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3rd and 4th Year Supervised Courses in Physics (PHY37x/PHY47x)

Information about undergraduate supervised research or study for course credit.


The Department of Physics Undergraduate Program offers Supervised Courses for advanced Undergraduate Physics students in our Specialist, Joint Specialist, and Major programs to work with faculty in independent study or research. We offer two types of Supervised Courses:

  1. 3rd and 4th Year Supervised Study courses (PHY371Y1/PHY372H1/PHY471Y1/PHY472H1): Students may take advantage of these courses either to specialize further in a field of interest or to explore interdisciplinary fields not available in the regular syllabus.
  2. 4th Year Research Project courses (PHY478H1/PHY479Y1): Research projects may be experimental, computational or theoretical, or any combination, and are expected to involve a workload similar to a regular upper level laboratory course.

All Supervised courses are scheduled by arrangement between the student and the faculty supervisor and may take place during any term, including the summer. Read below for more details about the courses and about how to find a faculty supervisor. Please see also the  Guidelines and Enrolment Form.

These courses are available in the 2021-22 academic year. In all cases, they will be conducted under the protocols established for the laboratory, department and university. Please contact the course coordinator if you have any questions.

The Supervised Courses are coordinated by Prof. Pekka Sinervo, who will be the Chair’s Designate in approving course proposals and for conducting the oral exam at the end of the course.  In addition, he will be organizing a series of optional modules that students in PHY479Y1 can take over the course of the year. Please see the PHY479Y Course Description


To enrol in a Supervised Course please use the Guidelines and Enrolment Form

  • Approval: Enrolment in Supervised Courses requires the approval of Prof. Pekka Sinervo. The enrolment form, completed by the student and supervisor should be emailed to him for review and approval.
  • Qualifications: Because of the independence and the strong Physics background required to undertake research in Physics or related areas, these courses have special academic qualifications:
    • You must be enrolled in a Physics Specialist, Physics Joint Specialist, or Physics Major. Physics Minor students are normally not qualified but exceptions can be made.
    • You need a minimum academic performance: the minimum Cumulative GPA is 2.7 (B-). Exceptions can be made for students whose Sessional GPA has recently increased to 2.7 or greater. Other exceptions can be considered but are rarely allowed. Students with lower grades will be encouraged to try the Independent Study course before the Research Project course.
  • Finding a supervisor: You need to find your own supervisor for a Supervised Course (see below for more details).
  • Grading Scheme, Syllabus, and Workload: A Grading Scheme and Course Syllabus must be signed by student, supervisor, and Prof. Pekka Sinervo prior to enrolment. Please see the  Guidelines and Enrolment Form for details. These courses require regular meetings between the student and the supervisor, an oral examination, a minimum of Physics content, and a written report.  Overall, the workload should be comparable to other courses of the same weight (0.5 FCE or 1.0 FCE). The oral examination, which is approximately an hour in length, must be at least 30% of the course grade.
  • Limits on Supervised Study Courses:
    • Only 1.5 FCE in this series can count towards your program requirements.
    • Supervised Courses cannot be used as a substitute for laboratory course requirements.
    • You can enrol in only one Supervised Course at a time unless you have permission from Prof. Pekka Sinervo.
    • Students may not receive course credit for paid research work, such as an NSERC USRA, but credit may be obtained for continuations of such work.
  • Deadline: Course proposals should be submitted as soon as possible and preferably before the start of the term. The last date for submission of proposals is 2 days before the Faculty deadline for enrolment in courses.

Finding a Faculty Supervisor for a Supervised Course

You are responsible for finding a faculty supervisor for your supervised course. The supervisor must be a member of the teaching or research staff, either from Physics or other Science/Applied Science Departments at the University of Toronto. Non-faculty members can be involved in the course (such as researchers from other institutions, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students) but cannot be supervisors.  Although many faculty are available to supervise undergraduate research students, they are not obliged to do so. To ensure success, you should prepare as follows:

  • Please ensure that you have achieved the minimum B GPA requirements for these courses and are aware of the course requirements.
  • Make sure you are aware of the different course options and make a tentative plan about which course you want to enrol in (independent study/research, 0.5 FCE/1.0 FCE), and in which semester.
  • Please tell your prospective supervisor the following: your program, year in the program, and your potential research interests.
  • Do your part with the administration of the project. You and your supervisor are responsible for drafting a syllabus and grading scheme.  Booking of oral exams will be done in collaboration with the Supervised Course Coordinator, Prof. Pekka Sinervo.   Respect all deadlines and give your supervisor plenty of notice, especially in case of unanticipated delays or changes of plans.

A NOTE ON THE ABDUS SALAM PRIZE: Remember that top independent research projects qualify for the Department of Physics annual Abdus Salam Prize in Undergraduate Research.

List of Supervisory Faculty

Below are potential sources of faculty to contact.

Supervisory Faculty for All Physics Supervised Courses

Any of our Physics faculty at our St. George, UTM, or UTSC campuses can supervise these courses.

Supervisory Faculty outside Physics: Life Science, Chemistry, Engineering, Environmental Science, Medical Science, etc.

Students in Biological Physics Specialist or students interested in applying their Physics training to areas outside Physics can consult the list below, which reflects supervisors who have recently supervised students in these courses.  Teaching and research staff in those or other departments may be supervisors as well. Remember that all Supervised Courses require a minimum of Physics content and are subject to the approval of Prof. Pekka Sinervo.

  • Biochemistry
    • Chakrabartty, Avi
    • Chan, Hue Sun
    • Forman-Kay, Julie
    • Houry, Walid
    • Howell, Lynne
    • Kay, Lewis
    • Moraes, Trevor
    • Privé, Gil
    • Prosser, Scott
    • Rini, James
    • Rubinstein, John
    • Sharpe, Simon
  • Cellular/Systems Biology
    • Moses, Alan
  • Chemistry
    • Goh, Cynthia
    • Kapral, Ray
    • Izmaylov, Artur
    • McMillen, David
    • Schofield, Jeremy
  • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
    • Agrawal, Aneil
    • Cutter, Asher
    • Fortin, Marie-Josee
    • Jackson, Don
    • Krkosek, Martin
    • Mideo, Nicole
    • Wright, Stephen
  • Materials Science and Engineering/Electrical and Computer Engineering
    • Kherani, Nazir
  • Physics faculty focused on Biological Physics
    • Barzda, Virginijus
    • Goyal, Sid
    • Marjoribanks, Robin
    • McMillen, David
    • Miller, Dwayne
    • Milstein, Joshua
    • Ryu, William
    • Zilman, Anton
  • Physiology
    • Back, Peter
    • Carlen, Peter
    • Cox, Brian
    • Fisher, Joe
    • Frankland, Paul
    • Gramolini, Tony
    • Kuebler, Wolfgang
    • Rogers, Ian
    • Skinner, Frances
    • Tweed, Doug
    • Wojtowicz, Martin
  • CAMH
    • Sofia Chavez