Physics & Astronomy

The Department of Physics and Astronomy (PandA) at UNM pursues world-class research in astrophysics and astronomy, optics and photonics, condensed matter physics, quantum information, atomic and subatomic physics, biomedical physics, geophysics, nuclear, particle physics, cosmology, and statistical physics. If you don't know what these things are, don't worry - you have a great opportunity to learn from dedicated and passionate faculty at UNM.

PandA undergraduate degrees are nationally recognized for their excellence, and students are immersed in a stimulating atmosphere arising from their exposure to the teaching and research activities of its faculty members, visiting researchers, and graduate students. Outstanding scientists from all over the world visit the department for periods of a few weeks to as long as a year, while seminars and colloquia feature international experts in their fields each week.

Unlike many Physics programs at R1, flagship universities, PandA students at UNM have excellent opportunities to work on research projects with faculty, which can be as easy to set up as simply going to office hours to talk to a professor about their work, or you can choose to do a Departmental Honors Thesis. Additionally, we are dedicated to quality instruction and the department pays close attention to teaching. We also make it a priority to provide the guidance our students need to succeed via close, hands-on academic advisement by dedicated faculty. In these ways, our faculty get to know our undergraduates well.   

Our programs provide extremely strong preparation for not only graduate studies in physics, astronomy, or related fields, but also for rewarding careers in technological, medical, and engineering fields, and many others. Because physics breaks the world down into matter, energy, space, and time, it teaches you to think philosophically, mathematically, and practically, you will be sought after by employers! 

We offer B.A. and B.S. degrees with optional concentrations and options to work with the School of Engineering on a Dual Degree, as well as minors in Physics and Astrophysics for those outside of the department.

The atmosphere students experience is enriched by proximity to activities of the Center for Quantum Information and Control, the New Mexico Center for Particle Physics, and the Center for Astronomical Research Technologies, which are housed in the department; by the Center for High Technology Materials, in which physicists and engineers are at work on understanding and developing optoelectronic materials and devices with novel properties; by the New Mexico Center for the Spatiotemporal Modeling of Cell Signaling, a collaborative effort that includes physicists, engineers, mathematicians, and biologists to study complex cell signaling networks, and by the collaborative projects the faculty and students in the department carry out with neighboring laboratories such as Sandia National Laboratories, the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Air Force Research Laboratory, and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory; with local industries, and with institutes, universities and other centers of learning in the USA and elsewhere. The research is funded at a high level by various external agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, the National Institutes of Health, and NASA. 

B.A. in Physics and Astrophysics 

The B.A. in Physics and Astrophysics is designed for people interested in physics, astrophysics and science in general who are not seeking a career in scientific research. Rather, these students should use the flexibility within the program to choose minors or an additional major in other areas, such as Communication & Journalism, Economics, History, Political Science, management, education, or anything else that truly interests you. 

B.S. Degrees

The B.S. in Physics and the B.S. in Astrophysics are designed to prepare students to attend graduate school in those fields, and are also intended for students seeking careers which do not require graduate study, but require a strong foundation in the critical thinking and methodologies used in the study of Physics and Astrophysics. You can choose a general B.S. in Physics or Astrophysics, or you can choose one of the following concentrations:

Biophysics: Biophysics is the field that applies theories and methods of physics to biological systems in order to get a deeper understanding of the processes. Biophysics has a strong representation within the UNM family and current active projects range from high resolution imaging of live cells and single molecules, hyperspectral and fluorescence lifetime imaging, microscope construction and development, super resolution imaging, nanomaterials, high throughput molecular modeling and many others. 

Earth and Planetary Sciences: Many of the processes that shape planetary bodies and their atmosphere can be examined with a physics lens. Possible emphases include the geophysics of solid earth, climate, or hydrology.

Optics: Optics is the science of light, how it behaves and interacts with matter, and how those behaviors and interactions change under different conditions. This includes optical systems, including cameras and the human eye. The properties of light can be used to explore the universe, monitor the environment, contribute to forensic science, and create new technologies. You can explore the electromagnetic theory of light, propagation of light, geometric optics (spherical surfaces, prisms, fiberoptics, etc.), optical systems, wave optics, light polarization, diffraction, and modern optics including lasers and holography.

There is no minor required for any B.S. degrees offered by the Physics & Astronomy department.

Dual Degrees with Electrical Engineering

The expanding national emphasis on innovation means there is a high demand of people with the combined skill set of the engineer's applications focus and the physicist's detailed scientific background. This competence is sought after by industry and positively viewed by graduate school admission committees.  Examples of fields that require interdisciplinary education and training are:

  • Quantum computation and information
  • Nano science and engineering
  • Photonics
  • Materials science and engineering

The inherent flexibility in the new UNM dual BSEE – BS/BA physics degree program allows the electrical engineering student to tailor the physics degree to complement their end-goals.

There is no minor required for the dual degree with the Physics B.S. option, but you do need a minor for the dual degree with the Physics and Astrophysics B.A.

Undergraduate Program

Departmental Honors

UNM Catalog

Programs of Study


  • B.A. Physics and Astrophysics
  • B.A. Physics and Astrophysics - Dual Degree: B.S. in Electrical Engineering
  • B.S. Astrophysics
  • B.S. Physics
  • B.S. Physics - Biophysics
  • B.S. Physics - Earth and Planetary Sciences
  • B.S. Physics - Optics
  • B.S. Physics - Dual Degree: B.S. in Electrical Engineering
  • Physics
  • Astrophysics

Contact Information

Undergraduate Academic Advisor(s): 
Advisor office locations vary. Please click on your advisor's name below to learn more.
Advising Email:
Department Location:
PAÍS (Physics & Astronomy Interdisciplinary Science Center, Bldg 114) - 210 Yale Blvd NE

Department/Program Website