Physics 437 research projects

PHYS 437A & 437B Guidelines

New guidelines in effect for Fall 2023

The final year Physics Research Project courses are intended for students in the fourth year of Honours Physics, Chemical Physics, Mathematical Physics, Physics and Astronomy, Materials and Nanosciences, or Life Physics. These courses will provide a valuable research experience, particularly useful for students who plan to proceed to graduate work.

Students who make an average of <70% in the core subjects of third year are advised not to register in these courses.

All questions about PHYS 437 A/B should be directed to the Physics Undergraduate Office.

Course Coordinator for Winter 2024 is David Yevick.

Getting started

Students should contact supervisors and ask them if they are willing to supervise a 437 project and if, so, what projects they have available.

All members of the Department of Physics and Astronomy (including adjunct and cross-appointed faculty) are eligible to supervise. Occasionally, faculty from other departments will agree to be supervisors, especially if a student has a particular interest in their research areas. If the supervisor is not from the Department of Physics and Astronomy, a co-supervisor from the department will need to be arranged.

Search for a supervisor by research area: 

Students are encouraged to see at least two faculty members to discuss projects with them.

Getting enrolled

Once a project and supervisor have been selected, the student must complete the agreement form (below).

Research Project Agreement for PHYS 437 A/B

Quest requires departmental permission for course enrolment - the process will not begin until this agreement form has been completed. Once the registration process has begun, the student will receive email with further details.

The latest date to make final arrangements for your project and notify the Physics Undergraduate Office is the end of the second week of lectures.

All students registered in PHYS 437A must meet their project supervisor before the end of the second week of lectures; otherwise it will be assumed that they have dropped the course and the undergraduate officers will be notified accordingly.

* Please note: students are not automatically enrolled into PHYS 437B after completion of PHYS 437A. A new form submission is required for continuation in the PHYS 437 research project course.

Work on the project

If possible, it is a good idea to do some background reading on the project during the break between terms, before your project is started. 

After course enrolment appears on Quest, all further arrangements, problems, etc. should be discussed with your research supervisor.
Communication about the Physics Research Projects from the course coordinator will appear on LEARN.

Since the project is equivalent in credit to a normal lecture course, a minimum of 6 hours per week on average should be spent on it. Neglect of the project for an extended period (even with the intention of “catching up after midterms,” for example) is a serious matter.

Students and supervisors are expected to meet for informal progress discussions at least once a week.

Oral Presentations

One oral presentation will be required for each of the Phys 437A and Phys 437B projects. Each oral presentation is to be short - about 15 minutes long. Students should prepare for roughly 10 minutes of presentation and 5 minutes for questions.
Presentation sessions will run concurrently in small groups over Teams.
For Phys 437A, this presentation should introduce your topic and methods, as well as the results that you have achieved.
For the Phys 437B presentation, there may be some overlap with material presented for 437A, but new material based on the second term work is expected and required.
Your oral presentation will be judged by all supervisors in the presentation session. Your grade will be comprised of an average of all assessments, following the rubric:

  1. Content (Slides, presentation, context) /10
  2. Delivery /10
  3. Ability to answer questions /10

Details about these presentations will be announced early so that individuals may plan accordingly.
Presentations of research work will be scheduled during the mid-term period.

Written report

A written report will have to be submitted for each of the Phys 437A and Phys 437B projects.
The report is due on the first day of the exam period.
It is essential that the final report for the project course be based upon work done and results obtained after registration in the course.
Each written report will be read and graded by your supervisor and by one other faculty member (normally the same person for 437A and 437B) selected by the course coordinator.
The average of these two assessments will comprise the grade for your report (/25).

The report is expected to be submitted in electronic format as a pdf file.
Please use the naming convention [Lastname Firstname] PHYS 437[A or B].pdf

The following comments are meant to serve as a guide – no attempt is made here to make them all-inclusive. The best source for help with suggestions regarding style, format, how much material to include and in what detail, is your research supervisor. Journal articles, graduate student theses, etc. can be helpful as a guide. Your research supervisor may prefer a particular style, and this should be taken into account.

  1. Relevant research work must be completed before the end of the lecture period of the term of registration and reports should be submitted by the indicated deadline.
  2. The report should normally be typed and submitted as a file in pdf format.
  3. The first page should list the title of the project, the author, the date of submission and a statement that it is being submitted as partial fulfillment of the requirements of Physics 437A or 437B.
  4. The next page should be an abstract normally no longer than half a page, concisely summarizing what is being presented in the report. The abstract will highlight any important features discovered or determined.
  5. A Table of Contents, a List of Tables (if any) and a List of Figures (if any) should be included.
    Note: the pages with items 3–5 (title page, summary page, table of contents, and lists of tables/figures) should be numbered as pages (i), (ii), (iii), etc. The items 6 below (body of the report) should begin with regular page numbers 1, 2, 3, etc.
  6. The body of the report will usually be discussed under main headings such as the following:
    1. Introduction: a brief outline of what the project is about and why it was started.
    2. Historical: a brief outline of previous work in the area before you started. These first two items (a and b) may be combined if desired.
    3. Experimental or Theoretical Techniques: as much as needed of the actual experimental or theoretical details, especially of any new work, should be written down, so that someone else could repeat the work or continue it. (If a, b and c have been covered adequately in a 437A report, they may be considerably abbreviated in a following 437B report).
    4. Results and Discussion: with equations, tables, illustrations, etc.
    5. Concluding Remarks: including an evaluation of what was accomplished and suggestions for changes, improvements, follow-up work, etc.
  7. The next page should be Acknowledgements and should acknowledge the assistance of the research supervisor and any other faculty members, students, departmental members, and other collaborators who have been especially helpful with any aspect of the project.
  8. References: this page should list all previous work to which reference was made. References should normally be ordered in order of appearance in the report – authors, publication and date should be shown in each case. Consult recent journals or theses for acceptable style and format.
  9. The length of report will vary with the project and its details, but normally the main body of the report will range from 15–30 pages. (This typical recommended length is based on using a common font size, such as Times New Roman 12pt or comparable). Neatness, logical order of thought, clarity of expression are important – an overly long report is not necessarily a good one. If in doubt, get your supervisor's advice.
  10. The written report for 437B may be similar in style to that for 437A or may be in the format of a research paper suitable for publishing in a journal appropriate for the subject matter.

Final grade

The final grade is based on your oral presentation, your written report, as well as your supervisor's assessment of your work throughout the term.

As outlined in the sections above, your oral presentation will be graded by all supervisors in the presentation session. Your mark will be the average of all assessments.
Your written report will be evaluated by your supervisor and a second reader within the same area of research that your project may be categorized. Your mark will be the average of these two evaluations.
Additionally, your supervisor will evaluate your effort, progress, and work on the project over the course of the term.

Your grade for the course will be determined as follows:

  1. Oral presentation /25
  2. Written report /25
  3. Progress throughout the term /50

The co-ordinator will have no input to your final grade except in case of great disparity between the grades of the two report readers. If you put in a good solid effort and present a good write-up you may expect to receive a good grade, even if your results did not turn out exactly as you hoped. Faculty members are realistic and do not expect miracles – they do expect effort, enthusiasm and reasonable experimental/theoretical competence.
Most students enjoy this project and learn much from it. In particular, it gives students an initial impression of working in a research environment and an indication of their aptitude for future graduate work in experimental or theoretical physics.