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Bulletin Archive

This archived information is dated to the 2009-10 academic year only and may no longer be current.

For currently applicable policies and information, see the current Stanford Bulletin.


Emeriti: (Professors) Steven Chu, Alexander L. Fetter*, Stanley S. Hanna, William A. Little, David M. Ritson, H. Alan Schwettman, Robert V. Wagoner, John Dirk Walecka, Mason R. Yearian; (Professors, Research) Todd I. Smith*, John P. Turneaure; (Professors, Courtesy) Peter A. Sturrock (Applied Physics), Richard Taylor (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

Chair: Patricia Burchat

Professors: Roger Blandford, Phil Bucksbaum, Patricia Burchat, Blas Cabrera, Savas G. Dimopoulos, Sebastian Doniach, Giorgio Gratta, Shamit Kachru**, Steven Kahn, Renata E. Kallosh, Aharon Kapitulnik, Mark Kasevich, Steven A. Kivelson, Robert B. Laughlin, Andrei D. Linde, Peter F. Michelson, Douglas D. Osheroff, Vahť Petrosian, Roger W. Romani, Zhi-Xun Shen, Stephen Shenker, Eva Silverstein**, Leonard Susskind, Stanley G. Wojcicki, Shoucheng Zhang

Associate Professors: Tom Abel, Steven Allen, Sarah Church, David Goldhaber-Gordon, Kathryn Moler

Assistant Professors: Stefan Funk, Chao-Lin Kuo, Hari Manoharan, Risa Wechsler

Professors (Research): John A. Lipa, Phillip H. Scherrer

Courtesy Professors: Rhiju Das, Richard N. Zare

Lecturer: Rick Pam

Consulting Professors: Ralph Devoe, Gerald Fisher, Barbara Jones, Greg Madejski, Alan Title

Visiting Professors: Francois LeDiberder

* Recalled to active duty.

** On leave

Department Offices: 382 Via Pueblo Mall

Mail Code: 94305-4060

Phone: (650) 723-4344

Web Site:

Courses offered by the Department of Physics are listed under the subject code PHYSICS on the Stanford Bulletin's ExploreCourses web site.


The mission of the undergraduate program in Physics is to provide students with a sound foundation in both classical and modern physics. Courses in the program include labs in which undergraduates carry out individual experiments which, in advanced courses, may include the conception, design, and fabrication of laboratory equipment. Students are also encouraged to participate in independent research projects. The program prepares students for future careers in medicine, engineering, government, and industry. as well as graduate programs in physics.


The department expects undergraduate majors in the program to be able to demonstrate the following learning outcomes. These learning outcomes are used in evaluating students and the department's undergraduate program. Students are expected to demonstrate:

  1. the ability to formulate testable scientific hypotheses and to design approaches to obtain data to test the respective hypotheses.
  2. the ability to make appropriate, logical measurements and produce quantitative results.
  3. the ability to draw appropriate conclusions supported by experimental results, including the ability to methodically determine statistical and systematic errors to report limits (uncertainties) on the accuracy of results.
  4. the ability to communicate content understanding and research outcomes effectively (i.e. produce a written product that is well organized and demonstrates understanding of the discipline and its techniques.


Course work is designed to provide students with a sound foundation in both classical and modern physics. Students who wish to specialize in astronomy, astrophysics, or space science should also consult the "Astronomy Course Program" section of this bulletin.

Three introductory series of courses include labs in which undergraduates carry out individual experiments. The Intermediate Physics Laboratories offer facilities for increasingly complex individual work, including the conception, design, and fabrication of laboratory equipment. Undergraduates are also encouraged to participate in research; most can do this through the honors program and/or the summer research program.

The study of physics is undertaken by three principal groups of undergraduates: those including physics as part of a general education; those preparing for careers in professional fields that require a knowledge of physics, such as medicine or engineering; and those preparing for careers in physics or related fields, including teaching and research in colleges and universities, research in federally funded laboratories and industry, and jobs in technical areas. Physics courses numbered below 100 are intended to serve all three of these groups. The courses numbered above 100 meet the needs mainly of the third group, but also of some students majoring in other branches of science and in engineering.


The Department of Physics offers three year-long, entry-level physics sequences, the PHYSICS 20, 40, and 60 series. The first of these is non-calculus-based, and is intended primarily for those who are majoring in biology. Such students with AP Physics credit, particularly those who are considering research careers, may wish to consider taking the PHYSICS 20 or 40 series, rather than using AP placement. These introductory series provide a depth and emphasis on problem solving that is of significant value in biological research, which today involves considerable physics-based technology.

For those intending to major in engineering or the physical sciences, or simply wishing a stronger background in physics, the department offers the PHYSICS 40 and 60 series. Either of these satisfies the entry-level physics requirements of any Stanford major. The 60 series is intended for those who have already taken a Physics course at the level of the 40 series, or at least have a strong background in mechanics, some background in electricity and magnetism, and a strong background in calculus. The PHYSICS 40 series begins with mechanics in Winter Quarter, electricity and magnetism in Spring Quarter, and light and heat in Autumn Quarter. While it is recommended that most students begin the sequence with mechanics (PHYSICS 41) in Winter Quarter, those who have had strong physics preparation in high school (such as a score of at least 4 on the Physics Advanced Placement C exam) may start the sequence with PHYSICS 45 in Autumn Quarter. Effective academic year 2009-10, all courses for the major must be taken for a letter grade, and a grade of 'C-' or better must be received for all units applied toward the major.


Graduate students find opportunities for research in the fields of astrophysics, particle astrophysics, cosmology, experimental particle physics, theoretical particle physics, intermediate energy physics, low temperature physics, condensed matter physics, materials research, atomic physics, laser physics, quantum electronics, coherent optical radiation, novel imaging technologies, and biophysics. Faculty advisers are drawn from many departments, including Physics, Applied Physics, Materials Science and Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Biology. Opportunities for research are also available with the faculty at SLAC in the areas of theoretical and experimental particle physics, particle astrophysics, cosmology, accelerator design, and photon science.

The number of graduate students admitted to the Department of Physics is strictly limited. Students should submit applications by Tuesday, December 15, 2009, for the following Autumn Quarter. Graduate students may normally enter the department only at the beginning of Autumn Quarter.


The Department of Physics makes an effort to support all its graduate students through fellowships, teaching assistantships, research assistantships, or a combination of sources. More detailed information is provided with the offer of admission.


For information on teaching credentials, consult the "School of Education" section of this bulletin or visit Also see the earlier section on the Individually Designed Major program in Teaching Physical Science.


The department does not offer a coterminal degree program, or a separate program for the M.S. degree, but this degree may be awarded for a portion of the Ph.D. degree work.

University requirements for the master's degree, discussed in the "Graduate Degrees" section of this bulletin, include completion of 45 units of unduplicated course work after the bachelor's degree. Among the department requirements are a grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.0 (B) for courses 210 or 211, 212, 220, 221, 230, 231, or their equivalents. Up to 6 of these required units may be waived on petition if a thesis is submitted.


The Russell H. Varian Laboratory of Physics, the Physics and Astrophysics Building, the W. W. Hansen Experimental Physics Laboratory (HEPL), the E. L. Ginzton Laboratory, and the Geballe Laboratory for Advanced Materials (GLAM) together house a range of physics activities from general courses through advanced research. Ginzton Lab houses research on optical systems, including quantum electronics, metrology, optical communication and development of advanced lasers. GLAM houses research on novel and nanopatterned materials, from high-temperature superconductors and magnets to organic semiconductors, subwavelength photon waveguides, and quantum dots. GLAM also supports the materials community on campus with a range of characterization tools: it is the site for the Stanford Nanocharacterization Lab (SNL) and the NSF-sponsored Center for Probing the Nanoscale (CPN). The SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is just a few miles from the Varian Laboratory. SLAC is a national laboratory funded by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences and High Energy Physics of the Department of Energy. Scientists at SLAC conduct research in photon science, accelerator physics, particle physics, astrophysics and cosmology. The laboratory hosts a two-mile-long linear accelerator that can accelerate electrons and positrons. Until recently, the PEP-II asymmetric-energy electron-positron storage ring was used to study CP violation in the B meson system. The Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (SSRL) uses intense x-ray beams produced with another smaller storage ring on the SLAC site. Construction of the world's first x-ray free electron laser, called the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), was completed in 2009.

The Ginzton Laboratory, HEPL, GLAM, SLAC, and SSRL are listed in the "Academic Programs and Centers, Independent Research Laboratories, Centers, and Institutes" section of this bulletin. Students may also be interested in research and facilities at two other independent labs: the Center for Integrated Systems, focused on electronics and nanofabrication; and the Clark Center, an interdisciplinary biology, medicine, and bioengineering laboratory.

The Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC), formed jointly with the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, provides a focus for theoretical, computational, observational, and instrumental research programs, including the Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope (FGST, formally known as GLAST), the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), the Joint Dark Energy Mission (JDEM) and the Dark Energy Survey (DES). KIPAC members are also involved in several microwave background experiments, new x-ray telescopes, TeV gamma ray astronomy, the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS) and the EXO-200 double beta decay experiments. Stanford is a member of the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Consortium, operating an innovative 9.2 meter-equivalent telescope at the McDonald Observatory in Texas. The CDMS (cryogenic dark matter search) experiment is operated in an underground laboratory on the Stanford campus and in the Soudan mine in Minnesota. Stanford is also the center of activities for the very large double-beta decay experiment that is about to start taking data at a deep underground site in New Mexico. The Experiment, called EXO-200, will measure the mass of the neutrino with a sensitivity close to 02.eV. Many research opportunities are available for students in the growing fields of particle astrophysics and cosmology.

The Stanford Institute for Theoretical Physics is devoted to the investigation of the basic structure of matter (string theory, M-theory, quantum cosmology, condensed matter physics).

The Physics Library, a center for the reading and study of physics and astronomy at all levels, includes print and electronic access to current subscriptions and back sets of important journals together with textbooks, dissertations, scholarly monographs, and the collected works of the most eminent physicists.

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