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Physics at UCLA (Undergraduate)

  1. May 17, 2009 #1
    Whats up everybody. I've been lurking on the forum for awhile but never registered. This is my first post and I would like to see if any of you have an experiences or heard about undergraduate physics at UCLA.

    What about compared to other UC's such as Irvine, Santa Barbara, Davis, Berkeley, San Diego?

    I am a transferring this fall into physics at UCLA from a community college. Technically a junior but am still missing a few lower division courses. Was admitted to and mainly considering either UCLA or UC Irvine for physics. I dug up an old thread about UCI vs UCLA physics but it didn't talk much about the program as opposed to the school itself. How big are the upper division class sizes between each school? I enjoy and treasure the close relationships I developed with my physics professors at my community college. How hard would it be to develop such relationship at universities, especially for transfer students? Thanks!
    Last edited: May 17, 2009
  2. jcsd
  3. May 19, 2009 #2
    Hey, I'm a second year undergraduate at UCLA, just starting to take upper-divisions. The undergraduate classes are super-huge -- usually having up to 150-200 kids or so (I think the lower bound is more accurate). Pre-meds are separated out from the engineers and physicists, so don't worry much. However, once you get to upper divisions, suddenly you're in a class of a maximum of 20-30 kids.

    That's all I can think of right now! Good luck!
  4. May 19, 2009 #3
    Thanks. Sounds good the classes are small in upper division. What's your major?
  5. May 20, 2009 #4
    The Physics & Astro Dept. here (UCLA) has the atmosphere of a private school in the sense of the small # of people who are in the majors (Physics, Astrophysics, Biophysics) and you will know most of the people in there quite quickly. It's also easy to take advantage of the faculty/grad student social events and Society of Physics Students to get to know both faculty and peers. If you're transferring in with your entire introductory physics sequence completed, I would imagine your schedule next year would look something like the following

    Fall 2009
    Physics 17 (Elements of Quantum & Stat. Mech)
    Physics 131 (Mathematical Methods)

    Winter 2010
    Physics 105A (Classical Mechanics)
    Physics 110A (Electrodynamics)
    Physics 18L (Modern Physics Lab)

    Spring 2010
    Physics 105B (Classical Mech)
    Physics 110B (Electrodynamics)
    Physics 115A (Quantum Mechanics)

    I wouldn't guarantee that your schedule would look like that, but it'd come close. It probably would be a better idea to pace yourself with 2 major-related classes per quarter, but some transfer students don't have that option since it would require them to spend more than 4 years in undergrad (2 @ CC or JC, 2 here).

    I'd also strongly recommend coming to the Dept.'s Open House event during Zero Week of this upcoming Fall as well. An invitation is usually fired off towards current and new admits within the major (they still sent me one when i was a freshmen even though I fell under Undeclared - Physical Science. I think that made a difference for me, trying to choose between Physics, Physical Chem, and some branches of engineering).
    Last edited: May 20, 2009
  6. May 20, 2009 #5
    Thanks for the info Patrick. I actually still need to take these lower division courses once I transfer to UCLA:

    Chemistry 20A
    Physics 1C
    Physics 17 (Elements of Quantum Mechanics and Statistical Mechanics)
    Physics 18L (Modern Physics Lab)
    Math 33A (Linear Algebra)
    Math 33B (Differential Equations)

    Do you know of a specific physics advisor/counselor that can help plan my career? Also, which professors would you recommend? Much thanks!
  7. May 20, 2009 #6
    You'll want to talk to Francoise Queval. Better yet, once you get here, find us at our SPS meetings.

    You might be pushing your luck, but try getting Dr. Corbin for 1C. Dr. Park is an easy teacher for Math 33A, but I know nothing about 33B, since I didn't take it there. For Physics 17, I don't really think there is a recommended list of professors, since it varies so much anyway. Same with 18L. For Chem 20A, you only really have Professor Scerri and a couple others. Scerri is entertaining, and Chem 20A is, honestly, pretty easy, so take Scerri.

    Good professors of physics include (in my opinion)


    Granted, I don't have much, and I've had a lot of luck with professors, but those are the ones you would want to look out for! If you want a list of professors to avoid, here goes nothing...


    ...and perhaps patrick_nth can add on a bit.
  8. May 20, 2009 #7
    ^ Thanks pbnjeff. I really appreciate the feedback. I plan on visiting the campus this Thursday, is there a specific room that SPS is located? Also, for both of you students, do you live in the dorms, university apartments, or private apartments? I'm also trying to find a place to live (maybe private apartment) and would appreciate some tips and pointers.

    By the way, is "SPS" Society of Physics Students or Sigma Pi Sigma. Or are they totally different?
  9. May 20, 2009 #8
    We don't really have a single room it's hosted in, although there is a grad lounge that we use for SPS when we have meetings on Mondays. I believe Society of Physics Students and Sigma Pi Sigma are the same. There's definitely a placard within the advisors' offices from earlier decades, engraved with Sigma Pi Sigma.

    Also, I commute from home (insert sadface) and I would advise you not to drive to campus. Trying my hardest to not swear in this post, let's just say the Parking and Transportation Dept. isn't one of this school's strong suits :mad:.

    About the professors...For a lot of the upper divs, you won't really have a choice as to which professor you end up with (because the dept. is so small), unless you are willing to delay a course by at least 1 quarter in order to end up with a different instructor. I'll admit I'm taking the upper div E&M class now to avoid having the usual instructor who I would probably end up with next year if I had stuck with the "recommended" sequence of classes. With that said, I wouldn't worry about this too much until you've gone over this with the undergrad advisor or realize that you do have time to delay such courses. Sometimes you will have an option, sometimes you won't.

    There's some more freedom with the lower-div math and chem courses. Chem 20A will probably be the largest class you take here (~350 people), while the math classes are about half that size, at most. I can add more input on picking once the Registrar's Office releases the Fall 2009 schedule.
  10. May 20, 2009 #9

    Math Is Hard

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    Hey supamaryo,

    Fellow Bruin here (I'm an alum, and was a transfer student). Glad to hear you are coming to Westwood. :approve:

    Have you scheduled your orientation yet? You will get some pretty in-depth counseling when you attend, and they will even register you in some classes that day.

    I had to take a light class schedule and go year-round because I worked almost full-time while I finished my degree. Being able to take a couple of classes in summer session really helped, so I just thought I would mention that: http://summer.ucla.edu

    I wasn't a physics major, but I took one class in the PAB building and it was very nice. (Although, that class was overbooked, so I had to sit on the floor a few times!)

    Unfortunately, I agree with everything Patrick says about the parking. And don't count on the shuttles to get you around campus - especially during exam weeks!
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