Printer Friendly Version (undergradnew.html) Author(s):James Wadsley, Erik Sorensen

Undergraduate Physics
at McMaster University


Don't Memorize, Understand Why!

Students in Physics & Astronomy don't memorize facts or equations; they learn how to ask questions an how to answer these questions through problem solving. Physics & Astronomy is about formulating questions that strike to the core of a subject, and working towards solving them. Physics is about seeking a deep, fundamental understanding of the behaviour of the natural world.

The Department of Physics & Astronomy at McMaster is research intensive with a  strong commitment to excellence in teaching. Our unique undergraduate programs begin by teaching students the fundamental concepts and ideas through which physics has transformed the modern world. Students then learn how to translate these ideas into the elegant language of mathematics, and use these ideas to solve questions and develop understanding.

Learn about how the Department of Physics & Astronomy connects research with undergraduate education with our unique model here

Choose Physics at McMaster for...


1. Hands-on experience

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2. World class research and facilities


3. Quality: Our students are Award Winners


4. Cross-disciplinary research


5. Engaging careers: Love your future job


6. Reliable employment: Physics pays


enlightened Learn about our Honours Biophysics Program


1. McMaster Physics means hands-on experience.

McMaster Physics and Atronomy students get paid Summer Research (25-30 positions every year funded by NSERC and McMaster) to work in research labs using cutting edge equipment and national facilties. We fund students to present their research at conferences (CUPC) and our students win top prizes year after year.

McMaster's Honours Physics Co-op program includes two 8-month terms of paid relevant work experience over a 5 year degree. Employment rates in this program have been consistently at 100% with students placed in high calibre research and industry positions both inside Canada (e.g. TRIUMF, RIM, OPG) and internationally (e.g. NASA, CERN). Dedicated office of Science Career and Co-op Education (SCCE) provides everything from job postings and career development workshops to individual resume critiques and mock interviews.


2. McMaster's Physics and Astronomy Department is world class

McMaster Physics and Astronomy department ranks among the highest in research grants and publications per faculty member and our faculty have recieved numerous awards. You are taught by the professors who make the discoveries and you can also participate in our research yourself through summer research, co-op or an undergraduate thesis.

Our faculty are affiliated with The Perimeter Institute, SHARCNET High Performance Computing (Director), Brockhouse Institute for Materials Research (Director) and McMaster's Origins Institute (Director). Our researchers (including students!) use international facilities including neutron facilties, particle accelerators, telescopes and space based instruments.


3. McMaster Physics students are Award Winners

Mac students consistently win awards at the Canadian Undergraduate Physics Conference including first place finishes for the past six years (2010-2015). Our students have also received numerous in-course awards including the Chancellor's Gold Medal 2011 and the Governor General's Academic Medal 2016, 2014, 2011, 2010, 2008, 2007 and 2006 for highest academic standing.

4. Physics is about cross-disciplinary research.

Physics is about the big questions and the small ones. It can lead anywhere you want to go. At McMaster we offer courses in:
Computational physics, quantum mechanics, relativity, nuclear physics, optical physics, soft condensed matter physics, solid state physics, astrophysics, biophysics, medical physics and origins.
We have students and professors in the Physics & Astronomy Department researching everything from string theory and cosmology to genomics and the origins of life. There are trained physicists working as Faculty in every department in the Sciences, from math to biology.

You can also study physics through McMaster's Integrated Science Program and the Arts and Science Program.


5. Physics leads to engaging careers.

Physics provides both hard science training and transferrable skills such as experimental design, modeling, computing, critical thinking and problem solving. 97% of graduates say their physics training has contributed to their career (regardless of what they do).
McMaster Physics Graduates are now working in
Aerospace, manufacturing, medicine and medical industries, energy, education, finance, government, nuclear industry, hi tech, law, industrial R&D, fundamental research ...and much more!

A list of recent Physics & Astronomy alumni can be found here.

6. Physics is a solid investment.

Physics graduates are 98% employed and enjoy the highest mid-career salaries of any science. This includes the majority of graduates who do not continue in academia. At No. 6 out of 50 Majors according to the Wall Street Journal, Physics graduates out-earn most Engineering graduates and far outperform Business and Finance majors.


Undergraduate Stories:


2014/2015 Stories:

Ben Davis-Purcell, 5th year Honours Physics Co-op, began his undergraduate research in the summer after 2nd year, obtaining a research position at TRIUMF, Canada's National Lab for Nuclear and Particle Physics. He extended his summer work into his first 8-month co-op position, splitting his time between Vancouver (where TRIUMF is located) and Sudbury, Ontario at SNOLAB, the world's deepest, active underground physics lab. During this 12 month period, he became an official member of the SNO+ collaboration, a large neutrinoless double beta decay experiment. He performed his undergraduate thesis work with Dr. Cliff Burgess in theoretical particle physics/cosmology. He then spent a four month co-op term at Jefferson Lab in Virginia, USA, a Department of Energy Nuclear Physics National Laboratory, by obtaining a Canadian Institute of Nuclear Physics research scholarship. Ben is currently completing his final co-op term on campus here at McMaster, doing polymer physics research under the supervision of Dr. Kari Dalnoki-Veress. From 2012-2014, Ben presented at 2 CUPCs (and a third this year), playing an important role in hosting the 2013 edition at McMaster. He gave talks at the 2013 CAP Congress and the 2014 Winter Nuclear & Particle Physics Conference, where he won 3rd place for his talk, competing against some of Canada's top graduate students in the field. Ben also won the 2013 TRIUMF Student Symposium Talk Competition, giving him full funding to the WNPPC.

Jennifer Tang, 3rd year Honours Biophysics. Jennifer began research after her second year at McMaster studying membrane biophysics with Dr. Maikel Rheinstadter. She used X-ray diffraction to study the formation and structure of Alzheimer's plaques in synthetic membranes. Jennifer will be presenting her research at the 2014 Canadian Undergraduate Physics Conference (CUPC) at Queens University in Kingston. Currently, she is also studying the non-specific interaction of caffeine with lipid membranes. Jennifer has held one NSERC USRA in the summer of 2014. Outside of research, she is involved with the McMaster Undergraduate Physics Society as VP Internal.

2013/2014 Stories:

Michael Birch, 4th year Honours Mathematics and Physics, has been involved with research since after his first year at McMaster. During his first and second summers he worked in Dr. Alan Chen's group under the supervision of Dr. Balraj Singh in the areas of nuclear data evaluation and nuclear astrophysics. During this experience Michael travelled to various locations, including Vancouver, BC, New York, NY, and Munich, Germany, for experiments and conferences. He has presented research at four conferences, notably the 2012 Canadian Undergraduate Physics Conference (CUPC) where he was awarded best talk in the Particle and Nuclear Physics section. Michael has held two NSERC USRAs (2012, 2013), the second of which during his most recent research experience with Dr. An-Chang Shi in the field of theoretical soft-condensed matter. This research is on-going and will continue into his fourth year honours thesis project. Michael was the Chair of the Organizing Committee for the 2013 CUPC which was held at McMaster in October 2013.

Casey Marjerrison, 5th year Honours Physics Co-op, began her research in the preparation and characterization of hard condensed matter systems with Dr. Bruce Gaulin in the summer of 2011. She presented the results of her research at the 2011 Canadian Undergraduate Physics Conference (CUPC) in Saskatoon, SK where she was awarded first place for her poster. Casey continued her work with Dr. Gaulin during her first four-month co-op work term in the winter session of 2012. She spent her second four-month work term at the Paul Scherrrer Institute (PSI) in Switzerland. Durting this period she presented research at the forth European Crystal Growth Conference in Glasgow, Scotland. Casey also presented research at the 2012 CUPC in Vancouver, BC in teh fall of 2012. Casey returned to the Brockhouse Institute for Materials Research under the supervision of Dr. John Greedan where she is currently investigating norganic materials from a physical chemistry perspective. In the summer of 2014 she will attend teh IUCr conference in Montreal.