Welcome to Physics & Astronomy

I enjoy reading Harper’s Magazine.  One of my favourite columns, Harper’s Index, lists odd facts and figures about things I never thought to think about but turn out to be fascinating nevertheless.  

A recent example, “Percentage of Canadians who will return a lost wallet containing money: 64. Of Americans who will: 57.”  Why is this facinating? Who knows? It just is.  Of course, the first question that comes to a physicist’s mind is, “what are the errors on those numbers?  Is the difference significant?” 

This is a lot of fun.  So lets do our version here.  We’ll call it the “Waterloo P&A Index.”  Here we go:

  • Rank of Physics & Astronomy in undergraduate enrollment (2019-2020) in North America: 4
  • Top four ranking institutions in undergraduate Physics & Astronomy enrollment in North America: U. Washington (208), Illinois Urbana-Champaign (146), California, Berkeley (145), U. Waterloo (140)
  • Rank of Physics & Astronomy in graduate enrollment (2020) in North America: 5
  • Top five ranking institutions in North America in graduate physics enrollment: Illinois Urbana-Champaign (324), Colorado, Boulder (309), California, Berkeley (274), MIT (262), Waterloo (255)
  • Number of international Physics undergraduates at Waterloo in 2021-2022: 207
  • Number of incoming undergraduate women physics majors at Waterloo in 2022: 60

I believe Waterloo is an exciting and welcoming place to learn and do research in Physics and Astrophysics.  Evidently that view is widely shared.  If you are considering us, visit and give us a look.  Let us convince you to come to Waterloo.

Have a great term.

Brian McNamara
Chair, Physics & Astronomy


It is with great sadness that the Faculty of Science shares that two-term Dean Don Brodie passed away in October.

When Don retired in 1995, it marked the end of an illustrious career at the University of Waterloo that started in the 1960s. When Don came to UW he knew there was something special here and he wanted the world to know it. He was a champion in promoting co-op within Physics, and the broader Science faculty, and really put UW Science on the map with many employers. After that, he became the Dean of Science from 1982-1990, and was able to make an even broader impact on the Faculty of Science during his tenure.

Josh Crone, an undergraduate lab development specialist at the University of Waterloo, recently scored a win in the 2023 Gentec-EO Laser Lab Awards. This global competition is dedicated to enhancing optics labs in educational institutions, ensuring students have access to industry-leading measurement instruments. Collaborating with Nobel Laureate Donna Strickland, Crone paved the way for the win by developing a compelling narrative on how this equipment would benefit physics education at Waterloo.

In a ceremony in Madrid, Spain, Noble Prize winner Donna Strickland received a Gold Medal from the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), the highest distinction granted by the organization.