Why UCI?

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Rankings | Education | ResearchSupport | LocationFAQ

Rankings
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UCI is one of the ten campuses of the University of California and is the first public university with faculty receiving two Nobel prizes in two different fields – physics & chemistry – in the same year (1995).

The UC Irvine Physics and Astronomy Department was ranked 10th among U.S. public and research universities for scientific influence in physics (ISI). In the 2010 National Research Council Survey, UCI was ranked in the top 25 for most measures, e.g. 24th for research productivity. In the most recent purely reputation-based ranking, the Department was recently ranked 30th among all physics doctoral programs (public or private).

More importantly, the quality of the department is on a steep upward trend.

One measure of the dynamic growth is that 25 new faculty were hired since 2000, growing the faculty number to 43. Among the newly recruited young faculty, 10 have received the highest awards for new faculty (NSF CAREER/DOE Outstanding Investigator) from the National Science Foundation or the Department of Energy. 5 have received prestigious Alfred P. Sloan fellowships. This outstanding group of new young faculty is second to none in the nation and paves the way for a further increase of ranking and reputation of the already well-recognized scholarship at the UC Irvine Physics and Astronomy Department.

The increase in quality is reflected in the significant increase in extramural research funding (grants, contracts, gifts) awarded to researchers in the Physics Department. The funding has increased year by year since 2000, and more than doubled from the 2000 value, $6.8 Mio, to the 2008 value, $17.7 Mio, the latest for which a national listing is available.  Such increase is unusual in a time of tight budgets and consequently, UCI Physics rose from 49th in the research funding ranking in 2000 to 22nd in 2007, outpacing Physics Departments at Harvard, Yale, Duke, University of Chicago, and UC – Santa Barbara, to name a few.

 

Education
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We offer multiple ways to reach a Physics. Ph.D. degree, allowing students to find the courses most optimally suited to their interests.

The traditional Physics and Astronomy graduate program is described here.

For students interested in interdisciplinary training, leading towards a Ph.D. in Physics, there are three options available at UC Irvine:

The ChaMP is designed to prepare M.S. and Ph.D. scientists for modern careers in Physical Sciences, where cross-disciplinary education with an emphasis on applications is in increasing demand. Designed to appeal to students with backgrounds in Chemistry, Physics, or Engineering, the program unifies physical and chemical approaches to the study of matter, through the applied science of modern materials.

The Mathematical, Computational and Systems Biology Graduate Program provides one year of education at the interface between the quantitative sciences (Mathematics, Physics, Computer Science) and Biology. Students can enter this program during their first or second year at UC Irvine. The program is supported by multiple training grants.

The LifeChips graduate program provides fellowships from an NSF IGERT training grant and specialized training for students interested in combining the practices of engineering, physical sciences, biological sciences and medicine to produce small-scale technologies that benefit human health.

Complementing formal courses, regular gatherings enable faculty and students to interact.  Individual research groups have weekly meetings that are open to all students, and especially welcome new students.  The Department hosts mandatory weekly “pizza lunches” for new graduate students, where a faculty member provides an overview of research opportunities; weekly “cosmo”, “biophysics”, particle physics lunches”, and meetings of other research groups where advanced students present research and hone communication skills; and a daily coffee hour for faculty researchers and students. Additional seminars and lunch lecture series are organized by research centers.

 

Research
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Research Areas

Physics faculty are affiliated in multiple research centers on campus:
    Institute for Surface and Interface Science (ISIS)
    Center for Complex Biological Systems (CCBS)
    Center for Biomembrane Studies (CBS)
    Center for Chemical Innovation (CaSTL)

 

Support
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The graduate program in Physics and Astronomy at UCI is committed to provide competitive financial support to all qualified students.

UC Irvine typically guarantees an offer of affordable on-campus housing to newly admitted full time Ph.D students for a period of 5 years. For more information about current housing rates, please visit http://www.housing.uci.edu/rates.asp

During the first year of study, graduate students are typically provided stipends, tuition fee fellowships, and/or teaching assistantships or reader positions. The details of the initial financial support package will be spelled out in the offer letter to you and depend on your personal situation and on whether or not you qualify for Regent’s or Chancellor’s fellowships. As a point of reference, a student with a Regent’s fellowship in 2009 received $21,637 in financial support for the period from 1 Oct 2009 – 30 June 2010. In the class of 2009, most students (14 out of 25) qualified for this fellowship.

In subsequent years, students typically receive support through Research Assistantships once they begin their doctoral studies.

 

Location
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The UCI campus is located on 1,489 acres of coastal foothills just 5 miles from the Pacific Ocean, and midway between Los Angeles and San Diego.  The temperate, Mediterranean climate is classic Southern California.

The proximity of the campus to the ocean provides ready access to water sports such as surfing, sailing, kayaking and fishing at the local Laguna, Corona del Mar, and Newport beaches.  Local mountain and desert recreation areas are within easy reach for skiing, hiking, and climbing expeditions.  A wide variety of campus recreation programs are available to grad students and their families.  Physics faculty and students participate in Department soccer and ultimate Frisbee games.

There are many theater complexes in Irvine, including the Irvine spectrum Theaters with 21 screens and a 3-D IMAX theater.  Orange County has many large shopping centers, including the beautiful outdoor District at Tustin Legacy, Fashion Island Shopping Center in Newport Beach, and the mega shopping center South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.  Disneyland is located in nearby Anaheim, the home of the Angels and Ducks.

 

FAQ
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1.     What scores do I need to be admitted?

In the admissions committee, we look at the complete file of students, with particular emphasis on undergraduate grades, especially in subject-related courses, research experience and letters of recommendation, and physics GRE score.

To give you some idea of what kind of application would be competitive, the incoming class of 2010 had an average undergraduate GPA of 3.63 and an average physics GRE at 57%. If your performance in these indicators is lower than the average, this does not mean that you would not be admitted, but it does mean that some other part of your application should stand out as particularly strong.

2.     I am a foreign national and have heard that public universities do not admit foreign students. Is this true?

We do admit foreign students – otherwise we would not accept applications. However, since we as a department have a commitment to support your whole graduate education financially, not just the first two years, we need to be aware of the fact that it costs significantly more for a faculty member to support a foreign national because of the higher tuition. Hence, fewer faculty are able to accept foreign nationals into their groups. To avoid any problems later on, we generally aim to find a faculty member promising to accept a foreign student into their group before admitting the student into the program.

If you are a foreign national, we strongly encourage you to get in touch with faculty you would like to work with in addition to sending your application.

3.     Are there special sources of support for diversity students?

Yes. This begins with the application. You may qualify to have the application fee waived. Any student who is in a graduate

preparation program such as McNair, RISE, MBRS, etc. is eligible for a fee waiver. Additional students may be granted fee waivers if they can present economic hardships. If you have questions about fee waivers, please do not hesitate to contact us. There are several campus-wide awards for diversity students providing support for one or two years of graduate education. We will aggressively apply for those on behalf of the best qualified students. Last year, 3 Eugene-Cota-Robles fellowships and 2 Graduate Opportunity fellowships were awarded to admitted Physics students.

4.     I am interested in your interdisciplinary graduate programs and the physics graduate program, but can only apply to one program. What should I do?

Just apply to the program you are most interested in at the time. If, after you receive more information, e.g. from your visit here, you would like to switch, this can be done easily, always assuming you qualify for admission. We have every year several students that decide to enter the ChaMP program after their visit, although they originally applied to Physics. It would be helpful to indicate in your application if you are potentially interested in an interdisciplinary program. This way, the admissions committees of that program can look at your file early on. 

5.     What if I have a question that has not been answered here?

Please contact us. We will respond quickly and questions repeatedly asked may well end up on next year’s FAQ page!