Physics is the study of nature at its most fundamental. Its scope covers everything from the tiniest particles of matter — such as atoms, electrons and quarks — to the structure of the entire universe, encompassing innumerable galaxies and stars.
Physicists seek to understand complex phenomena in terms of simple, unifying principles. Their queries have ranged from the seemingly innocuous, like "What causes an object to fall?", to the more elemental, like "What is the true nature of light?" Such questions led to the discovery of the gravitational force, which governs the motion of planets and stars, as well as to the biggest breakthrough of the twentieth century — quantum mechanics — which governs the very small. Answers to physicists' questions have revolutionized society, not only altering our basic understanding of the universe, but also profoundly affecting our day-to-day lives, laying the foundation for numerous technological innovations such as the laser, computer, and cellular phone. And physics continues to evolve and excite us, with unanswered questions from a multitude of active and emerging fields of research, such as Quantum Computation, Superconductivity, Chaos, Biophysics and String Theory, to name a few.
The Physics program at UC Merced provides a strong foundation in the fundamentals of theoretical and applied physics, while also emphasizing the increasingly interdisciplinary role played by physicists in the scientific and technological community. This is reflected in the "core plus emphasis track" model of the major. The core is a rigorous grounding in fundamental physical principles, including electricity and magnetism, quantum and classical mechanics, and thermodynamics.
The emphasis tracks consist of flexible specialization options. Possible emphases include:
Physics students develop excellent quantitative and analytical skills, enabling them to approach new and complex problems that arise in any field. These fundamental skills are essential preparation for a wide range of careers in such fields as aerospace, biotechnology, computers, engineering, medicine, education, law, finance, business and consulting.