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What a physics major needs to know


CSE Students: Apply for your major through the CSE website by the respective deadline. To be eligible to apply for the physics major, you must have completed the requisite coursework of Physics III, PHYS2201, and math through Calculus III or IV. Students who have completed the requisite coursework and have a technical GPA of 3.2 or above will be guaranteed admission to the major. All other students who have completed the requisite coursework but do not have at least a 3.2 GPA will be considered for admission to the major on a space-available basis. Students who are not admitted to the major should work closely with their college academic advisers to discuss their options.

CLA Students: Go to 130 Tate and make an appointment to meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS). He or she will help you fill out a one-year plan, which you take to the Health and Natural Sciences Student Community Office in Johnston B29. You are eligible to declare a CLA physics major after completing one of the introductory physics sequences (Physics 1301W-1302W or Physics 1401V-1402V) and one of the introductory mathematics sequences (Math 1271-1272, Math 1371-1372, or Math 1571H-1572H).

Students typically apply to become a physics major in the spring semester of their sophomore year. Once admitted, you are considered an Upper Division student, which allows you to register for 4XXX-level courses.


To become a “double-major”, you first go through the usual procedure of becoming a major in one field, then fill out and submit the Academic Policy Petition Form to your college office to add the second major.


Upon admission to the physics major, you will meet with the department's Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) for an initial advising session. You will then be assigned an adviser from the physics faculty who specializes in your area of interest for the remainder of your college career. You may choose an adviser other than the one assigned to you if you have established a close working connection with another physics faculty member. Should you change advisers, please notify the DUS.

To schedule an advising appointment with the DUS, please contact the undergraduate office by stopping by 130 Tate or emailing your meeting request along with your availability Monday-Friday to info@physics.umn.edu. To schedule an advising appointment with your faculty adviser, please contact them directly.


A “department stamp approval” hold will automatically be placed on your record upon admission to the major. You will have to meet with your faculty adviser annually to complete a one-year plan, after which the hold will be moved to the next year. If you have not yet been assigned a faculty adviser, you will meet with the DUS. Blank one-year plan forms can be picked up in 130 Tate. Please bring a “printer friendly” version of your APAS report to all advising appointments. You must return your completed and signed one-year plan form to 130 Tate to have your hold moved.

If you become a physics major during the fall semester, you should meet with the DUS to discuss your choice of classes for the coming spring semester.

If you are a double-major, you should discuss your one-year plan with the DUS for both of your majors.

To schedule an advising appointment with the DUS, please contact the undergraduate office by stopping by 130 Tate or emailing your meeting request along with your availability Monday-Friday to info@physics.umn.edu. To schedule an advising appointment with your faculty adviser, please contact him or her directly.


Liberal Education (LE) is an essential part of your undergraduate education at the University of Minnesota. LE courses help you investigate the world from new perspectives, learn ways of thinking that will be useful to you in many areas of your life, and grow as an active citizen and lifelong learner. See the LE requirements, including lists of classes that fulfill the requirements, here: http://onestop.umn.edu/degree_planning/lib_eds/index.html.

Satisfying the LE writing intensive requirement is relatively easy for Physics majors. The introductory physics sequences (Physics 1301W-1302W or Physics 1401V-1402V) are writing intensive, so all students who take either sequence will satisfy the lower-division writing intensive requirement. Physics 4052W is also writing intensive and counts as the course taken within the major. Thus, only one more 3XXX-level or above writing intensive course is required.


You can check your progress towards meeting all of the graduation requirements by processing a copy of your APAS (Academic Progress Audit System) online. APAS produces a report, or degree audit, that reflects your progress toward completion of an undergraduate degree in your declared or proposed major. The APAS report shows how your University of Minnesota courses, transfer courses, and courses in progress apply to your degree requirements. It should be used as a tool to assist you and your adviser in planning your future coursework. To see the requirements for other programs, use the “what if” function.

Note: The APAS report does not automatically recognize technical electives and will flag this as an unfulfilled requirement. Work with your adviser to choose your technical electives and have them approved during your one-year plan meetings. Once approved, technical electives will be added to your APAS report by the staff in physics office 148.

Before the beginning of the academic year in which you plan to graduate, schedule a meeting with your adviser to review your current status and determine what you will need to do in the coming academic year to fulfill any outstanding degree requirements. Bring your APAS report to the meeting.

Graduation Checklist

Students should see Graduation Information on OneStop for the most up-to-date information.

STEP 1: Meet with their college and major advisers about any remaining requirements they may need to complete their degree; ensure requisite number of technical elective credits have been approved by major adviser and APAS is “green”.

STEP 2: Check all graduation deadlines! They come up sooner than one would expect.

STEP 3: Clear any holds on record.

STEP 4: Clear any financial obligations (check student account for any remaining balance).

STEP 5: Understand what applying for graduation means for your financial aid.

STEP 6: Apply for graduation online.

Final steps: Find out how to participate in commencement. Purchase graduation regalia. Attend GradFest. Complete any loan exit counseling.


One of the advantages of attending a major research university such as the University of Minnesota is that many of the faculty are conducting interesting and important research programs, in which undergraduate students have the opportunity to participate. You can get information about these programs by talking to students that you know who are already involved in them and by referring to the research portion of the Physics Department website. Once you have identified a program in which you would like to work, contact the corresponding faculty member directly with your request. Include information about yourself, such as specific technical skills you have, extent of physics education, and the amount of time you are able to devote; offer to meet with the faculty member to learn more about the research. There are several possibilities for financial aid associated with undergraduate research participation:

  1. The research program may have funds that can be used to pay undergraduate research assistants.
  2. UROP. The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program offers a stipend (up to $1400) and/or an expense allowance (up to $300) to undergraduates for research, scholarly, or creative projects undertaken in partnership with a faculty member. These awards are made on the basis of proposals submitted by students, usually prepared in consultation with the research supervisor. Further information is available through the UROP website.
  3. REU. Research Experiences for Undergraduates is a 10-week summer outreach program under joint sponsorship of the University of Minnesota and the National Science Foundation, which provides a working research environment for undergraduate students. Students apply through the physics website. You can also search for other institution's REU programs through the National Science Foundation's website.


The Society of Physics Students (SPS) at the University of Minnesota is an academic organization with a friendly social atmosphere. SPS activities are centered in room S50 in the Tate Laboratory of Physics. Room S50 is a place for students to study and talk with other physics majors. It has a library of physics texts and a computer lab to help members with their studies.

Affiliation with SPS is also a way for physics majors to find work in physics research. Faculty members often check with SPS to see if there are any undergraduates who are looking for teaching or research positions. SPS also holds regular social events such as bowling and movie nights as well as yearly events such as a spring barbeque and a holiday party.


Almost any information you need concerning University of Minnesota academic policies can be obtained from the following documents:

The Undergraduate Catalog contains information about general university policies; a comprehensive listing of courses, their prerequisites and a brief description of their content; and the degree requirements of all current programs.

The Class Schedule contains the schedules for current course offerings.

The Course Guide contains descriptions of individual courses that are usually more detailed than those given in the course catalog.

The Physics website contains much information about the Undergraduate and Graduate programs of our Department, and about its faculty and current research. The Class Pages are used extensively by instructors to disseminate information to their students (syllabus, homework assignments, solutions, etc.).

CSE Advising has information about Academic Advising for the College of Science and Engineering.

If none of the above sources have the answer to your question, your next step might be to make an appointment to talk to the DUS. Make your appointment request in physics office 148, or by emailing info@physics.umn.edu. State the kind of information or service you require and the times you are available to meet. For information more directly related to college policies, you could go directly to the college offices (105 Lind Hall for CSE or 511 STSS for CLA).

undergrad_program/handbook/need_to_know.txt · Last modified: 2017/10/12 16:05 by jenny