Undergraduate Degree & Course Catalog

Physics BS


North Campus
Buffalo, NY 14260
John Cerne
Director of Undergraduate Studies
(HEGIS: 19.02 PHYSICS-GEN-NO BIOPHYSCS, CIP: 40.0801 Physics, General)

Why study Physics BS at UB?

Physics is the fundamental science underlying the investigation of all natural phenomena. Its elegant experiments and fundamental theories have provided much of the advancements in present-day science and technology. From the smallest sub-atomic particles to the vastness of cosmic expansion, and at the intermediate scales of our lives, in such areas as solid-state electronics, superconductivity, biological function, and geologic events - physics profoundly impacts our understanding of nature and our ability to harness its secrets for the progress of human kind.

The B.S. in Physics is designed for undergraduates considering professional careers as a physicist. It is strongly recommended for students planning to pursue physics Ph.D. or M.S. degrees, and careers in research and development in academia, industry, or government laboratories that focus primarily on research, advanced development, or higher education in physics.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of all requirements, the student will have knowledge of:

  • The basic laws of physics, their corollaries, and comprehension of how they can be applied to explain specific natural phenomena
  • Critical thinking and problem solving skills in physics, related to hypothesis building, application of the scientific method, and mathematical methods to analyze physics theories and experiments, and devise solution strategies.
  • Laboratory skills and exposure to a variety of experiments illustrating important phenomena, measuring techniques, and qualitative analysis of data and uncertainty at appropriate levels
  • Contemporary areas of physics inquiry
  • Written and oral communication skills for presentation of scientific results

The Learning Environment

Introductory courses consist of large lectures given by a faculty member and smaller recitation sections that are taught by graduate teaching assistants. The lectures introduce the material and the recitations focus on applications and problem-solving. The lectures use many demonstrations to show physics principles in live action. Almost all the introductory lectures use personal response systems, where students use clickers to respond to the instructors’ questions. The homework assignments for the introductory courses are typically submitted online. We also offer purely online introductory courses during winter session.

The introductory lab courses explore basic topics such as forces, kinematics, friction, electrostatics and electric circuits. These experiments are designed to illustrate and expand upon topics taught in the introductory lecture courses.

Our upper division courses are smaller, with around 25-35 students. We offer two upper division lab courses. In the Modern Physics Laboratory (PHY 307), students work on experiments that established modern physics in the early 20th century. In the Advanced Physics Laboratory (PHY 407 and PHY 408), students choose to work on three experiments that were developed by our faculty and use research-grade equipment.

Many of our majors, and even non-majors, complete independent study projects (PHY 498 and PHY 499) with our faculty. Our majors are encouraged to write a senior thesis (PHY 497), which allows them to graduate with honors.

About Our Facilities

Any visitor to Fronzak Hall, where the Physics Department is located, will quickly see that our department is passionate about teaching. Our building contains dozens of exhibits, ranging from a Foucault pendulum to a camera obscura, to teach physics. Most of the exhibits are interactive and were designed and built locally. The department uses the exhibits for tours and outreach to our community.

The department also has laboratory space dedicated to teaching introductory and upper-level physics. The introductory laboratory space consists of 5 classrooms, while the upper-level labs are housed in two rooms.

Students doing independent research projects may be found in any one of our many research labs working with faculty and graduate students on cutting-edge topics.

About Our Faculty

The Physics Department consists of 25 full-time faculty members and about 45 graduate teaching assistants. The faculty is comprised of approximately an equal number of theorists and experimentalists. Faculty members are involved in all most areas of physics including condensed matter physics, biophysics, high energy physics, and astrophysics/cosmology. Courses are primarily taught by full-time UB faculty members, with perhaps one or two sections per semester taught by adjunct faculty.

Six faculty members have received the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching, nine are Fellows of the American Physical Society, eight have won National Science Foundation Career Awards, and five are SUNY Distinguished Professors.

Faculty List Directory

Please visit the Physics department website for additional information about our faculty.

Career Outlook

Work settings include: 

People with degrees in physics typically pursue careers in teaching or research, or some combination of the two. Teaching can be at the high school, community college, college, or university level. University teachers generally also engage in research. People who pursue a non-teaching research career generally work in industries such as the computer chip industry, or work in government labs such as Argonne or Brookhaven.

Post-undergraduate Opportunities

Approximately 75% of our students go on to graduate school, mostly in physics, but a significant number go into other areas such as law, business, medicine, biophysics, and medical physics. Our students regularly get into outstanding graduate schools such as Princeton, Cornell, University of Chicago, MIT, and UB.

Academic Advising

Students interested in a physics degree program should contact the Physics Director of Undergrduate Studies, Dr. John Cerne (jcerne@buffalo.edu). Dr. Cerne will help you choose a program and advise you on course selection. He can also accept you into the program once you have completed your prerequisite courses and help with most HUB changes that you request.

Academic Advising Contact Information

Physics Undergraduate Director

Professor John Cerne
128 Fronczak Hall

Scholarships and Financial Support

Sekula Scholarship
Each year the department awards up to seven scholarships to undergraduate physics majors. This award is based on merit, as well as financial need.

National Scholarships
The Department of Physics encourages and supports student applications for prestigious national scholarships and fellowships, such as offered by the Goldwater, Fulbright and National Science Foundation programs. Please check http://www.fellowships.buffalo.edu/ for more information on national scholarships.

Published: September 20, 2017 02:37:01 PM