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Department of Physics and Astronomy

  • How and Why

    In physics, you’ll ask those questions to unlock a greater understanding of the universe.


In our undergraduate program, you’ll study things big and small to build a broad foundational knowledge of the fundamental laws that govern the universe. Along the way, you’ll learn universally valuable skills, such as how to organize data, how to solve problems, how to manage projects and how to work independently. These skills are important in a variety of careers, including academia and scientific research. 

B.S. in Physics

Physics majors complete coursework that provides a solid foundation in the central areas of physics, such as Newtonian mechanics, electricity and magnetism, statistical physics and quantum mechanics. You can tailor your course of study to your interests by choosing from specialized experimental courses or by designing a research program in consultation with faculty researchers. 
Although many of our graduates go on to graduate studies or careers in physics or astronomy, a physics degree also prepares students for careers in other sciences. It is also ideal preparation for entering professional schools, such as medicine and law. 
The department also offers a physics minor.

Engineering Physics

Our interdisciplinary engineering physics program bridges physics and engineering so you can master fundamental physics and the practical pursuits of engineering. It is designed for physics students more interested in applications of physics and for engineering students more interested in fundamental sciences. 
There are two tracks in engineering physics:  electrical [PDF] and mechanical [PDF]. These applied tracks add a coherent program of engineering courses to basic physics degree requirements. You’ll immerse yourself in the culture of engineering and learn to solve the practical problems that engineers typically encounter. 
Engineering physics program graduates are uniquely positioned to enter a variety of careers or to pursue graduate studies in physics or engineering.

Minor in Astronomy

As an astronomy minor, you’ll learn the principles of astronomy and the physical and mathematical concepts behind them while building critical-thinking and problem-solving skills applicable in the modern, high-tech world. You’ll observe the stars, but you’ll also work with professors on important research about distant galaxies and the evolution of the universe. 

Scholarships and Fellowships

The Department of Physics and Astronomy is pleased to offer the following scholarships and fellowships for qualifying undergraduate students:

Nina and Frank Avignone Fellowship

The Nina and Frank Avignone Fellows Fund recognizes outstanding undergraduates with a plaque and cash award. The minimum award would be $500.00. This award is open to all senior undergraduate physics majors. The final selection of the recipient shall be made as follows:  The Director of Undergraduate Studies will compile a list during the spring semester of each year of all eligible students with a grade point average of 3.6 or higher. This GPA is to be based on work done at USC only and will not include any transfer credits from other institutions. This list of students will be distributed by the Director of Undergraduate Studies to all instructors of 500-level courses. These faculty members will provide the selection committee with the relative class rank of each of the candidates in the 500-level courses in which they taught them. The selection committee, consisting of the Director of Undergraduate Studies and two other faculty members appointed by the Department Chair, will then compute an average ranking based on the faculty input. The candidate with the highest overall rank will receive the award. In the event of a tie, the candidate with the higher GPA wins. If there is no eligible student in a given year, the award will not be made for that year.

Lovelace Family Endowed Scholarship

The Lovelace Family Endowed Scholarship is awarded bi-annually by the Department of Physics and Astronomy to an outstanding senior undergraduate student who has demonstrated excellence in mathematics. The Lovelace family created this scholarship in 2013 to recognize students in mathematics and physics. The award alternates between the Department of Mathematics and the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.