Interdisciplinary Studies Field


What is the ISF Major

The ISF (Interdisciplinary Studies Field) major is a unique program at Cal that offers students a special opportunity to take advantage of the University’s strengths as a research institution. Providing a research-driven liberal education, ISF allows students to design their own original program of research and study, resulting in a major research project (Senior Thesis). The ISF major is intended for students who wish to focus their studies on a non-U.S. topic, have a clear idea about the research they would like to pursue and the courses that will be most meaningful to them (the Course of Study), and who are prepared to write a Senior Thesis. Applicants are encouraged to convey coherently their area of research and study in a brief proposal.

How do I choose courses for my Course of Study?

  1. Start by defining your interests. Look over the “ISF Research Fields” list in section 6.1 of the ISF Major Student Handbook or as a .pdf on the ISF website. Although your major will reflect your own goals and interests, other ISF students before you probably have put together programs in your area of interest, and you may want to use their programs as a reference.
  2. Look over the current list of majors in the College of Letters & Science’s web site (, and list those that are of interest to you. Carefully read the brief descriptions of each major in the General Catalog. Then browse the descriptions seeking courses relevant to your interests. Think about how these courses might be related. Do you find yourself wanting to explore this connection?
  3. Discuss your proposal with an ISF faculty adviser. Once you have a list of courses or you have an idea of what you would like to research or study, visit an ISF faculty adviser to discuss your proposal. The faculty adviser will assist you in developing a proposal with coherence, breadth, and depth that is comparable to an existing academic discipline here at Cal. In addition, the faculty adviser will be able to direct you to additional faculty on campus who teach in your area of interest.

How do I apply?

Please fill out the entirety of the ISF major application forms before submitting them to an ISF faculty adviser. If you have any questions about the application itself, please contact the ISF major advisor at

What can I do with an ISF major?

Just about anything! Your research program will reflect your passions and your interests, and your interdisciplinary training will be a bonus for employers, graduate programs, and professional schools seeking unusual and highly-motivated students. You will have learned critical skills of research, analysis, interpretation, and writing that will translate across professional sectors and domains. As an ISF major, you have a demonstrable record as a scholar and researcher with the capacity to complete original and innovative work informed by the best scholarship in several disciplines and domains. These skills will translate into graduate or professional study, non-profit work of business, government or community service. The ISF major trains in a lifetime of learning.