 12 credits

 

Calculus and Chemistry

(Chemistry can be taken in year 2)
12-20 credits

 

 

For advanced students:

Apply for and complete NSF REU program following summer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second Year

Foundations of Physics II  (351,352,353)

Intermediate Lab (390)

16 credits

 

Honors College History (HC 231H, 232H, 233H)
HC Colloquia (e.g., HC 421H, 431H, 441H)

16-24 credits

 

 

Chemistry (if not taken year 1)

Differential Equations and Several Variable Calculus

12-20 credits

 

Apply for and complete NSF REU program following summer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Third     Year

Electricity & Magnetism (412,413, 422)

6 cr. hours upper-division labs (e.g., 431, 432)

Research (401)

22 credits

 

HC Colloquia (e.g., HC 421H, 431H, 441H) to total 5 courses between 2nd, 3rd and 4th year.

 8-12 credits

 

 

Multicultural Courses (2 courses)

Math Methods for Physics (410)
{ Optional electives in Mathematics (from Complex Variables, Partial Diff. Equations, Linear Algebra) }

12+ credits

 

 

Begin research with physics-related research group. Continue work through following summer and fall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fourth   Year

Quantum Physics (414,415,417)
Mechanics (411)
Research (401)

20 credits

 

 

HC Colloquia (e.g., HC 421H, 431H, 441H) to total 5 courses between 2nd, 3rd and 4th year.
HC Thesis Prospectus (HC 477H)

6 credits

 

{ Optional electives in Physics (e.g., 410, 424-26, 427) and Mathematics (see above) }

4-12 credits

 

Write Honors College Thesis (in physics research area) during fall/winter terms. Defend during spring term.

 

Students who wish to start physics their first year at the university should come prepared to study calculus.

What about Advance Placement Credits?

Students wishing to major in physics at the University of Oregon can reduce their college coursework by scoring sufficiently well on Mathematics or Chemistry Advanced Placement Exams. Students performing well on the higher level International Baccalaureate Chemistry or Math exams may also receive college credit for certain courses. (visit the Alternative Credits web page for more information about general college credits earned through examination.). Prospective physics majors are also encouraged to take AP physics courses as preparation for their first year at the University of Oregon.

Physics Credits by Exam

Physics Advanced Placement Exam scores result in University of Oregon college course credits awarded according to the following table:

Exam
Score
Credit
Course
Group Requirement
Physics B 3 8 hrs PHYS 201, 202 SC
4 or 5 12 hrs PHYS 201, 202, 203 SC
Physics C 3 4 hrs PHYS 201 SC
(Mechanics)
4 or 5 4 hrs PHYS 211 SC
Physics C 3 4 hrs PHYS 203 SC
(Electricity) 4 or 5 4 hrs PHYS 213 SC

Health Sciences majors who score a 4 or 5 on the Physics B AP Exam will most likely need to take the Intro Physics Lab (PHYS 204, 205, 206) sequence to gain entry to a professional school. They are advised to discuss this with their pre-health sciences advisor.

The physics majors course (Foundations of Physics I: PHYS 251, 252, 253) is generally less broad, but covers topics in more depth that Physics with Calculus (PHYS 211, 212, 213). For example, "Foundations" begins with special relativity and includes special laboratory modules. Consequently, incoming students who have scored a 4 or higher on the Physics C AP exams are not automatically exempted from taking the Foundations sequence. Please contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies for more information.

Incoming students who have scored a 5 or above on the higher level International Baccalaureate Physics exam may earn between 4-12 credits in Physics with Algebra (PHYS 201, 202, 203) according to their exam score (see the Registrar's Advanced Credit web page).

Mathematics Credits by Exam

Students wishing to major in physics at the University of Oregon should come prepared to take Calculus (MATH 251, 252, 253) during their first year. Any student (including prospective physics majors) scoring well on the Mathematics Calculus Advanced Placement test(s) (see following table) receives college credit for those courses and need not repeat them at the UO.

Exam
Score
Credit
Course
Group Requirement
Calculus AB 3 4 hrs MATH 251 SC
4 or 5 8 hrs MATH 251, 252 SC
Calculus BC 3 8 hrs MATH 251, 252 SC
4 or 5 12 hrs MATH 251, 252, 253 SC
(Students may also earn Calculus credits according to their scores on the higher level Internation Baccalaureate Math exam. See the Registrar's Advanced Credit web page)

Students who do not take the AP exams will be placed in a mathematics course according to how they perform on the Math Placement Test, administered by the UO Mathematics Department. This is true for students who took calculus in high school but did not take or score high enough on the Calculus AP exams. Consequently these students are advised to:

  1. take the practice Math Placement Tests found on the web at http://testing.uoregon.edu/PlacementTesting/MathPlacement/GeneralInformation/tabid/94/Default.aspx before taking the Math Placement Test.
  2. complete the Math Placement Test as soon as possible after committment to attend the University of Oregon, while their knowledge of mathematics gained from high school coursework is still fresh.

Chemistry Credits by Exam

Either General Chemistry (CH 221, 222) or Honors General Chemistry (CH 224, 225) are requirements for a Bachelor's degree in Physics at the University of Oregon. Students can earn chemistry credits and complete part of their chemistry requirements for physics by:

  1. scoring a 3, 4, or 5 (CH 221, CH 221 + 222, or CH 221-223) on the Chemistry Advanced Placement exam.
  2. scoring well on the Internation Baccalaureate higher level Chemistry exam (see the Registrar's Advanced Credit web page).

In general, students do not automatically receive credit for General Chemistry Lab when receiving AP or IB credit for General Chemistry.

Is there financial aid?

The University's Office of Student Financial Aid has up-to-date information about various financial-aid packages. Merit-based awards for undergraduates include Target of Opportuntity Awards for students of color and the Women in Physical Sciences Program for junior and senior women who plan to go on to graduate studies.

What about an engineering degree?

The department coordinates a five-year program in which students earn a bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Oregon and an engineering degree from Oregon State University. Students may also complete preparatory course work at the university before transferring to an engineering program at another school. The UO Bulletin has more information about the Engineering Prep. program. (scroll down to find "Engineering, Preparatory")

  PHYSICS LABORATORIES

In the optics and electronics laboratories students can use state-of-the-art equipment to reinforce concepts learned in class and to undertake individual research projects.

PHYSICS DEMONSTRATIONS

Undergraduate students set up a demonstration to accompany a lecture. The department offers a comprehensive program of demonstrations to complement introductory and advanced courses.

 

Faculty research interests

Current research areas include astronomy and astrophysics, atomic, molecular and optical physics, biophysics, chemical physics, condensed matter theory, elementary particle physics, nuclear physics, physics education research, quantum optics, solid state physics, statistical mechanics, superfluid mechanics and areas of applied physics. Interdisciplinary research is carried out in a variety of research centers and institutes (see list of UO research institutes and centers). This research activity provides numerous opportunities for the participation of undergraduate students. A listing of department research areas, including faculty research interests and backgrounds is also available.

 

For more information

The UO Department of Physics's home page on the World Wide Web is: http://physics.uoregon.edu

Call or write:

  • Department of Physics: 1274 University of Oregon; Eugene, OR 97403-1274 (541) 346-4751; Fax (503) 346-5861
  • Office of Admissions: 1217 University of Oregon; Eugene, OR 97403-1217 (541) 346-3201
  • Office of Student Financial Aid: 1278 University of Oregon; Eugene, OR 97403-1278 (503) 346-3221

Further Web-based information is available:

For additional information contact Dr. Dean Livelybrooks, Advising Coordinator for the Department of Physics at (541) 346-5855.