University of Waterloo
200 University Avenue West
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3G1
Phone: (519) 888-4567 ext 32215
Fax: (519) 746-8115
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.
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.
COVID-19 update for Fall 2020: Due to uncertainty with campus building closures, we ask that students discuss with potential supervisors whether any projects require in-person activity (e.g. in the lab) or can be accomplished remotely with online supervision.
Search for a supervisor by research area:
Students are encouraged to see at least two faculty members to discuss projects with them.
Once a project and supervisor have been selected, the student must complete the agreement form (below).
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 coordinator is the end of the second week of lectures.
All students registered in P437A must meet the course coordinator before this date; 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.
If possible, it is a good idea to do some background reading on the project during the summer.
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.
One oral presentation will be required for each of the Phys 437A and Phys 437B courses. Each oral presentation is to be a short presentation (max. of 15 minutes). 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 supervisors and students enrolled in the class. Details about these presentations will be announced early so that individuals may plan accordingly. Typically, presentations of Fall and Winter research work will be organized in early January and early April respectively.
A written report will have to be written for each of the Phys 437A and Phys 437B classes. 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 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. The report is expected to be submitted in electronic format as a pdf file.
The following general comments should be noted:
The final grade is based on your written report, oral presentation, as well as your supervisor's assessment of your work. Each reader (your supervisor and one other faculty member selected by the course co-ordinator) will submit a grade for your report. Your report grade will be the total of those submitted by the two readers. The final grade will be an aggregate of the report grade (typically 50%), the presentation (typically 25%) and your supervisor's assessment of your effort and progress throughout the term (typically 25%). 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.