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Programs / Science / Physics

Program Summary

Physics is the study of the most basic natural phenomena—from the smallest particles to the largest structures of the universe, from the beginning to the end. Physics is also the scaffolding behind the technology found in numerous current advances such as in smart phones, self-driving cars and radiation treatment of cancer. Physicists are keen to understand the nature of the world around them, as well as to control it for the betterment of humanity. They use their creativity to solve challenging problems, whether they are creating very powerful lasers for eye surgery, colliding particles at very-high energy, or descending deep down into underground mines to investigate the most basic building blocks of matter. Physicists look for and examine patterns in nature in order to formulate natural laws. They push scientific boundaries by exploring unknown territory through theory and experimentation, often thinking about and describing our physical world in ways that we cannot yet observe in nature.

World-class research

Carleton University’s Department of Physics is engaged in intensive research in particle physics and medical physics.

Theoretical particle physics research includes work on electroweak models, quantum chromodynamics, string theory and other extensions to the standard model of particle physics.

Internationally recognized physicists from Carleton helped direct the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory and led the development of the facility to a new extraordinary laboratory for astro-particle physics research. The group is exploring a follow-up experiment which aims to detect neutrino-less double beta decay in xenon thus elucidating further properties of the neutrino, which could be of great cosmological significance.

The ATLAS detector at CERN, (the European particle physics laboratory near Geneva), is taking data with the highest-energy accelerator in the world, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The unique expertise and facilities at Carleton have helped construct the complex detectors for ATLAS that are used to decipher the particle collisions at the LHC.

Medical physics is the innovative, relevant and practical application of physics to improve health care. Medical physics researchers develop new technologies for the diagnosis, treatment and understanding of disease. Current work at Carleton includes x-ray imaging, computer simulations for radiotherapy dosimetry and treatment planning, and image guiding techniques for accurate delivery of radiotherapy and surgery.

University faculty and students work closely with physicists at centres such as the Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre, the National Research Council of Canada, the Ottawa Heart Institute, Health Canada, CERN, SNOLAB and TRIUMF.

Co-op opportunities

In recognition of the value of hands-on experience in today’s competitive job market, Carleton’s Department of Physics offers a co-op option.

Through a sequence of four- or eight-month work terms, qualified full-time Honours students have an excellent opportunity to apply academic studies to a real work environment as well as to explore various career possibilities. Placements are available at local high tech companies, government laboratories or health care institutions in the Ottawa region and beyond.

Carleton University’s location in the nation’s capital places you within the highest concentration of scientific and technical expertise in the country, providing you unparalleled access to both personnel and resource material.

The National Research Council of Canada, renowned for its exceptional research programs, and government organizations, such as Health Canada, the Communications Research Centre and Defence Research and Development Canada, are based in Ottawa.

A wealth of scientific talent, including many physicists, can be found working in the area with high-tech industry leaders as well as in medical imaging and cancer treatment facilities.

Bachelor of Science (BSc) (Honours)

Bachelor of Science (BSc) (Major)

Carleton’s Department of Physics offers a complete set of programs including:

  • BSc (Honours) in Physics with the choice of a stream in Astrophysics, Experimental or Theory stream
  • BSc (Honours) in Applied Physics
  • Combined Honours BSc program with Biology
  • Combined Honours BSc program with Chemistry
  • Double Honours BSc in Mathematics and Physics
  • BSc (Major) in Physics, which allows a student to take a minor in another subject area, such as Business
  • A minor in Physics

A Bachelor of Engineering (BEng) in Engineering Physics is also available.

All of the department’s programs emphasize problem-solving techniques and the development of critical-thinking skills. Computation skills are also developed as a tool for applying physics in the modern world.

In the fourth year of all of our Honours programs, you will undertake a major individual project, done under the supervision of a faculty member.

Honours in Physics

The BSc (Honours) program in Physics requires 20.0 credits to complete. It prepares you for a physics career in the industrial sector or for further studies in pure or applied physics at the graduate level. The Theory stream includes more mathematics courses, while the Experimental stream has additional courses in electronics and in the laboratory, and the Astrophysics stream features specialized courses in astrophysics.

Honours in Applied Physics

This degree enhances your physics education with additional courses in computing and electronics. Education in applied physics hones your ability to solve analytic problems and to work quantitatively. The program has also been designed to make it possible to complete a minor in Business without taking additional credits. The available courses include finance, organizational management and entrepreneurship. Applied Physics graduates may choose a career in management, business or finance in addition to their more familiar roles in government, teaching, research and development.

Combined Honours programs with Chemistry and Biology

You may wish to take advantage of a combined degree at Carleton. The Department of Physics offers Combined Honours programs in Chemistry and Physics, and in Biology and Physics. These programs include the essentials of each discipline and are good preparation for work in industry or for graduate work. The Biology-Physics program is particularly relevant to further studies and a career in medical physics.

Double Honours program in Mathematics and Physics

The Double Honours BSc in Mathematics and Physics is a very rigorous program, best suited to outstanding students who have excelled in Math and Physics in secondary school. It is excellent preparation for graduate school in either subject area.

Engineering Physics

The Department of Physics collaborates with the Department of Electronics Engineering in offering a BEng program in Engineering Physics. This elite program has a higher admission requirement than other Honours programs. The aim of this program is to produce engineers with a deep understanding of the scientific foundation of engineering. You will be well prepared to contribute to the development of new engineering processes and devices such as the next generation of semiconductors and photonics. If you are interested in this option, visit the Department of Electronics website.

Bachelor of Science (Major) in Physics

The BSc (Major) is a 20.0 credit program that provides you an education in the fundamentals of physics and allows you to take a minor in another discipline such as Computer Science or Business.

Minor in Physics

The minor in Physics allows you to combine introductory studies in Physics, comprising 4.0 credits, with a major in another discipline.

First-year experience

Carleton introduces issues of contemporary science in a first-year seminar, Seminar in Science (NSCI 1000).

If you choose this elective, you will attend six special lectures given by prominent Canadian researchers, as well as small group seminars led by a professor who acts as both your mentor and teacher. Through assignments, presentations and discussions, you will develop the analytical and communication skills needed for success in the world of science.

A sample first year

  • 1.0 credit in Physics
  • 1.0 credit in Calculus
  • 0.5 credit in Linear Algebra
  • 1.0 credit in an experimental science other than Physics
  • 0.5 or 1.0 credit in Computer Science
  • 0.5 or 1.0 credit in either the Seminar in Science (NSCI 1000) or an Arts and Social Sciences elective

The workplace

A degree in Physics can lead to:

  • employment in the high-tech sector and at national laboratories
  • advanced studies and research in specialized physics domains
  • working as a medical physicist helping to plan patient treatment in a clinical setting
  • developing new technologies in the physical sciences
  • using the latest instrumentation in the natural resource, nuclear and sustainable energy industries
  • applying analytic skills to artificial intelligence, business, finance, social media and more

Graduate studies

Graduates of the Honours programs may be eligible to go on to graduate studies. Since all programs provide a sound foundation in the fundamentals of physics, graduate work in a variety of fields is possible, including particle physics, optics, astrophysics, condensed matter physics and medical physics.

Professional programs

Many professional programs, including law, business, medicine and teaching, encourage well-rounded applicants from a variety of backgrounds to apply. Physics provides a strong foundation for a number of these programs.

What students are saying about Physics

Ever since my first day in the Carleton Physics program, I’ve been surrounded by an extremely friendly community of faculty and staff who are invested in my success. The course structure is excellent, providing me with education and experience that have been directly applicable to my work as a research assistant in a physics lab. There are always opportunities for students to attend talks, lab tours, or conferences, which are great ways to learn more about the physics community.
Ben Hansson, Physics student

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