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Programs / Science / Applied Physics

Program Summary

Applied Physics is the basis of modern technology, including modern telecommunications, photonics, computer technology, medical imaging and cancer therapies.

Our Honours Applied Physics program combines studies in modern physics, optics and electronics, math and computer science. As part of your credits for this program, you may opt to take courses in finance, organizational management and entrepreneurship and earn a minor in Business in addition to your degree in Applied Physics.

World-class research

Carleton University’s Department of Physics is engaged in intensive research in particle physics and medical physics.

Theoretical particle physics research includes work on electroweak models, quantum chromodynamics, string theory and other extensions to the standard model of particle physics.

Internationally recognized physicists from Carleton helped direct the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory and led the development of the facility to a new extraordinary laboratory for astro-particle physics research. The group is exploring a follow-up experiment which aims to detect neutrino-less double beta decay in xenon thus elucidating further properties of the neutrino, which could be of great cosmological significance.

The ATLAS detector at CERN, (the European particle physics laboratory near Geneva), is taking data with the highest-energy accelerator in the world, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The unique expertise and facilities at Carleton have helped construct the complex detectors for ATLAS that are used to decipher the particle collisions at the LHC.

Medical physics is the innovative, relevant and practical application of physics to improve health care. Medical physics researchers develop new technologies for the diagnosis, treatment and understanding of disease. Current work at Carleton includes x-ray imaging, computer simulations for radiotherapy dosimetry and treatment planning, and image guiding techniques for accurate delivery of radiotherapy and surgery.

University faculty and students work closely with physicists at centres such as the Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre, the National Research Council of Canada, the Ottawa Heart Institute, Health Canada, CERN, SNOLAB and TRIUMF.

Co-op opportunities

In recognition of the value of hands-on experience in today’s competitive job market, Carleton’s Department of Physics offers a co-op option.

Through a sequence of four- or eight-month work terms, qualified full-time Honours students have an excellent opportunity to apply academic studies to a real work environment as well as to explore various career possibilities. Placements are available at local high tech companies, government laboratories or health care institutions in the Ottawa region and beyond.

Carleton University’s location in the nation’s capital places you within the highest concentration of scientific and technical expertise in the country, providing you unparalleled access to both personnel and resource material.

The National Research Council of Canada, renowned for its exceptional research programs, and government organizations, such as Health Canada, the Communications Research Centre and Defence Research and Development Canada, are based in Ottawa.

A wealth of scientific talent, including many physicists, can be found working in the area with high-tech industry leaders as well as in medical imaging and cancer treatment facilities.

Bachelor of Science (BSc) (Honours)

All of the department’s programs emphasize problem-solving techniques and the development of critical-thinking skills. Computation skills are also developed as a tool for applying physics in the modern world.

In the fourth year of all of our Honours programs, you will undertake a major individual project, done under the supervision of a faculty member.

Honours in Applied Physics

This degree enhances your physics education with additional courses in computing and electronics. Education in applied physics hones your ability to solve analytic problems and to work quantitatively. The program has also been designed to make it possible to complete a minor in Business without taking additional credits. The available courses include finance, organizational management and entrepreneurship.

First-year experience

Carleton introduces you to issues of contemporary science in a first-year seminar, Seminar in Science (NSCI 1000). If you choose this elective, you will attend six special lectures given by prominent Canadian researchers, as well as small group seminars led by a professor who acts as both your mentor and teacher. Through assignments, presentations and discussions, you will develop the analytical and communication skills needed for success in the world of science.

The workplace

A degree in Physics can lead to:

■ employment in the high tech sector and at national laboratories

■ working as a medical physicist helping to plan patient treatment in a clinical setting

■ developing emerging technologies such as photonics and nanotechnology

■ applying analytic skills to business or finance

Graduate studies

Graduates of the Honours programs may be eligible to go on to graduate studies. Since all programs provide a sound foundation in the fundamentals of physics, graduate work in a variety of fields is possible, including particle physics, optics, astrophysics, condensed matter physics and medical physics.

Applied Physics graduates may choose a career in management, business or finance in addition to their more familiar roles in government, teaching, research and development.

Professional programs

Many professional programs, including law, business, medicine and teaching, encourage well-rounded applicants from a variety of backgrounds to apply. Physics provides a strong foundation for a number of these programs.

What students are saying about Applied Physics


The Physics Department at Carleton is welcoming and friendly, with a wonderful sense of camaraderie among the students, and no one feels like just a number. If you never imagined that you could participate in prestigious international collaborations as an undergraduate, think again—Carleton professors can open the door for you to their world-leading research. Whether searching for the Higgs boson or developing new radiation treatments for cancer, you can discover your research interests, build a network of contacts in your field, and gain a wealth of highly relevant skills. My experiences at Carleton have empowered me to pursue success in graduate school and in launching my career.
Miriam Diamond, Physics student (Theory Stream)