Notice: COVID-19 resources, information and plans for current and upcoming academic terms. Learn more.

Graduate Program Regulations

The following document forms official Department of Physics policy regarding the administration of its M.Sc. and Ph.D. degree programs. In the case of conflict, the official regulations of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research take precedence. The full set of regulations can be found on the Faculty of Graduate Studies web pages:

Students are advised to become familiar with the information on these two links.

  1. Physics Graduate Acceptance Criteria

    In order to be accepted as a fully qualified student in the M.Sc. in Physics program, applicants must have a B.Sc. Honours degree in Physics, Engineering Physics, or equivalent. This implies a minimum average grade of 75% in the major discipline and required cognate classes, and an overall average of at least 70% in all courses that form part of the B.Sc. degree. A promising applicant who does not meet this requirement may be accepted as either a probationary student or a qualifying student, where the conditions are intended to bring the applicant up to the level of a B.Sc. Honours degree in Physics, or equivalent.

    In order to be accepted as a fully qualified student in the Ph.D. in Physics program, applicants must have an M.Sc. in Physics or equivalent. A promising applicant with a comparable degree and thesis experience may be accepted as a conditionally qualified student. However, such promising applicants are first accepted into the M.Sc. program, and if it is appropriate, allowed to transfer directly to the Ph.D. program after a period of at least one year (see section 3 of this document).

    Applicants whose mother tongue is NOT English must conform to our language requirements (see link on eligibility at the top of this page). Applicants from non-English speaking countries whose instruction was exclusively in English must supply a letter from their university certifying this was so, in order to have the TOEFL requirement waived. Foreign applicants may be required to enroll in an 'English as a Second Language' class after their arrival in Regina.

    The Department of Physics encourages international applicants to write the GRE Physics Subject exam. There is no set required a minimum score, as other considerations (such as relevant prior research experience) may outweigh the GRE Physics score in the final evaluation. The General GRE exam score may supplement the applicant'S information.

    The Graduate Co-ordinator, in consultation with the Department Head, may set a recommended GRE score for use by the faculty in the evaluation of foreign graduate applications in the absence of a positive overriding consideration. The recommended minimum score levels are are based on the mean scores attained by physics students writing these exams, as compiled by the Educational Testing Service, Princeton, New Jersey. (Please consult the Subject Scoring Table at ETS and for more information please visit the ETS/GRE website.)

  2. Master of Science Program

    All M.Sc. students must include, as part of their program, the Physics core graduate classes, Physics 800 and Physics 801. All students must write a thesis which is orally defended. The total course and research requirements, as well as the oral exam format, are determined by the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research, with the details specified by the student's Supervisor. The Faculty of Graduate Studies specifies the minimum number of semester hours of courses and research time, and a minimum grade to remain in the program.

  3. Transfer from M.Sc. to Ph.D. Program

    Faculty of Graduate Studies procedures (see links at top of page) state "a candidate may be accepted at a master's level for purposes of illustrating suitability to enter a doctoral program, and after the first year, can request, through their academic unit, a transfer to a Ph.D. program."

    The Department of Physics reserves this provision only for those students with demonstrated superior scholarly performance at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and requires the following conditions to be met before a transfer request will be considered:

    1. The request must be made between 12 and 18 months of full time study towards the M.Sc. degree. This is to allow sufficient time to evaluate both the course work and thesis research progress of the candidate
    2. The student's academic performance in undergraduate and graduate classes must be of uniform first class (i.e. >80%) standing. It is normally expected that such candidates would be at the level sufficient to obtain (or be in very serious contention for) a NSERC PGS award (if eligible).
    3. The student's research progress during the period of M.Sc. studies under consideration must exceed normal expectations. Typically, a research report written by the student will be provided to support this claim.
    4. The proposed Ph.D. research topic should be a natural extension of, or be closely related to, the M.Sc. research topic. It is expected that the already completed M.Sc. research will eventually be reported in the Ph.D. thesis.
    5. The request must receive the approval of the candidate's supervisor(s) as well as the Department Head.

    The completed recommendation for transfer will be sent to the Dean of Graduate Studies for approval.

  4. Doctor of Philosophy Program

    All Ph.D. students must meet the requirements as determined by the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research, with the details specified by the student's Supervisory Committee. The Faculty of Graduate Studies specifies a minimum number of credit hours of course and research work, the minimum grade which the student must maintain to continue in the program, the composition and duties of the Supervisory Committee, and the minimum and maximum time limits allowed for the completion of the Ph.D. degree. Complete regulations are given on the Faculty of Graduate Studies website at the top of the page.

    In addition, the Faculty of Graduate Studies states that "the student's academic unit must satisfy itself by written or oral examination, or both, that the student has sufficient knowledge of the general field of study for recognition as a candidate for the Ph.D. degree. The standard which a student must attain to pass the examination is at the discretion of the academic unit." In Physics, this requirement is fulfilled by the Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination, described in sections 5 and 6 of this document. This examination also serves the purpose of the qualifying examination in the case of a conditionally qualified Ph.D. candidate. "A student failing the examination for the first time is permitted a second examination. A second failure is an automatic disqualification from further consideration towards the Ph.D. degree. The results of all such examinations must be reported to the Dean's office."

    Finally, the student must orally defend the thesis work. The Faculty of Graduate Studies imposes guidelines for both the Examination Committee and the format of the defense.

  5. Timing of the Ph.D. Comprehensive Exam

    All physics Ph.D. students must pass a Comprehensive Examination, which is to be scheduled by the Graduate Coordinator in consultation with the Department Head, and the respective Supervisors. This exam is held 8-16 months after the start of a Ph.D. program, which for a fully qualified Ph.D. student is the initial registration in the Faculty of Graduate Studies. Please consult Figure 1 for details on the timing of this exam.

    Students who do not take the exam within the above window will fail their first chance at passing the exam. A student may apply to the Department Head for an override. Approval from both Department Head and Graduate Co-ordinator is required to grant a waiver.

    FIGURE 1 - TIMING OF THE PH.D. COMPREHENSIVE EXAM
    SCENARIO A - STUDENT COMPLETES M.SC. AT UofR PRIOR TO ENROLLING AS
    PH.D. STUDENT
    Year Program Status
    0. Honours B.Sc. awarded
    1. Begin M.Sc. program Fully qualified M.Sc. student
    2. Normal end of M.Sc. program Accepted as fully qualified Ph.D. student
    3. Begin Ph.D. studies Student writes
    Comprehensive Exam at 8-16 months after start of Ph.D. program.
    4-. Fully qualified Ph.D. student Continue studies

    SCENARIO B - STUDENT TRANSFERS FROM M.SC. PROGRAM AT UofR TO PH.D. PROGRAM
    Year Program Status
    0. Honours B.Sc. awarded
    1. Begin M.Sc. program Fully qualified M.Sc. student
    2. Transfer to Ph.D. program Conditionally qualified Ph.D. student
    3. Begin Ph.D. studies Student writes Comprehensive
    Exam at 8-16 months after start of Ph.D. program.
    4-. Fully qualified Ph.D. student Continue Ph.D. studies

    SCENARIO C - STUDENT ENTERS PH.D. PROGRAM WITH M.SC. FROM ELSEWHERE
    Year Program Status
    1-2. Complete M.Sc. program elsewhere
    3. Begin Ph.D. studies Student writes
    Comprehensive Exam at 8-16 months after start of Ph.D. program.
    4-. Fully qualified Ph.D. student Continue studies
  6. Format and Content of the Ph.D. Comprehensive Exam

    The intent of the Comprehensive Exam is to demonstrate that the student has achieved a working knowledge of the typical Canadian B.Sc. Honours physics degree. It is NOT the intention to examine only the specialty area within physics of the student, nor to examine material at the graduate level: final exams for the required graduate courses serve that function (as at other schools) and as well as the minimum grades required by the Faculty of Graduate Studies for a student to continue in the graduate program.

    The Comprehensive Exam consists of three parts: two 2-hour written exams, written on the same day, followed in two weeks by an oral exam, provided the student passes the written exam. All examinations follow closed-book format. The Ph.D. candidates must pass the written and oral components of the exam separately in order to pass the Ph.D. Comprehensive Exam. The written and oral components of the Ph.D. Comprehensive Exam will be weighted equally (50% each) in calculating an overall grade for the Ph.D. Comprehensive Exam. The final mark will be quoted as Pass or Fail.

    Suitable problems for all three exams will be solicited from the faculty by the Department Head. The Department Head or Graduate Coordinator will assemble the written exam and approve the questions to be used in the oral exam by the Ph.D. Comprehensive Examining Committee. Each question of each part will be marked by the person who submitted it, and the scores will be tallied by the Department Head or Graduate Coordinator. 

    Should a student fail the exam on his/her first attempt, a second attempt will be allowed four months following the first attempt. A student may apply to the Department Head to extend the interval between the second and first attempts to longer than four months. Approval from both Department Head and Graduate Co-ordinator is required to grant such an extension. Any student who fails the second attempt will be required to withdraw from the graduate program.

    Written Component:

    The first two sections of the Comprehensive Exam consist of two written exams, each in two parts, as shown in Figure 2. The student will be allowed two hours to complete Parts A and B, and then two hours to complete Parts C and D.


    FIGURE 2 - WRITTEN COMPREHENSIVE EXAM SECTIONS
    First Section:
    Part A: Complete 2 of 3 problems/questions in Quantum Mechanics
    and Electricity and Magnetism (1 hour, 50% of section 1)
    Part B: Complete 2 of 4 problems/questions in Statistical Mechanics, Nuclear Physics, Particle Physics, Solid State (1 hour, 50% of section 1)
    Second Section:
    Part C: Complete 4 of 5 problems from junior undergraduate courses (80 min., 70% of section 2)
    Part D: Complete 2 of 3 problems from intermediate and advanced classical mechanics (40 min., 30% of section 2)

    The first part of the written exam, part A, will include three questions, of which the student should complete two. The three-part A problems will be drawn from the subjects of quantum mechanics and electromagnetic theory. The level of problems/questions will be comparable with the discussion of these topics in the "Feynman Lectures of Physics". Each question should be completed in about 30 minutes and will be worth 25% of the part A/B written exam grade.

    The second part of the written exam, part B, will include four questions from four subjects, of which the student should complete two questions. The four areas are statistical mechanics, nuclear physics, particle physics and solid state physics. As in part A, the level of the problems/questions will be comparable with the discussion of these topics in the "Feynman Lectures of Physics". Each question should be completed in about 30 minutes and will be worth 25% of the written part A/B exam grade.

    The third part of the written exam, part C, will include five questions based on the junior undergraduate texts used in Physics 111 through 292 (e.g. "Physics" by Halliday, Resnick, and Krane), of which the student should complete four questions. Each question should be completed in about 20 minutes and the four questions will be each worth 17.5% of the written C/D part of the
    exam.

    The final part of the written exam, part D, will include three questions, of which the student must do two, based on the intermediate and advanced mechanics classes, Physics 202, 301 and 411. Each question will be worth 15% of the written C/D part of the exam.

    Oral Component:
    The final section of the Comprehensive Exam is an oral examination administered by four faculty members selected by the Department Head for this purpose. The questioning shall last at least 60 minutes and not last more than ninety. Individual examiners will question the student between 15 minutes and not longer than twenty-five minutes. The questions will be chosen from those submitted to the Department Head for the oral exam and will be based on the junior undergraduate books as discussed above for section C of the written exam. Each member of the Ph.D. Comprehensive Examining Committee will judge the answer to every question, and keep a record of the scores for discussion after the student has left the examination room.

    • Approved January 18, 1989
    • Revisions approved September 5, 2002
    • Revisions approved May 27, 2011
    • Updated May 8, 2018