Combined Honours in Physics and Computer Science

There have always been strong connections between Computer Science and Physics but recently new ones have emerged. For example, there is now a world wide effort in the field of quantum computing where the classical bit of information is replaced by a quantum bit or Q-bit which carries additional quantum phase information. While the development of algorithms that could run on a quantum computer is well underway the reality of building a functional quantum computer presents a greater challenge. Many of the brightest minds in the Physics world, some of them here at UBC, are currently working towards this goal.

The other strengthening link between CPSC and PHYS is in the area of Computational Physics where important problems in physics are solved using novel algorithms and high performance computation (HPC, a.k.a. supercomputing; the WestGrid facility, e.g.). Areas of application literally encompass all of physics, astrophysics, astronomy, engineering, nanoscience, particle physics, etc. UBC offers an upper level undergraduate course, PHYS 410, in this emerging area. Further undergraduate offerings are in development, and are likely to include courses in 1) continuum problems, 2) statistical and quantum problems and 3) measurement, analysis and interface design.

This program is designed for strong students with an interest in both Physics and Computer Science. Graduates are very well prepared for graduate studies in either Department but they can also choose to go directly into the work force. Graduates who focus and excel in Computational Physics will find themselves extremely sought after by the burgeoning number of major North American centres for graduate research in Computational Science.

A coop option is also available for this program.

Below is a description of the course requirements. Please be aware the official requirements for the program are listed in the UBC calendar - please see the appropriate calendar section for more information.

First Year
Communication Requirement1 3
CHEM 121 (or 111)2 4
CPSC 110, 1215 8
MATH 120 (or 100 or 102 or 104 or 110 or 180 or 184)2 4
MATH 121 (or 101 or 103 or 105)2 4
PHYS 107, 108, 109 (or 117, 118, 119)2,3 7
Electives4 3
Total Credits 33

1A total of six credits of course work is required to meet the Communication requirement. ENGL 112 is recommended. For a full list of acceptable courses see Communication Requirements.

2If an alternate course is taken with a different credit value one should adjust the number of elective credits to compensate. The number of electives in each year is chosen to balance the total number of credits (i.e., make the yearly total close to 33). However, since the number of available elective credits may not be a multiple of three, students are permitted to move elective credits between years. First-year physics, biology, chemistry, and mathematics can be replaced by SCIE 001.

3Advanced Credit or Placement in Physics provide excellent preparation but they are NOT a substitute for these courses, which are required prerequisites for all second year Physics courses in this program. Students with AP credits should contact the Department for advice. Students without Physics 12 must take PHYS 100 prior to PHYS 101 or 107 or 117. Students that took PHYS 101 may enter the specialization but will need to take PHYS 107, 117, or 170 before the required PHYS 216.

4The number of electives in each year is chosen to balance the total number of credits (i.e., make the yearly total close to 33). However, since the number of available elective credits may not be a multiple of three, students are permitted to move elective credits between years. Students interested in senior chemistry courses or who are planning to enter a career in teaching are reminded that they should take a second course of introductory chemistry. Elective credits together with required courses must fulfill the Faculty of Science’s:
a) Foundational Requirement;
b) Laboratory Science Requirement;
c) Science Breadth Requirement;
d) Science and Arts Requirements;
e) Upper-level Requirement;
f) General Degree Requirements.

5Students pursuing a Co-op option in Computer Science are advised to also take CPSC 210 in their first year or in the summer following their first year. Co-op students will then be in a position to take one or both of CPSC 221 and CPSC 213 in term one of second year before going out on a Co-op work term.

Second Year
Communication Requirement1 3
CPSC 210, 213, 221 12
MATH 215, 2176, 223 (or 221)9 10
PHYS 200, 219, 229 7
Arts Elective2,4 3
Total Credits 35
6May be replaced with MATH 200 and MATH 317 (using three elective credits).
Third Year
6 credits from CPSC 302, 303, 313 6
CPSC 310, 320 7
MATH 316 3
PHYS 203, 216, 301, 319 (or 309) 13
Electives4 6
Total Credits 35
Fourth Year
PHYS 304 3
6 credits from 4th year PHYS electives7 6
Additional CPSC courses numbered 300 or above 6
PHYS 449 or CPSC 4498 6
3 credits from CPSC 402, 406, MATH 405 3
Electives4 5
Total Credits 29
Total Credits for Degree 132

7Fourth-year PHYS electives are ASTR 403, 404, 406; MATH 345, 401, 402, 405, 418, 420, 450; PHYS 400, 401, 402, 403, 405, 407, 410, 437, 447, 473, 474. Qualified students are encouraged to take 500-level Physics courses for which they must have permission of the Faculty of Science and the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

8Students who elect to take CPSC 449 must take CPSC 349 in their third year.

9 Students with credit for MATH 152 prior to entering this specialization can substitute it for MATH 223. MATH 223 or MATH 221 can be taken in first year. Eligible students are highly recommended to take MATH 223.