College of Natural Sciences

BS in Physics


"Look deep into nature, then you will understand everything better."

–Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

The Department of Physics offers the Bachelor of Science Degree in Physics with the choice of two options.

The Option in Professional Physics encompasses two patterns, Advanced Study and Applied Physics. The Advanced Study is designed to prepare students for graduate study or for professional careers in government or industry. The Applied Physics is intended to prepare students for careers in technical fields such as optics, electronics, data science, or materials science.

The Option in General Physics also includes two patterns, Instructional Physics and Interdisciplinary Physics. The Instructional Physics pattern is designed to prepare students for teaching secondary school physics with additional subject matter breadth across all sciences. This pattern fulfills all requirements for the Single Subject Teaching Credential in Science with a Concentration in Physics and a supplementary authorization in a second science.

The Interdisciplinary Physics pattern is designed for students who are interested in physics-related interdisciplinary fields (such as biophysics, geophysics, atmospheric sciences, physical oceanography, health physics, or environmental science) or are double majoring in both physics and engineering, mathematics, chemistry, computer science, music, or history.


The Department of Physics has but one single mission: provide the highest quality undergraduate education in physics. We undertake the rigorous training of students in our discipline and assist in building a strong scientific foundation for students in other degree programs. The discipline we share with our students has value not only for the technical skills it cultivates, but for its contribution to human culture by encouraging critical thinking, curiosity and an open mind. The implementation of our mission directs us toward the following goals.

  1. Develop a community of scholars which include faculty, staff, students and alumni
    • A scholarly environment is one that constantly demonstrates the value of learning as a cherished ideal we seek to pass on to our students. The Department of Physics strives to maintain and enhance a long tradition of collegiality, professional responsibility and mutual respect. The department will encourage the scholarship of its faculty. This professional development supported by the department will not only be that which deepens their scientific knowledge, but also that which is designed to improve their pedagogic skills. The professional development of the department staff will also be considered essential. Students will be provided opportunities to work individually with faculty on independent scholarly projects supported by the department, external agencies or the Society of Physics Students. Alumni will be invited to contribute to our scholarly environment by participating in Advisory Board meetings, encouraging their employers to provide equipment or internships and by presenting seminars on current technological trends or advancements.

  2. Integrate Advanced Teaching Methodologies
    • The highest quality undergraduate education is only possible in an environment that values efforts to develop the best instructional strategies. The improvements in pedagogy resulting from Physics Education Research will be implemented when appropriate. In addition, state-of-the-art technological tools that can facilitate learning will be used to invigorate both lower and upper-division courses. Undergraduate research and other independent projects with faculty will be encouraged as a way to enhance the learning of our students. We will continually assess new teaching methodologies and integrate them into our curriculum.

  3. Service to Others
    • The well-rounded students we seek to educate should develop a strong sense of the value of service to others. This will be encouraged in our faculty as we strive to continue the tradition of committees of the whole to govern our department. Faculty will also be rewarded for their service at the college and university level. Students will be brought into this atmosphere of service by being involved in activities of the Society of Physics Students whose contributions includes public science demonstrations, visiting local K-12 schools, tutoring CSU Chico students, judging science fairs and generally sharing their love of physics with others. Experiential education will also be encouraged in the form of internships in local high school physics classes or local industry and summer programs at research institutions both public and private.

  4. Respond to the Changing Demands for Trained Physicists
    • At one time physics programs were monolithic in their goal of producing students prepared for graduate study in physics. Our department values the diversity of careers that our graduates have pursued. This diversity illustrates the utility of the rigorous training provided by a degree in physics. While the demand for graduate trained physicists has remained roughly constant for the last ten years, the need for men and women who possess both strong critical thinking and technical skills has grown rapidly in a variety of fields. Our department has responded aggressively to recent needs in the fields of education and optics, and we will continue to assess changes in demand for physicists and encourage creative responses to those changes.

Goals & Learning Outcomes

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of basic and advanced concepts of classical and modern physics. These areas include, mechanics, electricity and magnetism, quantum mechanics, waves & optics, and thermodynamics and statistical mechanics.
    1. Explain physics concepts and laws to others
    2. Apply physics knowledge to solve real-world problems
    3. Represent physical concepts and processes in multiple ways, including diagrams, graphs, mathematical equations, and verbal explanations
  2. Employ scientific reasoning to investigate the physical world.
    1. Build a model of physical situations, including making appropriate assumptions, simplifications, estimations, and mathematical formulations. Students should also understand the limitations of these models.
    2. Design and implement experiments to empirically investigate physical phenomena including defining the problem, testing models, using instruments to make measurements, analyzing data, and drawing conclusions.
    3. Use computational methods to simulate, analyze, and present data from physical systems.
    4. Evaluate the validity of experimental and/or calculated results.
  3. Communicate physics in a professional setting.
    1. Effectively communicate their findings and thoughts in conventional scientific style, including in writing, orally, and graphically.
  4. Demonstrate effective professional workplace skills.
    1. Work productively in teams.
    2. In the context of problem solving or conducting an investigation, recognize gaps in their knowledge and be able to marshal diverse resources to fill those gaps.
    3. Generate a professional network including peers, alumni, and mentors.
    4. Plan and manage complex projects.