Catching up with FYSRE 2019 recipients: Rio Weil, Jonathan Carpenter, and Monica Luo

January 10, 2020

The Erich Vogt First Year Summer Research Experience (FYSRE) program offers research opportunities to budding academic stars after their First Year Physics courses. Selected students work in either a UBC Physics & Astronomy or a TRIUMF laboratory, under the supervision of a UBC/TRIUMF researcher. Deadline for 2020 applications is on January 31st, 2020.

Last year, three students were selected to receive FYSRE; we catch up with them to see how their summer went.

Ryohei (Rio) Weil with Dr. Ania Kwiatkowski of the TITAN (TRIUMF’s Ion Trap for Atomic and Nuclear science) facility.

Has this experience change your mind about working/not working in Physics?

Ryohei (Rio) Weil (photo provided by TRIUMF)
Ryohei (Rio) Weil. Photo provided by TRIUMF.

I think I came out of the summer more passionate about physics than ever before. Getting to work so closely on such a significant, long-standing project at TRIUMF, and through that, getting to experience the world of experimental physics was amazing. It's really interesting to explore such a specific and specialized field (in my case, Penning trap mass spectrometry), and it's a totally different side of the discipline that you don't really get to see in class. I think a great part of the whole experience is that you get to talk to and work with people with different backgrounds in physics, and from that, get exposed to different subfields that you were never even aware existed. I'm really looking forward to further exploring the different faucets that physics has to offer with the coming years, both through courses and more research. My dream future job at the going into the summer was to someday become a professor in physics; my passion for that dream was stronger coming out of it.

What were the new experiences you had that would not have been possible without FYSRE support?
I think that this whole experience wouldn't have been possible without FYSRE support, really. As a student fresh out of their first-year undergraduate, and still having little to no idea how to do most things necessary in physics research (whether that be circuits, coding, or theoretical calculations), you find yourself precarious predicament that you find yourself in when you want to have that research experience right away. Everyone else applying for research grants has years more worth of experience and knowledge under their belt, and it feels like an impossible task to try to broach that wall. Being in that position, I wasn't expecting to be able to get into this world so quickly, so I was surprised and overjoyed when I found out that I won the award! Stemming from this one lucky occurrence, I was able to have the opportunity to work on my first involved physics project, I got to experience what it was like to be a part of a experimental team and the experimental process, I got to assist in the commissioning of a truly beautiful Cryogenic Penning Trap, I got to present on research that I conducted, and I got to work with so many passionate people. Serendipity is truly amazing sometimes, and I really am grateful that I was able to get this award.

And anything else you would like you add about working there?
TRIUMF as a whole was just a really amazing place to work over the summer; I remember feeling awestruck as I walked through some of the experimental halls for the first time, seeing all of the gigantic, sprawling facilities and machinery that filled up every corner. I think there's something to say really just about being in the thick of such a rich community of research. Being surrounded by intricately designed experiments that each contribute uncovering a new piece of human knowledge, as well as being surrounded by astute and passionate physicists, each an expert in their field; for anyone that loves thinking about and talking about physics, its the ideal place to be. I would also like to say that I'm extremely thankful to all the members of the TITAN collaboration, especially Ania, Chris, Erich, and Marilena (members of the Measurement Penning Trap/MPET team!); everyone was so friendly and helpful in guiding an unexperienced first year such as myself towards success, and made the summer unforgettable.

John Carpenter with Dr. Pietro Giampa at TRIUMF, whose work focuses on the search for dark matter.

The 3DSiPM device that Jonathan was in charge of testing
The 3DSiPM device Jonathan was in charge of testing.

Has this experience change your mind about working/not working in Physics?
This experience was very valuable in showing me what the workload and life of a physicist is actually like. I loved the opportunity to learn alot more about a specific part of physics and I was a little surprised by how specialized the day to day work was. You need to draw from a wide background of physics and computing skills to be effective in the position but alot of your work is more on a very specific project and diving extremely deep into it. For me, it reinforced the idea that I would love to have physics be a part of my work (especially on the research side). At the very least I want to stay up to date with what is happening in the physics community.
What were the new experiences you had that would not have been possible without FYSRE support?
The chance to get into such a strong physics community like they have at TRIUMF is something that is hard to match. Being surrounded by inspiring people who are all super into physics and having nerdy conversations over lunch was really great. Of course, working with some of the best scientists around is an experience that is very hard to get and for that I am extremely grateful. The incredible thing about TRIUMF is the combination of this culture and cutting edge research.

Any most memorable moments
The entire first few days were pretty hard to believe for me. The first time walking through the massive experiment halls and seeing the equipment I was going to be working with was extremely exciting. I also remember getting to my desk and seeing the notes of one of my TAs from my physics labs who I ended up working with for the summer, which was a pleasant surprise! Getting to work more closely with these TAs, professors, and postdocs who seemed so far away as a student was incredible and seeing the passion they bring to their job was very inspiring.

Monica Luo with Dr. Chris Ruiz of TRIUMF's Nuclear Astrophysics group.

Bubble Chamber Photograph
Monica Luo. Photo provided by TRIUMF.

Has this experience changed your mind about working/not working in Physics?
This experience definitely motivates me to pursue a career in Physics. I didn't have a preference for any specialization going into the program, so being at TRIUMF gave me more insight into the possibilities that are out there.

What were the new experiences you had that would not have been possible without FYSRE support?
A: Working at an institution like TRIUMF is something I didn't imagine being able to do as a first-year student, prior to receiving the FYSRE award. Being able to take part in the experimental work at TRIUMF was an invaluable learning experience for me, and I was able to learn more about the operations of a research facility.

Any most memorable moments
A: The TRIUMF Summer Student Symposium was a fun experience because we were able to share what we worked on and learned during the summer, and hear about the exciting projects that other students were involved in.

And anything else you would like you add about working there.
I enjoyed the weekly student seminars; the topics presented were all fascinating. I would encourage any current first-years who are interested to apply for FYSRE.