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.
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.
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 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.
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.