Department Contact Information

Physics Department

Location: 180-204
Phone: (805) 756-2448
Fax: (805) 756-2435
Chair: Jennifer Klay

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Choosing Cal Poly

If you have ever wondered, from a scientific standpoint, "why" something is the way it is, or "how" can something exist or behave the way it does, then you've entered the realm of physics.

Physics is the most fundamental of all sciences, and is the study of nature that is all around us. Physicists try to understand the most basic laws that govern the behavior of nature. In fact, all phenomena in the basic sciences (astronomy, biology, chemistry, and geology) and the applied sciences (engineering) can be related back to some underlying principle of physics.

To learn more about physics, we encourage you to spend some time on the web site of the American Physical Society or PhysicsCentral.

Student collaboration

As soon as you spend any time at all in our department, you will feel like part of a big family. There is little distinction between faculty and students; we're all teaching, learning, and interacting together.

Everyone knows everyone else's name, and most of us are on a first-name basis. Doors are always open. There are also several social events throughout the year, including, BBQs, "burn-offs," student vs. faculty sporting events, and the annual awards banquet.

Ultimately, your degree in physics will boil down to the courses you took. For a Cal-State school, the depth and breadth of classes offered here is truly unique. Courses in modern physics, electricity and magnetism, quantum mechanics, classical mechanics and laboratory electronics form the core of your training.

The senior lab sequence called "quantum lab" (see links to page) will ensure your ability to work in an intense laboratory environment. Regularly offered elective courses such as optics, solid-state physics, particle physics, advanced optics, lasers, and non-linear dynamics allows you to pursue your personal interests. If you are considering studying at another university, we encourage you to compare and contrast their junior and senior-level curriculum to ours. We think you'll find that our course offerings meet, and in many case exceed that of most other universities. Follow this link to learn more about how physics instruction is conducted. 

While your degree is defined by the courses you take, your personality and passion as a physicist are defined by the research you conduct.

At Cal Poly, you'll be amazed by the availability and diversity of research projects available to you here. Take a look at the research postings you may join as soon as you so desire. Each summer, we run a summer research program here, where students are paid a stipend to work on research with a faculty member.

  • More information. The Cal Poly physics department was recently listed as one of the "top 20" departments in the nation (see this introduction and this departmental evaluation). Also, Cal Poly has been leading the nation (Mulvey and Nicholson, AIP R-151.42) in annual physics degrees granted.
  • Recognition. In 2003 the National Task Force on Undergraduate Physics chose Cal Poly as one of 21 schools that exemplify best practices in creating thriving physics departments.

Applying to the Cal Poly physics major

If you are interested in applying to Cal Poly as a physics major, we encourage you to do so!

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