Sac State Physics Overview
Physics is the most fundamental science and underlies our understanding of nearly all areas of science and technology. In a broad sense, physics is concerned with the study of energy, space, matter, and the interactions between them. Specific areas of study that physicists pursue include atomic physics, nuclear physics, condensed matter physics, electricity and magnetism, optics, thermodynamics, gravitation, relativity, and mechanics.
About half of our graduates have continued their studies in graduate programs; our alumni include students who continued their studies at Berkeley, Harvard, MIT, and Princeton. Many graduates continue in school to earn their middle school or high school teaching credentials; others find job opportunities in industrial or governmental laboratories.
We offer several degree options, the Bachelor of Arts and the Bachelor of Science in Physics, and a Bachelor of Arts program with a concentration in Physics Teaching. The Physics options have the same lower division preparatory work, but the BA degree has 29 units of required upper division physics coursework, compared to the 38 units for the BS degree. In general, those graduating with the BS degree have their sights set on graduate school in physics, while those with the BA have the flexibility to select additional courses outside of physics to prepare them for careers in industry or teaching. Our newest program, the BA in Physics with the Teacher Preparation Concentration, is based on our traditional BA program, but has added extra courses in biology and geology to better prepare students for a career in teaching. We also offer a Physics Minor and an Astronomy Minor, as well as a Certificates in Scientific Instrument Development and Scientific Computing and Simulation. Details on all of our programs can be found in the University Catalog.
Students in the physics programs at Sacramento State have a very important role in the life of the department. The campus chapter of the Society of Physics Students is a vibrant group of students engaged in social, networking, and outreach activities. Weekly physics seminars expose our students to modern research in physics at Sac State and elsewhere. The Department of Physics and Astronomy offers numerous scholarships and has the opportunity for employment as a stockroom assistant or a learning/teaching assistant. In the 2011-12 academic year, over $10,000 in scholarships and awards were given out by the department. Our Senior Project course provides a means for student to experience research while still an undergraduate. Many students perform the research under the guidance of our own faculty, but some have been involved with off-campus projects. In recent years projects have involved internationally known facilities such as CERN, Fermilab, NIST, SETI Institute, UC Davis, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, SLAC, Lick Observatory, Las Campanas Observatory, and NASA Goddard Flight Center.
Ten full-time faculty members with backgrounds in atomic and molecular physics, nuclear physics, high energy physics, astronomy, instrumentation, computational physics, and physics education research teach classes at all levels – from “physics for poets” to quantum mechanics. Students get to work closely with faculty members as academic and research advisors. Formal and informal gatherings of students, faculty, and staff contribute to a wonderful learning environment.
We have a compliment of excellent laboratories that give our students lots of hands on time in the lab. These facilities include: