Are there giant ants in outer space? How is DNA crammed into the cell nucleus? How many Starbucks stores in Seattle? Can you extract information from a black hole?
Physics provides a powerful set of tools for understanding the world around us. The UBC Physics Circle invites motivated high school students (grades 10–12) to join us as we build up this toolset, and apply it to everything from buying a cup of coffee to the deepest mysteries of the cosmos. Each meeting features a guest lecture by a UBC professor or student, or an on-campus lab tour at UBC Point Grey. Past topics include dark matter, music, molecular dreidels and quantum gravity. Lectures are followed by pizza and problem-solving sessions, guided by UBC physics students. While our problem sessions can prepare attendees for competitions (such as the CAP Prize exam and the Sir Isaac Newton Exam), our main goal is to foster curiosity, creativity, and a sense of community.
Physics Circle meetings consist of 2-hour sessions on Thursdays (from 5:15–7:15 PM), occurring every 2–3 weeks (starting October 3, 2019). They are held in the Hebb building, UBC Point Grey Campus, in room 212 unless otherwise noted. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
We strongly encourage students underrepresented in STEM – girls, Indigenous youth, and those from underprivileged communities – to participate. A small fee is collected to cover the cost of pizza. However, no student will be turned away for the lack of funds.
- Meetings start with lectures. Typically, a UBC physicist will introduce their research, advanced physics concepts, some applications of physics, or ideally all three (5:15–6:00).
- Lectures are occasionally replaced by on-campus lab tours.
- After the lecture/lab tour, students are let loose on a fun and challenging problem set (6:00–7:15). This is an informal setting where students can explore, ask questions, and learn actively together.
- Physics Circle volunteers write problem sets and provide guidance, as well as occasional problem-solving tutorials. Sets will include both competition-style questions and explorations beyond the high school syllabus.
- Pizza and refreshments are provided.
Due to the recent COVID-19 outbreak, on-campus classes and activities at UBC have been cancelled, and university staff are beginning to work remotely. Under these circumstances, the weekly Physics Circle meetings are now postponed until further notice.
We are monitoring the situation closely, and will make sure to reach out if there are changes to the circumstances in the future.
- [postponed] April 30, 2020. TBA. Andre Marziali.
- [postponed] April 16, 2020. TBA. Joanna Karczmarek.
- [postponed] April 2, 2020. Approaching open-ended problems in physics. Alex May.
- [postponed] March 19, 2020. Revolutionizing physics education. Jared Stang.
- March 5, 2020. Particle physics and the Standard Model. Robin Hayes.
- February 20, 2020. Quantum computing. SBQMI: Diversifying Talent in Quantum Computing (DTQC).
- February 6, 2020. Gravitational waves. Jess McIver.
- January 23, 2020. Astronomy. Deborah Good.
- December 5, 2019. What do condensed matter physicists do? Mona Berciu.
- November 21, 2019. The space weather of ultracool dwarfs. Anna Hughes.
- November 7, 2019. Rainbows. Pedram Amani. (Activity sheet and solutions.)
- October 17, 2019. Lab tour at Stuart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute. Pinder Dosanjh.
- October 3, 2019. What is Hawking radiation? Douglas Scott.
Problem sets (2019–2020)
- February 6, 2020. Colliding black holes.
- January 23, 2020. Signals from aliens.
- December 5, 2019. Collisions and electricity. (Solutions.)
- November 21, 2019. Detecting exoplanets and binary stars. (Solutions.)
- November 7, 2019. Optical principles and phenomena. (Solutions.)
- October 17, 2019. Energy, entropy and magnets. (Solutions.)
- October 3, 2019. Hawking radiation and evaporating black holes. (Solutions included.)
Pedram Amani (Program Organizer/Coordinator)
David Wakeham (Program Organizer/Coordinator)
Problem Sets and Solutions from Past Cycles
May 16, 2019: Problem Set #10
May 2, 2019: Problem Set #9
May 31, 2018: Problem Set #6
May 2, 2018: There is no problem set for this date (lab session).
One problem set with solutions is available from Physics Circle 2014-2015.
Previous Guest Speakers
We are grateful to the following past Physics Circle speakers:
Dr. Alex MacKay (Medical Physics, Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
Alex May, Ph.D. Candidate (Theoretical Physics, special lecture)
Dr. Chris Waltham (Music and Physics)
Dr. Christa Van Laerhoven (Astronomy & Astrophysics)
David Wakeham, Ph.D. Candidate (Dimensional Analysis, Fermi Problems)
Dr. Douglas Scott (Cosmology)
Gary Tom, MSc Candidate (Exploring the Nano-Universe)
Dr. Ian Affleck (Theoretical Physics, Condensed Matter)
Dr. Jaymie Matthews (Astronomy & Astrophysics)
Dr. Joanna Karczmarek (Theoretical Physics: Low and High Dimensions)
Dr. Joss Ives (Optics Lab Session)
Lucas Bezerra, MSc Candidate (Dark Matter and Neural Networks)
Dr. Mark Halpern (Astronomy & Astrophysics)
Dr. Mark Van Raamsdonk (Theoretical Physics: Quantum Gravity)
Dr. Valery Milner (Molecular Dreidels: Spinning Molecules with a Laser Beam)
Pedram Laghaei (coordinator 2017–19)
Wu Jih (Andy) Hsu