Computational physics can be seen as the evolution of the field that was once called Mathematical Physics. Such an evolution has been brought about by the tremendous technological progress, especially that made over the past two decades, in the development of large scale computing facilities, and their ensuing utilization to the solution of problems in physics which do not lend themselves to exact analytical treatments.
In 1986, the American Physical Society officially recognized the existence of this well-defined branch of physics by creating the Division of Computational Physics, whose goals are "to promote research and development in computational physics, enhance the prestige and professional standing of its members, encourage scholarly publication, and promote international cooperation in these activities".
The general idea consists of developing general, powerful algorithms applicable to diverse problems in areas of physics that could be very far from one another (e.g., quantum chromodynamics and statistical mechanics). Research in computational physics at University of Alberta focuses on the development of novel Monte Carlo methods applicable to current problems of quantum statistical mechanics.