Contacts

Office: 382 Via Pueblo Mall
Mail Code: 94305-4060
Phone: (650) 723-4344
Web Site: physics.stanford.edu

Mission of the Undergraduate Program in Physics

The mission of the undergraduate program in Physics is to provide students with a strong foundation in both classical and modern physics. The goal of the program is to develop both quantitative problem-solving skills and the ability to conceive experiments and analyze and interpret data. These abilities are acquired through both coursework and opportunities to conduct independent research. The program prepares students for careers in fields that benefit from quantitative and analytical thinking, including physics, engineering, teaching, medicine, law, science writing, and science policy, in government or the private sector. In some cases, the path to this career will be through an advanced degree in physics or a professional program.

Coursework

The coursework is designed to provide students with a sound foundation in both classical and modern physics. Students who wish to specialize in astronomy, astrophysics, or space science should also consult the program section of this bulletin, looking specifically at the Minor in Physics Pathway in Astronomy.

Three introductory series of courses include labs in which undergraduates carry out individual experiments. The Intermediate and Advanced Physics Laboratories offer facilities for increasingly complex individual work, including the conception, design, and fabrication of laboratory equipment. Undergraduates are also encouraged to participate in research; most can do this through the senior thesis and/or the summer research program.

The study of physics is undertaken by three principal groups of undergraduates: those including physics as part of a general education; those preparing for careers in professional fields that require a knowledge of physics, such as medicine or engineering; and those preparing for careers in physics or related fields, including teaching and research in colleges and universities, research in federally funded laboratories and industry, and jobs in technical areas. Physics courses numbered below 100 are intended to serve all three of these groups. The courses numbered above 100 mainly meet the needs of the third group, but also of some students majoring in other branches of science and engineering.

Entry-Level Sequences in Physics

The Department of Physics offers three year-long, entry-level physics sequences, the PHYSICS 20, 40, and 60 series. The first of these (the 20 series) is non-calculus-based, and is intended primarily for those who are majoring in biology. Students with AP Physics credit, particularly those who are considering research careers, may wish to consider taking the PHYSICS 40 series, rather than using AP placement. These introductory courses provide a depth and emphasis on problem-solving that has significant value in biological research, given today's considerable physics-based technology.

For those intending to major in engineering or the physical sciences, or simply wanting a stronger background in physics, the department offers the PHYSICS 40 and 60 series. Either of these satisfies the entry-level physics requirements of any Stanford major. The 60 series is intended for those who have already taken a Physics course at the level of the 40 series, or at least have a strong background in mechanics, some background in electricity and magnetism, and a strong background in calculus.

The course series begins with course Mechanics offered Autumn and Winter Quarters, course Electricity and Magnetism offered Winter and Spring Quarters, and course Light and Heat offered Autumn Quarter. While it is recommended that most students begin the series with course, those who have had strong physics preparation in high school (as indicated by the Physics Placement Diagnostic or a score of 5 on the AP Physics C-Mechanics exam) may start the series with course in Autumn Quarter.

course, an optional 2-unit class offered in Autumn Quarter, provides extra instruction in mathematics and physics concepts required for success in course and is intended for students who may not have had the opportunity to take calculus or physics in high school, as indicated by the Physics Placement Diagnostic. Students who enroll in course in the Autumn should then enroll in course in a later quarter.  

The Physics Tutoring Center offers students in the entry-level courses an environment for working with other students and receiving assistance from a member of the teaching staff. It is staffed Monday through Friday.

Entry-Level Course List

One course from the following is recommended for the humanities or social science student who wishes to become familiar with the methodology and content of modern physics:

Course List

Units

course

Stars and Planets in a Habitable Universe

3

course

The Origin and Development of the Cosmos

3

course

Black Holes and Extreme Astrophysics

3

The 20 series (below) is recommended for general students and for students preparing for medicine or biology:

Course List

Units

course

Mechanics, Fluids, and Heat

4

course

Mechanics, Fluids, and Heat Laboratory

1

course

Electricity, Magnetism, and Optics

4

course

Electricity, Magnetism, and Optics Laboratory

1

course

Modern Physics

4

course

Modern Physics Laboratory

1

The 40 series (below)  is for students majoring in engineering, chemistry, earth sciences, mathematics, or physics:

Course List

Units

course

Mechanics

4

course

Classical Mechanics Laboratory

1

course

Electricity and Magnetism

4

course

Electricity and Magnetism Lab

1

course

Light and Heat

4

course

Light and Heat Laboratory

1

The 60 series (below), or advanced freshman series, is for students who have had strong preparation in physics and calculus in high school. Students who have had the appropriate background and wish to major in physics should take this introductory series:

Course List

Units

course

Mechanics and Special Relativity

4

course

Mechanics Laboratory

1

course

Electricity, Magnetism, and Waves

4

course

Electricity, Magnetism and Waves Laboratory

1

course

Quantum and Thermal Physics

4

course

Introduction to Laboratory Physics

1

Physics Placement Diagnostic

All students:  You must take the Physics Placement Diagnostic if you intend to enroll in either course or course or course or course and you have never taken an entry-level Physics course at Stanford -- i.e., you have not taken at least one of PHYS 21, 23, 25, 41, 41A/E, 43, 45, 61, 63, 65.

For more information, see the department's website.

Graduate Programs in Physics

Graduate students find opportunities for research in many areas of Physics. Faculty advisers are drawn from many departments, including, but not limited to Physics, Particle Physics and Astrophysics at SLAC, Photon Science at SLAC, Materials Science and Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Biology.

The number of graduate students admitted to the Department of Physics is strictly limited. Students should submit applications by Tuesday, December 14, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time for matriculation the following Autumn Quarter. Graduate students may normally enter the department only at the beginning of Autumn Quarter.

Fellowships and Assistantships

The Department of Physics makes an effort to support all its graduate students through fellowships, teaching assistantships, research assistantships, or a combination of sources. More detailed information is provided with the offer of admission.

Laboratories and Institutes

The Russell H. Varian Laboratory of Physics, the Physics and Astrophysics Building, the W. W. Hansen Experimental Physics Laboratory (HEPL), the E. L. Ginzton Laboratory, the Center for Nanoscale Science and Engineering and the Geballe Laboratory for Advanced Materials (GLAM) together house a range of physics activities from general courses through advanced research. Ginzton Lab houses research on optical systems, including quantum electronics, metrology, optical communication and development of advanced lasers. GLAM houses research on novel and nanopatterned materials, from high-temperature superconductors and magnets to organic semiconductors, subwavelength photon waveguides, and quantum dots. GLAM also supports the materials community on campus with a range of characterization tools: it is the site for the Stanford Nanocharacterization Lab (SNL) and the NSF-sponsored Center for Probing the Nanoscale (CPN). The SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is just a few miles from the Varian Laboratory. SLAC is a national laboratory  funded by the Offices of Basic Energy Sciences and High Energy Physics of the Department of Energy. Scientists at SLAC conduct research in photon science, accelerator physics, particle physics, astrophysics and cosmology. The laboratory hosts a two-mile-long linear accelerator that can accelerate electrons and positrons.  The Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Light Source (SSRL) uses intense x-ray beams produced with a storage ring on the SLAC site. The Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), completed in 2009, is the world's first x-ray free-electron laser and has opened new avenues of research in ultra-fast photon science.

The Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC), formed jointly with the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, provides a focus for theoretical, computational, observational, and instrumental research programs. A wide range of research areas in particle astrophysics and cosmology are investigated by students, postdocs, research staff and faculty. The two major projects with which KIPAC is heavily involved are the Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope (FGST) and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). KIPAC members also participate fully in the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS), the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), the EXO-200 double beta decay experiment, the Dark Energy Survey (DES), the NuSTAR and Astro-H X-ray satellites, and several cosmic microwave background experiments (BICEP, KECK, QUIET and POLAR-1).

The Ginzton Laboratory, HEPL, GLAM, KIPAC, SLAC, and SSRL are listed in the Research Areas section of the Physics Department website. Students may also be interested in research and facilities at two other independent labs: the Center for Integrated Systems, focused on electronics and nanofabrication; and the Clark Center, an interdisciplinary biology, medicine, and bioengineering laboratory.

The Stanford Institute for Theoretical Physics is devoted to the investigation of the basic structure of matter (particle theory, string theory, M-theory, quantum cosmology, condensed matter physics).

Physics Course Numbering System

Course numbers beyond 99 are numbered in accordance with a three-digit code. The first digit indicates the approximate level of the course:

Physics Course Catalog Numbering System

Digit

Description

100

intermediate and advanced undergraduate courses

200

first-year graduate courses

300

more advanced courses

400

research, special, or current topics

The second digit indicates the general subject matter:

Physics Course Catalog Numbering System

Digit

Description

00

laboratory

10,20,30

general courses

40

nuclear physics, nuclear energy, energy

50

elementary particle physics

60

astrophysics, cosmology, gravitation

70

condensed matter physics

80

optics and atomic physics

90

miscellaneous courses

Faculty

Emeriti: (Professors)  Sebastian Doniach, Alexander L. Fetter, William A. Little, Douglas D. Osheroff, H. Alan Schwettman, Robert V. Wagoner, John Dirk Walecka, Stanley G. Wojcicki, Mason R. Yearian; (Professors, Research) John A. Lipa, Todd I. Smith, John P. Turneaure; (Professor, Courtesy) Peter A. Sturrock (Applied Physics), Richard Taylor (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

Chair: Shamit Kachru (Autumn), Giorgio Gratta (Winter, Spring, Summer)

Director of Undergraduate Studies: Peter Graham

Director of Graduate Studies: Renata Kallosh

Professors: Tom Abel, Steven Allen, Roger Blandford, Phil Bucksbaum, Patricia Burchat, Blas Cabrera, Steven Chu, Sarah Church, Persis Drell, Savas G. Dimopoulos, David Goldhaber-Gordon, Giorgio Gratta, Patrick Hayden, Kent Irwin,  Shamit Kachru, Steven Kahn, Renata E. Kallosh, Aharon Kapitulnik, Mark Kasevich, Steven A. Kivelson, Chao-Lin Kuo, Robert B. Laughlin, Andrei D. Linde, Bruce Macintosh, Kathryn Moler, Peter F. Michelson, Vahe Petrosian, Xiao-liang Qi, Roger W. Romani,  Zhi-Xun Shen, Stephen Shenker, Eva Silverstein, Leonard Susskind, Risa Wechsler, Carl Wieman

Associate Professors: Peter Graham, Benjamin Lev, Hari Manoharan, Srinivas Raghu, Monika Schleier-Smith, Douglas Stanford, Lauren Tompkins

Assistant Professors:  Susan Clark, Benjamin Feldman, Jason Hogan, Vedika Khemani

Professors (Research): Leo Hollberg, Phillip H. Scherrer

Courtesy Professors: Daniel Akerib, Rhiju Das, Craig Levin, Stephen Quake, Thomas Shutt, Richard N. Zare

Lecturers: Julien Devin, Chaya Nanavati, Rick Pam

Adjunct Professor: Adam Brown, Ralph DeVoe, Marc Kastner, Grzegorz Madejski, Steve Yellin

Graduate Advising Expectations

The Department of Physics is committed to providing academic advising in support of graduate student scholarly and professional development. When most effective, this advising relationship entails collaborative and sustained engagement by both the adviser and the advisee. As a best practice, advising expectations should be periodically discussed and reviewed to ensure mutual understanding. Both the adviser and the advisee are expected to maintain professionalism and integrity.

Faculty advisers guide students in key areas such as selecting courses, designing and conducting research, developing of teaching pedagogy, navigating policies and degree requirements, and exploring academic opportunities and professional pathways.

Graduate students are active contributors to the advising relationship, proactively seeking academic and professional guidance and taking responsibility for informing themselves of policies and degree requirements for their graduate program.

For a statement of University policy on graduate advising, see the Graduate Advising section of this bulletin.

Studies in Astronomy

Contacts

Office: Varian, Room 342
Mail Code: 94305-4060
Phone: (650) 723-1439
Web Site:  http://kipac.stanford.edu

Astronomy courses are offered primarily through the Physics department, with subject code PHYSICS.

Although Stanford University does not have a degree program in astronomy or astrophysics, teaching and research in various branches of these disciplines are ongoing activities in the departments of Applied Physics, Physics, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, and Hansen Experimental Physics Laboratory (HEPL).  

For the convenience of students interested in astronomy, astrophysics, and cosmology, a course program for undergraduate and graduate study is listed in the "Astronomy Related Courses" section of this bulletin. The list includes introductory courses for the student who wishes to be informed about the fields of astronomy without the need for prerequisites beyond high school algebra and physics. Courses in astronomy numbered below 100 are designed to serve this group of students. Astronomy courses numbered 100-199 serve the student interested in an initial scientific study of astronomy. The courses numbered 200 and above are for graduate students and advanced undergraduates, subject to prior approval by the course instructor.

Undergraduate Programs in Astronomy

The University does not offer a separate undergraduate major in Astronomy. Students who intend to pursue graduate study in astronomy or space science are encouraged to major in physics, following the advanced sequence if possible, or in electrical engineering, if the student has a strongly developed interest in radio science. The course descriptions for these basic studies are listed under the appropriate department sections of this bulletin. Students desiring guidance in developing an astronomy-oriented course of study should contact the chair of the Astronomy Program Committee. The following courses are suitable for undergraduates and are recommended to students considering advanced study in astronomy or astrophysics:

Course List

UNITS

course

Introduction to Observational Astrophysics

4

course

Introduction to Stellar and Galactic Astrophysics

3

course

Introduction to Cosmology and Extragalactic Astrophysics

3

Students planning to study in astronomy beyond the B.S. are urged to take:

course

General Relativity

3

The above-mentioned courses are required for physics majors who choose the curriculum pathway in astrophysics (see the program section of this bulletin).

Stanford Student Observatory

The student observatory, located in the hills to the west of the campus,  is equipped with 24-inch and other small reflecting telescopes.  It is used for instruction of the observation-oriented courses, course Astronomy Laboratory and Observational Astronomy and course Introduction to Observational Astrophysics. 

Minor in Physics Pathway in Astronomy

Students wishing to pursue advanced work in astrophysical sciences should major in physics and select the pathway in astrophysics. However, students outside of Physics with a general interest in astronomy may organize their studies by completing one of the following Physics minor pathway programs. 

Students who take the 20, 40, or 60 series at Stanford in support of their major may count those units towards the minor.

An undergraduate Physics minor with a concentration in Astronomy requires the following courses:

Non-Technical

For students whose majors do not require the PHYSICS 40 or 60 series:

Course List

UNITS

course

Mechanics, Fluids, and Heat

4

course

Electricity, Magnetism, and Optics

4

course
course

Modern Physics
and Modern Physics Laboratory

5

course

Astronomy Laboratory and Observational Astronomy

3-4

or course

Introduction to Observational Astrophysics

Select two of the following:

6

course

Stars and Planets in a Habitable Universe

course

The Origin and Development of the Cosmos

course

Black Holes and Extreme Astrophysics

Total Units

22-23

Technical

For students whose majors require the PHYSICS 40 or 60 series:

Course List

UNITS

Select one of the following Series:

14-17

Series A

course

Mechanics

course

Electricity and Magnetism

course
course

Light and Heat
and Light and Heat Laboratory

course

Foundations of Modern Physics

Series B

course

Mechanics and Special Relativity

course

Electricity, Magnetism, and Waves

course

Quantum and Thermal Physics

course

Introduction to Laboratory Physics

And take the following three courses:

course

Introduction to Observational Astrophysics

4

course

Introduction to Stellar and Galactic Astrophysics

3

course

Introduction to Cosmology and Extragalactic Astrophysics

3

Total Units

24-27

Students are also encouraged to take the electricity and magnetism/optics lab of the appropriate PHYSICS series, course, course, or course for 1 additional unit.

Graduate Programs in Astronomy

Graduate programs in astronomy and astrophysics and related topics are carried out primarily in the Department of Physics but also the departments of Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering. Students should consult the course listings, degree requirements, and research programs of these departments for more detailed information.

Graduate research opportunities are available in many areas of theoretical and observational astronomy. For further information, see the Kavli Institute of Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology website.

Course List

UNITS

Students planning to conduct research in astrophysics but lacking a background in astrophysics and/or gravitation should take 2-3 appropriate courses from the following list:

course

Introduction to Stellar and Galactic Astrophysics

3

course

Introduction to Cosmology and Extragalactic Astrophysics

3

course

General Relativity

3

All students planning to conduct research in astronomy and astrophysics are strongly encouraged to take:

course

Astrophysics Laboratory

3

course

Modern Astrophysics

3

course

Cosmology and Extragalactic Astrophysics

3

In addition, astrophysics students should consider these courses as appropriate to their thesis topic:

course

Neutrinos in Astrophysics and Cosmology

3

course

The Early Universe (not offered 2021-22)

3

course

Gravitational Radiation, Black Holes, and Neutron Stars (not offered 2021-2022)

3

course

Statistical Methods in Astrophysics (Not offered 2021-2022)

2

course

Special Topics in Astrophysics: Structure Formation and Galaxy Formation

2

Each year a number of "special topics" courses are offered. Refer to courses in the PHYSICS 360 range for more details. Students interested in research programs in space physics involving spacecraft studies of the planets, their satellites, and their near-space environments should see the "Center for Space Science and Astrophysics" section of this bulletin.

Astronomy Cognate Courses

Elementary Lectures

The following courses provide a descriptive knowledge of astronomical objects and astrophysics. coursecourse, and course are for students not majoring in the sciences and are taught in different quarters by different instructors, and may be taken individually or in any order.

Course List

UNITS

course

Stars and Planets in a Habitable Universe

3

 course

The Origin and Development of the Cosmos

3

course 

Black Holes and Extreme Astrophysics

3

Observatory

The following courses allow students to use the on-campus Stanford Student Observatory and are intended to familiarize students with observational methods and analysis of astronomical data. course is for general students, while course involves more advanced observations and is intended for students with a college-level background in physics.

Course List

UNITS

 course

Astronomy Laboratory and Observational Astronomy

3

 course

Introduction to Observational Astrophysics

4

Advanced Undergraduate

The following courses are for students with more advanced knowledge of basic physics and mathematics and form the core courses for the pathway in astrophysics for Physics majors.

Course List

UNITS

course

Introduction to Stellar and Galactic Astrophysics

3

course

Introduction to Cosmology and Extragalactic Astrophysics

3

Graduate

Course List

UNITS

course

Introduction to Stellar and Galactic Astrophysics

3

course

Introduction to Cosmology and Extragalactic Astrophysics

3

course

General Relativity

3

course

Neutrinos in Astrophysics and Cosmology

3

course

Astrophysics Laboratory

3

course

Cosmology and Extragalactic Astrophysics

3

course

The Early Universe (Not offered 2021-22)

3

course

Statistical Methods in Astrophysics (Not offered 2021-22)

2

Faculty

Emeriti: (Professors) Peter A. Sturrock, G. Leonard Tyler, Robert V. Wagoner

Chair: Vahe Petrosian

Committee: Steve Allen, Vahe Petrosian, Roger W. Romani

Professors: Tom Abel (Physics, SLAC), Steve Allen (Physics, SLAC), Roger Blandford (Physics, SLAC), Pat Burchat (Physics), Blas Cabrera (Physics), Sarah Church (Physics), Kent Irwin (Physics, SLAC), Steven Kahn (Physics, SLAC), Chao-Lin Kuo (Physics, SLAC), Bruce Macintosh (Physics), Peter Michelson (Physics), Vahé Petrosian (Physics, Applied Physics), Roger W. Romani (Physics), Risa Wechsler (Physics, SLAC)

Professor (Research): Philip H. Scherrer (Physics)sic InnysshyHYSIYS

Graduate Advising Expectations

The Department of Physics is committed to providing academic advising in support of graduate student scholarly and professional development. When most effective, this advising relationship entails collaborative and sustained engagement by both the adviser and the advisee. As a best practice, advising expectations should be periodically discussed and reviewed to ensure mutual understanding. Both the adviser and the advisee are expected to maintain professionalism and integrity.

Faculty advisers guide students in key areas such as selecting courses, designing and conducting research, developing of teaching pedagogy, navigating policies and degree requirements, and exploring academic opportunities and professional pathways.

Graduate students are active contributors to the advising relationship, proactively seeking academic and professional guidance and taking responsibility for informing themselves of policies and degree requirements for their graduate program.

For a statement of University policy on graduate advising, see the Graduate Advising section of this bulletin.