2018-2019 General Catalog 
    Mar 21, 2018  
2018-2019 General Catalog

Physics & Astronomy

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: College of Science


College of Science
Department Office: 201 James Fletcher Building
Phone: 801-581-6901
Fax: 801-581-4801
Website: www.physics.utah.edu

Department Chair: Ben Bromley, Ph.D., 201 JFB, bromley@physics.utah.edu
Associate Chair: Jordan Gerton, Ph.D., 464 INSCC, jgerton@physics.utah.edu
Director of Graduate Studies: Wayne Springer, Ph.D., 216 SP, springer@physics.utah.edu
Director of Undergraduate Studies: John Belz, Ph.D., 228 INSCC, belz@physics.utah.edu
Undergraduate Advisor: Tamara Young, M.S., 202 JFB, uadvising@physics.utah.edu

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 both BS and BA degrees in Physics, Physics with an Applied Physics emphasis, Physics with an Astronomy & Astrophysics emphasis, Physics with a Biomedical Physics emphasis, and a BS and BA degree in Physics Teaching.  The Department of Physics & Astronomy also offers minors in Physics, Physics Teaching and Astronomy.

The Physics degree is designed to prepare students for graduate study in physics or related disciplines.  The Physics degree with an emphasis in Applied Physics is intended for students aiming for a technical career in which a grounding in physics will be important. The Applied Physics emphasis is also excellent preparation for many technical and non-technical careers.  The Physics degree with an emphasis in Astronomy & Astrophysics is intended to prepare students to pursue graduate studies in astrophysics and cosmology. The Physics degree with an emphasis in Biomedical Physics is designed to give the best preparation for medical school and other health professions.  In addition, by selecting the elective biology and chemistry classes carefully, the Biomedical Physics emphasis will also prepare students for graduate work in biophysics and/or medical physics. 

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 major degree programs require a minimum of 30 semester hours of approved physics courses.  Course offerings with a course number less than PHYS 2110  do not count toward the 30 hours.

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

Please see the Physics Teaching B.A., Physics Teaching, B.S., Physics, B.A., Physics, B.S., Physics, B.A. - Applied Physics Emphasis, Physics, B.S. - Applied Physics Emphasis, Physics, B.A. - Astronomy & Astrophysics Emphasis, Physics, B.S. - Astronomy & Astrophysics Emphasis, Physics, B.A. - Biomedical Physics Emphasis, Physics, B.S. - Biomedical Physics Emphasis, Astronomy Minor, Physics Minor, and Physics Teaching 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: http://www.physics.utah.edu/~bromley/dogs/gradhandbook.pdf

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


      Physics & AstronomyPage: 1 | 2

      Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: College of Science