Why do your PhD in Physics at Dal?

Dalhousie is one of Canada's leading research-intensive universities, with an international reputation and world-class research facilities. Our graduate programs in Physics and Atmospheric Science provide students opportunities for research on campus with professors who are leaders in their particular fields of expertise.

Housed in a historic building located at the main Halifax campus, the Department of Physics and Atmospheric Science features newly renovated research laboratories containing a wide range of highly specialized, state-of-the-art instrumentation.

Our master's students conduct outstanding research in every area of physics, with guidance from faculty members, post-doctoral workers, undergraduate students and technical support staff.

Our faculty members hold an impressive number of prestigious research chairs. As well, the large number of research grants garnered by our faculty reflect the excellence of our department and our graduate studies programs.

You'll find our atmosphere is highly collegial with many collaborations and interactions between research groups. Coming to Dalhousie for Physics and Atmospheric Science ensures you're on the right track to an engaging career.

Program details

Choose a research supervisor

Before you begin your studies at Dalhousie, we encourage you to visit the department or start an email correspondence with faculty members whose research interests you. The best way to find a research supervisor whose interests best match yours is to:

  • Discuss ideas and projects with several prospective supervisors
  • Ask faculty members for descriptions of possible research projects
  • Write to the Graduate Secretary for general information

Program structure

First year:

  • Carry out research
  • Take and pass two or three graduate-level courses
  • Serve as a teaching assistant (TA) for undergraduate courses
  • Meet with a supervisor and supervisory committee before the year’s end

Second year:

  • Continue research
  • Finish coursework
  • Serve as a teaching assistant (TA) for undergraduate courses
  • Submit PhD Qualifying Report and pass an oral examination
  • Deliver a departmental seminar on a topic unrelated to your research
  • Meet with a supervisor and supervisory committee before the year’s end

Third year:

  • Continue your research
  • Finish course requirements
  • Serve as a teaching assistant (TA) for undergraduate courses
  • Meet with a supervisor and supervisory committee before the year’s end

Fourth year:

  • Continue and complete research
  • Deliver a departmental seminar on your research
  • Submit a PhD thesis and pass the oral examination

Further information:

Read Faculty of Graduate Studies regulations for detailed information about graduate studies programs at Dalhousie

Transfer from MSc to PhD

An MSc candidate may transfer to the PhD program without completing an MSc degree if the following criteria are met:

  • Candidate must have performed well in research
  • Candidate must have a first-class record in graduate coursework

Students require the consent of the research supervisor and supervisory committee and a successful completion of the PhD qualifying examination in order to transfer programs.

Program requirements

A minimum of three half-credit courses is normally required to complete the PhD program course requirement. Students should complete a total of seven half-credit graduate courses beyond their undergraduate degree, including those from the MSc. The Supervisory Committee has the right to require additional courses, beyond the minimum, depending on the student’s background.

A qualifying examination will be taken in the first half of the PhD program. 

At the end of the program, a public (oral) defence of the thesis with an external examiner will be arranged.

Qualifying report

Within 18 months of registering in the PhD in Physics and Atmospheric Science program, students must submit a qualifying report of up to 70 pages. This report should include a literature survey and a significant research proposal for the PhD thesis. This is followed by an oral examination.

PhD defense

A PhD defence is open to the public and the Faculty of Graduate Studies arranges and publicizes the PhD defence in consultation with the supervisor and the student.

The PhD candidate makes a 20-minute oral presentation of the work, and then the members of the Examination Committee question the candidate. The external examiner, the members of the supervisory committee and the supervisor vote on the outcome of the thesis defence.

Important dates

Admission deadlines

  • For September: June 1st (Canadian), April 1st (Non-Canadian)
  • For January: November 15th (Canadian), August 31 (Non-Canadian)
  • For May admission: February 28/29 (Canadian), December 31 (non-Canadian)
  • If you have missed an application deadline, please contact the department directly to inquire if there is still room in the program.

Funding deadlines: