Tracks and Concentrations

The Physics and Applied Physics majors have several choices for tracks and concentrations, giving students the opportunity to take elective courses in a variety of subject areas. All majors choose a track in the major, while concentrations or specializations in specific subject areas are optional.  

UCI uses the following terminology to describe options within a major:

  • A track is an informal program of courses within a major. Track names do not appear on the transcript.
  • A concentration within the major is a formal program that includes courses taken in other departments. A completed concentration is listed on the transcript but not on the diploma.  The biomedical concentration is an example.
  • A specialization is a formal degree program of courses taught within the department. A completed specialization is listed on the transcript but not on the diploma. Our department offers a specialization in astrophysics.
  • A minor is a formal program offered by another department consisting of seven or more courses. A successfully completed minor is listed on the transcript, but not on the diploma. is  Some Physics majors will take a minor program in departments such as Earth System Science.

See the UCI General Catalogue for more detailed information and for a list of minor programs available in other departments. A small number of students choose to double major in Physics and another field. Pursuing a double major requires substantial effort and planning, and students interested in double majors are encouraged to talk with academic advisors in the Physical Sciences Undergraduate Affairs office to plan their course of study. 

Tracks, concentrations, and specializations are listed below, along with links to contact information for the faculty advisor for each track.  Complete information and the list of course requirements for each track or concentration can be found in the Majors section of the Department of Physics and Astronomy listing in the UCI General Catalogue.

Additionally, there are worksheets listing the course requirements for each of the tracks and concentrations, provided by the Physical Sciences Student Affairs office. These worksheets are very useful when planning your selection of courses each quarter. Students should bring a copy of the appropriate worksheet to each advising meeting with their faculty advisors.

Note: for Physics majors who entered UCI prior to 2016 (before the Applied Physics major was created), there were previously concentrations in Applied Physics and in Biomedical Physics within the Physics major. These concentrations have now been moved to the Applied Physics major, but for students who were already in these concentrations within the Physics major prior to the change, the course requirements for these Physics concentrations are listed in a separate worksheet

All of the tracks begin with a solid foundation in introductory-level physics, continuing with courses in mathematical methods, thermodynamics, laboratory methods, and upper-division core courses in classical mechanics, electromagnetic theory, quantum mechanics, and statistical mechanics. Different tracks and concentrations then allow students to choose from a broad range of upper-division elective courses.

Tracks, specializations, and concentrations in the Physics and Applied Physics majors:

Major Name Type Description Faculty Advisor
Physics General  Track This track allows students to choose from a variety of upper-division Physics electives to fulfill the major requirements. Good preparation for graduate study in physics and for students who want a thorough foundation in general physics without a specialization or concentration in a particular topical area. Steve Barwick
Physics Astrophysics Specialization Electives include courses on the physics of stars and galaxies, cosmology, high energy astrophysics, and observational astronomy. David Buote
Physics Computational Physics  Concentration Training in computational and numerical techniques and software development with applications to modeling of physical systems and data analysis methods. Zhihong Lin
Physics Philosophy of Physics  Concentration Study of the conceptual history of physics and physical inquiry, and the structure and interpretation of physical theories. Includes courses in Logic and Philosophy of Science.

Daniel Whiteson 

Faculty contact in LPS: Jeffrey Barrett

Physics Physics Education Concentration Preparation for a career in secondary education in physics and general science. A secondary teaching certification option is also available through the CalTeach program. Phil Collins
Physics Business & Law Track Preparation for careers in business, and for students interested in business school or law school with a strong undergraduate science foundation. Roger McWilliams
Applied Physics Engineering Physics Concentration Preparation for careers in technology and industrial research or graduate programs in applied physics and/or engineering, with a combination of physics and engineering coursework. Peter Taborek
Applied Physics Biomedical Physics Concentration Preparation for students interested in applying to medical, dental, or pharmacology school with a strong foundation in physics. See the UCI General Catalogue for important information about required courses and prerequisites for this concentration. Thorsten Ritz
Applied Physics General Applied Physics Track Preparation for other interdisciplinary careers including materials science, geosciences, biophysics, or other fields. Students propose a coherent set of electives that combines advanced physics coursework with a sequence of courses from another discipline. Peter Taborek
Physics or Applied Physics Earth System Science Minor A Physics major with a minor in Earth System Science is excellent preparation for careers in environmental research or policy or for graduate school in atmospheric science, oceanography, or related fields. Bill Heidbrink