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Physics Undergraduate Option Requirements

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Please refer to the Caltech Catalog (Section 3, Information for Undergrads) for detailed information about the core institute degree requirements. The information below outlines the course requirements for an undergraduate physics degree which are above and beyond the core institute requirements. The first five requirements should be completed by the end of the second year. In planning a program, note that Ph 6 and Ph 7 are each offered only once per year, in the second and third terms, respectively. The pass/fail option cannot be exercised for any courses used for these requirements with the exception of courses that do not offer grades.

  1. Ph 3(1)
  2. Ma 2 and Ma 3
  3. Ph 12 abc
  4. Ph 6
  5. Ph 7 or APh/EE 24(2)
  6. 27 units of Ph 78 (experimental), or 18 units of Ph 77, or 9 units of Ph 77 and 9 units from APh 77 or Ay 105, or 9 units of Ph 77 and 9 units of Ph 177.
  7. Ph 70(3)
  8. Ph 106 abc
  9. Ph 125 ab
  10. Ph 21 or Ph 22 or one term of Ph 121 abc or Ay 190, or APh/MS 141

(1) Other laboratory courses may be substituted for the Ph3 requirement, including Ph 5, Ph 8bc, or APh 9a.

(2) APh 23 is a prerequisite for APh/EE 24 and can be used towards the advanced physics elective requirement.

(3) Other communication courses e.g., Ay 30 (or Ay 141) and 31 or Ma 10 and 11 may be substituted for Ph 70.

Required Electives

  1. 90 units of Advanced Physics Electives, in addition to the above, include any of the following: any Ph, APh, or Ay, course numbered 100 or above, or any of Ph 5, Ph 22, Ph 78, Ph 79, ACM 95, ACM 101, APh/EE 23, Ma 5, Ma 108, or up to 10 units for Ay 20 – 21. Nine units towards the 90 unit requirement will be given for taking three terms of Ph 77. Students are encouraged to take either ACM 95 or the quarter of Ph 129 that covers analysis as part of this requirement. The pass/fail option cannot be exercised for any courses used for this requirement with the exception of ACM 95 and courses that do not offer grades. Not more than 36 units of Ph courses numbered 200 or above taken on a pass/fail basis may apply toward this requirement. No more than 18 units of Ph 171-172 may apply toward this requirement without permission from the Undergraduate Option Representative. Additionally, Ph 171-172 may only apply toward this requirement if taken in increments of six units or more and a written summary (2-4 pages in length) of the work completed is submitted to the Undergraduate Option Representative within 2 weeks of the beginning of the subsequent quarter. Students may also petition the Undergraduate Option Representative to request that courses from other options with suitable physics content apply toward this requirement.
  2. Nine units of science or engineering electives outside of Ph, Ay, APh, Ma, and ACM. These units are in addition to the required Core science electives.
  3. Passing grades must be earned in a total of 486 units, including the courses listed above.

By the third and fourth year of study, many students in physics are focusing on various research efforts (/research-and-academics/physics/physics-research ). Such students are encouraged to discuss appropriate physics electives with their research advisor(s). Some research groups have assembled third- and fourth-year course schedules appropriate for students in those fields; for example, Condensed Matter/QI/AMO Course ScheduleHigh Energy Course Schedule.