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

First year students are required to enroll in at least one Fall course.

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).
Above course details can be found in the Graduate Studies Calendar.

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-904 (Science Leadership and Management). PHYS 904 will be delivered over twelve 3-hour sessions to Chemistry and Physics students in either of the first two years of their PhD studies (or other graduate students with permission from the course coordinator and supervisor). The first half and last four-week sessions will focus on the development and application of leadership skills, and the second four-week session will focus on the development of management skills, that are useful in scientific positions in industry and academia. To be offered every fall; graded Pass/Fail.

   

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.

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.

The PhD Candidacy Committee

(i) Purpose

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, and that they have a demonstrated ability to initiate and complete independent research. By being examined on the details of their research proposal, and on an independent research question, students may demonstrate adequate depth of understanding and breadth of knowledge in their field. This is a principal requirement of the PhD.

(ii) Examination committee

● The Chair of the Examination Committee (hereafter Exam Chair) will be the member designated by the GSC. If the student’s supervisor would naturally be the Exam Chair, then the GSC shall select another of their members, or another faculty member to serve as Exam Chair in place of the supervisor.

● Ideally, the Exam Chair should be a member of the GSC, and come from the same supergroup as the candidate, but a different sub-area. The two supergroups are defined as 1) Condensed Mater Physics & Optics and Engineering & Applied Physics and 2) Astrophysics, Astronomy, & Relativity and Particle Astrophysics.

● The Exam Chair will, in consultation with the student’s supervisor, select an individual who is well versed in the research area of the thesis proposal (hereafter the Research Expert). Ordinarily, this person would be a member of this department, but the committee may decide that a professor from another department in the University or at a collaborating University is more appropriate. The Research Expert, in consultation with the supervisor, will determine the research question to be posed to the student. (See Section 5.3.2 below).

● The Exam Chair is expected to ensure the exam takes place in a timely and orderly manner, and to ask questions, though they may be more general than those asked by the Research Expert.

● The other member of the Examination Committee will consist of the student’s supervisor.

(iii) Structure of the examination

   (a) 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. The purpose of this part of the exam is to ensure that the student has adequate depth of understanding in their field, and that the proposed thesis topic is appropriate in scope and feasible within the normal times allowed for a PhD. 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. The defense of the thesis proposal will consist of an oral presentation of about 20 minutes duration, followed by a question period. It is expected that the proposal and defense should consist of i) an introduction to the field, ii) a review of work completed to date, and iii) an outline of proposed research, in roughly equal proportions. A small break of 5 to 10 minutes is allowed between the thesis portion and the research question parts of the exam (discussed in the following Section.)

   (b) Research Area Question

Students will receive, from the Exam Chair of their 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 Mater Physics & Optics, Engineering and Applied Physics, Particle Astrophysics, or Medical Physics), but will not be directly associated with their thesis problem. This portion of the candidacy exam is to ensure that the student is able to demonstrate a breadth of understanding in their field and the ability to assimilate information from related disciplines in a coherent way. It is intended that students will work on their research question for approximately three weeks, without guidance from their supervisor. The student will provide a verbal summary of their results during the Candidacy Examination. The presentation is expected to be approximately 20 min in duration and will be followed by questions.

   (c) Timing

● The candidate will be required to submit their written thesis proposal during their fourth term of full-time registration. Deferral of the Candidacy Exam will be allowed, by request and with the support of the supervisor, for at most one additional term.

● Time starts with the submission of the thesis proposal.

● The candidacy exam is scheduled to occur about 4 weeks after submission of the thesis proposal.

● About one week after submission they receive their research area question. The exact timing is set such that the student will have three weeks to work on the question in advance of the examination date.

● The chair is expected to run the exam in a timely manner. Suggested duration:

○ 1 hour for proposal, including 20 minutes presentation and 40 minutes questions

○ 5-10 minute break

○ 1 hour for research question, including 20 minutes presentation and 40 minutes questions

   (d) Examination outcomes

● The outcome of each portion of the exam is determined by the majority of the committee (Research Expert, Exam Chair, supervisor).

● If the student performs satisfactorily on both portions of the Candidacy Exam they will continue in the PhD program.

● 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 would be grounds for dismissal.

● If the candidate is 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.

Back to PhD Candidacy Exam(for students whose first registration in the PhD program is September 2000 or thereafter)

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 would ideally 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