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University of Utah    
  Jan 19, 2018
2017-2018 General Catalog

Physics & Astronomy

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College of Science
Department Office: 201 James Fletcher Building
Phone: 801-581-6901
Fax: 801-581-4801

Department Chair: Ben Bromley, Ph.D., 201 JFB,
Associate Chair: Jordan Gerton, Ph.D., 464 INSCC,
Director of Graduate Studies: Wayne Springer, Ph.D., 216 SP,
Director of Undergraduate Studies: John Belz, Ph.D., 228 INSCC,
Undergraduate Advisor: Tamara Young, M.S., 202 JFB,

Department Mission

The mission of the University of Utah Department of Physics & Astronomy is to advance knowledge about the appearances and interactions of energy and matter and of celestial objects and phenomena. We strive to share this knowledge with students and the wider community through a continuous effort in undergraduate and graduate teaching and by achieving research excellence in theoretical physics, experimental physics and astronomy.

In pursuit of our mission, the University of Utah Department of Physics & Astronomy supports the highest levels of research and teaching among its faculty members. We strive to enable the success of undergraduate and graduate students by creating an academically excellent, efficient and comfortable learning environment. The Department supports the utilization of its accomplishments for the benefit of organizations and individuals in the local as well as global community.

Undergraduate Program

Physicists and Astronomers are problem solvers. Their analytical skills make them versatile and adaptable so they work in interesting and diverse places and environments.  Physics opens doors to employment opportunities throughout the world in government, industry, schools, and private organizations.

Degree Programs

The Department of Physics & Astronomy offers a BS and a BA degree in Physics, a BS and a BA in Physics with an Astronomy & Astrophysics emphasis, and a BS and BA degree in Physics Teaching, as well as a minor in Physics and a minor in Astronomy.

Students in the physics degree program will elect either one of three tracks: the Physics track, the Applied Physics track, or the Bio-medical Physics track, or the Astronomy & Astrophysics emphasis. The Physics track is designed to prepare students for graduate study in physics or related disciplines.  The Applied Physics track is intended for students aiming for a technical career in which a grounding in physics will be important. The Applied Physics program is also excellent preparation for many technical and non-technical careers. The Bio-medical Physics track is designed to give the best preparation for medical school and other health professions and combines coursework from the Applied track with additional coursework in chemistry and biology.  By selecting the elective biology and chemistry classes carefully, the Bio-medical track will also prepare students for graduate work in biophysics.  The Astronomy & Astrophysics emphasis has at its core the Physcis track, but with the depth and breadth classes replaced with astronomy courses.  As such, the Astronomy & Astrophysics emphasis is intended to prepare students to pursue graduate studies in astrophysics and cosmology.

For all physics tracks, students will receive their Bachelor’s degree in “Physics”.  For the Astronomy & Astrophysics emphasis, the emphasis will appear on their transcript.  Students who enter the program with strong preparation can complete the degree in four years while maintaining a full course load, but many students often require 4.5 or 5 years (particularly those who have full-time jobs, are pursuing a double major, or who need preparatory courses). All tracks require a minimum of 30 semester hours of approved physics courses.  Course offerings with a course number less than PHYS 2210  do not count toward the 30 hours.

Students in the physics teaching degree program have fewer total major courses, however, they will need to complete the secondary education training program in order to qualify for licensure.  Therefore, students who enter the program with strong preparation may require 5 or more years to graduate from the complete program. 

Please see the Astronomy Minor, Physics B.A., B.S., H.B.A., H.B.S., Minor and Physics Teaching B.A., B.S., H.B.A., H.B.S., and Minor listed in the Program and Course Offerings section.

Graduation Requirements

Physics and Astronomy majors and minors must complete all general education and College of Science requirements and have a GPA of at least 2.0 in the major. All required physics, math, astronomy and chemistry classes must be passed with at least a C- grade. The CR/NC option may not be elected for any course used to fulfill the degree requirements for a major or a minor.  There may be additional requirements for these degrees. Please see the program pages for more information.

Graduate Program

Most students in our program undertake graduate study to accomplish several goals: first, to develop a broad and sophisticated knowledge of the field as a whole; second, to acquire a deep and thorough understanding of some specialized field; third, to contribute to the body of knowledge of that field through their own research; and finally, to prepare the foundation for a rewarding career in Physics, Astronomy, or one of the many diverse fields of industry and finance to which physicists contribute. 

We offer a number of options to achieve these goals.  Most of our students seek a Ph.D. in Physics, some with formal emphases in Astronomy and Astrophysics, Medical Physics and Physics Education, we also confer a Ph.D. in Chemical Physics.  We offer several types of Master’s degrees as well: the M.S. in Instrumentation Physics (MSI), the M.S. in Computational Physics, and a Master’s degree in Physics.  Please see the Physics M.A., M.S., and Ph.D. listed in the Program and Course Offerings section.

Detailed information about the graduate programs, examinations, financial aid, and research areas is found in the department’s Graduate Student Handbook, which may be found online at:

Areas of Specialization

Areas include the theoretical and experimental study of condensed-matter physics; cosmic rays and fundamental particles and their interactions; theoretical astrophysics; observational and computational astronomy; biophysics and medical physics; nanoscience; as well as these research centers and institutes: Materials Research Science & Engineering Center (MRSEC), Center for Acoustic Cooling and the Dixon Laser Institute.  Interdisciplinary studies are available in chemical physics and other fields by special arrangement.

Admission to Candidacy

The GRE Advanced Test in Physics is required of all incoming graduate students. A written common examination is given at the beginning of graduate study for those who do not score sufficiently high on the Physics GRE. The common exam includes material from general physics, PHYS 3760 , PHYS 4410 , PHYS 4420  , PHYS 5450  , PHYS 5460  . Students must pass this exam before candidacy in the physics Ph.D. program.

Program and Course Offerings


    Undergraduate MajorMinorMasterDoctorate


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