Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
The moment of understanding something new, of figuring out some mathematical trick or solving some puzzle, is the highest pleasure I have experienced. The next best thing is evoking that “aha!” moment in others. Graduate school is one (fun!) step along the academic career path, where you are rewarded for seeking insights and bringing them to others.
Why did you decide to study at UBC?
While the research environment was a good fit, and the quantum matter institute at which I study is excellent, the deciding factor was rather small: the students here seemed happier. My successes have happened when I’m curious and joy motivated. Sustaining that seemed more important than trying to climb higher in university rankings or seeking a more generous financial package.
What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?
The Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute offers excellent travel support and has strong ties to the Max Planck Institute in Germany. Many of the people in my field have grown substantially through ties there, and I would like to take advantage of our international collaborations. My supervisor here is excellent, shares my interests, and I think our styles of investigation mesh well. We had several good conversations, which helped me select UBC.
What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?
The vibrant natural world here in Vancouver. I grew up in Calgary, a semi-arid zone. Although I miss the barren mountaintops of the Albertan Rockies, the fecund greenery here fascinates me. Additionally, this is one of the few cities in which you can windsurf in the morning and ski the same evening.
What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?
The main focus of my curiosity is of course my research. Unsurprisingly, I think my topic is really cool! How is it that so many different amorphous systems fail in similar ways? Why do so many driven systems find themselves at a phase transition?
What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?
I learned to program when I was ten, because the only thing more boring than reading “Teach Yourself C# in 21 Days” from front to back, is the flat landscape of Saskatchewan and another eight hours of “Geography” on a family road trip. Jokes aside, programming is modern literacy. I’m lucky to have gotten into it for fun early, giving me the fluency necessary to use it for computational experiments. I’m also lucky to have had great mentors in high-school which let me realize that research was a viable career, and encouraged me to pursue physics.
What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?
Bouldering, hiking, backpacking, skiing, reading, board games, generative art, or maybe some scuba. I like to seek novelty and to learn new skills. Right now, I’m learning Baduk (Go) which is the oldest board game, and I'm about to take a dry-suit scuba course with my partner.
What advice do you have for new graduate students?
Take time to read literature in your field and outside your field. Make sure to regularly lift your eyes up from the work in front of you to take in the broader context. You’ll be happier if you keep fixed in your mind WHY you are doing the hard and specialized thing you’re doing. Stay physically and mentally active.