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Physics and Astronomy

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Thesis-based program

Program overview

Doctoral students in Physics and Astronomy have the opportunity to make original and significant contributions to science within a department recognized globally for leading research. The PhD program appeals to students planning a career in academia, government labs, leadership roles, and industry. The programs connects students with state-of-the-art experimental and computational facilities both here and at collaborating institutions, and with world-renowned researchers in one of six focus areas: Astronomy and Astrophysics, Complexity, Environmental and Isotope Physics, Radiation Oncology Physics, Quantum Information and Quantum, Atomic, and Molecular Optics, and Space Physics. These focus areas lie within program specializations that students apply to: Physics, Astrophysics, Space Physics or Radiation Oncology Physics (including Medical Imaging/Medical Physics).

The PhD under Radiation Oncology Physics (ROP) is a Commission on Accreditation of Medical Physics Education Program (CAMPEP) accredited program. Students interested in this specialization typically have a MSc from a CAMPEP accredited program or closely related degree to be admitted. The PhD specializing in ROP is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Physics Education Programs (CAMPEP) and provides didactic background, research experience and clinical training for a career in Radiation Oncology Physics. The majority of our graduates have gone on to residencies in Clinical Radiation Oncology Physics in Canada and beyond.

The department's per capita funding level is the highest within UCalgary's Faculty of Science. Admission is competitive, favouring students who demonstrate academic excellence and leadership.

Completing this program

  • Astronomy & Astrophysics: Research topics may include radio, optical, infrared and space astronomy, computational astrophysics, star formation, the interstellar medium, and general relativity.

  • Isotope and Environmental Physics: Research topics may include nuclear decay processes, the effect of human activity on the environment, the development of analytical and instrumental techniques, isotope composition of trace gases and aerosols, source apportionment studies, and isotope fractionation.

  • Radiation Oncology Physics: Research topics may include intensity modulated and image guided radiation therapy, prostate brachytherapy, and stereotactic radiosurgery.

  • Space Physics: Research topics may include precipitation mechanisms, remote sensing magnetospheric dynamics, and the solar-terrestrial interaction.

  • Complexity: Research topics may include complex networks, self-organized criticality, statistical and computational physics, and non-linear dynamics.

  • Quantum Information and Quantum, Atomic, and Molecular Optics: Research topics may include the study of information, communication and computation using devices that are governed by quantum principle as well as the interaction between light and matter.

  • Candidacy: Students will prepare a thesis proposal as well as take an oral exam on background knowledge of the research topic and the student's proposal.

  • Thesis: Students will be required to submit and defend an original research thesis.


  • Astrophysics
  • Medical Physics
  • Physics
  • Radiation Oncology Physics
  • Space Physics
  • Computational Neuroscience (interdisciplinary)
  • Medical Imaging (interdisciplinary)


Researcher, technician, radiation oncology, medical or clinical physicist, professor, instructor, data science/mining, communications, journalism, entrepreneur, environmental, financial, strategic management and/or IT consultant, quantitative analyst, risk assessment, insurance, bioinformatics.

A PhD in physics and astronomy is usually considered a final degree; in some cases, students may pursue postdoctoral work.

Thesis-based program

Students are required to prepare a thesis and successfully defend in an open oral defense.

Classroom delivery

Time commitment

Four years full-time; six years maximum


A supervisor is required, but is not required prior to the start of the program

Fees and funding

See the Graduate Calendar for information on fees and fee regulations, and for information on awards and financial assistance.

Virtual Tour

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Learn about faculty available to supervise this degree.
Please note: additional supervisors may be available. Contact the program for more information.

  1. Paul Barclay

    Paul Barclay

    Seeking Students
    Nanophotonics, quantum optics, nanoscience, nano-optomechanics
  2. Shabir Barzanjeh, Assistant professor.

    Shabir Barzanjeh

    Seeking Students
    Quantum Communication and Quantum Interface (optomechanics, electromechanics, circuitQED), Quantum Sensing and Imaging
  3. Christopher Cully

    Christopher Cully

    Accepting Inquiries
    Space Physics, Space-based, balloon-based and ground-based instrumentation, Van Allen Radiation Belts, Wave-particle interactions, Ion outflow, Kinetic plasma theory, Spacecraft-plasma interactions
  4. Jörn Davidsen

    Jörn Davidsen

    Seeking Students
    Complexity Science, Spreading & triggering processes, Fluid-induced seismicity, Computational neuroscience & the critical brain, Rock fracture & frictional sliding, Statistical seismology, Network neuroscience, Synchronization & chimera states, Sociophysics, Climate dynamics & climate networks
  5. David Knudsen

    David Knudsen

    Seeking Students
    Space Plasma Physics
  6. Placeholder Profile Image

    Denis Leahy

    Accepting Inquiries
    High Energy Astrophysics
  7. Placeholder Profile Image

    Nasser Moazzen-Ahmadi

    Accepting Inquiries
    Molecular Physics, Chemical Physics
  8. Daniel Oblak

    Daniel Oblak

    Accepting Inquiries
    Quantum Information
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    Rene Plume

    Accepting Inquiries
  10. Barry C Sanders

    Barry Sanders

    Accepting Inquiries
    Quantum Information

Admission Requirements


A minimum of 3.3 GPA on a 4.0 point system, over the past two years of full-time study (a minimum of 10 full-course equivalents or 60 units) of the undergraduate degree.

Minimum education

An MSc degree (or equivalent) in physics, engineering physics, astronomy/astrophysics or a related scientific field.

Work samples




Reference letters


Test scores

All foreign applicants must submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) Physics subject score

English language proficiency (ELP)

An applicant whose primary language is not English may fulfill the English language proficiency requirement in one of the following ways:

*Please contact your program of interest if you have any questions about ELP requirements.


For admission on September 1:

Canadians and permanent residents: Jan. 15 application deadline

International students: Jan. 15 application deadline

If you're not a Canadian or permanent resident, or if you have international credentials, make sure to learn about international requirements

Learn more about this program

Department of Physics and Astronomy

Science B 605
834 Campus Place NW
Calgary, AB T2N 1N4
403. 220.3618

Contact the Graduate Program Administrator

Visit the departmental website

Faculty of Science

Biological Sciences, Room 540
2500 University Drive NW
Calgary, AB T2N 1N4

Visit the Faculty of Science website

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