Skip to Local Navigation
Skip to Content
California State University, Long Beach
Print this pageAdd this page to your favoritesSelect a font sizeSelect a small fontSelect a medium fontSelect a large font
Student Resources

Department of Physics and Astronomy, CSULB Goals and Program-Level Student-Learning Objectives For Degree Programs

What is Physics about?

Wherever you look, and whatever object you use, you see and feel physics at work! Physics describes phenomena as diverse as the evolution of the cosmos, the motion of planets and stars, the behavior of gases, liquids, polymers and solids, down to the world of molecules, atoms, nuclei and elementary particles. Physics is thus devoted to the study of all forms of matter and energy and their interactions.

Understanding the basic concepts in physics helps to make sense of the occurrences we observe in the world in which we live. Studying physics has also a practical value as it aims at developing critical thinking and acquiring tools to address scientific and technological problems encountered in industry or in fundamental research. These goals are reached in the department through

teaching and research involving active student participation.

[back to top]

Focus and goal for our students:

As a major in our Department, you will learn mathematical and computational, experimental and instrumental skills that will serve you well in any occupation you choose. Our master's program offers many professional opportunities from high school and community college teachers, to the involvement in high-tech companies or the pursuit of a doctoral degree. A significant percentage of our students find their way to major doctoral programs. You will also have various opportunities to participate in the active research of our faculty during your undergraduate and graduate years at the department.

The primary focus of our department is to form and train students through teaching and participation in research so as to become knowledgeable physicists capable of investing their talents into the life of our society. This goal is achieved in two ways. On the one hand we offer a wide variety of courses at all levels allowing students to receive an academically strong physics education. On the other hand we involve students early on in the active research of our faculty, thereby training them to apply their knowledge to concrete scientific problems. The department offers small classes that allow frequent student-faculty interactions. The participation in research projects is also done in close collaboration with the faculty. For graduate students, that involvement culminates in a research-based Master's thesis. In addition, it is not uncommon to find students as co-authors of scientific papers (see the publication list of the department).

      A “successful learning outcome” in most physics lecture and seminar courses in our degree programs is defined by an ability to solve problems given on examinations in the course, usually within some limited time frame. In doing so, students must recognize how the physical system operates or evolves as time passes, in ways consistent with physics principles. The students need to create symbols for various entities of interest in the problem, describe the system with a mathematical model, and be able to manipulate that mathematical model to produces quantities or entities of interest. It often requires active engagement and creative thinking. Some problems in advanced courses require an attack using computational codes, since “hand-wrought” solutions would take extraordinary amounts of time, if they can ever be satisfactorily approached.
      A "successful learning outcome"in advanced physics laboratory classes, while sharing the physical insight, visualization and mathematical skills just described, has a focus on the design, execution, and reporting of an experiment. The student must extract meaningful data from a physical system, using appropriate instruments. In some classes, these reports are public posters. In particular, the uncertainties of the measurements need to be determined, so that some measure of the experimenter’s confidence in the results is stated. Undergraduate laboratories are much more structured than research laboratories, with projects and goals set by the instructors.
Programs Goals & Learning Outcomes
BS or general MS Physics Program Graduates in these degree programs should have mastered the formal theoretical techniques and advanced experimental techniques that are commonly expected for students entering or in graduate studies in physics or related fields. Graduates in these degree programs should be able to apply their knowledge to solve state of the art problems at the appropriate level of their preparation, either acting individually, or, when appropriate, as part of a team.
Physics MS
and the
proposed MS
Option in
These outcomes share much with outcomes described above for the BS
and general MS programs. Graduates of the Applied Physics MS program
should have a broad physics education that will allow them to succeed in
areas where uses of experimental equipment, the acquisition/analysis of
data, and the uses of computational physics are important. These degree
programs emphasize special skills in various areas of physics that some
graduates may need to be successful.
BA Physics
Graduates of the BA program should have a broad education that will
allow them to succeed in diverse fields such as elementary and secondary
school teaching, business, law, medicine, science writing, and many other
careers for which a quantitative scientific education has a positive value.

Department of Physics and Astronomy, CSULB Goals and Program-Level Student-Learning Objectives For Degree Programs

Learning outcomes for all physics majors

    All Physics majors should
  • have a firm grasp of the theories that form the basis of mechanics, electricity and magnetism, thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, and special relativity, and some knowledge of optics and/or nuclear and particle physics and/or condensed matter physics and/or astrophysics
  • be able to apply the principles of physics and appropriate mathematical methods to usefully approach and solve some appropriate real world problems.
  • be familiar with experiments upon which a basic understanding of physics rests, and have a familiarity with the uses of computational physics.
  • be familiar with basic laboratory equipment and basic symbolic software computational techniques.
  • be able to discuss, design, and carry out some simple experiments to answer basic questions or to demonstrate basic principles.
  • be able to keep comprehensive laboratory notebooks when appropriate.
  • be able to communicate results through written reports and oral presentations.
  • be able to speak to the role of science in our society, which requires a basic broader understanding of societal institutions, cultures, literacy, and the arts
  • For graduate students, in addition: be familiar with laboratory equipment appropriate to their area of research, computational codes, data collection with computers, and experimental and theoretical techniques necessary and appropriate to their interests and specialization. With a faculty member, they should be able to formulate and carry out a thesis project, and write it up and defend it successfully. In special cases approved by the department’s Graduate Committee, be able to pass a comprehensive examination that can replace the thesis requirement.