the Physics/Geology building sign

Official Website
How to Tell if You Are a Physics Major

The Department of Physics consists of 44 faculty members active in research, ten Emeritus Professors, 20-25 research associates and post-doctoral physicists, 112 graduate students, and over 150 undergraduates majoring in physics and applied physics. During 2005 they joined in celebrating the World Year of Physics.

The Physics Department is located in the Physics building and offers B.S. and B.A. as well as Masters and Ph.D. degrees. They have many classes in Roessler Hall and the Earth and Physical Sciences Building.


See also the UC Davis General Catalog

Class web pages

Lower Division Courses

  • 1 series - "Principles of Physics"

General physics for majors that don't require a full year; this 2-quarter sequence doesn't require calculus.

  • 5 series (obsolete)

Some departments still use this sequence as a prerequisite in the general catalog. It was last offered in fall of 1996, when its more traditional pedagogy was replaced by the 7 series.

General Physics. Consists of 7A, 7B, and 7C. The emphasis is placed on Discussion Labs (DL) where students participate in hands-on experiments, rather than lectures. This course uses a constructivist pedagogy that many people seem to dislike.

  • 9 series - ( - "Physics"
    • General Physics for engineers and physical science majors. This series of physics is a general requirement for most science and ALL engineering majors.
    • This series is, as a whole, more math intensive than the 7 series, requiring students to take the MAT 21 and MAT 22 series instead of just 16 or 17.
    • PHY 9A-C have 3 hours for lecture, 1 hour for discussion and 2.5 hours for lab per week. 9D has no lab. 9ABC are five unit courses, 9D is a 4 unit course.
      • 9A covers Newtonian mechanics and related stuff.
      • 9B covers a grab bag of topics, including waves, sound, light, thermodynamics, and statistical mechanics.
      • 9C covers electromagnetism.
      • 9D covers various topics in modern physics, including quantum mechanics and special relativity.
    • SISweb requires that you sign up for both lab and lecture at the same time (i.e. put in two CRNs in Add/Drop Classes) or you will get a cryptic "LINK ERROR".
  • 9H series - "Honors Physics"

Honors Physics. Consists of 9HA-9HE. Each course consists of 3 hours lecture (sometimes MWF, sometimes TH), 2 hours discussion, and 2 hours lab. The order of topics covered is a bit different from the traditional 9 series and gears more towards modern physics. The course breakdown is as follows: 9HA-Classical Mechanics, 9HB-Special Relativity and Statistical Mechanics, 9HC-Wave Mechanics, Optics, and very basic Quantum Mechanics, 9HD-Electricity and Magnetism, 9HE-More advanced QM with applications to topics such as material science and the behavior of semiconductors and superconductors. If you're a Physics major, I'd highly recommend taking it. The material is harder than 9, but there is a generous curve to compensate, and you'll learn a lot of cool stuff - AV

Upper Division Courses

  • 104A - "Introductory Methods of Mathematical Physics"

The content of this course varies over the years, though its overall goal is to provide an adequate introduction to the various mathematical methods that an aspiring physics student will use in their career. In Fall 2005, this course covered delta functions, linear algebra (first applied to matrices, then to function spaces), leading to Fourier and Legendre series, and ultimately to solving partial differential equations using separation of variables (which involves nearly all of the previous topics covered in the course).

  • 104B - "Computational Methods in Mathematical Physics"

This course's content varies, but its basic aim is using computers to analyze and solve interesting problems in Physics. Prior programming experience is expected for this course.

  • 105AB - "Analytical Mechanics"

The first part of the series covers Newtonian mechanics, harmonic oscillators, and gravitation (lots of solving differential equations), then proceeds to an introduction of variational calculus and leading up to Lagrangian/Hamiltonian mechanics. The second part covers central force motion (basic orbital dynamics, etc), the dynamics of systems of particles and rigid bodies, non-inertial reference frames, coupled oscillations, and waves.

  • 110ABC - "Electricity and Magnetism"

This is the three course series that covers electricity and magnetism. The first quarter covers electrostatics (electric fields, potentials, work, conductors), boundary solutions of Laplace's equation, multipole expansions, and electric fields in matter (polarization, displacement field, dielectrics). The second quarter covers magnetostatics (Lorentz force law, Biot-Savart law, divergence and curl of the B-field, vector potential, etc), magnetic fields in matter (magnetization, fields, etc), and basic electrodynamics (emf, induction, Maxwell's equations, momentum conservation). The third quarter covers electromagnetic waves (in a vacuum and in matter, absorption, dispersion, waveguides), revisits potentials and fields (gauge, retarded potentials, fields due to point charges), and then proceeds with radiation (due to dipoles and point charges) and special relativity in the context of electrodynamics.

In recent times, this course has been taught by Linton Corruccini, using the book Introduction to Electrodynamics by Griffiths.

Griffiths is the best physics book I've owned. Corruccini is alright nothing to get excited about. I like the rigorous pace he sets. Homework is due twice a week with about 4 problems per homework set. - BryanBell

  • 115AB - "Quantum Mechanics"

This is a two course series that covers the basics of quantum mechanics. The first quarter concentrates on the mathematical framework: the wave function, the uncertainty principle, the Schroedinger equation and some basic solutions (square wells, harmonic oscillator, free particle, etc), Hilbert spaces and operators. The second quarter involves applications of the math built up in the first part by solving the Schroedinger equation for the Hydrogen atom, then proceeds to examine approximation methods with perturbation theory, etc, and touches on scattering theory at the end.

This course typically uses the book Introduction to Quantum Mechanics, also by Griffiths.

Research Groups/programs

Useful Resources

  • The department provides anyone who takes an upper division course with access their computers in room 106. In addition to free printing and simply having a computer to use in the building, one can use these machines collectively as a small but quite useful cluster.


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2013-05-13 16:15:21   I hate the DL sections not because they are constructivist, but because the social demands are extremely high and I have learned jack shit there. "Hands-on learning" my ass, all we do is talk about the concepts, rarely do we actually get to do any experiments. It is so pointless when the professor does a much better job explaining the concepts than my peers. As someone with Asperger's, it is draining enough for me to have to walk around the campus and co-exist with thousands of strangers in such close proximity. The last thing I need is forced group "studying" for a grade. I feel bad for the one person in my group who tends to do all of the participation work. That is how it is when you force groupwork on non-collaborative activities. —Chelsea744

2013-11-06 09:32:45   The physics 7 series has got to be the worst class series at Davis. It is absolutely absurd. Lectures are useless so you are pretty much dependent on DL to learn everything. . .. . But guess what?! Those are useless too! Recipe for success, right? Don't get me wrong, I have had some amazing TA's and some really fun times in DL's, but that's all it is- a social interaction. We barely go over topics in class and what we do go over are very simplified views of the topics. So you may leave DL feeling confident, but then you are quizzed on bullshit that you have never seen or barely gone over before. Absolutely absurd! Apparently this class was redesigned in this format to better prepare students for the MCAT. . . Well, as someone who is currently studying for the MCAT, let me tell you that it is not working! My weakest subject is physics due to the terrible teaching practices in the 7 series. I feel so unprepared it makes me want to pull my hair out. And can we just take a second to recognize that physics is one of the few departments that allows grad students to teach it? I mean, it is common for the DL instructors to all be grad students, but I expect a PhD as my lecturer, but hat is not the case. I am not paying thousands of dollars a year to be taught by students. I absolutely hate this series and if there was a way of avoiding it, I would. Unfortunately it is required for my major and for med schools. And for all of you who may say I am just bitter because I got a bad grade, I have gotten good grades every class of the physics 7 series, but that doesn't mean I learned anything. I want to learn and understand, not just get an A and move on. This series sucks. —Shay7B

2013-11-06 19:40:45   If you're having trouble understanding the material in the Physics 7 series, I highly recommend the Physics 7 support workshops offered by the Student Academic Success Center in Dutton Hall. See here for schedules. P.S. Having a PhD does not necessarily correlate to being able to usefully explain the material. —BarnabasTruman