What is Engineering Physics?

Engineering Physics combines Physics and Engineering to solve the most challenging problems in society today.  Some call it “Applied Physics” or “Engineering Sciences”. It is more applied than Physics, and is one of the broadest disciplines in Engineering.  Engineering Physics students will have knowledge of mechanics (Civil and Mechanical Engineering), electricity and magnetism and its application in electronic devices and circuits (Electrical Engineering), computation and simulation (Software and Computer Engineering), Thermodynamics (Chemical Engineering), properties of materials (Materials Science and Engineering), and quantum mechanics (Physics).  As you can see, the program provides a breadth of knowledge that cannot be obtained in any other program. This is the knowledge required to drive technology forward and make a real impact on society today.

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How is Engineering Physics different than Electrical Engineering or Materials Science and Engineering?

Engineering Physics students understand how electronic devices work, not just how to put them together to build electrical circuits. This means that students must also understand some materials properties, so they can design the next generation of devices and their applications.  We learn the essential Physics and materials properties of devices, so you can improve upon or invent new technology.

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Is Engineering Physics for me?

If you like Physics and Math and do well in those subjects, then you’ll also do well in Engineering Physics. We have proven that students typically maintain the same or higher grade in Engineering Physics as they obtained in Level 1 Engineering.

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Is Engineering Physics only for students interested in graduate studies?

No! Less than 20% of undergraduate students will stay for a Master’s degree. The majority find jobs in their field of study.

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Are there jobs in Engineering Physics?

Yes ! Our students find jobs in many areas of science, technology, engineering, and business. A list of jobs is available here.

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What’s special about Engineering Physics at McMaster?

Our program includes studies in photonics, nano- and micro-devices, and nuclear engineering and energy systems.


Photonics and Biomedical Engineering

McMaster’s faculty are world leaders in silicon photonics, which seeks to integrate optical devices (light sources, detectors) with silicon electronics for the next generation of devices.  McMaster’s Department of Engineering Physics also combines facilities for fabricating nano- and micro-devices and facilities for performing biochemical and biological experiments. McMaster’s Biointerfaces Institute, Centre for Emerging Device Technologies, and the Canadian Centre for Electron Microscopy provide state-of-the-art facilities to develop nano-devices, to integrate electronic devices with biological cells and molecules, and to study the interfaces of these very different materials with atomic resolution. These fundamental studies are helping us create more effective and versatile devices and biosensors. For example, our faculty and students are creating biosensors that are similar to glucose monitors in terms of ease-of-use and cost but can be applied to various diseases like heart disease, cancer and infectious diseases.

  • Our faculty and students use the Canadian Centre for Electron Microscopy, featuring Canada’s first electrochemical liquid cell, which allows us to study the interaction of liquids with electronic devices. Leyla Soleymani, for example, is studying the deposition of DNA on solid surfaces for electronic biosensors.
  • The Biointerfaces Institute features high throughput facilities for creating conductive and bio-active inks. Our faculty and students are currently using these for creating printable electronic biosensors.
  • Our students and faculty, such as Qiyin Fang, work on optical spectroscopy and imaging techniques for biomedical applications. Current projects include development of high throughput robotic microscopic imaging systems for high content screening of cancer drug leads; endoscopic optical biopsy systems for screening of cancers in the gastrointestinal track; non-invasive, intraoperative detection of brain tumor margins; and micro- and nano-devices for imaging and sensing.
  • We collaborate with the campus hospital and McMaster Health Sciences for real-world clinical application of our work.
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Nano- and Micro-device Engineering

The Department of Engineering Physics is the leading institution in Canada performing research on nano- and micro-devices.  McMaster’s materials and device fabrication facilities are state-of-the-art, including the Centre for Emerging Device Technologies, the Brockhouse Institute for Materials Research, and the Canadian Centre for Electron Microscopy. Students can study photovoltaics (solar energy), photodetectors, optoelectronics, micro-electro-mechanical systems, quantum information processing (quantum computers), infrared sensors, silicon photonics, and many other areas.  In fourth year, our undergraduate students make an integrated circuit or solar cell, gaining hands-on experience in semiconductor fabrication technology. Our graduate students are conducting leading-edge research in nano- and micro-scale devices.

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Nuclear Engineering and Energy Systems

Canada has several, small “Slowpoke” nuclear reactors (20 kilowatts) at École Polytechnique (Montreal), University of Alberta (Edmonton), Saskatchewan Research Council (Saskatoon), and the Royal Military College (Kingston).  However, McMaster University’s nuclear reactor is 250x more powerful.  Ours is the only large (5 megawatts) nuclear reactor on a University campus, in operation since 1959. It is the second largest nuclear reactor at a University in North America.  Bertram Brockhouse (Physics Nobel Laureate) completed some of his ground-breaking work on neutron scattering using McMaster’s nuclear reactor. This facility continues to enable unique research and education in nuclear technology:

  • Led by Engineering Physics faculty, McMaster’s nuclear reactor produces a high energy positron beam used to probe defects in materials.
  • Led by Engineering Physics faculty, McMaster’s Centre for Advanced Nuclear Systems (CANS) will study and develop new materials for the next generation of nuclear reactors. This lab will be the only one its kind located on a university campus in terms of size and capability to handle irradiated materials from nuclear power reactors.
  • Engineering Physics undergraduate students perform experiments in the campus reactor, including approach to criticality experiments, xenon transient experiments, and neutron flux detector experiments.
  • Engineering Physics graduate students conduct research in nuclear safety analysis, nuclear waste disposal, and nuclear physics.

We are “Canada’s Nuclear University”.

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