Studying theoretical physics involves an in-depth analysis of concepts like string theory and astrophysics. In addition, however, it requires a close understanding of related fields such as calculus and astronomy. As such, many of the strongest universities for undergraduate theoretical physics are interdisciplinary in nature, offering students strengths beyond just their physics departments.
According to both "U.S. News and World Report" and the "Times Higher Education" World University Rankings, the University of California at Berkeley is a leading university for studying theoretical physics. The undergraduate program at Berkeley aims to provide a broad range of knowledge about physics, including everything from large-scale fields such as astrophysics to smaller-scale disciplines such as nanotechnology. Students can engage in special research opportunities with faculty members through the Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program.
Princeton University's physics department is world-renowned, according to both "U.S. News" and the World University Rankings. Princeton's undergraduate program is heavily quantitative, with numerous advanced math courses required. In addition, research opportunities and fellowships abound. These include the prestigious Treiman Fellowship, which was founded by the famous theoretical physicist Sam Treiman. The fellowship allows an undergraduate to spend a summer researching a topic pertinent to theoretical physics. Treiman's early work in the 1950s has left a lasting impact on Princeton, which is heavily focused on Treiman's theoretical foundations.
California Technical University
According to both "U.S. News" and the World University Rankings, Caltech offers a top-notch theoretical physics undergraduate program that strongly encourages students to engage in active research. Studying theoretical physics at Caltech is especially exciting because of the institute's numerous and high-end observational facilities, which provide an opportunity to study astronomy and astrophysics. These include facilities such as the Palmer Observatory, the Owens Valley Radio Observatory and the Thirty Meter Telescope.
Often ranked as a top university in numerous fields, Harvard University is a leading institution for theoretical physics. At Harvard, the undergraduate physics concentration draws its strengths from its flexibility. In particular, students are required to take a relatively small number of courses compared to other concentrations. This allows students to take significant coursework in other subjects related to physics, such as astronomy, math and statistics. In addition, the active Society of Physics Students provides tutoring and support programs, which foster a sense of community among undergraduate physics students.
Kevin Wandrei has written extensively on higher education. His work has been published with Kaplan, Textbooks.com, and Shmoop, Inc., among others. He is currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration at Cornell University.