A rediscovered love of physics leads to success for UPEI student
UPEI's students are making an impact on campus, here in Canada, and around the world! Desiree Rehel is a fourth-year Physics student who recently won an award at a national undergraduate Physics student conference. After moving to PEI from Quebec in 2018, she re-discovered a love of physics at UPEI and will complete her degree program in 2022.
Why did you choose to study physics at UPEI?
I moved to PEI with my family in February of 2018, and was taking a year away from school due to medical reasons. I had planned on studying woodworking; however, during that summer, I started looking at a problem that I had been working on in a physics course I took while I attended Cégep de la Gaspésie et des Îles in natural science from 2016 to 2017. When working on this problem, I remembered how much I enjoyed physics and exploring why things happen the way they do. I decided to go into physics then, and UPEI was the obvious choice as I was on the Island—but it was also the best decision I could have made as it is an amazing program with a great group of faculty and staff.
What has your time as a UPEI physics student been like?
It has been amazing, and I have enjoyed it very much. I have learned so much about physics and have grown to enjoy it even more than I did when I started here. The faculty and staff are all amazing and are very helpful, not only with the content of the courses but also in providing guidance on courses to take, helping to look at career options, and for me, advising on how to get into grad school. Overall, it’s an amazing program.
You won an award for a presentation at the 2020 Canadian Undergraduate Physics Conference - congratulations! Tell me about that experience.
I don’t really remember how I first heard about the conference as the information is sent out to students in a few ways. I had previously presented at two other conferences, so I had some experience; however, from speaking with professors, being able to present well is an important skill when applying to and attending graduate school. I wanted to get more experience in this regard, and I just really enjoyed taking part in the other conferences at which I had presented. With this, I was interested in presenting, and my honours supervisor [Dr. James Polson] encouraged my participation in the event as well.
UPEI was the obvious choice as I was on the Island—but it was also the best decision I could have made as Physics is an amazing program with a great group of faculty and staff.
I have presented at the Atlantic Universities Physics and Astronomy Conference (AUPAC) in 2020 and 2021, and the Soft Matter Canada Conference in 2020, and these are all great opportunities for physics students. I have also had the opportunity to do research under Dr. Polson's direction for almost two years.
What's unique about UPEI?
In UPEI's physics courses, especially in the upper-year classes, the class sizes tend to be no bigger than 10 or so students. This means the professors are easy to contact and know who you are when you contact them. It also allows you to get to know the other students and really feel like you are part of a community.
What would you tell a high school student considering a UPEI program, or starting at UPEI as a new student?
My advice for students just starting would be first to keep an open mind; when I started Cégep, I never would have expected to enjoy or study physics, but I found out that I really enjoy it. The second would be to find something that you love doing and then even in classes in that major that you may not like as much to try to have fun doing it. Finally, I would recommend speaking to the professor when you do not understand something; they tend to be willing to help and make sure that you understand.