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Independent Study

Fourth year research project courses

Each student will be assigned a project in consultation with a supervisor. Written reports and oral presentations are required!

Physics 598 F(0-9)

Honours research thesis

Prerequisite(s): PHYS 443, 449, 455 and consent of the department

Physics 599 H(0-9)

Senior research thesis

Prerequisite(s): consent of the department

Please note that PHYS 599 is a decimalized course and may be repeated once for credit.

Experimental projects: 599.01 and 599.02
Theoretical or computational: 599.03 and 599.04

PHYS 598 is meant for honours students, but students majoring in physics or astrophysics are permitted to take PHYS 598 in lieu of PHYS 599 if they prefer.

Students majoring in physics or astrophysics instead take PHYS 599. One semester of PHYS 599 fulfills the major requirement. However, a student is allowed to take PHYS 599 twice. Two enrolments require two different decimal numbers (two distinctive course codes).

A project can be planned for eight months with an assessment performed and grade assigned upon completion of the first PHYS 599 course (in the first semester). The introductory report and first presentation for the second PHYS 599 course (second semester) can build on the final report and presentation for the first course (first semester).

Students are advised to browse faculty members’ research pages across campus to find a supervisor and project that seems interesting, and to contact them directly about possible supervision/projects.

Students should contact potential supervisors as early as possible.

Projects are offered on a competitive basis and students should approach potential supervisors in a professional manner. Students should work with the supervisor to develop a research project and plan. A completed proposal includes the student and course details, project title, and a paragraph project description.

After this, students should submit a completed proposal through the Independent Research Course webform.  Note: The Project Description in the submitted form should be a short paragraph of maximum 150 words outlining the objectives and scope (i.e. proposed activities) of the project, and where applicable the contribution of the project to a research program or a larger research project. 

Once submitted, an email is generated and received by the USC and forwarded onward to the supervisor for review and approval.

Upon receipt of the webform via email, the supervisor committing to supervision of the student will then forward their acceptance to the convener for endorsement, with a copy to the physics and astronomy undergraduate associate head. The convener performs a quality check of the submitted project before forwarding their endorsement to the physics and astronomy undergraduate associate head.

The associate head makes the final decision on whether the student can enroll in PHYS 598 or PHYS 599; in particular, enrolment in PHYS 598 requires prior successful completion of PHYS 443, 449, and 455, in addition to permission of the department.

After receiving the appropriate approvals from all involved:  the supervisor, convener, and associate head undergraduate - a staff member in the USC will enroll the student into the course.

While students majoring in Physics or pursuing an honour’s degree in Astrophysics are expected to enroll in PHYS 599 to complete their degree requirements, under special circumstances they may elect to enroll in PHYS 598 instead. Students pursuing an honour’s Physics degree are expected to enroll in PHYS 598. Please note that enrolling in two separate PHYS 599 courses is allowed, but entails considerably more work than enrolling in one (two-term) PHYS 598 course.

A student is expected to spend about 12 hours per week during the semester to complete course tasks.

  1. Introductory report

    The introductory report should include the topic of investigation and a brief background, motivation for the investigation, a brief literature survey, and an outline of the method of investigation. The report should be a maximum one page in length, not including references. It should be single spaced in 12-point font and must state both the student’s and supervisor's names below the title. Use a preferred journal's style guide for reference.

  2. First presentation

    The content of the introductory report is pitched to fellow undergraduate students. The oral presentation is strictly seven minutes long with three minutes for questions.

  3. Interim report

    The interim report should summarize the project’s progress to date. It is a maximum of two pages in length including germane figures and tables and references. It should be single spaced and in the same format as the introductory report. It must be approved by the supervisor.

  4. Final report

    The final report should be in the style of a journal article with section headings. It can be up to 20 pages double spaced in length (10 pages in the case of PHYS 599), not including appendices or references. In order to achieve an excellent grade, PHYS 598 final reports must demonstrate a substantial effort in an original research or development project in the field of study. PHYS 599 final reports need to demonstrate a substantial effort in contributing to a research or development project in the field of study.

  5. Final presentation

    For PHYS 598, the final presentation is a 20-minute oral presentation (including 5 minutes for questions and comments). For PHYS 599, the final presentation is a 15-minute oral presentation (including 3 minutes for questions and comments).

  1. The Craft of Scientific Writing (Third Edition)

    Author: Michael Alley
    Publisher: Springer

  2. The Craft of Scientific Presentations (Critical steps to succeed and critical errors to avoid)

    Author: Michael Alley
    Publisher: Springer