Smithers grad Kiri Daust melded minds with 40 of the brightest teenagers from around the world at the International Summer School for Young Physicists.
The two-week physics camp invited Daust as one of only 20 Canadians to get the chance to meet some of the top scientists and like-minded teens at the Perimeter Institute for theoretical physics in Waterloo, Ont.
“The Perimeter Institute is one of the world’s leading theoretical physics collaborative buildings, so I was fortunate enough to go this year,” said Daust.
“It was an incredible experience … Everybody there was so incredible. People were just so interested. We’re all kind of nerds, but everybody was very diverse so we ended up playing a lot of music together and learning calculus in the evenings.
“I made some really great friends there from Spain and Germany, and Canada of course,” said the accomplished violin player.
The first week had the young future scientists listen in on lectures about special and general relativity, quantum mechanics, and other subjects that delve into the structure and function of the universe.
“Quantum mechanics are just so amazing because there’s all these features when you get down to really nano scales, they’re just really unbelievable,” said Daust, who did not hide is excitement about the subject as he went on to describe fermions and bosons.
A visit to the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNOLAB) was also a highlight for the 18-year-old, who plans on attending Quest University in Squamish to obtain a combined Arts and Sciences degree, focusing on physics and biochemistry.
“It’s in a nickel mine two kilometres under Sudbury … They did end up finding neutrinos and they were the station that showed neutrinos actually had mass,” explained Daust, who also visited a quantum computing lab.
At the end of the camp, the campers were split into groups of five with researchers and doctorate students. Daust’s group looked at superconductors, which allow electricity to flow through with zero resistance.
Daust is the second Smithers Secondary student to go to the camp, after classmate Janay Ma went last year. Smithers is the only school to send students two years in a row.
Daust said a big part of students’ success here was due to the enthusiasm shown by teacher Richard Audet.
“We’ve got some really keen kids and I just try to be excited about science … I bring science news into the classroom as much as possible to say ‘hey, this is what’s happening …’ and some of it catches on,” said Audet.
“Someone like Kiri, he was already there. He was in the front row going ‘ooh-ooh, I got a question about that!’”
Jesse Hiemstra was the first local student sent to the camp about ten years ago. The aerospace engineer recently visited SSS and talked with students. He helped designed the CanX-7 satellite to clean up space junk in orbit.