APSC 100 FAQs - ENPH
Below are frequently asked questions and answers relating to the ENPH program.
What is Engineering Physics?
Engineering Physics is a unique engineering + science degree that blends the analytical rigor and strength of a physics degree with the practical, real-world technology training of an engineering degree. Students graduating from Engineering Physics will have training equivalent to an Honors Physics degree plus accredited engineering training in Electrical and Mechanical engineering.
The scientific core of the program is ideal for students who wish to work as Research Engineers. Our graduates typically work in jobs where basic science as well as engineering must be applied to create fundamentally novel devices, methods, models, and products. Engineering Physics graduates, by nature of the underlying physics training, are uniquely suited to solving the most difficult engineering problems where existing solutions do not apply.
The breadth of mechanical, electrical, and software training in the program also provides excellent training for students wishing to work in positions of technical leadership, systems engineering, electromechanical engineering, and entrepreneurship. The program’s breadth is unparalleled and well suited to anyone who will supervise scientists and engineers from multiple disciplines. As such, graduates from our program can be found in leadership positions at numerous high tech companies and universities.
We are accredited by the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board, allowing our graduates to become designated as Professional Engineers.
What are examples of the typical types of work or tasks that someone in Engineering Physics does?
Engineering Physics graduates frequently work at the interface of research and engineering. For example, an Engineering Physicist may work on performing laboratory experiments to understand new applications of fundamental science, and then progress to building prototype products using this new understanding. In a real sense, Engineering Physics graduates are trained to be “Inventors”: people who will explore new approaches in science to develop real products that have not previously existed.
One result of the breadth of training is that Engineering Physics graduates often work across disciplines. They may work on physics experiments one day, design mechanical systems another day, build electronic or microcontroller systems, and design control software. Our graduate’s ability to work on multiple aspects of projects frequently leads them into positions where they take responsibility for entire projects single-handedly.
Here are some links to projects developed by our students:
Magnetic Levitation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BC0AZWXk224
Raman Scanner for Skin Analysis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIZIr_afGco
3D Printer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_b6hFFcLh_Q
Ocean Current Monitor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-1pa1ORIfM
Titanoboa Art Project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yul4QljYnV4
Electric Race Car: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKUKtwfM4lo
What distinguishes Engineering Physics from other engineering programs at UBC?
Engineering Physics is the only UBC program to provide the equivalent of a complete physics degree within a broad electrical and mechanical engineering program. In addition, it has the distinction of being regarded as the most challenging engineering program the university offers – a distinction that is widely recognized and valued by employers.
Engineering Physics is partly administered by the Physics and Astronomy Department in the Faculty of Science, thus allowing access to some unique prototyping facilities in that department that are dedicated for Engineering Physics undergraduates. These include four separate prototyping and project facilities including a waterjet cutter, laser cutter, 3D printers, and a full machine shop. We have a project laboratory with dedicated staff to help students develop their engineering projects. Unlike other programs who offer a capstone design course in their final year, we have two such courses: one in year four and one in year five. Many students embark on projects within these courses that lead to collaborations with industry and permanent employment, and in some cases, patents and company spin-offs.
What are the typical courses that someone in Engineering Physics takes?
In Engineering Physics, you will take a full set of math and physics courses, with enough emphasis in these topics to allow you to progress after graduation directly to a PhD in physics if you wish to do so. In addition, you will take the most important courses from both mechanical and electrical engineering, including mechanical design, fluid mechanics, circuit theory, circuit design, control theory, introduction to microprocessors, mechanics of materials, and other courses critical to a fundamental understanding of these two main topic areas.
You will also take our own design and prototyping courses, including our intense ENPH 253 Introduction to Instrument design: a robotic competition based course:
- Correction: Engineering Physics is 175 - 180 credits total
As an Engineering Physics student, you will be able to choose six courses in the program at your discretion as long as they are technical in nature. These can include not only additional engineering courses, but science and business courses. Biology, entrepreneurship, astronomy, computer science, sustainability, math, earth science, and pre-med courses are all allowed technical electives.
What is a typical course load in Engineering Physics?
Engineering Physics consists of nine academic terms (including First Year Engineering) interspersed with Co-op work terms. Students typically take four years to finish the degree after completing First Year, for a total of five years. The typical work load in Engineering Physics is ~ 20 credits per term, or six to seven courses per term.
What options or streams are there in Engineering Physics?
Engineering Physics has merged all its options into a single, multi-disciplinary core, while freeing up six technical electives for students to specialize in directions of their own choosing. While traditional Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Engineering specializations can still be pursued and noted on the transcript, students may choose to specialize in Bioengineering, Biophysics, Applied Physics, Applied Mathematics, Materials Engineering, Astronomy, and Technology Entrepreneurship among others. While the courses in these specializations are entirely the student’s choice, with guidance and approval provided by the Director, these specializations are not noted on the transcript.
Engineering Physics also offers a version of the program that includes one or more terms spent studying abroad, as part of the Coordinated International Exchange program. In this case, technical electives are taken while studying at TUDelft (Holland), EPFL (Switzerland), DTU (Denmark), or other approved foreign Universities.
What types of industries and jobs does someone in Engineering Physics work in?
Our graduates work in a variety of industry types, including automotive (eg. TESLA, Westport, Plug Power, Mercedes, BMW), space science (eg. JPL, NASA), software and automation (Google, Google[x], Microsoft, Facebook, EA etc.), Alternative energy (eg. General Fusion), academia and academic research labs, electronics and communication (eg. PMC Sierra, INTEL), Systems engineering (eg. Misty West), medical device engineering (eg. Starfish Medical), Medical science (eg. BC Cancer Agency), Nuclear physics (eg. TRIUMF), Quantum computing (D Wave), and many more engineering and science companies.
In addition, many of our students start their own companies. For example Starfish Medical, Misty West, Boreal Genomics, General Fusion, Prosilica, PMC-Sierra, Clinicbook, ReDeTec, Grin Technologies, Illusense, and other local companies were all founded or co-founded by our graduates or undergraduates.
The breadth of the program is ideal training for students wanting to work across multiple areas of technology innovation and engineering. It is perhaps due to this breadth that so many Engineering Physics graduates find themselves in high level positions early in their careers, often managing companies or research teams.
Some of our graduates also pursue careers in medicine, law, and business, aided by the strength of the analytic training provided within the math and physics content of the program. Others are pursuing careers in non-profit organizations, including Engineers Without Borders, helping develop infrastructure in developing countries, and EatArt, an energy awareness, engineering art organization.
What is the job market like for Engineering Physics?
As an Engineering Physics graduate, you will benefit from the outstanding reputation that our graduates have built for our program. The rigor and challenge of Engineering Physics are well known to employers, locally and abroad, as well as at the top graduate schools. It is not surprising, given this reputation, that essentially every year, top science and engineering schools such as Stanford and MIT admit our graduates to their PhD programs. Few programs can claim such constant success.
Similarly, the job market for our graduates is excellent. While we do not collect employment data on graduates, our Co-op undergraduate employment rates are nearly 100%.
Employers often seek out Engineering Physics graduates, because of their breadth of skills. This is true not only for research-oriented positions, but also in conventional engineering positions. One engineering consulting firm says:
"Graduates from the UBC Engineering Physics program are consistently top performers at MistyWest, a Vancouver based engineering design consultancy. Not only do they have excellent work ethic, but their broad abilities and wide ranging academic background make them capable of taking on many different aspects of the multi-disciplinary projects at MistyWest. They are also exceptional at tackling problems in new domains and getting up to speed quickly. For all these reasons, Eng Phys graduates make up nearly half of our engineering staff and we expect this to continue well in to the future." Josh Usher, MistyWest
Engineering Physics graduates have access to some of the highest paying professions. Their ability to manage science and engineering projects translates to manager-level salaries for many of our graduates. In addition, recent salary statistics place Physicists and Nuclear Engineers (the closest listed to Engineering Physics), well above other engineering disciplines in salary.
What are typical student experiences in Co-op like for Engineering Physics?
Engineering Physics Co-op is administered through Science Co-op where you will have the benefit of a coordinator specifically dedicated to Engineering Physics to help you apply for and find outstanding engineering and research positions. While Engineering Physics has access to more research oriented positions, you can also access conventional engineering jobs that would be available to mechanical and electrical engineering students. One of our recent students was profiled by TESLA following a recent Co-op term:
“My experience at Tesla was all I could ask for in an internship. It is amazing to do something that has never been done before, and I felt like I was working towards the future of energy and transportation. I was treated like a full-time employee and was given interesting, important, and varied projects. I was consistently challenged and I was excited to go to work every single day. Working in the factory I saw the most impressive modern technology I have seen in my life, and I was constantly astounded and inspired by the ingenuity of the Tesla manufacturing process. Coming to Silicon Valley was always a dream of mine and it didn’t disappoint; California is a wonderful place to live and I made some long-lasting friendships with members of the strong and vibrant intern community at Tesla.”
―Connor Shannon | UBC, Bachelor of Applied Science in Engineering Physics
What is it like to be a student in Engineering Physics?
Engineering Physics is an extraordinarily tightly knit group of some of the best students at UBC. Here are a few students’ thoughts on being part of the program:
“It's a lot of hard work, you really need to be passionate about what you're doing. But you get to meet very intelligent and helpful peers, as well as fantastic mentors, all of whom will support you in your journey of learning.” – Bryan Luu
“Being in Eng Phys is like being part of a family where everyone gets along and helps each other out. Everyone around you is in it for the same reason and are more than willing to help you out and provide advice. “ – Candice Ip
"Being a student in Engineering Physics is a very thorough and constructive experience. In this program, we study both a chosen engineering specialization and material from a full physics curriculum in addition to several project courses. As a student this provides the opportunity to understand governing laws of physics while also observing the same laws in engineering applications, providing a detailed insight of a particular topic. While the effort required to undertake the courseload from Eng Phys is very demanding, my experience in this program has allowed me to delve into the wide range of interests I had as a first year, which was an undetermined mix of physics, math, and computer science. “ – Ricky Hu
What are the unique student experiences in Engineering Physics?
Engineering Physics students benefit from many unique experiences in the program, including intense team-based engineering projects as well as advanced physics experiments. Some of the most unique experiences in our academic program come from our engineering design courses. In second year, our students participate in a robot competition course where they learn to prototype a working, autonomous, electromechanical system for a specific task from simple components. Students spend an average of 200 hours designing and building a robot in this course, with guidance from three instructors and three teaching assistants for an exceptional teacher to student ratio. The following student videos document previous robot competitions:
Block Stacking – 2012: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSdHQHmDzGw
Rescue Bots – 2004: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyex8XPqLNM
Indiana Jones Robots – 2014: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znlS3rSShug
In senior years, students work within two separate capstone design courses to complete industry or self-sponsored projects, with a chance to then show off their projects at our annual Engineering Physics Project Fair, which is attended by industry representatives.
Engineering Physics encourage self-sponsored projects and projects with entrepreneurial potential. Every year, a $10,000 Bycast prize is awarded to a student team entering the Engineering Physics capstone design courses, whose self-sponsored project is judged to have the best potential as a future start-up company.
The following link provides an insight into the type of projects students may work on. Work within these courses can be either individual or team based at the student’s discretion.
Some students choose to use these courses to develop products for their spinoff companies. If desired, students may add technical elective credits to these capstone design courses to take up to 15 credits of course work within the Project Lab where they can access advanced prototyping facilities at no cost.
“Because the program size of Eng Phys is relatively small, you take many classes together with the same group of people, and you get to know most people in your class. So there's a real sense of fellowship with your fellow Fizzers, and this makes it a lot more fun to tackle difficult homework problems, complex engineering projects, etc, together. This also makes the Robot Competition in 2nd Year especially thrilling, because you are competing with peers you know well.” – Bryan Luu
“Other than the additional courses to focus on understanding physics behind an engineering concept, two very unique student experiences in Eng Phys include the project courses and the class environment. The course for which I learned and enjoyed the most was a 2nd year robotics course. In this course, students are to design and fabricate the mechanical, electrical, and software components of an autonomous robot to complete a certain task. This required learning of CAD software, fabrication using tools such as a waterjet cutter, electronic filter circuits, and programming a controller. The experience, though exhausting, provided a very fulfilling learning experience. As each year of Eng Phys students accommodates a small class, especially compared to other specializations, the students are very close to each other. This results in a welcoming learning environment where I am able to have strong academic, professional, and social connections with my classmates.” – Ricky Hu
“Why I chose Engineering Physics was for its diversity in what it teaches. Engineering Physics is unlike any other engineering program here at UBC because we learn a large spectrum of engineering studies including mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering. With its diversity of studies, Engineering Physics provides a solid backbone for entering the tech industry and being able to think and design an idea to prototyping and building that idea into reality. “ – Candice Ip
How difficult / challenging is the program?
Engineering Physics is widely known for its heavy course load and challenge. Without this, we would not have built the reputation that we have and that benefits every one of our graduates. Having said this, our overall credit load is not significantly higher than other programs, and the length of the program, including Co-op, is the same as other Co-op engineering programs at UBC.
The challenge with Engineering Physics comes primarily from the fact that many of its courses require advanced math. For students who are strong in math, the program challenge is manageable, and many of our students find time for substantial extracurricular activities in engineering teams while carrying the designated full course load.
Students wishing to do so may also add a year to the program to reduce its average course load. Also, students participating in the Coordinated International Exchange will benefit from a reduced course load in their upper years as result of scheduling of CIE over a Co-op work term.
If you have a passion for science and technology, and are comfortable with math and physics, you should not let the program challenge stop you from applying. We utilize our extensive experience with the program and previous student experiences to screen new applicants very carefully, only admitting students that we feel are capable of performing well in the program.
How does Co-op work with the program? (i.e. schedule; participation / placement rates)
Engineering Physics Co-op is administered through Science Co-op, and is designed to enroll every student in Engineering Physics. Unlike other programs, while we do not require Co-op, we expect all our students to enroll in the Co-op program and have made room for this level of enrollment. Selection of the Engineering Physics applicants is based in part on their suitability for Co-op, and therefore admission to Co-op once a student is admitted to Engineering Physics is highly likely.
Once admitted to our program, students apply to and immediately enter Co-op, where they receive initial training in interview and resume skills in the fall of their second year.
The first Co-op term takes place in winter of the second year, at a time when more senior students are typically enrolled in classes, minimizing competition for that first job placement. The Engineering Physics Co-op schedule is as follows, but can be modified for individual students:
What are the typical GPA / admission requirements for the program?
Engineering Physics is currently the only program that interviews every one of its applicants. As such, we do not quote a GPA requirement, as admission is based on a combination of first year grades and the interview. In this interview process, students spend approximately 30 minutes meeting with Engineering Physics staff, in multiple 5 minute meetings. The discussion largely revolves around the applicant’s education goals and background.
The interview process is really meant to help guide students to ensure they are selecting the right program for them. We will typically ask our applicants to tell us their short and long term career goals so that we can advise them as to the suitability of Engineering Physics for achievement of their goals. In addition, we look for communication skills and leadership potential in our applicants. We strongly believe that personal skills are equally, if not more important, than analytic skills as a predictor of success of our graduates, and we dedicate substantial resources in our program to develop these skills.
We expect our graduates to be tomorrow’s science and technology leaders and innovators. If you feel well suited for such a role you should apply to our program even if your overall academic average is not competitive. You will have a chance to discuss your transcript with the admission committee during the interview process if you wish.
In general, we do also look at math and physics marks to help guide admissions as a predictor of ability to handle this math intensive program. While we do admit students with marks below this, most of our successful applicants will have marks above 80% in first year math and physics.