Department Contact Information

Physics Department

Location: 180-204
Phone: (805) 619-5106
Fax: (805) 756-2435
Chair: Karl Saunders

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Who are our students?

The physics department at Cal Poly serves a wide constituency of students across the University through course offerings in general education, physical science, introductory physics, and upper level lecture and laboratory courses. 

General Education classes primarily serve students in non-STEM majors to satisfy their Area B requirement. The student body in these classes is varied: one can find first-time freshmen all the way to senior students from a wide variety of colleges and majors.

Physical Science courses are primarily taken by first and second year students majoring in Liberal Studies, who will become multiple subject elementary school teachers. These courses also satisfy Area B general education requirements.

Introductory Physics courses comprise the largest share of physics courses (by enrollment) offered in our department. These are taken by majors for all STEM disciplines across the University as part of their preparation for advanced classes within their major fields of study. Although physics majors represent a small fraction of the population within these classes we make every effort to schedule our majors into a small number of sections so that they can meet and interact with other students within the major from the start of their matriculation.

Upper level advanced classes in the physics department are primarily taken by physics majors to satisfy their core curriculum, but students from the College of Engineering often take them as well to satisfy technical elective requirements in their majors.

Physics Majors

There are typically 200 enrolled physics majors in the department along with 30 students from diverse majors who choose to complete a minor in physics, astronomy, or geology in our department. Most (95%) strive to earn the B.S. degree, with the rest aiming for a B.A. in physics. The B.A. provides opportunities for students with broader interests to tailor their studies to suit their career goals. For more information about the B.A. program, see here. About 33% of our majors go directly to a graduate program, 33% to industry, and 16% to teaching. In fact, Cal Poly Physics is one of the largest producers of well-prepared high school physics teachers in the nation.

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