Doctor of Philosophy in Physics (PhD)

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Applicants to Master’s and Doctoral degrees are not affected by the recently announced cap on study permits. Review more details

Overview

The Department of Physics and Astronomy is a broad-based department with a wide range of research interests covering many key topics in contemporary physics, astronomy, and applied physics. We are a vibrant community that engages in a wide range of research directions, from probing the origin of the universe to exploring emergent phenomena in complex systems, that provide deep insights into the nature of the universe and practical solutions that will help define the world of tomorrow. Departmental research activities are supported by several computing and experimental facilities, and excellent electronics and machine shops.

Our graduate programs include approximately 200 graduate students, working on experiments and theory in research fields that include: Applied Physics, Astronomy/Astrophysics, Atomic/Molecular/Optics, Biophysics, Condensed Matter, Cosmology, Gravity, Medical Physics, Nuclear Physics, Particle Physics, and String Theory.

What makes the program unique?

The Department of Physics & Astronomy at UBC is noted for the excellence of its research and its high academic standards and integrity. It is one of the largest and most diverse physics and astronomy departments in Canada. We are constantly rated as one of the top Physics & Astronomy programs in the world. Much of the Department's research is enhanced by local facilities such as the TRIUMF National Laboratory, the Advanced Materials and Process Engineering Laboratory (AMPEL), and the BC Cancer Agency, UBC, and associated teaching hospitals, in addition to many specialized research laboratories housed within the Department. There is a great deal of collaboration and overlap of interests among the various groups.

Each year, our faculty bring over $20 million in research grants. This enables us to maintain world-class research laboratories and computational facilities, attract distinguished post-doctorate researchers, and support highly skilled engineers and technicians whose expertise is critical to our research.

 

Program Enquiries

Still have questions after reviewing this page thoroughly?
Contact the program

Admission Information & Requirements

1) Check Eligibility

Minimum Academic Requirements

The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies establishes the minimum admission requirements common to all applicants, usually a minimum overall average in the B+ range (76% at UBC). The graduate program that you are applying to may have additional requirements. Please review the specific requirements for applicants with credentials from institutions in:

Each program may set higher academic minimum requirements. Please review the program website carefully to understand the program requirements. Meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission as it is a competitive process.

English Language Test

Applicants from a university outside Canada in which English is not the primary language of instruction must provide results of an English language proficiency examination as part of their application. Tests must have been taken within the last 24 months at the time of submission of your application.

Minimum requirements for the two most common English language proficiency tests to apply to this program are listed below:

TOEFL: Test of English as a Foreign Language - internet-based

Overall score requirement: 90

Reading

22

Writing

21

Speaking

21

Listening

22

IELTS: International English Language Testing System

Overall score requirement: 6.5

Reading

6.0

Writing

6.0

Speaking

6.0

Listening

6.0

Other Test Scores

Some programs require additional test scores such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or the Graduate Management Test (GMAT). The requirements for this program are:

The GRE is not required.

2) Meet Deadlines

Application open dates and deadlines for an upcoming intake have not yet been configured in the admissions system. Please check back later.

3) Prepare Application

Transcripts

All applicants have to submit transcripts from all past post-secondary study. Document submission requirements depend on whether your institution of study is within Canada or outside of Canada.

Letters of Reference

A minimum of three references are required for application to graduate programs at UBC. References should be requested from individuals who are prepared to provide a report on your academic ability and qualifications.

Statement of Interest

Many programs require a statement of interest, sometimes called a "statement of intent", "description of research interests" or something similar.

Supervision

Students in research-based programs usually require a faculty member to function as their thesis supervisor. Please follow the instructions provided by each program whether applicants should contact faculty members.

Instructions regarding thesis supervisor contact for Doctor of Philosophy in Physics (PhD)
Applicants should browse faculty profiles and indicate in their application who they are interested in working with. No commitment from a supervisor prior to applying is necessary, but contacting faculty members is encouraged.

Citizenship Verification

Permanent Residents of Canada must provide a clear photocopy of both sides of the Permanent Resident card.

4) Apply Online

All applicants must complete an online application form and pay the application fee to be considered for admission to UBC.

Tuition & Financial Support

Tuition

FeesCanadian Citizen / Permanent Resident / Refugee / DiplomatInternational
Application Fee$114.00$168.25
Tuition *
Installments per year33
Tuition per installment$1,838.57$3,230.06
Tuition per year
(plus annual increase, usually 2%-5%)
$5,515.71$9,690.18
Int. Tuition Award (ITA) per year (if eligible) $3,200.00 (-)
Other Fees and Costs
Student Fees (yearly)$1,116.60 (approx.)
Costs of livingEstimate your costs of living with our interactive tool in order to start developing a financial plan for your graduate studies.
* Regular, full-time tuition. For on-leave, extension, continuing or part time (if applicable) fees see UBC Calendar.
All fees for the year are subject to adjustment and UBC reserves the right to change any fees without notice at any time, including tuition and student fees. Tuition fees are reviewed annually by the UBC Board of Governors. In recent years, tuition increases have been 2% for continuing domestic students and between 2% and 5% for continuing international students. New students may see higher increases in tuition. Admitted students who defer their admission are subject to the potentially higher tuition fees for incoming students effective at the later program start date. In case of a discrepancy between this webpage and the UBC Calendar, the UBC Calendar entry will be held to be correct.

Financial Support

Applicants to UBC have access to a variety of funding options, including merit-based (i.e. based on your academic performance) and need-based (i.e. based on your financial situation) opportunities.

Program Funding Packages

From September 2024 all full-time students in UBC-Vancouver PhD programs will be provided with a funding package of at least $24,000 for each of the first four years of their PhD. The funding package may consist of any combination of internal or external awards, teaching-related work, research assistantships, and graduate academic assistantships. Please note that many graduate programs provide funding packages that are substantially greater than $24,000 per year. Please check with your prospective graduate program for specific details of the funding provided to its PhD students.

Average Funding
Based on the criteria outlined below, 82 students within this program were included in this study because they received funding through UBC in the form of teaching, research, academic assistantships or internal or external awards averaging $35,160.
  • 55 students received Teaching Assistantships. Average TA funding based on 55 students was $8,283.
  • 66 students received Research Assistantships. Average RA funding based on 66 students was $18,834.
  • 6 students received Academic Assistantships. Average AA funding based on 6 students was $1,873.
  • 82 students received internal awards. Average internal award funding based on 82 students was $9,894.
  • 14 students received external awards. Average external award funding based on 14 students was $25,857.

Study Period: Sep 2022 to Aug 2023 - average funding for full-time PhD students enrolled in three terms per academic year in this program across years 1-4, the period covered by UBC's Minimum Funding Guarantee. Averages might mask variability in sources and amounts of funding received by individual students. Beyond year 4, funding packages become even more individualized.
Review methodology
Scholarships & awards (merit-based funding)

All applicants are encouraged to review the awards listing to identify potential opportunities to fund their graduate education. The database lists merit-based scholarships and awards and allows for filtering by various criteria, such as domestic vs. international or degree level.

Graduate Research Assistantships (GRA)

Many professors are able to provide Research Assistantships (GRA) from their research grants to support full-time graduate students studying under their supervision. The duties constitute part of the student's graduate degree requirements. A Graduate Research Assistantship is considered a form of fellowship for a period of graduate study and is therefore not covered by a collective agreement. Stipends vary widely, and are dependent on the field of study and the type of research grant from which the assistantship is being funded.

Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTA)

Graduate programs may have Teaching Assistantships available for registered full-time graduate students. Full teaching assistantships involve 12 hours work per week in preparation, lecturing, or laboratory instruction although many graduate programs offer partial TA appointments at less than 12 hours per week. Teaching assistantship rates are set by collective bargaining between the University and the Teaching Assistants' Union.

Graduate Academic Assistantships (GAA)

Academic Assistantships are employment opportunities to perform work that is relevant to the university or to an individual faculty member, but not to support the student’s graduate research and thesis. Wages are considered regular earnings and when paid monthly, include vacation pay.

Financial aid (need-based funding)

Canadian and US applicants may qualify for governmental loans to finance their studies. Please review eligibility and types of loans.

All students may be able to access private sector or bank loans.

Foreign government scholarships

Many foreign governments provide support to their citizens in pursuing education abroad. International applicants should check the various governmental resources in their home country, such as the Department of Education, for available scholarships.

Working while studying

The possibility to pursue work to supplement income may depend on the demands the program has on students. It should be carefully weighed if work leads to prolonged program durations or whether work placements can be meaningfully embedded into a program.

International students enrolled as full-time students with a valid study permit can work on campus for unlimited hours and work off-campus for no more than 20 hours a week.

A good starting point to explore student jobs is the UBC Work Learn program or a Co-Op placement.

Tax credits and RRSP withdrawals

Students with taxable income in Canada may be able to claim federal or provincial tax credits.

Canadian residents with RRSP accounts may be able to use the Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP) which allows students to withdraw amounts from their registered retirement savings plan (RRSPs) to finance full-time training or education for themselves or their partner.

Please review Filing taxes in Canada on the student services website for more information.

Cost Estimator

Applicants have access to the cost estimator to develop a financial plan that takes into account various income sources and expenses.

Career Outcomes

108 students graduated between 2005 and 2013: 2 graduates are seeking employment; for 11 we have no data (based on research conducted between Feb-May 2016). For the remaining 95 graduates:


RI (Research-Intensive) Faculty: typically tenure-track faculty positions (equivalent of the North American Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor positions) in PhD-granting institutions
TI (Teaching-Intensive) Faculty: typically full-time faculty positions in colleges or in institutions not granting PhDs, and teaching faculty at PhD-granting institutions
Term Faculty: faculty in term appointments (e.g. sessional lecturers, visiting assistant professors, etc.)
Sample Employers in Higher Education
University of British Columbia (7)
Simon Fraser University (2)
Goethe University Frankfurt
Stanford University
Queen Mary University of London
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
Duke University
Washington University in St Louis
Beijing Normal University
Harvard University
Sample Employers Outside Higher Education
BC Cancer Agency (8)
United States Department of Energy (3)
1QB Information Technologies (1QBit) (2)
European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) (2)
MTT Innovation Inc. (2)
Google (2)
Coanda Research and Development Corporation (2)
FINCAD (2)
Bayer (2)
Ottawa Hospital
Sample Job Titles Outside Higher Education
Medical Physicist (10)
Data Scientist (2)
Research Scientist (2)
Engineer (2)
Director (2)
Software Engineer (2)
Staff Scientist (2)
Senior Strategy Consultant
Product Engineer
Chief Executive Officer
PhD Career Outcome Survey
You may view the full report on career outcomes of UBC PhD graduates on outcomes.grad.ubc.ca.
Disclaimer
These data represent historical employment information and do not guarantee future employment prospects for graduates of this program. They are for informational purposes only. Data were collected through either alumni surveys or internet research.

Enrolment, Duration & Other Stats

These statistics show data for the Doctor of Philosophy in Physics (PhD). Data are separated for each degree program combination. You may view data for other degree options in the respective program profile.

ENROLMENT DATA

 20232022202120202019
Applications102901039486
Offers2516191319
New Registrations1414141016
Total Enrolment111114112111116

Completion Rates & Times

This program has a graduation rate of 88% based on 91 students admitted between 2011 - 2014. Based on 50 graduations between 2020 - 2023 the minimum time to completion is 2.73 years and the maximum time is 10.47 years with an average of 5.43 years of study. All calculations exclude leave times.
Disclaimer
Admissions data refer to all UBC Vancouver applications, offers, new registrants for each registration year, May to April, e.g. data for 2022 refers to programs starting in 2022 Summer and 2022 Winter session, i.e. May 1, 2022 to April 30, 2023. Data on total enrolment reflects enrolment in Winter Session Term 1 and are based on snapshots taken on November 1 of each registration year. Program completion data are only provided for datasets comprised of more than 4 individuals. Graduation rates exclude students who transfer out of their programs. Rates and times of completion depend on a number of variables (e.g. curriculum requirements, student funding), some of which may have changed in recent years for some programs.

Upcoming Doctoral Exams

Monday, 24 June 2024 - 12:30pm - Room 200

Daniel Yates
Advances in Decay Spectroscopy of 160Gd and Developments for Transfer Experiments Using Radioactive Isotope Beams

Friday, 19 July 2024 - 10:00am - Hebb (HEBB) - 116, Hebb Building, 2045 East Mall

Petar Simidzija
Negative Lambda Quantum Cosmology

Monday, 22 July 2024 - 9:00am - Room 200

Michael Zurel
Classical Descriptions of Quantum Computations: Foundations of Quantum Computation via Hidden Variable Models, Quasiprobability Representations and Classical Simulation Algorithms

Thursday, 25 July 2024 - 9:00am - Room 200

Cassandra Miller
An Analysis of Imaging and Biological Effects Impacting Theranostic Dosimetry using Radiopharmaceutical Pairs

Friday, 26 July 2024 - 12:00pm

Antoine Belley
Probing Beyond Standard Model Physics Through Ab Initio Calculations of Exotic Weak Processes in Atomic Nuclei

Research Supervisors

Supervision

Students in research-based programs usually require a faculty member to function as their thesis supervisor. Please follow the instructions provided by each program whether applicants should contact faculty members.

Instructions regarding thesis supervisor contact for Doctor of Philosophy in Physics (PhD)
Applicants should browse faculty profiles and indicate in their application who they are interested in working with. No commitment from a supervisor prior to applying is necessary, but contacting faculty members is encouraged.
 
Advice and insights from UBC Faculty on reaching out to supervisors

These videos contain some general advice from faculty across UBC on finding and reaching out to a supervisor. They are not program specific.

 

This list shows faculty members with full supervisory privileges who are affiliated with this program. It is not a comprehensive list of all potential supervisors as faculty from other programs or faculty members without full supervisory privileges can request approvals to supervise graduate students in this program.

  • Aronson, Meigan (heavy-ferromagnetic compounds; charge density waves; magnetic nanoparticles)
  • Berciu, Mona (Electronic and magnetic properties of condensed matter and supraconductivity; Physical sciences; condensed matter theory; polarons, bipolarons; strongly correlated systems)
  • Boley, Aaron (Astronomy and Astrophysics; Planet formation, protoplanetary disk evolution, formation of meteorite parent bodies)
  • Bonn, Douglas Andrew (Condensed matter, high temperature superconductors, microwave measurements, crystal growth)
  • Bryman, Douglas (Particle physics, experimental; Experimental Particle Physics; Applied physics; physics)
  • Burke, Sarah (Scanning probe microscopy, organic materials, nanoscale materials, surface physics, photovoltaics )
  • Choptuik, Matthew (Theoretical physics, Relativity/Computational Physics )
  • Damascelli, Andrea (Electronic structure of solids, strongly correlated electron systems, low dimensional spin systems, thin films and nanostructures, transition metal oxides, high-Tc superconductors, linear and nonlinear optical spectroscopies, angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy, photoelectron spectroscopy, synchrotron based spectroscopies., Electronic structure of novel complex systems in nanostructured materials)
  • Dierker, Steve (Physical sciences; Collective dynamics of condensed matter systems; Dependence on reduced dimensionality, strong interactions, disorder, and mesoscale structure)
  • Folk, Joshua (Physical sciences; 2D materials and Vanderwaals heterostructures; Quantum electronics; Thermodynamics of quantum systems; Strongly correlated phenomena; Topological phenomena; Quantum transport)
  • Franz, Marcel (Condensed matter theory )
  • Gay, Colin (Experimental subatomic physics, Beyond Standard Model physics, Extra dimensions)
  • Gladman, Brett (Astronomy, Planetary Science, meteorites, astrobiology, Solar system formation and evolution)
  • Hallas, Alannah (Physical sciences; quantum phenomena; magnetism; Materials design and discovery; Quantum materials)
  • Halpern, Mark (Cosmology, Cosmic background radiation, history of star formation, measuring the geometry and contents of the Universe, satellites, balloon-borne telescopes, the physics of music, Physics of music, Cosmic Microwave Background, Physical Cosmology, Star formation history)
  • Hasinoff, Michael (Low-energy particle physics)
  • Hearty, Christopher (Particle physics, experimental; Experimental Particle Physics; e+e- collider; Physics beyond the Standard Model; Dark sector; dark matter)
  • Heyl, Jeremy (Astronomical and space sciences; Physical sciences; Astrophysics; Black Holes; Neutron Stars; quantum phenomena; Quantum-Field Theory; Stellar; Stellar Physics)
  • Hickson, Paul (cosmology, galaxies, telescopes, adaptive optics., Astronomy, astrophysics, Galaxies, clusters, instrumentation, adaptive optics)
  • Hinshaw, Gary (cosmology, cosmic background radiation, Cosmology, Measuring diffuse background radiations)
  • Jones, David (Atomic, optical and molecular physics,Ultrafast Optics, Spectroscopy)
  • Karczmarek, Joanna (Physical sciences; Emergent spacetime and gravity; Matrix models; Noncommutative geometry; String theory)
  • Lister, Alison (Particle physics, experimental; Large Hadron Collier (LHC); ATLAS experiment; Search for physics beyond the standard model; top quarks; dark matter; Machine Learning; Long-lived particles)
  • Madison, Kirk (Condensed matter, atomic, molecular and optical physics )

Pages

Doctoral Citations

A doctoral citation summarizes the nature of the independent research, provides a high-level overview of the study, states the significance of the work and says who will benefit from the findings in clear, non-specialized language, so that members of a lay audience will understand it.
Year Citation
2024 Dr. Frieling used laser cooled atoms to create ultra-cold molecules and study chemical reactions at 1 millionth of a degree above absolute zero and to characterize the performance of a new quantum atomic sensor for vacuum metrology relevant for applications in aerospace and semi-conducting fabrication industries.
2024 Dr. Sample developed methods to improve salivary gland dose constraints during radiotherapy. This included the development of medical image deblurring techniques, tools for locating salivary glands on CT images, dose response analyses, and tools for treatment planning with modernized dose constraints.
2024 Dr. Reid investigated topics in numerical relativity including the critical collapse of the Maxwell field and further developments of the Z4 formulation.
2024 Dr. Can's research showed that stacking two thin sheets of superconducting materials with a twist leads to a novel quantum phase of matter, called a topological superconductor. This discovery also led to an original design of a superconducting qubit, a device that can be used for quantum information processing.
2024 Dr. Carpentier developed a novel treatment planning technique for liver cancer patients receiving radiation therapy with real time tumour tracking. She created planning strategies and dose calculations that use the patient's anatomical information over their breathing cycle to ensure the organs near the tumour do not receive too much radiation.
2024 Dr. Lykiardopoulou contributed to the field of nuclear physics by measuring the mass of short-lived sodium isotopes. The results challenge current theories of nuclear structure and establish benchmarks for new theoretical approaches. She contributed in the development and commissioning of a novel ion trap that aims at higher precision mass measurements of short-lived species.
2024 Dr. Reeves showed how chaotic phenomena, such as the butterfly effect, can appear in certain quantum systems that can model black holes. By discovering the relationship between chaos and symmetries in these systems, Dr. Reeves furthered the understanding of these systems and their connection to black holes.
2024 Dr. Tully's work lays the foundation for measuring the electronic structure and fate of excitations in carbon-based solar cell materials. Her measurements of excited states in C60 films demonstrate the first high-quality data on such systems with lab-scale equipment, enabled by advances in film quality developed by Dr. Tully.
2024 Dr. Hsueh developed ways of understanding protein behavior through physics simulations. In his thesis, he developed novel simulation methods, explored the physical origin of ALS disease, and computationally designed therapeutics for both neurodegenerative disease and COVID19.
2023 Quite surprisingly, some quantum systems can encode gravitational physics in a higher dimensional space. Dr. Waddell used this fact to study a key quantum system arising in string theory, to show that information about a black hole's contents is not destroyed when it evaporates, and to propose a quantum description of universes similar to our own.

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Further Information

Specialization

Physics provides research opportunities in many subfields of physics, including

  • applied physics: this effort has spawned a number of spin-off companies.
  • medical physics: be involved in a broad range of medical physics research in the areas of radiation therapy, medical imaging, biomedical optics and radiation biophysics.
  • biophysics: the application of quantitative principles and methods to biological systems.
  • nuclear and particle physics: the aim of subatomic physics is to understand matter and the fundamental forces in the universe and ultimately form a Theory of Everything.
  • astronomy and astrophysics: study stars, galaxies, the material in between, and the Universe as a whole.
  • atomic, molecular, and optical physics: this field is rapidly expanding and serves as the basis for many modern technological innovations.
  • condensed matter physics is concerned with understanding and exploiting the properties of solids and liquids and the large area that this covers makes it the largest field of contemporary physics.
  • theoretical physics: Gravity and Relativity, String Theory, High Energy Physics, and Condensed Matter Theory, to Quantum Information and Biophysics

Faculty Overview

Program Identifier

VGDPHD-T5

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