Student, University of British Columbia
I was born/grew up in: I was born in Aberdeen, Scotland. After 6 years, my family moved to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
I now live in: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
I completed my training/education at: Bachelor of Science, Honours Physics, University of British Columbia.
Describe what you do at work.
I'm currently a senior physics student at the University of British Columbia. This means that I spend a good amount of my day focussed on school. I attend class throughout the day, with my current course load ranging from climate modelling to theoretical particle physics. I use various programming languages (i.e. Java, Python, MATLAB, C++) to complete homework, conduct my thesis research and to keep my skills sharp in general. My entire day revolves around problem solving. I'm either trying to wrap my head around a new concept or working to complete weekly problem sets assigned by my professors. Many of my decisions centre on time management. As I have many 1-2 hour breaks splitting my day, I'm constantly thinking about how to spend that time effectively. Usually, it's spent working with other students. Working together to discuss approaches to different problems helps us all deepen our understanding. There's no better way to test how well you know something than by trying to explain your thinking! To add a bit of diversity to my schedule, I try to stay involved with various extra-curricular activities. One of these is the Global Shapers Community, where I recently completed a term as Vice-Curator of the Vancouver Hub.
When I was a student I enjoyed:
How does your job affect people’s lives?
The Global Shapers Community is an international network of young people (+5000 strong in almost 400 cities) connected in our commitment to improving the world, starting with our own communities. We focus our efforts on local projects that either start with a new idea to solve a community challenge, or an effort to amplify the work of existing nonprofit organizations doing amazing work in the community. Of the things we do, our primary aim is positive impact. Whether we're running a 'get out the vote' campaign, working with homeless charities, or hosting dialogues to debate the future of education, we try take small steps in improving the state of the world by starting locally.
What motivates you in your career?
In my studies, I'm most inspired by learning about how the universe works. I have the opportunity everyday to study nature at its most fundamental level. This reinforces a great sense of connectedness to the people and environment around me and inspires me to spend my time working on projects that strive to help others. While at university, I've had the opportunity to work at TRIUMF (Canada's National Laboratory for Particle and Nuclear Physics) on building computer simulations of complex physical processes. While working there I had to confront big problems, break them down into smaller ones and try to form a solution. There was a lot of creativity involved with this. When you're working on questions with no clear answer, you have to be very imaginative. Of course, you have to ground your imagination in what is physical and practical, but there's a significant amount of freedom and experimentation that makes the work very exciting.
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
Describe your career path to this career.
I ended up choosing sciences in university after being encouraged by my fantastic high school calculus teacher, who inspired an appreciation for mathematics within me. In first year, I was very confused as to what I wanted to specialize in. It was only after I realized that our entire society was based on science and technology that I decided it would be a good idea to get a background in a related field. I chose physics because I was inspired by a professor in one of my introductory physics courses. Teachers and mentors played a huge role in the process of discovering what I wanted to pursue in post-secondary.
What activities do you like to do outside of work?
Outside of work, I try to spend as much time as possible in the mountains. Hiking is one of my favourite activities. I enjoy reading widely and strive to cook something new at least once a week! Exercise is an important part of my life as well.
What advice or encouragement would you give others seeking a similar career?
In every success, there is a failure. Likewise, in every failure lies a success. Recognizing that duality and being able to fail constructively was one of the most valuable things I learned.
Let's Talk Science recognizes and thanks Rohan Nuttall for his contribution to Canada 2067.