The Senior Thesis


December 1, 2017 - For Fall17 Graduation
March 9, 2018 - For Winter 18 Graduation
June 1, 2018 -  For Spring 18 Graduation 
August 17, 2018 - For Summer 18 Graduation 

 What is the senior thesis?

The senior thesis is a requirement for graduation with a B.S. degree in Physics, Physics (astrophysics), Applied Physics. The senior thesis is a clear, logical presentation of some independent, physics-related work done by the student under the supervision of a thesis advisor.  Possible forms of the thesis include: results of the student's experimental, theoretical, or numerical investigations (often in connection with on-going research at UCSC); a review of a particular topic in physics; or a significant extension of class material (for example a Physics 134 or 135 experiment). The thesis must display understanding of physics at the level of an upper-division physics course. In conclusion, the senior thesis may range between a literature review on a topic that the student will choose in agreement with an advisor and the representation of significant research effort. Examples of theses can be found here.

The value to you of a senior thesis

The senior thesis is designed both as a capstone requirement to complete the undergraduate physics experience and to provide writing and research skills that will be important for your career in physics and beyond. Complementing standard physics courses, the senior thesis emphasizes independent decision-making, activity-scheduling, and presenting of scientific material in a well-written form. It allows you to explore and develop subjects of your own choosing and develops your ability to communicate your work effectively.

The senior thesis and Physics 182

The Physics 182 course is designed to develop writing and presentation skills. It is typically taken in the fall or winter quarter of the senior year. Among other things, the structure, format, and content of a senior thesis are discussed in detail. Grammatical skills, effective writing, and literature search techniques are developed. Useful templates for the thesis in LaTeX and Word formats are made available during the course. When you write your thesis, the quality of writing should be at the level expected for Physics 182. Physics 182 is not meant to be taken when you start your senior thesis; you should have started your senior thesis before you take Physics 182. You should aim to have a thesis advisor and topic and, ideally, done some preliminary work before taking Physics 182.

The thesis coordinator and thesis advisor

The instructor of your Physics 182 class will tell you who the thesis coordinator will be for your thesis and is primarily concerned with a suitable professional level and presentation. Your thesis advisor will provide guidance for your research and thesis content. Normally, your thesis advisor will be a member of the Physics or Astronomy faculty. However, the advisor could also be a faculty member of another department, a postdoctoral researcher, or a researcher at another institution, perhaps a scientist or engineer who has worked with you on a summer research project. A thesis advisor who is not a member of the Physics or Astronomy faculty must be approved by the thesis coordinator.

Timeline and format of the senior thesis

Timeline for the senior thesis

STUDENT Submit thesis to your thesis adviser. Complete the senior thesis exit form hereThis form is to be completed ONLY after you have approved your final thesis to your faculty sponsor and thesis coordinator.
STUDENT Ask your thesis adviser to email your APPROVED thesis in pdf format to your THESIS COORDINATOR.

Deadline Dec. 1st for Fall 17 graduation.

March 9th, for Winter 18 graduation.

June 1st, for Spring 18 graduation.

August 17th, for Summer 18 graduation. 

THESIS COORD. May ask for revision. Signs, and after approval, coordinator sends the final thesis in pdf format to department chair when thesis is approved
DEPT CHAIR Reviews and may request changes. After approval, signs cover page (this is the 3rd signature). Sends to physics department adviser last day of quarter
PHYSICS ADVISER Updates that the thesis grad requirement is met in student portal ------
STUDENT Applies to graduate in last quarter at UCSC

Deadline to apply for Fall 17 graduation with NO FEE is October 27

Deadline to apply for Winter 18 graduation with NO FEE is February 9

Deadline to apply for graduation for Spring 18 with No FEE is April 27

Deadline to apply for graduation fro Summer 18 with No FEE is August 3

For more information on graduation application deadlines check the Academic Calendar 2017-18


Students who don't complete their thesis by their expected graduation date will have to pay a fee and  re-apply for graduation in the quarter they submit their thesis.

Students who complete their major requirements before their expected graduation date, but not the thesis, are not required to complete the online Withdrawal / Leave of Absence questionnaire. They will  apply to graduate in the quarter of their thesis completion. There will be no fee assessed.

When checking their portals, students who are working on their thesis and not enrolled in classes will see tuition fees listed.  However, once the Add/Drop/Swap date passes, those fees will be reversed since the student is not enrolled in any courses.


The body of the senior thesis should be at least twenty pages of double-spaced text, figures and equations. 

  • When the thesis is done, you should give it to your thesis advisor. Your thesis advisor will approve the quality and accuracy of the content of your thesis. 
  • After your thesis is approved, ask your thesis adviser to email your APPROVED thesis to your THESIS COORDINATOR (the instructor of your Physics 182 class) in pdf format. If the thesis coordinator request revisions to the thesis, you should RESUBMIT the revised version (in pdf) to the coordinator.
  • After your thesis is approved by your thesis cordinator, complete the senior thesis exit form here before the deadline. Generally it's two weeks before the end of the quarter in which you plan to graduate.

Starting your senior thesis as early as possible is very important for timely graduationA significant number of students graduate late because they failed to finish their senior thesis on time. The following is a timeline to help you verify that your thesis is proceeding as it should:

  • Four-year students should find a thesis advisor by the end of the spring term of their junior year. Transfer students should do so by the beginning of their final year. If you have difficulty in finding a thesis advisor, contact the instructor of Physics 182 in the quarter you plan to take the course, the Faculty Undergraduate Advisor, or the department chair.
  • You should enroll in Physics 182 in the fall or winter term of your senior year. If you do not have a one-page synopsis of what you plan to do for your thesis project, endorsed by your thesis advisor, by the end of the term, you will fail the course.
  • You should start writing your senior thesis no later than the beginning of your final quarter, even if your research work is not complete. The actual writing (including the thesis introduction) takes more time than you think; it is easier to make additions to the thesis when your research work is complete than to write everything at the end.

Physics Department Thesis Honors Procedure

The senior thesis of a physics, applied physics, or astrophysics major may be given an honors designation, an honor that will be mentioned in the graduation ceremony. In order that all of our majors have an opportunity to receive the thesis honors designation, we have adopted the following procedure:

1)  No later than June 1 the thesis advisor may provide a nomination of the honors designation to the Physics 182 instructor who will review and sign the thesis. This is best done at the time the thesis advisor signs the thesis and it is forwarded to the Physics 182 instructor, as the same deadline applies to the thesis submission. It is important that all faculty be aware of the honors designation and give consideration to all theses that they sign.

2)  The Physics 182 instructor and the Department Chair review the advisor’s recommendation within the context of the full set of senior theses received and either accept or reject the nomination.

3)  The Physics 182 instructor and/or the Department Chair may also nominate theses for honors and then go back to the thesis advisor for concurrence. This possibility is especially important in cases in which the advisor is not in the department and may not be aware of the honors possibility.

4)  If all three thesis signatories agree, then the honors designation is forwarded to the Department Manager to be recorded.

5)  Late theses, for example completed over the summer, may still be given an honors designation, but no mention of that will be possible at the student’s graduation ceremony.

The following general criteria should be considered when nominating a thesis for honors:

1)  The thesis should reflect research done by the student. This does not rule out theses based on library research, but to be considered for honors such a thesis must provide some interesting in‐depth analysis that goes well beyond just summarizing information from references.

2)  If the student’s contribution to research is significant enough for the student to be included in the author list of a scientific publication based on or including the student’s work (regardless of whether it was or will be in fact published), then the thesis should be considered for honors.

3)  The thesis should conform to the writing quality and formatting expectations established within the Physics 182 course. Excellence in writing and presentation may be part of the consideration for honors but is not sufficient in itself.