Alumni Profiles

Want to share your experience and achievements with current PHAS students and other PHAS alumni? Let us know how you are doing!

Shaun Dychko

Profile submitted: 2013
Degree (ex. Bsc. Phys and Astr (Hon)): B.Sc. Physics
Job title: Website Developer
Employer: Me (on leave from the Vancouver School Board)
What options were you considering or available to you immediately after receiving your degree (graduate school, career, etc.)? Teaching high school physics, which I did from 2003 to present. I'm currently on extended parenthood leave while splitting time between website development and child care.
How has your current situation compared to your initial plans after graduation and is this what you envisioned yourself doing? Initially I was teaching high school, then created Giancoli Answers (http://www.giancolianswers.com) which is a screencast video solution manual to a popular algebraic physics textbook. Giancoli Answers provides a bit of passive income while I enjoy the flexibility of freelance website development. The flexibility is key for the child care of my one year old boy.
If you were able to go back in time: what advice would you give to your younger self? Carry on. 

Thomas Levi

Profile submitted: 2013
Graduation year and degrees: 2001 BA from Dartmouth College in Physics, 2006 PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in String Theory, Postdoc at NYU from 2006-2009, Postdoc at UBC from 2009-2012.
Job Title: Data Scientist
Employer: Plenty of Fish
What options were you considering or available to you immediately after receiving your degree (graduate school, career, etc.)? After my undergraduate degree I was choosing between graduate school and a few consulting jobs in finance, though I only seriously pursued graduate school. After my PhD I was strongly on the academic path and did two postdoctoral fellowships (my last at UBC), before deciding to change tacks with my current position.
How has your current situation compared to your initial plans after graduation and is this what you envisioned yourself doing? It's fairly different I'd say. After school I was pursuing a move towards a tenure track faculty position at a major research university. The realities of the job market, the life itself, and where high energy theory itself was, led me to consider other options, and a longstanding interest in computing and AI led me to the position at Plenty of Fish. Life can be a bit funny like that sometimes, if you'd told me five years ago I'd be living in Vancouver working for one of the world's largest dating websites I wouldn't have believed you, whereas now I think it's one of the best decisions I've ever made. I go to work everyday with extremely talented people (and my team consists of three guys with PhDs and one of the smartest BAs in physics I've ever met), on one of the world's biggest datasets with cutting edge technology all for a company that actually cares about me. I can see my work directly impact millions of people.
How has your current situation compared to your initial plans after graduation and is this what you envisioned yourself doing? I think there's a tendency in academia to view jobs outside as somehow "lesser" and that those who don't stay in are somehow "failures". When you're in the middle of things, you can get a form of tunnel vision where you think your present path is the only option. In my case, I sacrificed other parts of my life and was unhappy for some time, and when friends who had made the jump into the private sector before me brought it up I dismissed the options they were presenting me with.
If you were able to go back in time: what advice would you give to your younger self? If I could go back in time, I'd tell myself to listen to them, and most importantly seriously think about whether something I decided when I was 16 was the correct decision for me at 22, 25, 30 and 33. I think we all suffer from inertia in life, and that it's much easier to keep doing what you're doing than to take a risk and try something new. This isn't a knock on the academic path either, it's more a message to constantly evaluate where you are and if what you're doing is making you happy. Anyone with a degree (BA, Masters or PhD) in physics has shown themselves to be a person of talent and promise, and there are many opportunities out there. I have close friends who are professors, consultants, game programmers, IP experts/lawyers and quantitative analysts. Ask yourself if you're pursuing the opportunity that's right for you. That's the best advice I can give, and the advice I still give to myself.

Duncan Long

Profile submitted: 2013
Graduation year: 2009
Degree (ex. Bsc. Phys and Astr (Hon)): Hon. Phys. Co-op with English Lit. Minor
Job title: Freelance Project Manager
Employer: Self employed - C2C contract with USDM.
What options were you considering or available to you immediately after receiving your degree (graduate school, career, etc.)? There were very few options when I graduated (as everyone was getting fired at the time). However, through a friend of a friend, I landed a job with a startup tech company.
How has your current situation compared to your initial plans after graduation and is this what you envisioned yourself doing? Not at all. However, it has been an incredible ride, with amazing amounts of flexibility along the way. I was able to advance quickly to project manager roles and work with flexible hours. I was even able to work from the UK (from home) for a Vancouver based company for two years as my wife got her Master's degree there.
If you were able to go back in time: what advice would you give to your younger self? The most important thing you will learn is to work hard and maintain a balanced life at the same time. Be willing to risk and if you are not interested or being challenged in what you are doing - make it interesting or challenging yourself!

Anindya Mukherjee

Profile submitted: 2013
Graduation year: PostDoc from 2007-2010
Job title: Quantitative Analyst
Employer: Fincad Corp.
What options were you considering or available to you immediately after receiving your degree (graduate school, career, etc.)? I was a postdoc in the string theory department at UBC. After my contract ended I was planning to return home to India and pursue an academic career there. However, I was open to other possibilities, though not actively looking. This is when I was approached by Fincad.
How has your current situation compared to your initial plans after graduation and is this what you envisioned yourself doing? Not quite, but I am really happy with my current job. Apart from physics, I have a passion for math and computers and I get a lot of intellectual stimulation at work.
If you were able to go back in time: what advice would you give to your younger self? I would encourage myself to continue my extra-curricular reading, mostly maths and computer science. If a person is planning to apply for any technical job in the industry/private sector, a sound knowledge of programming (C++) and numerical computation helps immensely. This is of course particularly relevant for quantitative finance.

 

 

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