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Degree, Minors and Certificates Offered

General Information


Undergraduate Programs

Requirements for Undergraduate Degrees from the Colleges of Arts and Sciences

Professional Programs



College of Natural Sciences
Watanabe 416
2505 Correa Road
Honolulu, HI 96822
Tel: (808) 956-7087
Fax: (808) 956-7107
Email: physics@hawaii.edu
Web: www.phys.hawaii.edu/


*Graduate Faculty

*P. K. Lam, PhD (Chair)—condensed matter, theory
*V. Bindi, PhD—particle astrophysics
*T. Browder, PhD—elementary particles, experiment
*W. L. Ditto, PhD—applied chaos theory
*L. Elias, PhD—free electron laser physics
*P. Gorham, PhD—elementary particles, experiment
*F. Harris, PhD—elementary particles, experiment
*M. D. Jones, PhD—elementary particles, experiment
*J. Kumar, PhD—elementary particles, theory
*J. G. Learned, PhD—particle astrophysics
*J. M. J. Madey, PhD—free electron laser physics
*D. Marfatia, PhD—elementary particle (theory)
*J. Maricic, PhD—particle astrophysics
*S. Matsuno, PhD—particle astrophysics
R. Milincic, PhD—elementary particles, experiment
M. Nassir, MS—astronomy
*K. Sattler, PhD—condensed matter, ­experiment
*E. B. Szarmes, PhD—free electron laser physics
*X. R. Tata, PhD—elementary particles, theory
*S. Vahsen, PhD—elementary particles, experiment
*G. Varner, PhD—elementary particles, experiment
*C. Vause III, PhD—condensed matter, theory
*P. von Doetinchem, PhD—particle astrophysics

Affiliate Graduate Faculty

A. Barger, PhD—cosmology, observational
T. Dombeck, PhD—elementary particles, experiment
S. Dye, PhD—particle astrophysics
A. McDonald, PhD—particle astrophysics
R. Morse, PhD—particle astrophysics
R. Mussa, PhD—elementary particles, experiment
W. Simmons, PhD—elementary particles, theory
J. Yepez, PhD—quantum information dynamics studies in quantum computation

Cooperating Graduate Faculty

K. Bennett, PhD—high-field magnetic resonance imaging
T. Ernst, PhD—magnetic resonance imaging
V. A. Stenger, PhD—neuroscience, magnetic resonance research
S. Still, PhD—theoretical biophysics, physics of information processing; nonequilibrium thermodynamics; information theory; econophysics

Degrees Offered: BA (including minor) in physics, BS in physics, BS in astrophysics, MS in physics, PhD in physics

The Academic Program

Physics (PHYS) is the study of matter and energy and how they interact at the most basic levels. Areas include mechanics, optics and lasers, thermodynamics, electricity, magnetism, quantum theory, atomic and nuclear phenomena, condensed matter, and elementary particles. Physics is widely regarded as the most fundamental of all the sciences. UH Manoa offers both the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in physics. Faculty members who teach physics courses are at the forefront of research in physics both in experiment and in theory. In the field of elementary particles, faculty members currently perform experiments in Hawai'i, the mainland U.S., France, Japan, and Antarctica to study neutrinos and high-energy gamma rays coming from the stars. Others are involved in experiments at the BEPC II accelerator in China and at the KEKB accelerator in Japan, studying particle production and decay and the violation of particle/anti-particle symmetry. Faculty members are also involved in the space-based AMS experiment and on the development of techniques for dark matter searches. The particle theory group is involved in the identification of new physics that addresses new questions in particle physics and cosmology that are beyond the scope of the Standard Model, and the development of strategies that distinguish this new physics from the Standard Model phenomena. In condensed-matter physics, they investigate nano-materials and use a scanning tunneling microscope to take pictures of individual atoms. A free electron laser is operating in the physics building. This device allows scientists to carry out forefront research in fundamental and applied physics. Often, undergraduate physics majors work on these projects along with graduate students and the faculty.


Academic advising is mandatory for all undergraduate physics majors. Contact the department office for assignment to an advisor. Note that in order to complete the program in 4 years, a physics student must begin the study of calculus in either the first or the second semester of the freshman year.

Undergraduate Study

BA in Physics

The BA Physics degree is designed specifically for those students who wish to supplement the core study of physics with courses in interdisciplinary fields. As a fundamental science with applications in many fields, physics strengthens the background of students who have wider interests that lie outside of physics, in fields such as biology, health sciences, environmental studies, oceanography, geology, computer sciences, and social sciences.


Students must complete the following courses with grades of C (not C-) or better:

  • PHYS 170/170L, 272/272L, 274/274L, 310, 350, 400, 480
  • One course in advanced laboratory or applied techniques: PHYS 305 or MATH 407, or PHYS 475 or EE 211, or PHYS 480L
  • CHEM 161/161L or 171/171L or 181A/181L
  • MATH 241, 242, 243, and 244; or MATH 251A, 252A, and 253A
  • MATH 307 or 311
  • Minimum of 15 credits of an approved Interdisciplinary Concentration (IC) course program:
    – Courses must be chosen to form a coherent theme
    – Minimum of 12 credits must be non-introductory courses at the 200-level or above
    – Proposed IC courses (and any modifications) must be approved by physics department chair
    – Approval shall be granted only after the student has passed (or is currently enrolled in) PHYS 274, 274L, and MATH 243 or 253A

For more details, including examples of previously approved Interdisciplinary Concentration course programs, see the website: www.phys.hawaii.edu.

Upon approval of a physics department advisor, MATH 215 and 216 may be substituted for MATH 241 and 242, and PHYS 170 through 272L may be satisfied by PHYS 151 through 152L.

For information on a Bachelor Degree Program Sheet, go to www.manoa.hawaii.edu/ovcaa/programsheets/.

BS in Physics


Students must complete 46 credit hours in physics courses, including:

  • PHYS 170/170L, 272/272L, 274/274L, 310, 311, 350, 400, 430, 450, 480, 480L, and 481
  • One course from PHYS 440, 460, or 490
  • Two courses from PHYS 305, 475, or 481L
  • CHEM 161/161L and 162/162L or 171/171L or 181A/181L
  • MATH 241, 242, 243, 244, and 311 or 307 (MATH 251A, 252A, 253A, may be substituted for MATH 241, 242, 243, 244. MATH 215, 216, may be substituted for MATH 241, 242, with consent from physics advisor.)
  • Grade of C (not C-) or better in above courses

Upon approval of a physics department advisor and chair, the PHYS 170 through 272L requirements may be satisfied by PHYS 151 through 152L; and requirements for PHYS 305 (or 475 or 481L), 440 (or 460 or 490), 450, 480, and 480L, may be modified to accommodate a special emphasis or interdisciplinary program that is appropriate for the major in physics.

For information on a Bachelor Degree Program Sheet, go to www.manoa.hawaii.edu/ovcaa/programsheets/.

Minor in Physics


  • PHYS 151/151L and 152/152L or PHYS 170/170L and 272/272L
  • PHYS 274 (lab not necessary)
  • 15 additional upper division credit hours, including PHYS 310, 350, and 480
  • Grade of C (not C-) or better in the above courses

Upon recommendation of a physics department advisor and chair, requirements for PHYS 310, 350, and 480 may be modified if an equivalent course is taken in another department.

BA (and Minor) in Astronomy

For more information on the BA degree and Minor in Astronomy, see ASTR program.

BS (and Minor) in Astrophysics

For more information on the BA degree and Minor in Astrophysics, see ASTR program.

Graduate Study

This program offers opportunities for study and research leading to the MS and PhD degrees in physics. The staff and facilities are especially aimed toward experimental and theoretical work in elementary particle physics, nanophysics, and free electron laser physics.

Intended candidates for the MS or PhD in physics must present a minimum of 35 undergraduate credit hours in physics, including atomic and nuclear physics, electromagnetism, mechanics, quantum mechanics, and thermodynamics. Courses in general chemistry and differential equations are also required. Official scores of the GRE General Test and the subject test in physics must be submitted prior to admission.

At least one year of experience as a teaching assistant is required of all MS or PhD candidates. All graduate students are required to attend the weekly colloquium.

Master’s Degree

Students wishing to terminate their formal education with the MS degree generally select Plan A (thesis) so as to gain some research experience, as well as formal class work. These students are prepared to enter teaching positions at the community college level or industrial and civil service positions at the junior scientist and engineer level.

Students planning advanced graduate work generally complete the Plan B (non-thesis) or Plan C (examination) requirements for the MS degree. At this point most of their formal class work has been completed and further work consists mainly of seminars, directed research, and the dissertation.


For the MS Plan A, students must complete 30 credit hours of course work, including (a) a minimum of 18 credit hours of physics courses numbered 600 to 798, including PHYS 610, 650, 670, and 690; (b) minimum of 6 credit hours of thesis; and (c) approved electives, which may be selected from PHYS 699 for a maximum of 2 credit hours and courses in mathematics, chemistry, meteorology, engineering, and philosophy. Other courses can be included on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of the department chair. A final oral examination covers the thesis and related areas and completes the Plan A requirements.

For the MS Plan B, students must complete 30 credit hours of course work, including (a) a minimum of 18 credit hours of physics courses numbered 600 to 798, including PHYS 610, 650, 670, and 690; and (b) approved electives, as in Plan A. A written qualifying examination completes the Plan B requirements.

For the MS Plan C, there is no credit hour requirement but a minimum residency requirement must be satisfied. MS Plan C is intended for students who had completed equivalent course requirements at another institution. Admission to Plan C requires the approval of the physics graduate program advisory committee. A written qualifying examination and a final oral examination complete the requirements for Plan C.

Doctoral Degree

The PhD degree is essentially a research degree. Students complete an original and significant piece of research and are at the forefront of one area of physics. Students are expected to enter the academic world in a teaching and research capacity or industrial and government research laboratories as senior scientists.


To be admitted to the PhD program, students must perform satisfactorily on a written qualifying examination followed by an advancement to candidacy oral examination. A student is allowed two attempts to pass the written qualifying examination within the student's first six semesters as a regular classified graduate student. The student's first attempt must be within the student's first four semesters as a regular classified graduate student. Students who fail twice cannot continue in the graduate program.

In addition to the courses required for the MS degree, students are responsible for the material covered in PHYS 651 and 671. A scholarly dissertation must be written, and a final oral examination in defense of the dissertation completes the requirements for the PhD.

PHYS Courses