Department of Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy

Department of Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy
Department of Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy

Departmental Procedures Governing Graduate Studies


Please click on the tabs for full details of our departmental procedures for the graduate studies.

A. Responsibilities

a) Co-ordinator of Graduate Studies
The Coordinator of Graduate Studies is appointed by the Head of the Department. It is the Coordinator’s duty to oversee the execution of the procedures established by the Department for the administration of the graduate program and to keep the Department informed of the academic status of its graduate students. The Coordinator will inform students in writing immediately following Departmental approval of grades in courses, and of recommendations by the PhD Candidacy Committee, of potential adverse consequences.

b) The Supervisor(s)
The supervisor(s) provides guidance with respect to the student’s academic program, supervises the student’s research, and monitors the student’s progress on a regular basis. In the case of PhD students, the supervisor(s), as a member of the Supervisory Committee, takes part in the formal departmental assessment of the student’s progress twice a year.

c) The Student
It is the responsibility of the student to comply with the academic regulations of the Department and the School of Graduate Studies, and to complete his or her research and write and defend a thesis. The student should make full use of the guidance and experience of the supervisor in meeting those responsibilities.

B. Summary of Course Requirements

a) MSc, MASc Students

The Departmental requirements for the master's degree program are a minimum of two full graduate courses (or four half-courses), plus research and thesis. At most, one of these four graduate level half courses can be jointly offered (double-numbered) with an undergraduate course. At least one full course (or two half-courses) must be from among those offered by the Department of Physics.  At most, one full course (two half-courses) may be taken from a department other than Physics, subject to the approval of the Department of Physics.

b) PhD Students

i) The Departmental requirements for the Physics doctoral program are usually a minimum of six term-length graduate courses beyond the Bachelor's degree level, plus research and thesis. Only two of these six graduate level courses can be jointly offered (double-numbered) with an undergraduate course. The required courses must also include two of the following three term-length courses or their equivalent:

(1) PHYS-831 or PHYS-832 (E&M) or an approved substitute from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering or the Royal Military College,
(2) PHYS-825 (Advanced Quantum Theory), or
(3) PHYS-870 (Statistical Mechanics).

In exceptional cases, subject to the approval of the Department of Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy proficiency in Quantum Mechanics at the level of PHYS-345 will be accepted in lieu of PHYS-825. The requirement of PHYS-825 for PhD level students would thus be waived but the total course work requirement of the PhD is not reduced. Up to four term-length courses may be taken from a department other than Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy, subject to the approval of the Department of Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy.

NOTE: An Engineering Physics doctoral student will be required to take a minimum of four term-length graduate courses (or equivalent) beyond the Master’s degree course requirement. Students promoted from our Master’s program are required to take a minimum of six term-length graduate courses past completion of the B.Sc./B.A.Sc.

ii) In addition to the above-mentioned courses, all PhD students must participate in PHYS-901, a series of seminars to be presented by the PhD students themselves. PhD students will be required to present a seminar on their research area/problem in each of their second and third years of registration in the PhD program. Also, all PhD students must attend at least 2/3rds of these seminars in each of their first, second, and third years. (Students who are unable to attend this number of talks due to field work will be required to make alternative arrangements, to be approved by the Coordinator of the Physics 901 course.) In addition to the PhD students in attendance at these seminars, the Coordinator of the Physics 901 course, the chair of the student’s supervisory committee, the student’s supervisor, and other interested faculty members will also be present. This course shall be given a Pass/Fail grade.

If either of the PHYS 901 Course Coordinator or the chair of the student’s supervisory committee judges that a student’s presentation is substandard, the student will be required to present another talk no later than one month after the regularly scheduled seminar, the audience for which will be determined by the PHYS 901 Course Coordinator and the student’s supervisory committee.

c) Procedures for Appeal of A Grade

Within two weeks of learning a final grade that a student wishes to dispute, the student should meet with the instructor and report the circumstances and issues on which the appeal for review is based. The Coordinator of Graduate Studies shall be informed by the student of the appeal and of its basis. The instructor, after reviewing the grade in the light of the students appeal, shall report the final grade to the Department Head who shall inform the student in writing of this grade. (In the case of a disputed grade for a course offered in another department, the appeal procedures of that department shall be applied to establish the final mark). The Head shall also advise the student of the right to make a Departmental Appeal of the consequences of the grade. Within two weeks of being informed of the result of the appeal of the grade, the student may make a Departmental Appeal of the consequences of the grade, in writing, to the Department Head.

The Head shall in that case appoint the Coordinator of Graduate Studies, or an alternate, and three others members of the department to serve as a Review Committee. The Review Committee will advise the Head on whether the basis of the appeal justifies a recommendation of the expunging of the grade from the student’s record, or of the waiving of Departmental or School of Graduate Studies regulations. The Review Committee may interview the student and the instructor or Examining Committee in reaching its recommendation. It is understood that neither the instructor nor any member of the Examining Committee shall serve on the Review Committee. On receiving the advice of the Review Committee, the Head shall advise the student in writing on whether the consequences of the final grade shall stand, and shall remind the student of his right to appeal to Division, and inform the Chairperson of the Division of the result of the Departmental Appeal.

(for students whose first registration in the PhD program is September 2000 or thereafter)
The primary purpose of the candidacy examination procedure is to ensure that students attempting the PhD program have the potential to successfully complete the research for their thesis in a reasonable length of time; a demonstrated ability to initiate and complete independent research is a principal requirement of the PhD. This examination shall consist of an oral defense of:

i) written thesis proposal
ii) solution to an assigned research area question

a) Composition of the Committees

The PhD Candidacy Committee
The PhD candidacy committee is a standing committee of the Department of Physics that administers the candidacy examinations process, and is responsible for ensuring that the candidacy examinations conform to the rules specified by the department. This committee consists of the Coordinator of Graduate Studies, and one member of each of the four departmental research groups. If the student’s supervisor is any one of these individuals, the Coordinator of Graduate Studies, in consultation with other members of the Committee, shall select another faculty member to serve in place of the supervisor.

For each candidate the committee would, in consultation with the student’s supervisor, select an individual who is well versed in the research area of the thesis proposal. In the following we refer to this individual as the “research expert”. (Ordinarily, this person would be a member of this department, but the committee may decide that someone from another department in the university is more appropriate.)

PhD Candidacy Examination Committee
This separate committee would be struck for each student. It would consist of the student’s supervisor, the “research expert” described above, the member of the PhD Candidacy Committee whose research discipline is the same as that of the candidate, and the Head or Head’s Delegate, the latter of which must come from a research area different from that of the thesis proposal. Students will be informed of the composition of their Examination Committee at lease one month before the examination, and will have the right to request to the Head of Department that any voting member of the Committee be replaced if, in the student’s view, instances of prior personal conflict might compromise the examiners objectivity.

b) Structure of the Examination

i) Thesis Proposal Defense
Students will be required to prepare a written thesis proposal that is defended in an oral presentation approximately one month after the submission of the written proposal. It is to be understood that while the student may obtain assistance from their supervisor during the preparation of the thesis proposal, the supervisor will not provide assistance during the oral defense of the proposal.

ii) Research Area Question
Students will receive, from the members of their PhD Candidacy Examination Committee, a research area question within approximately one week of their submission of their written thesis proposal. This question will be associated with physics that is within their research discipline (viz., one of Astronomy/Astrophysics, Condensed Matter Physics, Engineering and Applied Physics, Subatomic Physics), but will not be directly associated with their thesis problem. It is intended that students will work for approximately three weeks on this question, with minimal guidance from their supervisor. The student will provide a verbal summary of their results during the Candidacy Examination.

iii) Timing
The candidate will be required to submit their written thesis proposal during their fourth term of full-time registration.

iv) Conditions for Dismissal
If the candidate is judged to have performed unsatisfactorily in one but not both portions of the Candidacy Examination, they will be allowed to repeat that portion of the exam within the following two months; a subsequent unsatisfactory performance will be grounds for dismissal. If they are judged to have performed unsatisfactorily in both phases of the initial sitting of the examination, they will be required to withdraw from the PhD program.

v) Promotion to PhD Program without the Completion of a MSc Thesis
Students may transfer directly from the MSc program to the PhD program, bypassing the MSc thesis. The transfer must be done no earlier than the end of the student's second semester at Queen's and no later than the end of the fifth semester at Queen's.  Such a transfer is irreversible. The University has guidelines for this process which are available on the SGS website and students interested in transferring to the PhD program should review these guidelines.

Students who wish to transfer to the PhD program must:

1) maintain an 80% or above average in graduate courses
2) prepare a research proposal outlining the work they've done to date and the research plan for the PhD
3) have the support of their thesis supervisor
4) have the support of the department

Support from the department first entails establishing a supervisory committee (the supervisor will do this) who will review your research proposal in a meeting similar in format to a PhD supervisory committee meeting. The committee chair will prepare a report and make a recommendation to the Graduate Coordinator who then makes a recommendation to the Graduate School on behalf of the Department. For successful transfers, this committee becomes the student's PhD supervisory committee.
Back to PhD Candidacy Exam

a) MSc Students

1. Twelve months after a student commences MSc studies, and every six months thereafter, the supervisor and student must submit to the Coordinator of Graduate Studies independent written reports, approximately one page in length, which outlines research objectives, progress made, work remaining to be done, and which estimates time of completion. The supervisor's report must conclude with a definitive judgment on whether the student's progress in research is satisfactory or unsatisfactory. The student will be provided a copy of the supervisor's report by the Coordinator of Graduate Studies, and if progress is judged unsatisfactory, will be advised that the consequences of another unsatisfactory report may be a requirement to withdraw. A Departmental Committee will examine the supervisor's and student's reports, and if serious problems have arisen will recommend to the Coordinator of Graduate Studies that a Supervisory Committee be set up for the student.

2. The Supervisory Committee will have at least four members, including a Chairperson, the supervisor(s), and two other members of the Department. The Committee shall give guidance to the student, monitor progress, and examine subsequent research reports. If one of these reports gives a second unsatisfactory assessment, the Committee may recommend to the Coordinator of Graduate Studies that the student should be required to withdraw on academic grounds.

3. It is the responsibility of the student to communicate to the Supervisory Committee any special circumstances that should be considered by the Committee in reaching its recommendations.

4. If the Department requires the student to withdraw, the Head shall inform the student in writing of the right to a formal Departmental Appeal to be requested in writing within two weeks.

5. On receiving a written request for a formal Departmental Appeal, the Head shall appoint a Review Committee, consisting of four members of faculty to recommend within three weeks on whether or not the previous decision should be upheld. The Review Committee may interview the student, the supervisor(s) and other members of the department in reaching its recommendation.

6. On receiving the advice of the Review Committee, the Head shall advise the student in writing within two weeks on whether the requirement to withdraw will be upheld. If the decision is to be upheld the student shall be advised of the right to appeal to the appropriate School of Graduate Studies Division, and the Chairperson of the Division shall be notified in writing by the Head of the Department.

a) PhD Students

1. Each PhD student shall have a Supervisory Committee consisting of at least three members of faculty, one of whom shall be Chairperson, plus the supervisor(s). Final authority governing the constitution of the Committee rests with the Coordinator of Graduate Studies, but its members will normally be nominated by the supervisor(s) in accordance with the guideline that they include at least one theorist, one experimentalist and one member from a different area of specialization.

2. At its meetings the Supervisory Committee shall provide guidance, and shall assess the student’s progress in courses and research. The Chairperson of the Committee shall convene a meeting of the Committee with the student at least once a year, normally in September, and must submit in May and September to the Coordinator of Graduate Studies a Progress Report which includes a definitive assessment of the research progress of the student as satisfactory or unsatisfactory. At the discretion of the Chairperson, special meetings may be convened if requested by the student or supervisor.

3. The September Progress Report and any Progress Report immediately subsequent to an unsatisfactory assessment of the research shall be accompanied by a Research Report (not longer than ten pages) submitted by the student to the Supervisory Committee.

4. In the event that the Supervisory Committee assesses the student’s progress as unsatisfactory, the Coordinator of Graduate Studies shall inform the Department. The Head shall inform the student in writing that the Supervisory Committee will recommend to the Department in their next Progress Report whether the student should be required to withdraw.

5. It is the responsibility of the student to communicate to the Supervisory Committee any special circumstances that should be considered by the Committee in reaching its recommendation.

6. If the Department requires the student to withdraw, the Head shall inform the student in writing of the right to a formal Departmental Appeal to be requested in writing of the right to a formal Departmental Appeal to be requested in writing within two weeks.

7. On receiving a written request for a formal Departmental Appeal, the Head shall appoint a Review Committee, consisting of four members of staff to recommend within three weeks on whether or not the previous decision should be upheld. The review Committee may interview the student, the supervisor(s) and other members of the department in reaching its recommendation.

8. On receiving the advice of the Review Committee, the Head shall advise the student in writing within two weeks on whether the requirement to withdraw will be upheld. If the decision is to be upheld the student shall be advised of the right to appeal to the Division and the Chairperson of the Division shall be notified in writing.
Back to Research & Related Appeals Procedures

Approved by the Physics Department, 1 June 2007