The program information below is valid for the winter 2024 term (January 1, 2024 - April 30, 2024).
The Graduate Studies Academic Calendar is updated 3 times per year, at the start of each academic term (January 1, May 1, September 1). Graduate Studies Academic Calendars from previous terms can be found in the archives.
Students are responsible for reviewing the general information and regulations section of the Graduate Studies Academic Calendar.
Graduate research fields
- Astrophysics and Gravitation
- Atomic Molecular and Optical Physics
- Chemical Physics
- Condensed Matter and Materials Physics
- Industrial and Applied Physics
- Quantum Computing
- Subatomic Physics
- Study option(s)
- Normally a Master's degree in Physics, with at least a 75% standing.
- Students with an undergraduate degree in Physics may apply for admission directly to the PhD program. Successful applicants will have an outstanding academic record, breadth of knowledge in physics, and strong letters of recommendation.
- Gradaute Record Examination (GRE) Physics subject test scores for all students who have completed their post-secondary education outside of Canada.
- Supplementary information form
- Number of references: 3
Type of references:
English language proficiency (ELP) (if applicable)
- Graduate Academic Integrity Module (Graduate AIM)
- Students who have completed a Master of Science (MSc) or equivalent degree must complete 2 one-term graduate level courses (0.50 unit weight).
- Including courses taken during the MSc degree, students are required to complete or have completed:
- 1 of PHYS 701, PHYS 704, or PHYS 706 (core course equivalents PHYS 602 or PHYS 605 will be accepted if completed during the MSc).
- 2 additional Physics core courses (core course equivalents PHYS 601, PHYS 602 or PHYS 605 will be accepted if completed during the MSc). Biophysics students are exempt from this requirement and may substitute 2 other PHYS graduate level courses.
- Students who enter the PhD program directly from an undergraduate degree or who transfer directly from a Masters program to the PhD program must complete the following 6 one-term courses (0.50 unit weight):
- 1 of PHYS 701, PHYS 704 or PHYS 706
- 2 additional Physics Core courses. Biophysics students are exempt from this requirement, and may substitute 2 other PHYS graduate level courses.
- 3 other graduate level courses or 2 graduate level courses and 1 300 or 400 level undergraduate course. Undergraduate courses must be approved by the student’s supervisor and the Associate Chair of Graduate Studies, Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Associate Dean of Science for Graduate Studies prior to enrolment in the course.
- Physics core courses:
- PHYS 701 Quantum Mechanics 1
- PHYS 703 Introduction to Quantum Field Theory
- PHYS 704 Statistical Physics 1
- PHYS 706 Electromagnetic Theory
- PHYS 767 Quantum Information Processing
- PHYS 781 Fundamentals of Astrophysics
- PHYS 782 Fundamentals of Astrophysics II: Observational Techniques and Data Analysis
- An average of at least 70% must be obtained in the required courses. A minimum grade of 65% is required for a pass in each course. If a student does not meet these minimum grade requirements, or receives a failing grade in any course, the student may be required to withdraw from the program.
- The student's Advisory Committee may require additional courses dependent on the student's background.
- Link(s) to courses
- PhD Comprehensive Examination
- Students are required to meet the University-level PhD Comprehensive Examination minimum requirements outlined in the “Minimum requirements for the PhD degree” section of the Graduate Studies Academic Calendar (GSAC), with certain noted exceptions that are specific to the PhD in Physics program:
- Committee composition: Consistent with University-level minimum requirements with the exception that two examiners must not be the student’s supervisor(s). At least one examiner must be a regular faculty member of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. At least two (one for PhD students supervised by a Perimeter Institute faculty member) examiners must hold regular faculty appointments at University of Waterloo.
- In addition to the University-level PhD Comprehensive Examination minimum requirements, students in the PhD in Physics program are also required to follow the requirements outlined below:
- The examination will assess the student's knowledge of the fundamentals and applications of the physics closely related to the thesis topic.
- A student’s comprehensive exam includes both written and oral components. These components are evaluated by an examining committee constituted for a given student. The examining committee will consist of at least three expert examiners, in accordance with university guidelines. The nonvoting Chair will normally be the program Director or their designate. The Associate Director from the University of Guelph or his/her designate may attend the exam either as an expert examiner or a non-expert examiner.
- The student’s advisory committee will meet formally with the student during the first year of the PhD program. From this meeting, a list of three areas of physics deemed necessary background for the thesis topic will result and be recorded on the Committee meeting form along with the names of three expert examiners. At the committee meeting, the committee members will specify the level of knowledge expected in each area (eg at the level of the original research literature, review articles or graduate level textbooks). Examiners are encouraged to give to the student explicit examples of references which illustrate the level and knowledge expected.
- Once the exam date has been scheduled, each of the three expert members of the committee with knowledge of the designated areas, will be asked to set 3 exam questions, each requiring approximately 10 minutes to answer. Along with their questions, the expert examiners will also submit an outline of the answers they expect for their respective questions; this will not only ensure that the questions are of the right length but will also be of help to the non-expert committee member(s) during the exam. Sufficient collaboration should occur among expert examiners to avoid excessive duplication of exam questions.
- The Chair of the exam (Director or his/her designate) will vet and approve the questions and may request edits to remove overlaps or improve the clarity of questions and/or solutions. All examiners will proofread the final exam. The oral exam is intended to be approximately 90 minutes long but may run longer, if necessary. All questions will normally be covered.
- The student will have access to the exam in an examination room for up to two hours with a calculator and paper provided to them (if the student so desires) prior to the start of the formal oral examination period. No books or other aids are permitted.
- In the oral portion of the exam, the student may choose the first question for which he/she will present a solution; the exam will then proceed in the established question order from question 1). Solutions to questions will be presented to the examination committee one at a time without interruption. The examination committee will ask questions and/or provide feedback only after the student has completed his/her presentation of a given question. The student will be assessed separately on the presentation and discussion components of each question and a combined grade will also be recorded by each examiner.
- The candidate will leave the room while the committee discusses the grades given. The most recent report of the advisory committee and the student's grades in graduate courses will be available to the committee for its deliberations after the examination is finished. Discussion of the candidate's responses to individual questions is expected before arriving at a final recommendation on the outcome of the exam. The result is communicated verbally to the candidate once the decision has been made and is followed by written confirmation, usually within 24 hours.
- In the case of a conditional pass, the conditions specified may be aimed at improving a weakness in understanding of one or more of the three areas of the exam.
- Since the oral portion of the exam immediately follows the written part and involves a presentation by the candidate of the written responses to questions, suspected violations of academic integrity during the written exam should be reported to the Chair of the exam who will normally allow the oral portion of the exam to proceed and the potential academic integrity violation will be vetted after the completion of the exam.
- PhD Thesis
- An acceptable thesis on an advanced research topic must be submitted. The topic of the thesis and the quality of the research will be such as to merit publication in reputable scholarly media.
- Acceptance of the thesis requires satisfactory completion of a Final Oral Examination.
- Advisory Committee meetings: it is required that the student meet formally with their Advisory Committee within the first six months of registration and subsequently at least once per year. If the student receives more than one unsatisfactory evaluation from an Advisory Committee meeting, they may be required to withdraw from the program.
- The PhD Advisory Committee must consist of at least four members, including:
- The student’s supervisor(s); the primary supervisor acts as the Committee Chair.
- At least one Committee member that is a regular faculty member of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Waterloo. Note: This requirement does not apply for PhD students who are supervised by a Perimeter Institute faculty member with Approved Doctoral Dissertation Supervisor (ADDS) status.
- At least two Committee members that are regular, adjunct, or cross-listed faculty members of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Waterloo or the Department of Physics as the University of Guelph.