Skip to McMaster Navigation Skip to Site Navigation Skip to main content
McMaster logo

Message from the Chair

The Department of Physics & Astronomy is committed to McMaster’s tradition of strong, innovative undergraduate and graduate teaching programs that link to strong, innovative research programs. Our integration of teaching and learning creates a whole that is greater than the parts.

We are a medium-sized Department of 22 full-time, research-active faculty, more than 100 graduate students, and about 10 postdoctoral researchers, with an upper year cohort of more than 100 undergraduate students. Our Department also reaches thousands of McMaster undergraduate students through foundational and general interest courses in physics, astronomy, and general science education. Students are able to work closely with our researchers, letting them become active participants in research projects as early as their second year.

For high school and Level I undergraduate students, Physics & Astronomy offers one of the most flexible and broadly applicable programs. Our core Honours Physics program offers ample open electives for minors in many areas. Past students have obtained minors in Music, French, Philosophy, Chemistry, and Mathematics, or for pre-requisites for medical school. Alternatively, students can use these electives to follow suggested course lists for Theoretical Physics or Experimental Physics, or for a formal specialization in Astronomy, Medical and Biological Physics or Co-operative Education (Co-op).

Small class sizes in our specialist courses ensure individual attention and mentoring. In our larger, foundational courses, we stress modern interactive peer-teaching methods that target a conceptual understanding. Physics students can benefit from research opportunities through co-op, summer research positions, and a senior project course working one-to-one with a faculty member.

We involve graduate students in forefront research areas during their thesis research. Our major research specialities are: Astrophysics, Quantum Condensed Matter Physics, Medical Physics, and Soft-Condensed Matter & Biophysics. The Department also has a research group in Subatomic Physics in partnership with the Perimeter Institute. We offer M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in all of these areas.

Interdisciplinary research is a great strength of the Department. We have many links with other departments and schools in Faculty of Science, and with the Faculties of Engineering and Health Sciences. Our faculty members are active members in a number of important interdisciplinary institutes at McMaster, including the Brockhouse Institute for Materials Research, home of the most complete crystal growing laboratory in Canada, the Canadian Centre for Electron Microscope, and the Origins Institute , which focuses on collaborative research on the origins of space and time, the chemical elements, and life.

I welcome the opportunity to discuss the benefits of joining our Department. Please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Alison Sills,
Chair, Department of Physics & Astronomy