Rocket science, meet medical science
If you enjoy biology and physics and want a career in medical technology or health research, Life Physics at Waterloo is for you.
Run by the Department of Physics and Astronomy — one of the largest and most innovative physics departments in Canada — this flexible and interdisciplinary program is based on a solid foundation of physics, chemistry, and biology. Not to mention that students have the opportunity to gain paid work experience through their co-op streams.
You’ll enjoy small classes, hands-on labs, and the opportunity to get involved in research and teaching.
Join a program that fosters curious minds to question the smallest particles, the largest forces, and everything in between. Be part of a community that includes Nobel Prize in Physics laureate professor Dr. Donna Strickland and professor Avery Broderick, part of the team to take the first image of a black hole.
Waterloo is ranked top 100 in the world for Physics and Astronomy
Specializations: Biophysics or Medical Physics
Ontario students: six Grade 12 U and/or M courses including
- English (ENG4U) (minimum final grade of 70% is required)
- Advanced Functions (minimum final grade of 70% is required)
- Calculus and Vectors (minimum final grade of 70% is required)
- Two of: Biology, Chemistry, Earth and Space Science, Mathematics of Data Management, or Physics (Chemistry, Earth and Space Science, and/or Physics are recommended)
Admission averages: Low 80s
We recommend completing the Admission Information Form once you've applied.
Not studying in Ontario? Search our admission requirements.
How to apply
Apply to Physical Sciences and select Life Physics as your major in first year.
What will you learn?
Programs/majors in the Faculty of Science start right in first year. To select your program with confidence, here’s some handy info to get you started.
Skills you'll develop with this major
- Quantitative and analytical thinking in biology and health-related professions
- Statistical and analytical problem solving in life sciences
- Modeling clinical procedures with scientific methods
- Integrated laboratory methodologies in biology, chemistry, and physics
- Technical skills to implement experiments in life and medical physics
This isn't an exhaustive list – rather a glimpse into the skills a Life Physics major can provide.
Your experience will be unique, and the skills you develop will depend on your goals; which courses you take; and your involvement with any clubs, jobs, or research projects.
Types of courses you'll take
This is a general guideline. The ratio of courses may change slightly from year to year
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First-year courses and beyond
September to December
- PHYS 10 - Physics Seminar
- BIOL 130/130L - Introductory Cell Biology/Laboratory
- CHEM 120/120L - Physical and Chemical Properties of Matter/Laboratory
- MATH 127 - Calculus 1 for the Sciences
- ENGL 193/SPCOM 193 - Communication in the Sciences
- One of:
January to April
If you're considering the Biophysics specialization, you should select MATH 114 as a first-term elective. If you're considering the Medical Physics specialization, select PHYS 124 as your elective in winter.
What other courses will you take?
- About half of the classes you’ll take will be Physics courses with some Biology Courses. With your remaining classes you can choose electives from many of the over 100 subject areas available at Waterloo.
- You can add additional areas of interest and expertise by including one of the minors available to all Waterloo students or a specialization as part of your degree.
- View a list of all the courses required for your degree.
What's the difference between the Medical Physics and Biophysics specializations?
Each specialization has set course requirements which must be completed in addition to the core Life Physics requirements. Biophysics looks to understand biological systems using physical concepts, for example, studying how muscles work and the physics behind muscle movement and growth. This specialization is strongly rooted in math and physics, and includes both theoretical and experimental ideas.
in contrast, medical physics is the practical application of physics to the human body and includes x-rays, radiation therapy, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasounds, computed tomography, and nuclear medicine. You can learn more about medical physics and career options on the Canadian Organization of Medical Physicists website.
Co-op = relevant paid work experience
By alternating school terms and paid co-op work terms throughout your degree, you can explore new career areas and types of employers as your career interests evolve.
Sample co-op job titles
- Medical device design assistant
- Ultrasound image reconstruction specialist
- X-ray diffraction technologist
- Science and math peer tutor
- Undergraduate research assistant
- Quality assurance analyst
Sample co-op employers
- National Research Council of Canada
- TRIUMF particle accelerator centre
- Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
- CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research
- SNOLAB neutrino and dark matter physics lab
- Antibody Healthcare Communications
What can you do with a degree in Life Physics?
Life Physics is a uniquely interdisciplinary degree, which gives you a great deal of flexibility depending on which electives you choose. You could pursue professional programs such as medicine or optometry or work in fields such as radiation oncology and medical imaging. You could specialize as a health physics technician in industries, or as a medical physicist or medical imaging technician in hospitals. You could also go on to do research related to biology, physics, or both.
You can learn more about medical physics and career options on the Canadian Organization of Medical Physicists website.
Possible career fields
- Senior Scientist, Drug Discovery - Merck Canada
- Medical Physicist - Cancer Centres
- Health and Safety Officer - Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
- Customer Support, Scientific Instrumentation - Olympus
- Product Developer - Christie Medical
Earn a Bachelor of Science degree
Offered through the Faculty of Science
Apply to Physical Sciences, select Life Physics as your major
Ready to learn more?
- Visit the Life Physics website
- Related programs
Learn from top researchers
Get the scoop on the latest research in the physics seminar, which brings together all Waterloo physics students for talks from top scientists.
Make friends for life
Plan to live in residence? Join a Science Academic Cluster to connect with students who share your passion (and get study support).