Janay Ma could be on her way to becoming the next Albert Einstein—minus the crazy hair and the moustache.
Ma, a Smithers Secondary School student who is entering Grade 12, is at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (PI) in Waterloo, Ontario right now for the two-week International Summer School for Young Physicists where she will gain hands-on experience in the field.
The exclusive camp features presentations by researchers, courses on modern physics, hands-on labs, tours of research facilities and also gives youth the chance to meet with other future researchers from around the world.
“It’s an opportunity to take the students outside a little bit from what they are learning in the classroom,” said PI external relations specialist Eamon O’Flynn. “The students are getting the opportunity to hear from some of the top physicists in a number of different areas. They get a lot of unique opportunities here.”
Ma became aware of the program through her physics teacher Richard Audet, who encouraged her to apply.
“It’s just so cool to be here,” Ma said. “[The subject matter is] something I have done some personal learning on, especially in the area of astrophysics.”
Ma said she has listened to lectures on topics such as general relativity and quantum mechanics.
The highlight so far has been visiting SNOLAB, an underground science facility in Sudbury that specializes in neutrino and dark matter physics. It’s located two kilometres underground in a mine shaft.
“It was great to see that type of experiment in action,” Ma said.
This week, Ma is starting a mentoring project where the students are paired with a specialized physicist. She’s learning about particle physics.
After high school, Ma said she is planning on studying physics further at the university level. Eventually, she would like to become a teacher.
“I want to tell people about this stuff—it’s so cool,” she said. “I want to share my passion with other people.”
The summer program received more than 300 applications from around the world. Forty were successful, about half of them from Canadian students.
“To get into the program is not particularly easy,” O’Flynn said. “Basically what we’re looking for is well-rounded students who demonstrate a passion for physics and who have an interest in pursuing physics at a post-secondary level. It’s traditionally more than just the top students in their class.
According to its website, the PI, “is an independent, resident-based research institute devoted to foundational issues in theoretical physics at the highest levels of international excellence.” The PI’s research areas include: condensed matter, cosmology, mathematical physics, quantum foundations and strong gravity.