PHYS 590 2023-2024

Physics Undergraduate Research Thesis (PHYS 590) for 2023-2024

Welcome to the course web page of the 2023-23 edition of PHYS 590, the Physics Undergraduate Research Thesis. This course is intended to give students the opportunity to pursue original research under the guidance of a faculty member on current topics of interest. The calendar description of the course is:


Calendar description of PHYS 590


Students in PHYS 590 have the chance to make important contributions to leading research questions. This could be through contributing to the analysis of experimental or observational data, contributing to the development of next generation experiments or instruments, or tackling a current theoretical challenge. Past PHYS 590 students have successfully contributed in each of these areas: a list of PHYS 590 topics from the past few years is available. Some projects have even resulted in collaboration technical notes, conference presentations, and publications.

Course Syllabus

The course syllabus is available here as a PDF file (215 KB). As described therein, the main course deliverables and their relative weights in the grading of the course are:

Research proposal - 2%
Midyear written report draft - 1%
Midyear written report - 18%
Midyear oral presentation - 9%
Final written report draft - 1%
Final written report - 46%
Final poster presentation - 23%

Important Dates

September 2023 - Mandatory organizational meeting.
September 22, 2023 - Research proposal due.
November 9, 2023 - Draft of midyear written reports due.
November 23, 2023 - Midyear written reports due.
Week of December 4, 2023 - Midyear oral presentations.
March 14, 2024 - Draft of final written report due.
March 28, 2024 - Final written report due.
Week of April 8th, 2024 - Final poster presentations.


Updates, Notices, and Archived Presentations

Final Reports and Posters: Final reports are due at 5:00pm on March 28th and the poster session will take place on April 10th. The poster printing deadline is April 5th, with full poster printing instructions available here (240KB). Further information, expectations, and hints for the poster and the final report are available in the course syllabus, in the presentation that I gave on the topic (2.3MB), and in the marking template for the report (150KB) and the marking template for the poster (160KB).

Midyear Reports and Presentations: Midyear reports are due on November 23rd, and midyear presentations will mainly take place in early December. Expectations and hints for the presentation and report can be found in the course syllabus, in the presentation that I gave in November on the topic (available at this link (PDF 2.7 MB), and in the marking template for the report (PDF 140 KB) and the marking template for the presentation (PDF 128 KB).

The slides from the PHYS 590 start-of-year organizational meetings in September 2023 are available here as a PDF file (1.8 MB).

The slides from the brief presentation I gave in March 2023 introducing 590 and describing the topic selection process are available in the file 590 Intro (PDF 840 KB).

Archived: Selecting a Research Advisor

PHYS 590 students select their thesis supervisors at the end of their third year - that is probably why you are looking at this web site!

The main motivation for the early selection is to ensure everyone gets off to a good start in fall term - in the past, when topics were selected in the fall, it would sometimes take until the end of September before all students knew what their topic was. It should be noted that the advanced topic selection is not to be interpreted as an expectation that students will work on their theses over the summer.

To help you in selecting a thesis topic, faculty members have been asked to suggest possible topics. The list, which will be updated from time to time as more suggestions come in, can be found in the file 590 Topics (PDF 60KB ) (last updated April 4, 2023). Many of the topics are rather broad at this point, with the expectation that the student and advisor will develop the specific research plan for the 590 thesis in the fall. Please note also that in many cases Professors who have not submitted topics to the list are still interested in supervising students - so if there is a faculty member you are interested in working with please contact them even if they do not have a topic on the list. It is also fine for you to propose a topic of your own, subject to approval by the course coordinator and provided that you can identify a faculty member willing to supervise the work.

In term of timeline, it is my hope that all students planning to take PHYS 590 next year will have selected a topic and a supervisor (and communicated their selection to me!) by end of May. To prevent anyone from feeling pressured into committing to a topic sooner than they would prefer just to ensure that it doesn't get taken by someone else, there will be a "consultation period" before April 17th during which you are encouraged to think about the available topics and speak with different prospective supervisors, but neither you nor they should commit to anything. After April 17th please confirm with your preferred supervisor that you can work with them and send me an email letting me know that you plan to take 590 and who your faculty advisor will be. Again, it would be great if I could receive that information from you by the end of May.

Course Coordinator

The PHYS 590 course coordinator for 2023-24 is:

Alex Wright
Rm 308A
Stirling Hall
Department of Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy
Queen's University
Kingston, Ontario

Phone: (613) 533-6000 ext. 77856


Should you have any questions or concerns about the course, or if you would just like to discuss your project, please feel free to contact me at any time.