The Department of Physics offers M.Sc. and Ph.D. graduate programs that are directed primarily to qualified students seeking a career in scientific research, with an emphasis on doctoral-stream studies. The M.Sc. can be taken both with and without a thesis, the latter being the norm. Highly qualified students may be offered “direct entry” into the Ph.D. straight from their B.Sc.
It is the policy of the Department to ensure that all students making satisfactory progress are supported at or above the prevailing minimum rate (see section V of this handbook) for up to five years of graduate study (one year of M.Sc. and four years of Ph.D., or five years for direct-entry Ph.D.). In accepting a student, the supervisor accepts the responsibility for ensuring and arranging this financial support which may come from any combination of external or internal sources, teaching assistantship, and research grants.
For convenience in this document, the year is divided into three four-month terms; Fall (September to December), Spring (January to April) and Summer (May to August). The booklet also assumes that students start at the beginning of the Fall Term (September). Here, a full course means two one-term (i.e. half) courses.
All items in italics are defined in the next section.
M. Sc. Degree
The M.Sc. degree may be completed either with or without a thesis. The M.Sc. (without thesis) is the normal route for students, whereas the M.Sc. (with thesis) is an option for those students who specifically require a thesis for a professional designation. However, the Department only provides financial support for 1 year of the M.Sc., so you should consult your supervisor and the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies before considering this option.
The M.Sc. (without thesis) is generally intended to provide preparatory background prior to the commencement of Ph.D.-level research; it is intended that this degree be completed within one year (i.e., three terms). The requirements of this program can be met in one of two ways:
Option I. Three (full) graduate lecture courses and an M.Sc. Report (Option I). Students pursuing Option I enroll in three graduate lecture courses, in the 6000-series research course appropriate to their field of specialisation, and in the ‘Report’ course PHY3400Y, which is entitled ‘Selected Topics in Physics’. The supervisor provides the grade for the 6000-series research course. The grade for PHY3400Y is provided by an independent faculty assessor assigned by the department on the basis of the written Option I M.Sc. Report. Option I students need to identify a supervisor by January 15.
Option II. Two (full) graduate lecture courses and an M.Sc. Research Project (Option II). Students pursuing Option II enroll in two graduate lecture courses, the ‘Report’ course PHY3400Y (‘Selected Topics in Physics’), the 6000-series research course appropriate to their field of specialization, and the appropriate 7000-series seminar course. The supervisor provides the grade for the 6000-series research course. Grades for PHY3400Y and the seminar course are provided by two independent faculty assessors assigned by the department to conduct a M.Sc. Oral Examination on the Research project. Option II students need to identify a supervisor by the first week of October and will be expected to prepare a 1-page progress report (signed by supervisor and student) by the end of January, unless they take three graduate lecture courses in their Fall term. In the latter case, the supervisor needs to be identified by the end of the Fall term and the 1-page progress report is due by April 15.
The two options involve equivalent amounts of work. All requirements, including examination and grading, must be completed within three terms of initial registration in order that the full assessment of the M.Sc. work be complete in time for Ph.D. registration and enrolment. That means that if you enroll in September, we expect you to complete your M.Sc. by September of next year at the latest.
The M.Sc. (with thesis) is intended to provide training in research at the Master's level for a professional designation. Students who take this option normally do not go on to a Ph.D. degree. The requirements of this program are:
Option III. Two (full) graduate lecture courses and an M.Sc. Research Thesis (Option III). Students pursuing Option III enroll in the ‘Thesis’ course, THS9999Y, and must satisfactorily complete two graduate lecture courses. In addition, each candidate enrolls each year in the appropriate 6000-series research courses in sequence of the last digit and in the second year, in the appropriate 7000-series seminar course and PHY3400Y Report Course. Grades for these last two courses will be assigned by two independent faculty assessors after the M.Sc. Oral Examination. Candidates will be expected to find a supervisor by the first week of October and will be expected to prepare a 1-page progress report (signed by supervisor and student) by the end of January. Candidates are expected to complete all requirements, taken in any order, within six terms of initial registration. The Department only provides financial support for 1 year of the M.Sc., so you should consult with your supervisor and the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies before considering this option.
Ph. D. Degree
Candidates for the Ph.D. degree are normally admitted by the Admissions Committee after satisfactory completion of the M.Sc. degree or its equivalent elsewhere. Candidates who do not complete the M.Sc. within three terms will normally not be admitted to the Ph.D. program. Excellent candidates who do not wish to complete the M.Sc. degree may apply for direct transfer into the Ph.D. program. Such students are not subsequently permitted to re-register in the M.Sc. program.
Outstanding candidates may be offered direct entry into the Ph.D. program from their undergraduate studies. A student who commences a direct-entry Ph.D. will normally not be permitted to re-register in the M.Sc. program. In their first year of graduate studies, direct-entry Ph.D. students are required to pass a minimum of two full graduate lecture courses, enroll in the 6000-series research course appropriate to their field of specialization (with the grade given by their supervisor at the end of the summer), and submit a brief progress report at the end of the summer (which will not be graded) to the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies. The time by which students must choose a supervisor depends on their lecture course load, consistently with the requirements for M.Sc. students. In order to continue in the Ph.D. program beyond the first year, direct-entry students must obtain at least a B+ average and have a willing supervisor.
The key requirement of the Ph.D. degree is the presentation and acceptance of a Ph.D. thesis describing an original and significant research contribution made to a field of physics by the candidate. A subsidiary requirement is the satisfactory completion of three full approved graduate lecture courses approved by the supervisor and the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies. Credit will be given for all graduate lecture courses completed in the M.Sc. in this Department. Candidates with a relevant M.Sc. from elsewhere will receive credit for a maximum of two (full) lecture courses.
At the time of initial enrolment in the Ph.D. program, the candidate must be associated with a qualified supervisor who will provide academic and financial support. In addition, two other Faculty members must be named to constitute, with the supervisor, the candidate's supervisory committee. In the case of direct-entry Ph.D., the timing of supervisor identification is as discussed above, and the supervisory committee must be identified at the beginning of the second year of graduate studies.
Ph. D. Program - Benchmarks of Progress
End of Year 1 (Year 2 for direct-entry Ph.D.). All Ph.D. candidates must pass the Ph.D. Oral Qualifying Examination. The Examination must be taken within two terms of the candidate’s initial enrolment in the Ph.D. program (five terms for direct-entry Ph.D.). The exams occur before the end of April.
During subsequent years, the supervisory committee must meet with the student at least once a year to assess the student's progress in the program, and to provide advice on future work. This should normally occur sometime in the Fall term. The committee submits a report detailing its observations of the student's progress and its recommendations; the student may append a response if desired. Copies of the report are given to the student and filed with the Department. At least one week prior to the meeting, the student should give an outline of their thesis problem and progress made to date to the supervisor and the two other committee members; the outline is often brief, sometimes as short as one page, but should be more detailed if desired by either the committee or the student. If progress is deemed to be unsatisfactory then the committee will request another meeting within a specified time period, typically within a few months.
End of year 4 (year 5 for direct-entry Ph.D.). Meetings of the supervisory committee after this point are generally held more frequently, and can be convened by the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies or a member of the Standards and Evaluations Committee. For these meetings the student is typically asked to prepare a five page scientific report outlining the thesis project and the progress made, along with a statement explaining the reasons for the delay in completion and the extra time required.
At the completion of the Ph.D. degree the candidate will normally present a thesis with the consent of their supervisor and supervisory committee. This Ph.D. thesis will be examined first by a Departmental Ph.D. Oral Examination and, if successful, by a Ph.D. Final Oral Examination of the School of Graduate Studies.
It is expected that the Ph.D. degree will be completed within four years (twelve terms) of full time postgraduate study (five years, or fifteen terms, for direct-entry Ph.D.). In no case will financial support be guaranteed by the Department beyond this time, nor will departmental scholarships be made available.
Typically the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies will meet near the start of each academic year with students who have not completed their Ph.D. program within the normally expected time, and discuss the student's plan for finishing the program as well as a schedule for future meetings of the supervisory committee. The Department's main concern at this point is to ensure that any problem which has occurred can be resolved quickly and that the student be treated in as fair and reasonable a manner as possible.
This is a summary of the requirements for each option for a student who starts in September 2019. Please note that courses are to be taken in the first two years of the program.
In addition to these requirements, students must register as necessary with the University and must also apply for any external graduate scholarships for which they are eligible, e.g. NSERC PGS and Ontario Graduate Scholarships.