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Natural Sciences

The Natural Sciences seek to explain phenomena that occur in the biological, physical, and chemical realm of nature on earth and in the universe. 

It utilizes scientific methods, empirical data, and research to tests hypothesis and propose theory to further an understanding of the natural world. The Natural Sciences provide a solid foundation for science practitioners as well as individuals seeking advanced degrees in related fields.

The Natural Science majors in the Dornsife College:

Applied & Computational Mathematics

USC College’s Mathematics department incorporates many mathematical theoreticians as well as specialists in applications of engineering, computer science, finance, economics, physics, and computational genomics. This combination of theoretical and practical education gives the department a unique energy. The program of study allows students to use electives to prepare themselves for a specific field, whether in industry, teaching, or advanced graduate research. The faculty is engaged in a wide variety of research activities and offers courses in many areas. Having access to many different kinds of mathematicians at the College can aid students in developing their own specialized study and research. New research ventures beyond core mathematics and statistics enhance the focus and curriculum for mathematics at USC College.

Advisor: Armineh Dereghishian
E-mail: dereghis@dornsife.usc.edu
Phone: (213) 740-2534
Office: CAS 120

Astronomy

Faculty in USC College’s Astronomy department observe the most elemental forms of nature and how they behave in both inner and outer space. From electrons to galaxies, USC College scientists explore the structure of matter and how it organizes itself. A leading area for solar and space science research, Los Angeles offers many opportunities for student and faculty research. USC is home to the Space Sciences Center. College astronomers also work collaboratively with the Wilson Observatory, home of the one of the world’s largest interferometer telescopic arrays for stellar research; the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the nearby California Institute of Technology; and the High Degree Helioseismology Network. The Bachelor of Science degree offers an in-depth and rigorous treatment of Astronomy for students intending to pursue careers in basic science. The Bachelor of Arts degree is ideal for students pursuing careers in other fields (e.g. law, finance, or business management). This degree provides a strong science background in Astronomy, while allowing the flexibility to pursue a minor or double major.

Advisor: Leslie Ann Picazo
E-mail: lpicazo@usc.edu
Phone: (213) 740-2534
Office: CAS 120

Biochemistry

A Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry is jointly offered through the Departments of Biological Sciences and Chemistry. At most universities, such programs are offered through a single department, either Biology or Chemistry, with the curriculum reflecting the home department. At USC, this program is an academic partnership between the two departments, in line with the interdisciplinary character of biochemistry. This program may meet the needs of students with broad interests in the sciences, and may be particularly appropriate for those preparing for a research career in a biomedical field or a clinical career in a health profession.

Advisor: Leslie Ann Picazo
E-mail: lpicazo@usc.edu
Phone: (213) 740-2534
Office: CAS 120

Biological Sciences

The faculty and students in USC College’s Biological Sciences department study the natural world to better understand living systems—from the biochemical to genes, and from cells to global biodiversity. The department plays a central role in the university’s goal to make USC a leader in life science research. The department has research faculty with specialties in three disciplines: marine environmental biology, molecular and computational biology, and neurobiology. Biology majors may study general Biology or choose an emphasis in any of these three disciplines. Undergraduates in Biological Sciences have the opportunity to become involved in laboratory or field research by taking research courses.The Biological Sciences department sponsors two semester-long programs at USC’s Wrigley Marine Sciences Center on Catalina Island in conjunction with the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies. The fall program focuses on microbial ecology, while the spring program centers on population biology and animal physiology. Students live on Catalina Island for the entire semester.

Advisors:
Carolyn Ruiz - Students A - K
Email: carolycr@usc.edu
Phone: (213) 740-3800
Office: KAP 357

Lica Abu-Esba - Students L - S
Email: abuesba@usc.edu
Phone: (213) 740-3800
Office: KAP 357

Irene Shvarts - Students T - Z
Email: ashvarts@usc.edu
Phone: (213) 740-3800
Office: KAP 357

Biophysics

The interdisciplinary Biophysics degree is ideal for students preparing for medical school. The degree program will provide the rigorous Physics and Biology background required for graduate school or employment in Biophysics. Students also fulfill all the requirements for entrance to medical school.

Advisor: Leslie Ann Picazo
E-mail: lpicazo@usc.edu
Phone: (213) 740-2534
Office: CAS 120

Chemistry

The Department of Chemistry offers degree programs which provide undergraduate students with core instruction and excellent research opportunities. Graduates with a B.S. degree in Chemistry are well prepared to take a job as a professional chemist, or to continue their studies for an advanced degree, usually the Ph.D., in chemistry or a related area. The B.S. degree in Chemistry at USC is accredited by the American Chemical Society. The B.A. degree program is designed for students who are interested in chemistry, but intend to pursue a career in another field such as medicine, dentistry, law, or business. Because this curriculum is not as restrictive as the requirements for the B.S. degree, students find it easier to broaden the scope of their studies by either a double major or a major/minor combination. Students in both programs are encouraged to participate in research projects with the Chemistry faculty, typically during the junior and senior years.

Advisor: Leslie Ann Picazo
E-mail: lpicazo@usc.edu
Phone: (213) 740-2534
Office: CAS 120

Earth Sciences

The Earth Sciences major includes a spectrum of disciplines focused on understanding the processes that influence the tectonics and environment of the planet, on using this understanding to read the record of earth history written in rocks and sediments, and on developing models that can be used to predict future changes due to natural phenomena and recent perturbations caused by humans. Issues of societal concern related to seismic risk, climate change, environmental contamination, and other geologic hazards play an important role. The department is affiliated with two research centers: the Southern California Earthquake Center and the Wrigley Institute of Environmental Studies. The B.A. degree is recommended for students interested in the Earth Sciences but who intend to pursue careers in other fields, such as business, law, or education.

Advisor: Cynthia Waite
E-mail: waite@usc.edu
Phone: (213) 740-6109
Office: ZHS 117

Economics/Mathematics

USC College’s Mathematics department incorporates many mathematical theoreticians as well as specialists in applications of finance and economics. This combination of theoretical and practical education gives the department a unique energy. The program of study allows students to use electives to prepare themselves for a specific field, whether in industry, teaching or advanced graduate research. In USC College’s Economics department, economic theory is intertwined with practical models to address concepts across many disciplinary boundaries. In this original approach to research, scholars are developing analytical models to explain broad concepts, such as human behavior. Theories like the economics of happiness and the economics of uncertainty were honed within College walls. Emphasis is placed on practical economic research, such as how economics can be used to better understand business contracts and competition within industries.

Advisor: Shannon Durbin
E-mail: sdurbin@usc.edu
Phone: (213) 740-7525
Office: KAP 300C

Advisor: Karina Chicas
E-mail: kchicas@usc.edu
Phone: (213) 740-8335
Office: KAP 300F

Advisor: Jorge Castro
E-mail: jacastro@usc.edu
Phone: (213) 740-8335
Office: KAP 304

Environmental Sciences

The Environmental Studies Program emphasizes the interdisciplinary nature of environmental problems. Students may pursue either a B.A. or B.S. degree. Each degree has an interdisciplinary 48-unit core and offers concentrations in Sustainability, Energy and Society; Oceans, Life and People; and Climate, Earth and Environment. Learn more about the both degree programs, including capstone and field learning opportunities, by clicking on the program link.

Advisor: Armineh Dereghishian
E-mail: dereghis@dornsife.usc.edu
Phone: (213) 740-2534
Office: CAS 120

Human and Evolutionary Biology

Human Biology (B.S. & B.A.) is distinguished from the Biological Sciences degree by its focus on the human organism. The B.S. is designed for students seeking a rigorous course of study in human anatomy, physiology, metabolism, and/or human evolution. The B.A. is designed as a more flexible option, allowing students to combine studies in Human Biology and other interests, e.g. business, psychology, education, or music. In both cases, students will complete a general core of lower division science courses then select a focused track, such as biomedical science, applied physiology, human evolutionary biology, along with complementary electives.

Advisor: Laura Ames
E-mail: ames@usc.edu
Phone: (213) 740-2480
Office: PED 107

Advisor: Irene Shvarts
E-mail: ashvarts@usc.edu
Phone: (213) 740-2480
Office: PED 107

Mathematics

USC College’s Mathematics department incorporates many mathematical theoreticians as well as specialists in applications of engineering, computer science, finance, economics, physics, and computational genomics. This combination of theoretical and practical education gives the department a unique energy. The program of study allows students to use electives to prepare themselves for a specific field, whether in industry, teaching, or advanced graduate research. The faculty is engaged in a wide variety of research activities and offers courses in many areas. Having access to many different kinds of mathematicians at the College can aid students in developing their own specialized study and research. New research ventures beyond core mathematics and statistics enhance the focus and curriculum for Mathematics at USC College. The progressive degree program in Mathematics permits exceptional undergraduate students to receive both a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in Mathematics within five years.

Advisor: Armineh Dereghishian 
E-mail: dereghis@dornsife.usc.edu 
Phone: (213) 740-2534
Office: CAS 120

Advisor: Nicole Valdez
E-mail: nicoleva@usc.edu
Phone: (213) 740-3800
Office: KAP 357

Neuroscience

USC undergraduate students have the opportunity to engage in studies that address the principal challenges of Neuroscience: that is, to learn about and analyze brain and behavior at multiple levels. There has never been a more exciting time to study Neuroscience, as the tremendous advances of the last 50 years are applied to fundamental questions of enormous complexity using new methodologies. Neuroscientists are developing ways to tackle questions such as: how does the brain engender sensation and perception, learning and memory, mind and consciousness, and emotions such as fear, joy, and anger? Addressing these questions requires both imagination and interdisciplinary efforts. The Neuroscience major is highly interdisciplinary, including faculty from Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Computer Science, Biomedical Engineering, Linguistics, Philosophy, Psychology, Gerontology, Medicine, and Pharmacy. Students interact closely with faculty in a variety of lecture courses and seminars, and have the option to attend research talks from visiting scientists and to participate in various social activities and honors organizations. Undergraduate Neuroscience majors are encouraged to become involved in laboratory or field research by working on a faculty-supervised research project for some of their elective units. Students and faculty in the Neuroscience program study questions spanning the entire spectrum of modern neuroscience research. Departing from the traditional focus on individual disciplines, USC Neuroscience is characterized by collaborative interactions between faculty and students working at many different levels of analysis, including research on cell-molecular neurobiology, systems-level analysis of neural circuits, neural engineering, and cognitive and computational neuroscience.

Advisor: Briana Weiland
E-mail: bweiland@usc.edu
Phone: 213-740-3800
Office: KAP 357

Advisor: Lica Abu-Esba
E-mail: abuesba@usc.edu
Phone: 213-740-3800
Office: KAP 357

Physical Sciences

The Physical Sciences major is ideal for students interested in teaching science at the secondary school level. The program includes course-work in Physics, Astronomy, Chemistry and Earth Science. It is designed to allow students to enroll in courses required for the California Single Subject Teaching credential offered through the Rossier School of Education.

Advisor: Leslie Ann Picazo
E-mail: lpicazo@usc.edu
Phone: (213) 740-2534
Office: CAS 120

Advisor: Nicole Valdez
E-mail: nicoleva@usc.edu
Phone: (213) 740-3800
Office: KAP 357

Physics

Faculty in USC College’s Physics and Astronomy department observe the most elemental forms of nature and how they behave in both inner and outer space. From electrons to galaxies, USC College scientists explore the structure of matter and how it organizes itself. Departmental research interests in Physics include atomic physics, elementary particle theory, quantum optics, and laser physics. Prominent scholars study high-energy physics and how the string theory resolves the contradiction between theories of general relativity and quantum mechanics. The Bachelor of Science degree offers an in-depth and rigorous treatment of Physics for students intending to pursue careers in basic science. The Bachelor of Arts degree is ideal for students pursuing careers in other fields (e.g. law, finance, or business management). This degree provides a strong science background in Physics, while allowing the flexibility to pursue a minor or double major.

Advisor: Leslie Ann Picazo
E-mail: lpicazo@usc.edu
Phone: (213) 740-2534
Office: CAS 120

Advisor: Nicole Valdez
E-mail: nicoleva@usc.edu
Phone: (213) 740-3800
Office: KAP 357

Physics/Computer Science

This program is intended for students with dual interests in Physics and Computer Science who wish to complete the essential courses for both majors within their normal four-year career. The program will prepare students for a career in a computer-related field and/or science research. Cognitive Science is an interdisciplinary major that focuses on the mind and cognition from a variety of perspectives and approaches. The core and elective sample from cources from anthropology, computer science, linguistics, mathematics, philosophy, and pscychology. The major consists of four fixed core courses, plus two tiers of flexible core courses. The first tier generally consists of more introductory courses and the second tier of more advances courses, although there are excpetions, and some courses satisfy either tier. Students must take two courses from the first tier and three courses from the second. The purpose of the flexible tiers is to structually implement interdisciplinary breadth with some degree of flexibility. The flexible core is a subset of the electives, from which students can choose in order to complete the required number of units. Students may elect to focus their curricuum from one of three tracks, which are suggested courses of study for focusing on a particular theme in cognitive science. This may be accomplished through individual advisement: language, reasoning and decision-making, and the computational mind.

Advisor: Leslie Ann Picazo
E-mail: lpicazo@usc.edu
Phone: (213) 740-2534
Office: CAS 120

Advisor: Nicole Valdez
E-mail: nicoleva@usc.edu
Phone: (213) 740-3800

Notable Alumni

Bart Kosko
B.A. Philosophy and Economics, Class of ‘82
Science Fiction Writer, Professor of Electrical Engineering at USC

Scott Cook
B.A. Economics and Mathematics, Class of ‘74
Co-Founder and Chairman of Intuit, Inc.