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Undergrad Physics in Canada

  1. Jan 10, 2010 #1
    Hi guys.
    I'm convinced on studying physics in Canada. What schools provide the best Undergrad courses (and experience)? Should i look at only the Big Boys (UofT, McGill, Western), or am i better off studying at a not-so-large Guelph or Carleton? How're the learning environments in each? Does the Perimeter Institute's proximity to the U of Waterloo suffice as a good enough criterion to put Waterloo first?

    Any insight is welcome- facts, experience, anything really worth knowing...

    (My Username, of course, ends with a 'T'...)
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 10, 2010 #2


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    I recently completed my undergrad at McGill. It was a great experience, and I would highly recommend going there if you have the can. The city is great, and the honors mathphys program will greatly prepare you for a career in physics. There is a diverse faculty, and lots of research opportunity. Feel free to ask any more specific questions you wish.

    Edit: I am also currently dong my Phd at UofT, so I could maybe answer specific questions about the undergrad program here. I don't know much about Waterloo though.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2010
  4. Jan 10, 2010 #3
    Right. I'll PM you. But some not-so-specific things that come to mind:
    - How flexible is a Physics program? Could you, if you wished, take courses in the Arts (not always for a minor)?
    -You don't comment on the smaller univs. Is their education definitely at a level lower than McGill and UofT?
    - Just wondering- did you choose to switch to UofT from McGill for your PhD?

    Thanks a lot!
  5. Jan 10, 2010 #4


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    - If you go into honors math&physics then you probably won't have room for arts classes. If you do just honors physics, you'll probably have room for a few arts electives. If you do majors physics, then you'll have room for an Arts minor if you so wish. I know a few people who minored in Archaeology, Philosophy, PoliSci, etc.

    - It's hard for me to comment on them since I don't have anything on which to directly judge other schools, but my general philosophy is that better faculty leads to a undergraduate experience, and bigger schools tend to have better faculty. I'm sure there are many exceptions, though.

    - I did choose to switch. For a few reasons. I wanted to do Astronomy - McGill has just a few astronomers, whereas UofT has many (it is in fact the only Canadian school with a separate Astronomy department). Secondly, they have a direct entry Phd program rather than having to go through a Masters. Finally, many profs advised me that it was a good idea to change schools for one's Phd.
  6. Jan 10, 2010 #5
    I don't have any first-hand experience yet, but I could share tips I've heard both here on the forums and elsewhere. I am applying to Canada in 2010 as well, though I will be majoring in Maths, not Physics.

    For undergraduate studies, from what I've gathered, it doesn't matter much where you study. Undergraduate courses are the same everywhere. Thus what matters is good teachers ( Good researcher =/= good teacher), a good learning environment etc.

    A good guide based on these criteria, rather than simply research output and quality of research, is the Maclean's Primarily Undergraduate ranking, as well as the Globe and Mail Canadian university ranking, where you can choose which factors are important to you, and then get a ranking based on that ( http://www.globecampus.ca/navigator/rankings/ [Broken] ). I am applying to Mount Allison, Acadia, St. Francis Xavier and UNBC, myself. Both due to them getting very good scores in teaching quality and such, and because they're a lot cheaper for international students than the big universities.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  7. Apr 20, 2010 #6
    Does a major in physics (say with a program like Honours Science at Waterloo- not Honours Physics) keep the option of Grad school open?
  8. Apr 20, 2010 #7


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    I don't know anything about this program, so I couldn't give a good answer.
  9. Apr 20, 2010 #8
    Waterloo doesn't really do majors. It basically just has honours science and honours physics (which would be like a "specialist" degree at other universities, you get next to no electives). However, I would not say their honours science is sufficient for grad school. Or at least you'd need to make enough of your electives physics electives such that there'd really be no difference between honours science and honours physics. However, there are a number of degrees at waterloo that aren't just plain honours physics that do enough physics for grad school (I myself have one).
  10. Apr 20, 2010 #9
    And these include...?
  11. Apr 20, 2010 #10
    The Globecampus link really is great.You mention smaller univs being "cheaper" for international students... but are they as cosmopolitan? Maybe the slightly larger ones score better for iinternational students in that regard... if it's a consideration.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  12. Apr 20, 2010 #11
    Applied math with a physics minor, Computational science - physics specialization (what I have), etc.
  13. Apr 21, 2010 #12
    I see.
    Hmm. So, considering Honours Science really isn't recommended for aspiring Grads, and Honours Physics is gives you "next to no electives", is Waterloo less "liberal" (doesn't emphasize on a multi-faceted education)? Or is that a common difference between Canada & the USA?

    Also- how free is a Honours Physics student to attend occasional Arts classes, even if they don't fall under the electives required? Just extra classes. Is that plausible, when it comes to time, schedule etc?
  14. Apr 21, 2010 #13
    Well waterloo really isn't about the classical education. They're all about math/physics/engineering/computer science. They also have the worlds biggest coop which is a great opportunity to get some real world experience. You get a couple electives, but not many, in honours physics. However, if you do the coop there's also another option. Waterloo has a huge amount of Distance Education (DE) courses available online. You basically get a CD of the audio recordings of the teaching profs lectures which are embellished with flash animated slides and then you do assignments and online discussions. You can do up to 2 of these during your coop term and I took advantage of this. I ended up taking Bio, Philosophy, Psychology and Sociology online. So that's always an option in addition to your electives. However I would strongly discourage "extra courses" since that would mean you're taking more than 5 courses a term which would be very difficult.
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