Doctor of Philosophy in Physics (PhD)


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

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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 competitve 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









IELTS: International English Language Testing System

Overall score requirement: 6.5









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

September 2020 Intake

Application Open Date
15 October 2019
Canadian Applicants
Application Deadline: 01 December 2019
Transcript Deadline: 25 August 2020
Referee Deadline: 25 August 2020
International Applicants
Application Deadline: 01 December 2019
Transcript Deadline: 31 May 2020
Referee Deadline: 31 May 2020

3) Prepare Application


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.


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

Instructions regarding 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


FeesCanadian Citizen / Permanent Resident / Refugee / DiplomatInternational
Application Fee$106.00$168.25
Tuition *
Installments per year33
Tuition per installment$1,698.56$2,984.09
Tuition per year
(plus annual increase, usually 2%-5%)
Int. Tuition Award (ITA) per year (if eligible) $3,200.00 (-)
Other Fees and Costs
Student Fees (yearly)$944.51 (approx.)
Costs of living (yearly)starting at $16,954.00 (check cost calculator)
* 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

Applicants who are interested in the production, preparation, and application of nuclear isotopes for science and medicine may consider the IsoSiM program that provides additional funding and professional development opportunities. Applicants who are interested in quantum materials may consider the QuEST program. Applicants who are interested in nanomaterials synthesis, characterization and application, and nanoscience instrumentation may consider the NanoMat program.

All full-time students who begin a UBC-Vancouver PhD program in September 2018 or later will be provided with a funding package of at least $18,000 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 $18,000 per year. Please check with your prospective graduate program for specific details of the funding provided to its PhD students.

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.

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.

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 direction. The duties usually constitute part of the student's graduate degree requirements. A Graduate Research Assistantship is a form of financial support for a period of graduate study and is, therefore, not covered by a collective agreement. Unlike other forms of fellowship support for graduate students, the amount of a GRA is neither fixed nor subject to a university-wide formula. The stipend amounts vary widely, and are dependent on the field of study and the type of research grant from which the assistantship is being funded. Some research projects also require targeted research assistance and thus hire graduate students on an hourly basis.

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 Calculator

Applicants have access to the cost calculator 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)
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
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

New registrations1612141212
Total enrolment117114108114120

Completion Rates & Times

This program has a graduation rate of 84.72% based on 72 students admitted between 2006 - 2009. Based on 59 graduations between 2015 - 2018 the minimum time to completion is 3.33 years and the maximum time is 9.00 years with an average of 5.81 years of study. All calculations exclude leave times.
Admissions data refer to all UBC Vancouver applications, offers, new registrants for each year, May to April [data updated: 10 March 2020]. Enrolment data are based on March 1 snapshots. Program completion data are only provided for datasets comprised of more than 4 individuals. 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 [data updated: 27 October 2019].

Research Supervisors

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.

  • Kruecken, Reiner (Elementary Particles, Universe Structure, Nuclear Physics, Nuclear Astrophysics, Neutrino Physics)
  • Lister, Alison (Elementary Particles, Large Hadron Collier (LHC), ATLAS experiment, Search for physics beyond the standard model, top quarks, dark matter, Detector development)
  • Madison, Kirk (Condensed matter, atomic, molecular and optical physics )
  • Marziali, Andre (Teaching methods, pedagogy, Robotics in education, Nanotechnology, Engineering Physics, Genomics, Biophysics, Genomics Technologies)
  • Matthews, Jaymie Mark (Stellar seismology, stellar structure and evolution, exoplanets, magnetic peculiar stars, photometry and spectroscopy, space astronomy)
  • Mattison, Thomas (Subatomic physics, Particle & Nuclear Physics, Applied Physics)
  • McKenna, Janis (Experimental Particle Physics, Instrumentation)
  • Michal, Carl (Nuclear magnetic resonance, biological and energy storage materials )
  • Milner, Valery (Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics; Ultrafast Quantum Coherent Control; Ultrafast Spectroscopy )
  • Oser, Scott (Elementary Particles, particle physics, neutrinos, dark matter, statistical methods for physics)
  • Plotkin, Steven (Biophysics theory and computation )
  • Rahmim, Arman (medical physics, Molecular imaging, Image Reconstruction, Quantitative Imaging, Machine learning and radiomics, Theranostics)
  • Rauscher, Alexander (Algorithms, Brain Metabolism, Imaging, Neurological Diseases, Modelization and Simulation, magnetic resonance imaging, physics, quantitative susceptibility mapping, myelin water imaging, brain)
  • Raussendorf, Robert (Measurement-based models for quantum computation, fault-tolerant quantum computation under geometric constraints, quantum cellular automata)
  • Reinsberg, Stefan (Medical physics, MRIs )
  • Rottler, Joerg (Solids, Polymers, Nanomaterials, Condensed Matter and Materials Physics, Soft Matter)
  • Rozali, Moshe (String theory, high energy physics, quantum field theory, cosmology and classical gravitational physics)
  • Schleich, Kristin (Theoretical physics, general relativity )
  • Scott, Douglas (Science and Knowledge, Cosmology)
  • Semenoff, Gordon Walter (Theoretical and mathematical physics, the physics of elementary particles, condensed matter physics, String theory, quantum field theory, statistical mechanics, Moedal experiment, Large Hadron Collider, CERN)
  • Sigurdson, Kris (The Universe, Cosmology, Dark Matter, Dark Energy, Particle Physics, Astrophysics, Cosmic Microwave Background, Cosmic 21-cm Fluctuations, Radio Astronomy, CHIME )
  • Sossi, Vesna (Medical Imaging, Brain imaging )
  • Stairs, Ingrid (pulsars, gravity, general relativity, radio astronomy, radio pulsars, pulsar searches and long-term timing, Radio astronomy)
  • Stamp, Philip C (Theoretical physics, strongly-correlated condensed matter systems, quantum magnetism, decoherence, quantum information, gravity)
  • Unruh, William (black holes; cosmology; quantum computers; theory of gravity )


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
2019 Using numerical simulations, Dr. Chen demonstrated the emergence of high-energy physics phenomena in topological quantum matter. She proposed the creation of Majorana particles, chiral anomalies, and black hole holograms in mesoscopic quantum systems. Her proposals allow us to probe these elusive physics concepts in cost-effective table-top experiments.
2019 Dr. Liu studied a special type of quantum materials called Dirac materials. He proved that the response of Dirac materials to elastic deformation highly mimics that to electromagnetic fields. This unique feature makes Dirac materials stand out from other quantum materials and renders them useful for the future application in quantum technologies.
2019 Dr. Cox studied models of the loss of information in quantum systems. He developed a way of understanding how the information stored in a quantum system can be divided into its constituent parts and how this information can be transferred to the environment.
2019 Dr. Ben Bouchta developed a method of measuring how much radiation healthy tissues receive during radiotherapy. He subsequently applied this method to compare different radiotherapy techniques and found that it is possible to reduce the risk of radiation-induced thyroid cancer by up to 10% in patients who receive whole-lung irradiation.
2019 Dr. Neuenfeld applied quantum information theory to study gravitational physics. He investigated how information is transferred in processes involving gravity, and explored how quantum information restricts the spacetimes that can be realized in nature. His results contribute to a better understanding of a quantum theory of gravity.
2019 Dr. Leistenschneider studied how neutrons form shell structures in the nucleus of titanium and vanadium atoms. The imprints that nuclear shells leave on the mass of the atom were investigated in several isotopes of these elements using high precision mass spectrometry techniques. The results served as stringent tests for modern nuclear theories.
2019 Dr. Altiere developed an ultraviolet laser system to probe the atomic energy levels in xenon gas. Her work also included precision optical measurements of atomic constants in xenon 129. These results are essential to neutron electric dipole moment experiments at TRIUMF and to the broader scientific community.
2019 Dr. Zhao developed a practical and accurate dosimetry method to achieve optimized cancer therapy with radionuclides. His research demonstrated the feasibility of personalizing cancer treatment in routine clinics. His work contributes significantly to the safe and effective usage of radionuclides in cancer therapy.
2019 There is much that we still do not understand about the world around us. Dr. Forestell focused on creating mathematical models of how new types of physics may interact with the known Universe throughout the course of our cosmological history. Her research contributes to the set of tools that are used to limit and probe new models of physics.
2019 Dr. Cuen-Rochin participated in precise measurements of rare pion decays. His analysis of an extensive data set recorded by the PIENU experiment at TRIUMF, and evaluation of experimental systematic effects allowed high precision measurements to be obtained. This work will lead to stringent tests of the Standard Model of particle physics.


Further Program Information


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


September 2020 Intake

Application Open Date
15 October 2019
Canadian Applicant Deadline
01 December 2019
International Applicant Deadline
01 December 2019

Supervisor Search


Departments/Programs may update graduate degree program details through the Faculty & Staff portal. To update the application inquiries contact details please use this form.

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