PhD Program

Admission Requirements

A master's degree, or the equivalent, in physics, or the equivalent is required. Applicants whose primary language is not English must submit English proficiency examination results that meet the University minimum requirements for graduate admission, as per Graduate General Regulation 1.3.12.

Students who have demonstrated strong academic and research performance may transfer directly from the Master's program to the doctoral program, with the approval of the student's supervisory committee. See also the Graduate General Regulations on University transfer requirements.

Program Requirements

Overall Requirements

  1. PhD students must demonstrate the ability to perform and disseminate independent research that makes a significant, publishable contribution to knowledge in the discipline.
  2. PhD students must demonstrate the following disciplinary knowledge:
  • mastery of the core subjects in physics, which include classical mechanics, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, and statistical mechanics;
  • mastery of more specialized topics related to one's research topic; and
  • breadth of knowledge in physics at an advanced level.

Course Requirements

The minimum course requirements for the Physics PhD program are determined on an individual basis. Upon admission, the graduate program committee will review a student's previous coursework and set minimum requirements according to the guidelines provided below. In exceptional circumstances, the graduate program committee may allow the student to proceed without additional course work over and above that for a master's degree. With the approval of the graduate program committee, the supervisory committee may also require additional coursework beyond those specified at admission to the PhD program.

PHD COURSE REQUIREMENT GUIDELINES

For a student entering the PhD program after completing an MSc in Physics at SFU, the minimum course requirement is 9 additional graduate units, which will include any of the following core courses that were not completed previously:

CORE PROFESSIONAL SKILLS
PHYS 801 - Student Seminar (1 unit)
PHYS 802 - Introduction to Graduate Studies: Research and Teaching in Physics (2 units)
CORE PHYSICS CONTENT
PHYS 810 - Advanced Quantum Mechanics (3 units)
PHYS 821 - Advanced Electromagnetism I (3 units) or PHYS 822 - Advanced Electromagnetism II (3 units)
PHYS 841 - Statistical Mechanics (3 units)

PHYS 810, PHYS 821 and PHYS 821 or PHYS 822 must be taken to meet PhD core requirements, and students will be granted credit for PHYS 821 or PHYS 822 not yet taken if they take it as an additional course. Graduate units beyond the 15 units required for the MSc may be transferred to the PhD, subject to the approval of the graduate program committee. For example, a student who has completed 18 graduate units during the MSc program at SFU will typically be required to complete 6 units in the PhD program.

For a student entering the PhD program directly from another institution, the graduate program committee will award credit for equivalent coursework upon admission. No equivalent credit will be given for the two core professional skills courses, and an award of equivalent credit for any of the three core physics content courses may require further approval after the student has begun the program. The minimum PhD course requirements will then be set as for a student entering with an MSc in Physics from SFU. For example, a student who has completed six one-semester graduate courses in physics would typically be awarded 18 units of equivalent graduate course credit, so that the minimum PhD requirement would be 6 additional graduate units, including any core courses that were not completed previously.

Research and Thesis Requirements

A major portion of this program is conducting original research. A thesis, embodying new and important results or original research, must be presented and defended at the conclusion of the degree program.

Academic Requirements within the Graduate General Regulations

All graduate students must satisfy the academic requirements that are specified in the graduate general regulations (residence, course work, academic progress, supervision, research competence requirement, completion time, and degree completion), as well as the specific requirements for the program in which they are enrolled, as shown above.

PhD Program Timeline

Students are expected to complete the PhD program within four years (12 terms) after entering with an MSc, or five years (15 terms) after entering with a BSc for students who transfer directly from the MSc to the PhD. As course requirements for PhD students are established on an individual basis, specific timelines will vary. Students who did not complete a Physics MSc at SFU will typically complete PHYS 802 during their first year of study, and attend PHYS 801 during the first two years of their programs.

In general, PhD students will be required to demonstrate mastery of their subject, through some combination of course grades, written assessment, and/or oral assessment.

Here is a typical schedule of milestones for a student beginning a program in September:

Year 1

Term 1: Identify potential research projects; begin developing requisite expertise in one's
research area; confirm senior supervisor
Term 2: Develop a three-semester research plan for supervisory committee review; confirm
supervisory committee members
Term 3: Present PhD plan, including research and any remaining course requirements, for
supervisory committee approval. Begin executing research plan.

Year 2

Term 1: Continue with research plan. Meet with supervisory committee if any significant
changes to the plan are required.
Term 2: Continue with research plan; document progress for supervisory committee review;
develop research plan for the next three semesters.
Term 3: Present PhD plan, including research and any remaining course requirements, for
supervisory committee approval.

Year 3 and subsequent years

Term 1: Continue with research plan. Meet with supervisory committee if any significant
changes to the plan are required.
Term 2: Continue with research plan; document progress for supervisory committee review;
develop research plan for the next three semesters.
Term 3: Present PhD plan, including research and any remaining course requirements, for
supervisory committee approval.