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.
Our Department 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.
Choose Physics at McMaster For...
1. Hands-On Experience
McMaster Physics & Astronomy students can take advantage of paid Summer Research positions (25 to 30 positions offered every year, funded by NSERC and McMaster) to work in research labs using cutting-edge equipment and national facilties. We also fund students to present their research at conferences (Canadian Undergraduate Physics Conference, or CUPC). Our students win top prizes year after year.
Our 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, Blackberry, Ontario Power Generation) and internationally (e.g. NASA, CERN). The Faculty's dedicated Science Career and Co-op Education (SCCE) Office provides everything from job postings and career development workshops to individual resume critiques and mock interviews.
2. World Class Research and Facilities
The Department of Physics & Astronomy ranks among the highest in research grants and publications per faculty member. Our faculty members have received numerous awards. students are taught by the professors who make the discoveries and students can participate in our research through summer research, co-op or undergraduate thesis programs. Our faculty members 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. Quality: Our Students Are Award Winners
Mac students consistently win awards at the Canadian Undergraduate Physics Conference (CUPC), including first place finishes for the past 7 years (2010-2016). Our students have also received numerous in-course awards including the Chancellor's Gold Medal 2011 and the Governor General's Academic Medal for highest academic standing at McMaster in 8 of the last 12 years (2006 to 2008, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2016, and 2017).
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. Trained physicists work as faculty members 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. Engaging Careers: Love Your Future Job
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 sectors, such as 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.Reliable Employment: Physics Pays
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.
4th year in the Honours Physics Program
Christian started doing undergraduate research in the summer after his first year, working as a research assistant under the supervision of Dr. Kari Dalnoki-Veress at McMaster. He performed experiments on polymer films thousands of times thinner than a human hair, using high-powered lasers and Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM). He presented his research at the 2015 Canadian Undergraduate Physics Conference, where he won 1st place in the Soft Matter & Biophysics category. The research was eventually published in Physical Review Letters, one of the top physics journals in the world. After his 2nd year, Christian returned to work for Dr. Kari Dalnoki-Veress with the help of an NSERC USRA. This time he performed experiments on elastomeric materials that are highly relevant in industrial applications.
In the summer after his third year, Christian was awarded an NSERC USRA to do research in geophysics in the Earth Sciences department. He explored the use of Ground-Penetrating Radar (GPR) in forensic investigations, travelling to Ottawa to work on a controlled crime-scene test site. This research will assist police in locating buried homicide victims using geophysical techniques. He is going to continue to work on this research as part of his Senior Thesis project for Physics 4P06.
Christian attributes his research success to the support he has received from faculty and staff in the Department of Physics & Astronomy, as well as the diverse skill set he has developed as a student in the Honours Physics program. He says the flexibility of the program has allowed him to follow his interests while also learning important technical skills like programming, data analysis, and electronics.
5th H.B.Sc Math and Physics and B.A. French
Having thoroughly enjoyed her first year in physical sciences, Cissy immediately decided to explore the world of research, taking a position in the physics department the first summer and a position in the math department under a scholarship provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada (NSERC USRA) the second summer. She learned many skills in her work cataloguing variable stars and conducting a numerical analysis of Ricci soliton equations. Cissy found her passion the third summer working in experimental condensed matter under a USRA at the University of Waterloo. There she explored charge density waves and nematicity in cuprate superconductors and got the opportunity to travel to the Canadian Light Source in Saskatoon, SK to conduct experiments at the synchrotron. She presented her findings at the 2016 Canadian Undergraduate Physics Conference (CUPC) in Halifax, NS, winning first place in Quantum Condensed Matter talks.
Cissy continues to pursue her passions in condensed matter working abroad in Lyon, France, conducting theoretical research concerning magnetic monopoles in spin ice while brushing up on her French! She will be returning to McMaster in the fall to complete her undergraduate thesis under the supervision of Dr. Bruce Gaulin in experimental condensed matter as well as her final courses for her concurrent degree in French. She hopes to continue her studies in graduate school next fall. Whenever she’s not doing physics, Cissy loves to travel and is extremely passionate about music, hosting a show about Icelandic music and culture on the campus radio and writing for a Canadian music blog.
5th year in the Honours Physics Co-op Program
Ben 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 completed 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 time in 2015), 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.
3rd year in the Honours Biophysics Program
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.
4th year in the Honours Mathematics and Physics Program
Michael 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.
5th year in Honours Physics Co-op Program
Casey 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.