Current Graduate Students

Registration Requirements

The credit hour requirements for each degree in physics are given in the following table:

Degree Class Hours Seminar Hours Research Hours Comprehensive Total Credit Hours
M.Sc. 12-15 0-1 14-17 n/a 30
Ph.D. (after M.Sc.) 12-18 0-2 42-46 0 60
Ph.D. (after B.Sc.) 21-27 0-2 63-67 0 90

Students are responsible for keeping track of the credits they have registered for as they progress in their studies, to ensure that they do not pay for more (or fewer) credit hours than necessary.

Graduate students enrolled in PHYS 900 (Seminar) must present a 50-minute seminar to the Department of Physics in order to receive credit.  The subject of the seminar will be decided in consultation with the student's supervisor.  An M.Sc. student may give 1 seminar (1 credit) over the course of their degree, while a Ph.D. student may give up to 2 seminars (2 credits).

All PhD students are required to complete PHYS 902 (PhD comprehensive exam).  Additional information about the PhD comprehensive exam are described in our graduate program regulations.

Graduate students must maintain their candidacy by registration in courses, seminars, research hours, or GRST 995, 999, according to the following rules:

  • Students who are on campus and making use of university facilities must register for a minimum of 3 credit hours per semester to maintain their candidacy. If the required number of class and research hours have already been met (see table), then the student must register in GRST 995-002.
  • Students who are off campus for an extended period (perhaps spending a year at an accelerator facility for a major experiment, for example), and only making occasional visits to campus to visit the supervisor, must register in GRST 999-001 once per year.
  • A student who fails to maintain status will be discontinued and must make formal application to the Dean of Graduate Studies for admission.
  • Students are expected to register in the first academic session following admission.
  • A student must be registered in the semester in which the thesis is defended. Students not registered in research or course hours will register in GRST 995-002.

Students who have registered for the credits necessary for their degree (see table) and need to maintain their status should consult the FGSR site. The fees for these classes are less per credit hour than the regular classes.


For university administrative purposes only, students are classified as either full load, full time, or part-time students on the basis of the credit hours they have registered for in a semester. Students who register in 9 or more credit hours are considered full load students for that semester. Those who register for 6 credit hours are considered full time, and those who register for 3 credit hours are considered to be part-time. Part-time status is the minimum standard for access to the University Library, and other campus facilities.

As far as the physics department is concerned, a graduate student will be considered "full time'' if they are devoting all of their time on physics academic and research tasks, and making good progress towards the completion of their degree. Funding support will be based on this criterion, and not the administrative definition given above.

In order that students do not end up paying for more credit hours than necessary, we recommend:

  • Students who are enrolled in physics classes should not register for seminar or research hours unless it is required for some other reason.
  • If at all possible, students should hold back 3 credit hours of Phys 901 for the semester when the thesis is defended.
  • If a student's graduate grades are in the upper tier of physics students, they should anticipate receiving one or more scholarships from the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research starting in the second year of study. A student receiving such an award must be registered as a full time student (as defined by the university administration) in that semester. Therefore, the best students should be careful not to register for more Phys 901 credits than absolutely necessary.
  • Canadian students with an outstanding student loan from their undergraduate program, and who wish to defer loan repayment, must be registered as a full time student for each semester until granted full time status through GRST 995-001. Students in this situation are forewarned that they will almost certainly end up registering for more credit hours than otherwise required, and that it may ultimately be cheaper to start repaying the loan.
  • Foreign students must be registered at the time their visa is renewed. The minimum load to satisfy student visa requirements is 15 credit hours/year. In addition, some foreign governments impose additional full time registration requirements upon their nationals while in Canada. It is the responsibility of the student to ensure that these visa restrictions are met!

Procedures for Thesis Approval and Defense

When your thesis research is 75% complete, you should immediately take steps in the planning of your thesis. It is not uncommon for the writing of a thesis to take twice as long as either student or supervisor intend. With proper planning, however, the time spent on this often task can be most effectively used, and the process expedited.

  1. Make a consistent record of your work! You may think that you will remember exactly what your hastily written notes in the margin of your notebook mean 12 months from now, but you probably won't. Many weeks of student time are unfortunately spent documenting earlier work for the thesis. Avoid this as much as possible by keeping a detailed log of your work.
  2. Discuss a proposed outline of your thesis with your Supervisor at least 6 months before you plan to graduate. Ph.D. students will also have to make a detailed thesis proposal to their Supervisory Committee.
  3. Start writing! Students usually wait far too long before starting to write. There is no need to wait until every last piece of research is complete, as the introductory and methodology sections of the thesis can often be drafted in advance of forming the final conclusions. Starting the thesis, however, will put you in a writing frame of mind, and focus you towards your ultimate goal. If you can get a publication out of this early work, so much the better.
  4. If possible, give your Supervisor completed chapters for revision as they are completed. A thesis is a formal document, and requires a style of writing unfamiliar to most students. You will often be amazed by the number of revisions required. Plan on at least three rounds of revision, taking at least twice as long as you would expect. Fortunately, students usually find the first chapter to be the most gruelling to write, and improve as the thesis nears completion.
  5. After all required revisions have been made, the thesis is returned to the Supervisor for final assessment prior to distribution to the Committee. Ph.D. students have a permanent Supervisory Committee. M.Sc. students will have a special Committee formed for the purpose of the examination.
  6. The Committee may require additional changes. After these have been made, a thesis release form, indicating that the thesis is of an acceptable standard to be sent to the External Examiner, is signed by the Head, and all Committee members who are in agreement. If any member disagrees, this is to be noted in an attached memo to the Dean of Graduate Studies. This form, and a copy of the thesis, is sent to the Faculty of Graduate Studies.
  7. Students and supervisors show follow FGSR's guide for thesis preparation.