<p>I know the chemistry is absolutely amazing, but how strong is UCB's physics? Is it comparable to the likes of Caltech, Princeton, Stanford?</p>

<p>Definitely. Berkeley's physics has had a tradition of excellence. It was Berkeley's physicists that managed the Manhattan Project and chose those to be on it, developing the atomic and hydrogen bombs. It invented the cyclotron and discovered various elements -- a few of those on the periodic table of elements bear its name (berkelium, californium, lawrencium). It discovered the antiproton and was important in developing the laser. It manages the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, very important in physics (having discovered many elements). It is affiliated with many Nobel Laureates for physics. And rankings generally place it very high:</p>

<p>NRC ranking:
1 Harvard 4.91
2 Princeton 4.89
3 MIT 4.87
3 Cal Berkeley 4.87
5 Cal Tech 4.81</p>

<p>Gourman report for undergrad physics:</p>

UC Berkeley

<p>Is Berkeley's physics program then much better than UCLA's?</p>

<p>I would say so, though UCLA's is nothing to laugh at, either. Definitely top 15.</p>

<p>Edit: the NRC ranking puts UCLA at #15, and Gourman puts it at #14, for physics.</p>

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<p>what about research opportunities? do you have to be truly amazing or can everybody who wants to get around to it as an undergraduate?</p>

<p>Definitely. Any undergrad can get in on research if he/she tries. See this:</p>

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<p>If you want to research, BY FAR the best way is to just go to a professor and ask them. You should be prepared, though: look at a bunch of professors' webpages and find a few you are truly intersted in. Find out when they might be in their office and then go in and express your interest in their research and ask if they might have room for an undergrad.</p>

<p>In order to increase your chances of a 'yes', you might want to have a resume handy, just in case they ask which they might. You could also go to the professor's group meeting and listen about what the group is doing (although you likely won't get everything they say). If you're lucky and the prof you want to research is one of your teachers then doing well and/or going to office hours are a plus. In fact, even if the professor isn't your teacher, going to office hours are a plus. </p>

<p>Also, if you can, get to know their grad students; they can go to bat for you. Also, you will be working with a grad student in the lab; thus, if the professor knows there's a grad student willing to work with you, it's an easier yes.</p>

<p>Now, they might say no but it will always be a nice no and they will usually have a reason--profs usually respect undergrads willing to stick their neck out and ask. If you wwant to to bio-oriented research, you'll likely not be able to help untill after you take o-chem or biology. Physics you might have to wait a while for also; I'm not sure. Physical/inorganic chem you can start rather soon. It all depends on the professor and group.</p>

<p>With many of those programs, you can get lost in a sea of applicants but if you just go and ask: you're a single person. In fact, I've heard from a couple profs that they're not big fans of URAP (the big reasearch matching program).</p>

<p>When I got here(but this lworks wherever you go), that's what I heard from lots of people as the smart thing to do and that's pretty much what I did to get a position for this Summer.</p>

<p>Good luck!</p>