2017 FYSRE - First Year Opportunities Propel Research Stars

May 23, 2017

Research job opportunities are hard to come by when you are a first year student. This is not exactly a surprise – the first one is always the hardest. What makes it even more difficult for these first year students is that most opportunities are very competitive, and well-qualified upper year students tend to have the experience and qualifications for them. Exceptional first year students with a passion in science are rarely offered the chance to explore their research interests until they are at least in 2nd year of their undergraduate programs.  

Starting in 2014, the Department of Physics & Astronomy has been offering the First Year Student Research Experience (FYSRE) awards to these exceptional students. The award honours Dr. Erich Vogt (1929-2014), one of the most distinguished Canadian nunclear physicists of his generation. Erich saw a need to give these students a chance, perhaps a leap of faith, to jump start their research career after first year. To date, this award program has funded summer research experiences for 7 students – 2 will be completing summer work experiences this year, and the other 5 who have propelled their research careers through the opportunity. 

2017 Recipients

Gaurav Tenkila (Image by: TRIUMF)

The bar is set high – applicants must have a minimum 80% average to be eligible; those shortlisted typically have averages much higher, on a full course load. This year two students stood out from all the applicants, and became the recipients for the 2017 FYSRE awards: Gaurav Tenkila and Alberto Misail.

“I feel that it is an opportunity for me to both learn more about modern physics and also to challenge myself apart from university coursework,” said Gaurav. “Watching science as it unfolds and being a part of it is a feeling unlike any other.” Exploring his interest in particle physics, Gaurav will be working with the DRAGON (Detector of Recoils And Gammas Of Nuclear reactions) team at TRIUMF under supervisor Annika Lennarz. Read Gaurav's interview with TRIUMF.

Alberto Misail

Alberto is an Applied Science student planning to enter Engineering Physics. In fact, he has already planned out what he will do after he completes his engineering physics degree – to start his own business and develop new technologies that will improve everyone’s quality of live. His summer work experience will be with Dr. Don Witt at UBC Physics & Astronomy, looking at extending results on topological censorship for 3-dimensional gravity singular geometries. Through this Alberto will be honing his numerical and computational techniques. “To start your own business and develop new devices, not only what you learn in class is important but also the knowledge you gain through experiences. I am more than excited to work with Dr. Witt so that I can observe how he does his work and be inspired and learn from him.”

Congratulations to Gaurav and Alberto. We will catch up with them after the summer to see how they do!

Past Recipients

2016 Recipient Esther Lin worked on "Measuring myelin water fraction and inhomogeneous magnetization transfer in white matter tissue” with Dr. Carl Michal and Dr. Alex MacKay.

"This experience has consolidated my desire to work in Physics. As an Engineering Physics student, I sit at the cross-section of science and engineering. FYSRE has given me the opportunity to witness the importance of these areas in research. It has opened many doors for me, in terms of career interests and academic pursuits." Read full interview.

2016 Recipient Linh Phan worked on “Mass spectrometry analysis for the electron beam ion trap at the TITAN experiment at TRIUMF” with Dr. Jens Dilling at TRIUMF. 

"I have always thought I’ll work in Physics and/or Technology sectors, but there were definitely moments of doubts and uncertainties. However, this experience has allowed me to interact with researchers and helped me better assess my own abilities as well as the research community. This experience overall has helped me become more confident and certain about my career path." Read full interview.

2015 Recipient Jonathan Zhang worked on "Phenomenological Implications of a New Scalar Particle" at TRIUMF.

“Before this experience, I was worried theoretical physics would be a little bit boring. It is a lot more fun than I expected because it’s not just doing math. It’s actually learning new things all the time and getting that exposure to different things and coming up with new and creative ideas.” Read the full interview. 

2015 Recipient Koosha Rezalezadeh work on "Visualising the dynamics of molecular super-rotors" with Dr. Valery Milner.

"FYSRE was an inspiring experience for me. After working in a physics research environment I was reassured that Physics is the field I would like to pursue my career in. FYSRE provided the financial support for me to be able to do research in physics. I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to work alongside and learn from the bests in field." 

Walter Wasserman (inaugural recipient) worked on "Passive and active damping systems for vibration isolation in a Scanning Tunnelling Microscopy Lab" with Dr. Douglas Bonn. 

"The Eric Vogt First Year Research Experience has been an amazing chance to find out what working in a research lab entails, and I have learned about things well beyond the scope of any class I've taken so far. It has allowed me to develop my critical thinking, decision making and literature researching skills, many of which are not skills emphasized in first year courses. I am honoured by the award, and am particularly fond of the specification of it going to first year students, for whom it can be extremely difficult to find a paid research position." Watch TRIUMF interview of Walter.