Course Introduction and Background
Computational physics is a rapidly emerging new field covering a wide range of disciplines based on collaborative efforts of mathematicians, computer scientists, and researchers from many areas of pure and applied physics. This new approach has had a decisive influence on fields that traditionally have been computationally intensive, and is expected to change the face of disciplines that have not commonly been associated with high performance computation. By its very nature, computational physics is strongly interdisciplinary, with methodologies that span the traditional boundaries between fields, allowing experts in this area a more flexible position in today's competitive employment arena.
National surveys in recent years consistently show computational professionals in high demand. A computational physicist has the added advantage of being not only a highly trained computational expert but also a skilled problem solver with the ability to tackle complex systems with a fundamental and innovative scientific approach. The computational physicist is a source of new algorithms and fresh ideas that extend and enrich related fields and complement the traditional modes of theoretical and experimental physics. Science based physics modeling has almost unlimited potential and transformational power.
Computational Physics at UCSD
The University of California at San Diego provides opportunities to participate in the rapid development of these ideas. The San Diego Supercomputer Center at UCSD together with a strong presence of computational scientists across many disciplines on the campus provides a new level of education and training in this area for undergraduates, and graduate students as well. Starting in the academic year 1999/2000, the Physics Department of UCSD launched a new educational program in Computational Physics which has been implemented in three phases.
Undergraduate and graduate physics programs
In the first phase, the undergradute program in Computational Physics Specialization is designed for students seeking either industrial employment or graduate study in computationally-oriented science, engineering, and related fields. Physics 105 A and Physics 105 B provide an introduction to computational mathematics and computational physics. On a more advenced level, Physics 141/241 and Physics 142/242 are project based computational physics lecture/laboratory courses in high-performance computing to solve large scale computational problems in science and engineering. In the undergradute program of Computational Physics Specialization physics majors complete a well-balanced curriculum in theoretical, experimental, and computational physics paralleling the regular physics major through the intermediate level courses and then specializing in computational physics. We also train in the program new dual majors in physics and engineering, and other disciplines. These advanced laboratory courses also attract graduate student as well.
Campus Master's program (CSME)
In our plan, the second phase of the program will offer a Master's Degree in Computational Physics as part of the campus-wide initiative to establish a professional Master's Degree Program in computational science starting in the Fall of 2010.
Campuswide Ph.D. program (CSME)
The third phase implements a coordinated effort to offer computational physics specialization on the Ph.D. level. In fact, this program already exists through the research programs of some individual thesis advisors and their Ph.D. students. The official Campuswide implementation of the Computational Science, Mathemathics and Engineering graduate program (CSME) started in the Fall of 2007.