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Bulletin Archive

This archived information is dated to the 2010-11 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, Stanley G. Wojcicki*, Mason R. Yearian; (Professors, Research) John A. Lipa*, Todd I. Smith*, John P. Turneaure; (Professors, Courtesy) Peter A. Sturrock (Applied Physics), Richard Taylor (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

Chair: Steven Kahn

Associate Chair: Giorgio Gratta

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, Shoucheng Zhang

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

Assistant Professors: Stefan Funk, Peter Graham, Sean Hartnoll (Effective Autumn 2010), Chao-Lin Kuo, Xiao-liang Qi, Leonardo Senatore, Risa Wechsler

Professor (Research): Phillip H. Scherrer

Courtesy Professors: Rhiju Das, Craig Levin,Stephen Quake, Richard N. Zare

Lecturer: Chaya Nanavati, Rick Pam

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

Visiting Professors: Edward Witten, Chandra Varma

* Recalled to active duty.

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 strong foundation in both classical and modern physics. The goal of the program is to develop both quantitative problem solving skills and the ability to conceive experiments and analyse and interpret data. These abilities are acquired through both coursework and opportunities to conduct independent research. The program prepares students for careers in fields that benefit from quantitative and analytical thinking, including physics, engineering, teaching, medicine, law, science writing and science policy, in government or the private sector. In some cases, the path to this career will be through an advanced degree in physics or a professional program.


Students will develop an understanding of the fundamental laws that govern the universe, and a strong foundation of mathematical, analytical, laboratory, and written communication skills. They will also be presented with opportunities for learning through research. Upon completion of the physics degree, students should have acquired the following knowledge and skills:

  1. a thorough quantitative and conceptual understanding of the core areas of physics, including mechanics, electricity and magnetism, thermodynamics, statistical physics and quantum mechanics, at a level compatible with admission to graduate programs in physics at peer institutions.
  2. the ability to analyze and interpret quantitative results, both in the core areas of physics and in complex problems that cross multiple core areas.
  3. the ability to apply the principles of physics to solve new and unfamiliar problems. This ability is often described as "thinking like a physicist."
  4. the ability to use contemporary experimental apparatus and analysis tools to acquire, analyze and interpret scientific data.
  5. the ability to communicate scientific results effectively in written papers and presentations or posters.


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 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 senior thesis 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 mainly meet the needs 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 Physics 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, particle theory, string theory, 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 14, 2010 for matriculation 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 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. The Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), completed in 2009, is the world's first x-ray free electron laser and has opened new avenues of research in ultra-fast photon science.

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 experiment is operated in an underground laboratory on the Stanford campus and in the Soudan mine in Minnesota. Stanford is the center of activities for EXO-200, a search for neutrinoless double-beta decay, that is about to start recording data at a deep underground site in New Mexico. The experiment is sensitive to a neutrino mass close to 0.2 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 (particle theory, string theory, M-theory, quantum cosmology, condensed matter physics).

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