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Guide for QO Graduate Students

How to apply, what courses to take, meeting & choosing advisors, passing the qualifier.

Home to approximately forty graduate students and ten postdoctoral fellows, QO is the largest cluster in the department. There are always open research positions for graduates and fellows, and we welcome inquiries.

Prospective and New Graduate Students

First of all, greetings to prospective graduate students! Each year the Quantum Optics group accepts about ten students, so we are always looking for bright and motivated applicants. There are currently about 140 graduate students in the department as a whole, from a wide range of backgrounds. A recent list of accepted students is here.

Even before applying, you are welcome to drop by the department if you happen to be passing through Toronto, or email if you have specific questions. However this is completely optional, because admission is based on the dossier you submit to the graduate office. The graduate committee has a representative from the QO cluster, but most professors are not on this committee, and their first contact with students will be after acceptance. Be aware that this deadline is typically in January (for admission in September). More information on this application procedure is here.

After admission the matching process between advisors and students begins. If you are able to visit, fantastic (normally we can fund, partially, such a visit). If not, contact possible advisors by email. We recommend you identify a few possible supervisors, and make your final choice after arriving. Your admission to the department is normally not tied to a particular professor.

In September you should energetically meet professors, attend research seminars, attend group meetings if they are open, and quiz your senior peers about the pros and cons of different research fields and research groups. By October you should enter a group officially. Although this is not permanent -- in some cases students change groups after their first year -- most likely you and your advisor will be close scientific colleagues for many years, so make this choice after some investigation and deliberation. The Graduate Handbook has a list of some good questions to ask of and about supervisors,  as well as information about financial support, common practices. You can find this and other useful resources here.


The primary purpose of graduate studies in physics is to learn how to contribute to research. Courses are only relevant to this mission as a useful background, and thus secondary in focus, unlike in undergraduate education. Depending on what option you choose, coursework is spread across one or two years. Please see our recommendations for courses (even some which may not appear on the graduate course listing, as they are not offered every year)


The typical graduation time from the MSc/PhD program in physics is 5-6 years. Along the way, there are several checks to make sure things are going well. First, you must maintain a B+ average in your coursework. Next, if you are in the MSc program, you will write a report. After the your second year in graduate studies, you must pass the qualifying examination. Apart from a research presentation, this will test your scientific literacy in quantum optics.

Following the qualifier, you will meet annually with a supervisory committee. This is a good time to consider what you have accomplished in the past year, and what your plan forward is. If you are publishing research papers, then all is probably well. The PhD thesis is a report of your original and individual research, and evaluated by your research committee plus an external examiner. A discussion of this document and your research takes place in two oral exams:  a "departmental" PhD examination, and a "final" PhD examination at the school of graduate studies. These are typically 6 weeks apart, and end with the acceptance and archiving of your dissertation. Official graduation ceremonies take place several times per year. More details about all of these steps is available in the Graduate Handbook.


Quantum optics is an excellent preparation for a career in academia or industry. We are proud to say that among our alumni are a Nobel Laureate, directors of industrial research, academic faculty around the globe, quants, and even an opera singer. See individual group pages for more details of alumni careers.

Content in Guide for QO Graduate Students
Scientific Literacy in Quantum Optics
What graduate students should make sure they know by the PhD qualifying examination.