McMaster Physics and Astronomy Graduate Student Wiki
Welcome to the Department of Physics & Astronomy wiki, maintained by graduate students for graduate students. Slowly, we hope to collect all the information useful to graduate students in our department. See anything wrong or missing? Let us know, and contribute.
A disclaimer: The official source of information is always the Graduate Calendar and the policies of the University and the Department. If there is a difference between that information and something presented here, the official university documents should be taken as correct. If you're not sure or want clarification, talk to the Associate Chair.
- 1 Academic and professional life
- 2 Finances
- 3 Living in Hamilton --- non academic life
- 4 New Students
- 5 Travel
- 6 Computing
- 7 MediaWiki Guide
Academic and professional life
- Courses - Current course offerings, requested courses
- Committee Meetings - How often do I need them? What is required? What forms are needed before/after?
- Comprehensive Exams - Requirements, what to expect, old questions
Day-to-day in the department
- Offices and Physical Environment - Issues with your office, office equipment, bathrooms, or similar
- Equity and Inclusion - Resources for discrimination & harassment issues
- Academic Interactions - Visiting speakers, suggestions for new speakers
- Graduate Committees - Current list of committees, their purpose, and their members
Graduation and post-grad life
- Graduating - A how to guide
- Transition out of Academia - Resources for students leaving academia
- Looking for Post-Docs - Resources for students applying for postdocs, etc.
- TAing - Rights and responsibilities, TA preferences, health and dental plans, etc.
As a general note, Mara is a useful resource for any financial question you might have. Her door is always open (in ABB-241).
All graduate students in the department are fully funded through a combination of teaching assistantships, research funding from their supervisor, and scholarship funding. The typical funding package involves students TAing for 260 hours/year (typically 10 hours/week from September through April).
Note: As of September 2018, international PhD students will now pay the same tuition as domestic students. International MSc students will continue to pay the international graduate student tuition, and will be provided with a tuition bursary so that their take-home pay is similar to their domestic counterparts.
- Scholarships- Important info about student tuition and scholarships, or related.
We would like to emphasize the importance of managing your research expenses carefully. As a graduate student the ratio of your income to potential expenses incurred can be very high. It is of the utmost importance you avoid credit card interest payments, by either being prudent in your expense report filing, or as a last resort by leveraging the low interest rates offered by a student line of credit as compared to a credit card.
There are two options for students to pay for conference/summer school registration fees and flights:
- Use the P&A Dept Diners Mastercard, which can be obtained from Mara. You will need to mark down the date you used the card and detail of the charge in the table within the Diners card envelope.
- Use your own funds, and get reimbursed via direct deposit through the Mosaic system.
In either scenario, you must give copies of all your receipts and boarding passes to Mara or another administrator (e.g. Rose, Tina).
- Per diems can be reimbursed through Mosaic after the conference or summer school by filling out an expense form and giving it to Mara or another administrator along with your food receipts. There is a standard per diem of $17 per meal (CDN if you are in Canada or US for elsewhere) however you should discuss with your supervisor before attending the conference or summer school if you will be getting the standard per diem, or a reduced per diem.
- If you require additional funding for travel see "Travel specific awards" under Scholarships
For more information on reimbursements, see complete policy here.
Teaching Assistant (TA) Income
- Much of a graduate student's income typically comes from a teaching assistantship (see TAing for more details). Generally, a teaching assistantship consists of 260 hours per year paid at ~$40 per hour (exact hourly pay may vary from year to year), i.e. ~$10,400 per year.
Opening a Student Line of Credit
- Most banks (e.g. TD, RBC) offer student lines of credit up to $16,000 as long as you have a cosigner. Interest rates can be Prime + 1% or 1.5%. To get the process started, find a cosigner who is willing to give the bank their tax reports for the past couple years, and set up a meeting at the bank with one of their financial advisers.
Living in Hamilton --- non academic life
Your experience during your time in graduate school will be shaped as greatly by your time spent off campus as the time spent on it. Hamilton can offer a lot of different things to a lot of different people, and finding the aspects of the city that you enjoy most can make a huge difference in your happiness and productivity during your time at McMaster.
Where to live
The part of the city that you choose to live in will probably be the greatest deciding factor in determining what sides of Hamilton you see or do not see. Fortunately, McMaster's location within Hamilton gives you a lot of different options when choosing where to live with options ranging from a gritty urban core with a thriving arts scene, to century homes in a friendly neighbourhood, to an idyllic small town setting, all within biking distance of campus. Typically students will live in one of five different areas, depending on their lifestyle preferences; more specifically, popular locations include
- All graduate students at McMaster have access to the HSR bus service included in their student fees.
- Hamilton also has a bike share program, SoBi. They have many payment plans, and a very attractive $70/year plan for McMaster Students.
- For those looking to drive to and park on campus, see http://parking.mcmaster.ca/Rates.html for details regarding parking pass pricing.
- For transportation outside the city of Hamilton there the following services: GO transit (bus and train service to the greater Toronto area; a one way trip to Toronto is ~$10), Greyhound (bus service to a variety of locations in Canada and the United States), and Coach Canada (bus service to a variety of locations in Canada and the United States). All these services have stops on campus.
Rent varies depending on the living accommodations you choose (e.g. one bedroom apartment or a bedroom in a house), and its location within the city. For a bedroom in a house with a few other people you can expect to pay $300-600 per month depending on the location and what other amenities are provided. For a one bedroom apartment you can expect to pay $700-1200 depending on the location, what other facilities are in the building (e.g. fitness room) and how recently the apartments have been built/renovated. Bachelor apartments as well as two bedroom apartments (with rent split between the two occupants) tend to be much cheaper options than a one bedroom with similar living conditions, often two bedroom units cost as little as $200 per month more than a one bedroom of comparable quality i.e. $1200/2people vs $1000/1person.
For a list of housing ads (including prices) targeted towards McMaster Graduate students/Faculty/Staff see https://macoffcampus.mcmaster.ca/classifieds/category/gradfacultystaff-rentals/.
Major grocery stores
- Metro in Dundas
- Metro at University Plaza
- Fortinos in West Hamilton
- Fortinos at the King and Dundurn
- Nations in Jackson Square
- Food Basics in Westdale
- No Frills on Main East
- Hamilton Farmer's Market (indoor Tues and Thurs-Sat 8-6 all year)
- Locke St Farmers Market ( Sat 9-1 Jun- Oct)
- Ottawa Street Farmers Market (Sat all year 9-1)
- Dundas Farmer's Market (Thurs 3-7 Jun-Oct)
- Durand Urban Farm Market (Wed 3-7 Jun-Oct)
- McMaster Farm Stand ( Wed and Thurs 11-4 April-November)
Restaurants, bars, and cafes
- Food & Drink Where to get these things on and off campus.
Festivals and events
Hamilton (and surrounding areas) has a variety of events throughout the year. Some notable ones include
- Art crawl
- Hamilten short play festival
- Hamilton Fringe
- Locke Street Festival
- Festival of Friends
- Winona peach festival (Winona)
- Sound of music festival (Burlington)
- Because Beer
- Sew Hungry
- Hamilton Film Festival
- AGH BMO World Film Festival
- New Students - Course registration, living in Hamilton, etc.
As a graduate student you are expected to be actively searching for conferences/summer schools where you can present your work, network with other scientists, and stay connected to contemporary research. This can be hard if you do not know where to look, and so below we present some useful tools.
The Canadian Astronomy Data Centre maintains an updated list of future (and past) astronomy conferences over the next ~year.
Quantum Condensed Matter
Soft Condensed Matter
Young Atom Opticians - Typically held in Europe
High Energy Physics
Reviews and recomendations
How to apply
This section contains information about computing in the Physics and Astronomy department.
Note: RHPCS is mentioned as a useful resource for computing support throughout the following pages. Before contacting RHPCS consult your supervisor to avoid surprise charges to their account. RHPCS charges per email & hour of support, so your supervisor may want to limit the use of RHPCS's services. Your supervisor, groupmates or other department members may be able to help with your computing issues as well. You can also request administrative privileges from RHPCS if you are comfortable managing your own machine.
Day-to-day problems and solutions
- Computing - Getting set up, high performance computing, e-mail, etc.
Tips and tricks
Consult the User's Guide for information on using the wiki software.