News | Department of Physics


5 June 2012: Transit of Venus viewing event

The St. F.X. Physics department will host a Transit of Venus viewing event, weather permitting.
When: June 5th, 2012 6:30 p.m. to sunset Where: St. F.X. campus behind the Physical Sciences Complex
All are welcome, and the event is free.
Check this website before heading to the observing session to see if the event will be cancelled due to the weather forecast.
Transits occur when Mercury or Venus pass in front of the Sun as viewed from Earth. Currently, transits of Venus occur in a pattern consisting of two transits spaced 8 years apart, followed by another pair over a century later. The transit this June is the second of a pair (the other occurred in 2004). The next transit occurs in 2117. Transits are a rare opportunity to see the workings of this solar system, and a chance to see first-hand one of the methods being used at the leading edge of the search for planets orbiting other stars.
Special filters are required to see the transit safely. Never view the Sun through binoculars, a telescope, or any optical aid without a proper filter in place. Permanent damage to your eyes can occur. See for details about eye safety and viewing the Sun.
For more general information on the transit, go to:

April 2012: Michael Steinitz and Keith de'Bell in Atlantic Science Hall of Fame

Two StFX physicists, Keith de'Bell and Michael Steinitz, were inducted as members of the Science Atlantic Hall of Fame as Outstanding Contributing Members at the Gala celebration of the 50th anniversary of Science Atlantic (formerly APICS), April 17, 2012. One of three 50th Anniversary Student Travel awards, was awarded to to Christopher van Bommel, a mathematics senior at StFX. His father, Martin, accepted the award for him. A large delegation from StFX attended the Gala.

November 2011: Aaron Farrell and Zachary MacDonald publish articles

Aaron Farrell, Zachary MacDonald, and Brandon van Zyl have just had their paper "Inverse Integral Transforms for Undergraduate Physics Students" accepted for publication in the Canadian Journal of Physics, and an article on "The Zel'dovich effect in ultra cold atoms" in Journal of Physics A. Zach completed this work as a summer project in his 2nd year. Aaron graduated from the physics program in May 2011.
Fall 2011: Aaron Farrell nominated for Emerging Professional Award
Fall 2011: StFX Physics graduate Aaron Farrell receives Banting fellowship

Partial solar eclipse on Wednesday, June 1st

A partial solar eclipse will occur tomorrow, Wednesday, June 1st. From our vantage point in Antigonish, the Moon will just skim by the Sun, blocking a very small part. If the weather cooperates (and right now, the forecast is 60% chance of showers!)

Where: Behind the Physical Sciences building on St. F.X. campus
When: From 7 pm to 8 pm, Wednesday, June 1st.
Jamie Powell will set up the telescope unless the sky is completely overcast. Check the sky before deciding to come out.

Please Note A very small part of the Sun will be blocked – no effect will be noticeable without filtered optical aid, so do not attempt to view this event without taking necessary precautions. See for details about eye safety and eclipse viewing.

Alexandra MacDonald in StFX Alumni news

Alexandra MacDonald (2011 StFX graduate) made it into the Alumni news with her research project with renowned Canadian physicist Paul Corkum. The article about her work can be found on page 9 of the Spring 2011 Alumni News.

Electrons in a dipole field

Brandon van Zyl et al.'s article on electrons in a dipole field has been included in "Europhysics Letters Best of 2010" list. Great work, Brandon!

Pedagogical article by Brandon van Zyl acknowledged

Brandon van Zyl's article An elementary exposition of the Efimov effect, published in American Journal of Physics 79, 274 (2011), has been selected for the March 2011 issue of Virtual Journal of Atomic Quantum Fluids.

2011 Atlantic Undergraduate Physics and Astronomy Conference

From 4-6 February 2011, the conference AUPAC 2011 took place at StFX. It was organized by third- and fourth-year StfX physics students and brought together students and faculty from across Atlantic Canada. The winners of the presentation awards shared several prizes, donated by NSERC, APICS, and AIMMS.

Public Astronomy Presentation by Phys 171 Students

Students of our Phys 171 course on Astronomy will give a public presentation on 1st Dec, 6:35pm – 7:35 pm, in room PSC 3046. If the weather permits this presentation will be followed by an observation session at the new observatory. More information is available on the presentation flyer.

Aaron Farrell awarded Barrick Gold Scholarship

Congratulations to Aaron Farrell, a fourth year honours physics student from Meagher’s Grant, NS, who has been named StFX’s 2010-11 recipient of the prestigious Barrick Gold Scholarship. To be eligible for this $4,000 scholarship, the recipient must be the top student in a science program, and be entering the final year of study toward a first degree.

Aaron, who graduated at the top of his class from Musquodoboit Rural High School in 2007, has already enjoyed a stellar three years at StFX. After his second year, he earned a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Undergraduate Student Research Award, an honour that allowed him to spend the summer doing research under physics professor Dr. Brandon van Zyl. As part of their research work, he was given first author credit for a paper he wrote with Dr. van Zyl, entitled Universality of the energy spectrum for two interacting harmonically trapped ultra-cold atoms in one and two dimensions. They submitted their findings to The Journal of Physics A: Mathematical and Theoretical. It was accepted, and published in January 2010.

In Feb. 2010, he won first prize for best student talk for his presentation at the Atlantic Undergraduate Physics and Astronomy Conference held at Acadia University. In June, he attended the Canadian Association of Physicists annual Congress at the University of Toronto, where he again won first prize for best poster presentation in theoretical physics. Even more impressive is the fact this competition is typically only for graduate students. He was also recently chosen to participate in the University of British Columbia’s “Rising Stars of Research” event in August.

Aaron received another NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award following his third year and he spent this past summer investigating both the mathematical physics of quantum contact interactions and the density functional theory of linear potentials, again under the supervision of Dr. van Zyl. Their work has been submitted for publication in the Canadian Journal of Physics. They are awaiting a response on the review process.

Community Science Centre moves to Physics Department

The Community Science Centre is a unique initiative that gives middle school and high school students in the Antigonish and Pictou area a fantastic opportunity to experience science. The Physics Department is proud to be the host for this initiative from August until November 2010. It is located in room 1023 of the PSC building.

2010 Canadian Undergraduate Physics Conference to take place at Dalhousie University, Halifax

This year the Canadian Undergraduate Physics Conference will take place on 21-25 October 2010 at Dalhousie University, Halifax. This is a great chance for StFX students to meet other physics students and exchange ideas and experiences.

2010 CAP congess: StFX Physics rocks

Every year the members of the Canadian Association of Physicists (CAP) meet at their annual Congress. In 2010 it was held in Toronto from June 6-11. Each year the CAP awards prizes for the best oral and poster presentations by students (these are usually only graduate students). This year the prize for the best poster presentation in the Division of Theoretical Physics was won by StFX undergraduate student Aaron Farrell, who has just completed his third year of honours physics study.

Also, the prize for the best oral presentation in the Division of Condensed Matter and Materials Physics was won by Partick Clancy, a StFX honours physics graduate now finishing his PhD at McMaster University in neutron scattering. He is also one of eight candidates for the prize for the best student paper of ALL the papers at the Congress.

Professors Brandon van Zyl and Michael Steinitz were in attendance at the Congress.

Community-based Astronomy

The Physics department is pleased to announce that Dr. S. Razul and co-applicant Mr. J. Powell have been awarded a St.F.X. Service Learning Faculty Development and Research Support Fund grant entitled Community-based Astronomy Education and Outreach in the amount of $4,516.00. The grant will be used to purchase a telescope to be used in the soon to be built Fresh Air Society observatory to be located in Lanark, Antigonish County. The observatory will use the dome from the Rev. E.M. Clarke Observatory formerly located on the old Science Hall on the St.F.X. campus. Under the terms of the grant, students enrolled in the Introduction to Astronomy courses PHYS171 and PHYS172 who participate in the Service Learning component will operate the telescope and provide outreach to public groups visiting the observatory.

Summer Research Opportunities

Undergraduate students who are interested to do physics research over the summer should check out our summer research opportunities web site soon.

Notice to graduating students in Advanced Major and Honours programs

The deadline for the written work is 31 March 2010 as set in the Academic Calendar. Please submit the theses and projects to Dr. Carl Adams. The two seminar slots currently available for presentations are March 27 and April 3.   There should be enough time for 3 presentations in each 1 hour timeblock. Dr. Adams will provide written information about the expectations for the theses, presentations, and the marking procedure. Please contact Peter Marzlin about scheduling your presentation and provide him with an abstract.