Physics 499 Special Projects

Our PHYS 499 Special Projects course is intended for upper year students, usually in the last year of a Specialization or Honours program in Physics. You have the opportunity to work individually on a project in an area of interest to you, under the supervision of a department professor. Often the one-term project is directly related to the professor’s own research area, and the project could be theoretical or experimental.

You may take PHYS 499 in either Fall term or Winter term, and you may take it more than once provided each project is on a different topic. To find a project, if you have an idea of a topic you are interested in pursuing, you may contact a professor working in that area - check the Physics website under Research Areas to see what various professors are working on and to find their contact information.  Or you could take a look at the list of possible projects that various professors have submitted. If there is a project on the list that interests you, you can then contact that professor to discuss the project in more detail.


Because PHYS 499 is closed to web registration, you must contact the Department Undergraduate Advisor to be registered. If you have any questions about PHYS 499, please contact the Undergraduate Advisor.

List of Possible Projects

How do charged particles (i.e. electrons) behave in the presence of a magnetic field?

Electrons reorganize their behaviour in profound ways in the presence of a magnetic field. They tend to form what are known as Landau levels, and form wave functions that are the analogue of their classical counterpart (i.e. cyclotron orbits). But when edges are present (they always are!) this behaviour changes (hence we get exotic phenomena like the Quantum Hall Effect) and we would like to study various geometries where the surface of the sample plays a significant role. You will get to explore gauge transformations, but in a “down to earth” way, and actually work some out on a computer!

Offering: Available in Fall 2019 and Winter 2020

Contact: Dr. Frank Marsiglio, CCIS 3-179,


Electron Correlations in Metals and Superconductors

The undergraduate curriculum in quantum mechanics consists mostly of studies of particles interacting with external potentials. I have in mind a number of projects, generally involving particles (electrons) interacting with one another; this leads to novel states of matter, like superconductivity, magnetism, etc. There are various theoretical approaches, spanning the simplest (quantum mechanics) to the more sophisticated (several many-body formalisms), and projects utilizing either of those will be available. A simple example is a periodic potential with spin-orbit coupling. The presence of spin-orbit coupling in certain lattice types results in exotic phenomena like topological insulators and topological superconductivity. This project will equip a student to understand some of these phenomena in a simple way. Another example is the phenomenon of Anderson Localization due to the presence of defects.

Offering: Available in Fall 2019 and Winter 2020

Contact: Dr. Frank Marsiglio, CCIS 3-179,


Analysis of PICO 40L data

PICO 40L is a dark matter search experiment at SNOLAB that started taking data in summer 2019. The first data from this experiment is being analyzed now and for this project we are looking for dedicated students with python experience to extract physics information from the new chamber. We are interested in the background rates, calibration efficiency and acoustic performance. Students would be collaborating with groups all over Canada and work in a team with local graduate students and post docs. We also have projects for students interested in hardware related projects.

Offering: Available in Fall 2019 and Winter 2020

Contact: Dr. Carsten Krauss, CCIS 2-085,


Planning of the P-ONE neutrino experiment

P-ONE is a new neutrino experiment planned in the Pacific Ocean. The ocean water is an ideal medium to detect neutrinos from the highest energy sources. Ocean based neutrino detection uses Cherenkov light to reconstruct the energy and direction of high energy neutrinos. Our group plays an important role in the determination of the physics program and the optimization of the detector geometry. For this project we are looking for a student with interest in simulation and analysis work. Knowing python is an asset for this project.

Offering: Available in Fall 2019 and Winter 2020

Contact: Dr. Carsten Krauss, CCIS 2-085,


Interaction between internal gravity waves and ocean currents

Internal gravity waves move within the ocean due to buoyancy forces between relatively warm and fresh surface water and the colder and saltier water at depth. While it is known that the tides act to excite the waves globally with a power of 3TW, how the waves ultimately lose their energy to turbulence is unknown. In part, they may break when they reach a coast, but it is estimated that about 30% of the energy is lost within the ocean itself whether due to instability or interaction with eddies and currents. The proposed research will examine the evolution of internal gravity waves as they approach the quasi-steady currents at the equator. You will run fully nonlinear numerical simulations written in C to study and diagnose the nature of energy transfers between the waves and currents. The interpretation of the results may be guided by the application of WKB theory (ray tracing).

Offering: Available in Fall 2019

Contact: Dr Bruce Sutherland, CCIS 3-269,


MRI Measurement of Magnetic Moment of Small Part

Ferromagnetic materials (e.g., coins, paper clips) are forbidden in the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) environment for two reasons:

a) attraction and torque create an important safety hazard to patient and operator;
b) when inside the MRI magnet such materials compromise image quality because the material distorts the highly homogeneous magnetic field.

The amount of distortion depends on the permeability and amount of ferromagnetic material present, i.e., its magnetic moment. We often need to place devices (e.g., radio frequency detector coils, monitoring devices for vitals) near the patient in the MRI scanner, and it is challenging to find parts (e.g., electronic components, fasteners) with a guaranteed absence of ferromagnetic material. We therefore need a method to measure the magnetic moment of small parts to determine their suitability for MRI use. The student will develop this method using MRI to scan the space around the part (BME564 is an asset), and write the equations and software to extract the magnetic moment from the MR images.

Offering: Available in Fall 2019 and Winter 2020

Contact: Dr. Nicola De Zanche (Medical Physics, Cross Cancer Institute),