About Engineering Physics


The Faculty of Engineering was approved by Senate in February 1958.  In the Faculty’s first two years, the Department of Engineering Physics was one of the first five programs established.

Engineering Physics is the study of physics concepts as they apply to engineering.

Engineering Physics is an interdisciplinary field of study where new and advanced materials, devices and systems are engineered based on our fundamental understanding of physics. Our faculty and students are involved in pushing the envelope of new technologies. These are the tools being used to develop today’s and tomorrow’s advanced technologies in fields as diverse as:


Photonics is the branch of science and engineering that involves the generation, control, and detection of light to provide useful applications for society. In the past two decades, Photonics Engineering has emerged as an important new discipline, partly due to an explosive growth in fibre optic communications. The application of light also extends to many other industries such as medicine, biophotonics, sensors, displays, nanotechnology, manufacturing, and traditional optical engineering.

Laser light is one of the greatest inventions of the past century, with significant impact on modern life. From manufacturing to medicine, the application of light is everywhere.

In the Engineering Physics Photonics stream, an understanding of the science behind the application of light is gained through courses that explore concepts from a theoretical and an applied industrial perspective.

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Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS)

Micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) are small integrated devices or systems that combine electrical and mechanical components. They range in size from the sub micrometer (or sub micron) level to the millimeter level, and there can be any number, from a few to millions, in a particular system. MEMS extend the fabrication techniques developed for the integrated circuit industry to add mechanical elements such as beams, gears, diaphragms, and springs to devices.

Examples of MEMS device applications include inkjet-printer cartridges, accelerometers, miniature robots, microengines, locks, inertial sensors, microtransmissions, micromirrors, micro actuators, optical scanners, fluid pumps, transducers, and chemical, pressure and flow sensors. New applications are emerging as the existing technology is applied to the miniaturization and integration of conventional devices.

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Mechatronics Engineering is a modern discipline that transcends the boundaries between Embedded Systems, Mechanical, Electrical, and Computer Engineering. Mechatronics Engineering is commonly defined as “The discipline that focuses on the design and control of electro-mechanical devices” or “the integration of electronics, control engineering and mechanical engineering.”

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Nano-System Engineering

Devices that are constructed on the nanometre or micrometre scale are the technological backbone of the modern age of computers and high-tech communication. Since the introduction of the integrated circuit in the 1960’s, device components have decreased in size and cost at an exponential rate, while increasing in speed and capabilities. The rapid advances in computer capabilities has transformed the worldwide economy and has led to a more prosperous society.

The invention of the transistor in 1947 is an example of an engineering feat that has changed the world, leading to a $500 billion a year industry in integrated circuit fabrication.

In the Nano & Micro Devices stream, students gain an understanding of device science and engineering through a series of courses and hands-on device fabrication. In Level 4, students will fabricate and test a working integrated circuit using industrially relevant processes.

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Nuclear Engineering

Nuclear engineering involves the application of scientific principles, engineering design and analysis, computer modeling and simulation, and government regulation for the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

In the Nuclear Engineering & Energy Systems stream an understanding of the fundamentals of energy technology are explored in depth. Courses cover a broad range of skills which are transferable among all the energy sectors. Principles of alternative energy sources such as photovoltaics (solar cells), fuel cells, and wind power are explored in depth.

The nuclear engineering component of the McMaster program was one of the first of its kind created in Canada, and is one of the most prestigious in the country. Students also have the opportunity to complete labs in McMaster’s very own nuclear reactor.

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Sustainable Energy Systems

Sustainable energy systems is the assessment of current and future energy systems, covering resources, extraction, conversion with emphasis on meeting regional and global energy needs in a sustainable manner.  Different renewable and conventional energy technologies and their attributes.  Evaluation and analysis of energy technology systems in the context of political, social, economic and environmental goals.

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Optoelectronics is the study and application of electronic devices that source, detect and control light, usually considered a sub-field of photonics. In this context, light often includes invisible forms of radiation such as gamma rays, X-rays, ultraviolet and infrared, in addition to visible light. Optoelectronic devices are electrical-to-optical or optical-to-electrical transducers, or instruments that use such devices in their operation. Electro-optics is often erroneously used as a synonym, but is in fact a wider branch of physics that deals with all interactions between light and electric fields, whether or not they form part of an electronic device.

Optoelectronics is based on the quantum mechanical effects of light on electronic materials, especially semiconductors, sometimes in the presence of electric fields.

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Semiconductor Devices

Semiconductor devices are electronic components that exploit the electronic properties of semiconductor materials, principally silicon, germanium, and gallium arsenide, as well as organic semiconductors. Semiconductor devices have replaced thermionic devices (vacuum tubes) in most applications. They use electronic conduction in the solid state as opposed to the gaseous state or thermionic emission in a high vacuum.

Semiconductor devices are manufactured both as single discrete devices and as integrated circuits (ICs), which consist of a number—from a few (as low as two) to billions—of devices manufactured and interconnected on a single semiconductor substrate, or wafer.

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The term biophotonics denotes a combination of biology and photonics, with photonics being the science and technology of generation, manipulation, and detection of photons, quantum units of light. Photonics is related to electronics and photons. Photons play a central role in information technologies such as fiber optics the way electrons do in electronics.

Biophotonics can also be described as the “development and application of optical techniques, particularly imaging, to the study of biological molecules, cells and tissue”. One of the main benefits of using optical techniques which make up biophotonics is that they preserve the integrity of the biological cells being examined.

Biophotonics has therefore become the established general term for all techniques that deal with the interaction between biological items and photons. This refers to emission, detection, absorption, reflection, modification, and creation of radiation from biomolecular, cells, tissues, organisms and biomaterials. Areas of application are life science, medicine, agriculture, and environmental science. Similar to the differentiation between “electric” and “electronics” a difference can be made between applications, which use light mainly to transfer energy via light (like Therapy or surgery) and applications which excite matter via light and transfer information back to the operator (like diagnostics). In most cases the term biophotonics is only referred to the second case.

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See below to view the “Welcome to Engineering Physics Pep Talk 2016” for incoming 2nd year students!