University of California Merced Department of Physics

5200 N Lake Road, Merced, California 95343, United States of America


The mission of the Physics graduate program at UC Merced is to train our next generation of scientific leaders.

Located in the heart of California’s Central Valley, UC Merced is the 10th and newest University of California campus. UC Merced is in a period of rapid expansion of the facilities, student enrollment, and faculty numbers as our "2020 Project" to double the size of campus is completed this year. As a graduate student at UC Merced, you will have the advantages of a major research university, but will also enjoy the benefits of a new institution with a young, supportive faculty who are committed to mentoring and innovative teaching to help every student succeed.

Physics at UC Merced leverages our unique academic atmosphere that fosters interdisciplinary research — connecting the physical sciences to life sciences, material sciences and engineering. We focus on four main areas of research — biological and soft matter physics; condensed matter and materials physics; atomic, molecular and optical physics; and astrophysics (new in 2020) — that synergize with each other, allowing for collaborations that approach problems from distinct perspectives. Our graduate and undergraduate students pursue their degrees while working on a broad range of cutting-edge research topics in one of the most diverse departments in the country.

Our graduate programs offer an interdisciplinary curriculum designed to provide an innovative and hands-on learning experience. Students have access to UC Merced's distinguished faculty and state-of-the-art facilities. Working alongside leading scholars, students can participate in groundbreaking research that crosses and links a wide array of disciplines. Merced is located conveniently between the Bay Area, Sacramento, Monterey, and Yosemite, allowing collaborations with many other research institutions in northern California, including Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and other UC campuses. These partnerships offer intellectual, revolutionary and cutting-edge opportunities. At UC Merced, your research makes a difference.

UC Merced has a vibrant and close-knit graduate student community. Our student population is diverse and includes students from all over the world. As part of the student body, your experiences and achievements will contribute to the traditions and cultures of the campus as well as the community.

Program Requirements

Students are normally only admitted to the graduate program in Physics to work toward the Ph.D. degree. Requirements for the M.S. degree:
Complete at least two semesters of full-time academic residence (12 units minimum) at UC Merced;
Pass the preliminary examinations on undergraduate-level classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, and electromagnetism;
Complete at least 24 semester hours of upper-division and graduate course work with a cumulative grade-point average of at least 3.0. At least 16 semester hours must be from regular, letter-graded lecture or discussion courses, while the remaining 8 hours may be research or similar courses;
Pass a comprehensive oral examination administered by the faculty committee of at least 3 members. This examination will test the student's understanding of the main concepts in the field at the graduate level.

The recipient of a Ph.D. degree is understood to possess thorough knowledge of a broad field of learning and to have given evidence of distinguished accomplishment in that field; the degree is a warrant of critical ability and powers of imaginative synthesis. The degree also signifies that the recipient has presented a doctoral dissertation containing an original contribution to knowledge in his or her chosen field of study.
To complete a Ph.D. degree in physics at UC Merced students are required to:
Complete at least four semesters of full-time academic residence (12 units minimum) at UC Merced;
Complete the required courses with a letter grade of at least "B" in each course ("S" in seminar courses graded S/U);
Serve as a teaching assistant for at least one semester;
Pass the preliminary examinations on undergraduate-level classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, and electromagnetism;
Pass the oral Ph.D. qualifying examination;
Present and successfully defend a doctoral dissertation containing an original contribution to knowledge in the field.
Required courses are classical mechanics, statistical mechanics, quantum mechanics, and electrodynamics. Electives include condensed matter, biophysics, soft matter, atomic physics, modern optics, and quantum information.
GRE Requirements: Not Required
Physics GRE Requirements: Not Required
TOEFL Requirements: Required

Description of your department culture

Our young, diverse group of faculty is enthusiastic, driven and invested in student success while maintaining a vibrant, fun atmosphere. The faculty at UC Merced is large enough to offer rigorous and comprehensive training but small enough that students receive personal attention. Apart from the social events hosted by the graduate division and School of Natural Sciences, students in physics actively organize and participate in happy hours, departmental get-togethers and barbecues and parties throughout the year. We have weekly tea time before the Friday morning seminar. Students are also involved in outreach and educational programs with local schools. We have occasional field trips to sites like the NASA Ames Research Center, the UC Lick Observatory, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.