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Message from the Head of the Department

The Department’s efforts are based on teaching and research, as expected from a university department. In order to achieve research impact, it was decided in the early 80’s to concentrate resources in the field of subatomic physics with experimental and theoretical components. As a result, the environment in the Department is highly collaborative, with close interaction between the different research groups in terms of sharing resources and providing peer-instruction to graduate students. This allowed a critical mass of research effort in a small department and considerable successes in terms of external grant awards, highly cited publications and Ph.D. degrees awarded.

Over the past decade, the two largest research contributions of the Department were concentrated on experimental efforts connected to Jefferson Lab (Huber, Lolos, Papandreou) and TRIUMF (Barbi, Mathie, Tacik). Utilizing our local infrastructure and student talent, these groups contributed hardware to the respective experiments (T2K Fine-Grained Detector (FGD), GlueX Barrel Calorimeter (BCAL), SHMS Heavy Gas Cherenkov (HGC)). Graduate students received their degrees on these projects and contributions were made to the scientific output of the respective collaborations. In addition, there were contributions to the LHC program in terms of online analysis, simulations and phenomenology (Kolev), and research in Chiral Perturbation Theory, Lattice QCD and General Relativity (Mobed, Ouimet). 

Recently, our department has launched a new applied research area concentrating on nuclear imaging of plants and soil microbiome, topics connected to biological and agricultural research, in partnership with UofR biologists and the University of Saskatchewan.  In 2015, Dr. Teymurazyan was hired as Fedoruk Chair in Nuclear Imaging Technologies. Dr. Grinyer joined our department in 2017, with her research centered at TRIUMF and at Michigan State University's Facility for Radioactive Beams. Dr. Ouimet provides theoretical support in the MoEDAL Collaboration with a planned experiment at the LHC.  We have a new faculty member at Campion College, Dr. Samantha Lawler, who studies the orbits of exoplanets and Kuiper Belt objects using images from telescopes and computer simulations. We also have adjunct professors from a number of universities in Canada and the USA, who are members of our students' graduate committees.

We offer programs leading to the B.Sc. and B.Sc. Honours degrees in Pure and Applied/ Industrial Physics, and the M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in Experimental and theoretical Subatomic Physics.  Co-operative Education programs with local industry play an important role in our undergraduate degree programs. In 2016 we carried out an overhaul of our undergraduate program, simplifying degree requirements and making our programs more modular and flexible for students. New course offerings in applied physics are planned to commence in 2019.

Our Department annually offers a large number of laboratory sections (~55 per year), primarily populated by students from service classes. We have two full-time instructors (Szymanksi, Katsaganis) that teach a number of labs, design and maintain experiments, and coordinate all laboratory operations. Graduate students (and a few undergraduate students) teach many of the labs. This contributes significantly to the professional development of the teaching assistants. 

Noteworthy are our efforts in Outreach, through our leadership in the Regional Science Fair, school tours to our labs, visits to elementary schools to present science topics and to high schools and career fairs for recruitment. In 2018 we launched an undergraduate “Build Club”, with the aim of building devices and detector using microprocessors. These will be used for outreach purposes: in-class demonstrations and kits for high school students. The club will encompass physics knowledge, hardware and software experience, analysis methods, and the undergraduates will participate in school outreach, thereby acquiring presentation skills and serving as models for high school students, while the latter will hopefully be attracted to science.

The Canadian Association of Physicists 2014 Summary of Physics Departments shows that the smallest department has 4 faculty members and the largest has 62, with 87% of faculty being research-focused. Our corresponding numbers are 9 and 78%, respectively.  The CAP 2014 Summary of Departments shows an average number of M.Sc. and Ph.D. graduates per year being 0.65 per research-focused faculty member. Our number is 1.5, which is more than double the national average. 

- Prof. Zisis Papandreou, Department Head