Welcome to Physics & Astronomy

To the year 2+ students, welcome back.  To the first-year students and new postdocs and graduate students, welcome to Waterloo Physics & Astronomy.   It’s exciting to think about the great science these talented scholars are going to do here in the next few years. We have much to celebrate.  This is the first term in three years to feel nearly normal.  Masks are no longer required but suggested should you choose to be extra cautious.  The beautiful new digs for the Waterloo Centre for Astrophysics, located in the laboratory wing, were completed over the summer and are now occupied.  Our spiffy new undergraduate laboratory teaching space (seen here with Trish Van Berkel and Heather Anderson) is open for Fall teaching.  

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
University Research Chair
Chair, Physics & Astronomy

The Physics & Astronomy department encourages an inclusive, tolerant, respectful, and diverse, intellectual environment.

  1. Mar. 14, 2023IQC researchers bring theory to reality with a new experiment

    Energy is present everywhere in the universe, from the tiniest particles to the vastness of space. According to quantum mechanics, vacuum states like outer space are not actually empty, because when observed at microscopic scales, there are spontaneous energy fluctuations.

  2. Mar. 9, 2023Waterloo announces winners of annual award for co-op students
    Isaac Cheng

    Meet Isaac Cheng, 2022 Co-op Student of the Year Award - Science

    Growing up, Isaac Cheng went camping each summer and was fascinated by the night sky. He was inspired by an opportunity he had as a child to explore the sky with an astronomer. Cheng is also the 2022 winner of the Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada (CEWIL Canada) Student of the Year Award. He is an honourable mention for the 2022 EWO Co-op Student of the Year Award.

  3. Mar. 7, 2023Distance between water molecules key for future quantum devices
    ball and stick model of a molecule (decorative)

    Water has many unique properties. An interdisciplinary team of Waterloo scientists has discovered a one-dimensional chain of water molecules could produce a quantum phase transition. This breakthrough is a key development for future water-based quantum devices.

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  1. Mar. 27, 2023New paradigms in correlated quantum matter: Meson formation and the origins of pairing in high-Tc superconductors

    Speaker: Fabian Grusdt, LMU Munich

  2. Mar. 28, 2023Characterizing states and measurements: principles and approaches

    Presenter: Junan Lin (PhD Candidate, Physics and Astronomy – Quantum Information)

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