Science Stories is an ongoing series launches by the authors of the Science Society blog which unearths the experiences of science students at Carleton.
EBUBE OKAFOR : Let’s jump right in: how did you get interested in Physics?
OWEN D : Getting into Physics, for me, was a bit of a trip. I was always interested in science and was good at math. Around the age of 13 I really got into Doctor Who, a sci-fi time travel show. Also, being really into history, I got very interested in time travel and wondered if it was possible. From there, I started reading Physics books about that sort of thing and got really interested in it. After that point, Physics was always one of my big three interests and when it came to picking a program for university, I decided to go with it because I thought it was amazing. The hunt to learn the secrets of the universe is something that has always interested me and of all the degrees I considered, a Physics degree was the one that looked like it could open the most doors.
OKAFOR : Why did you choose to study physics at Carleton?
OWEN D : I chose to study Physics at Carleton for two reasons. Firstly, Carleton has an amazing Physics department. All the professors are nice and very helpful and that was something I noticed when looking into universities. As well, the focus on particle physics was of interest to me, especially since at the time I was going through a phase where I was really interested in dark matter, and I knew Carleton was taking part in the DEAP 3600 dark matter detector. The second reason is that I'm from Ottawa and going to Carleton let me study from home and save money that I can later put towards other endeavours, like grad school.
OKAFOR : With the wisdom you have now, what did you wish you knew before picking your program?
OWEN D : There isn't a lot really. I put a lot of effort, maybe a bit too much, preparing for my program. So, I wasn't caught too off guard. I guess the big thing is to be prepared to do lots of homework, especially after first year, get to know lots of people, especially since there aren't a lot of physic majors, and it's okay to have other interests outside of physics.
OKAFOR : It sounds like you’ve learned quite a lot. Is there a specific takeaway that has been significant to you?
OWEN D : [Having other interests] is the big thing I have taken away from the program. In first year, when hanging out with other people in the physics program, all we talked about was physics stuff. Which is fun, but I'm also a big politics, history, and general learning stuff nerd so it felt sort of weird or was even tiring sometimes. Now that I've done electives that aren't physics related, it has been made more apparent to me that you don't need to be all about your program all the time and read books only about your program.
OKAFOR : Do you have any role models in this field that are guiding your career goals?
OWEN D : I have a number. The most prominent figure is Richard Feynman. I really love the passion he had for Physics as well as the way he could explain it in such an enjoyable way. His level of enthusiasm and clarity it something I strive for when talking about my degree, especially when it's to someone who isn't very familiar with physics, so that they can understand. Another role model is my friend’s dad and my curling coach, Dr. Jeff Lange. He has been someone I can talk to about my degree, and he has been a great help with answering questions about career goals I have, especially regarding grad school.
OKAFOR : A good mentor can take you far. It’s wonderful that you have some great mentors in this field! My last question is loosely related to Women in Space Week that’s coming up.
OKAFOR : I was wondering what your thoughts were on more women entering STEM and there being a ‘push’ for women entering these fields. Do you think there’s something to be gained from this development? Lost? Or is it just business as usual?
OWEN D : I think the more people in STEM the better, no matter who they are, so I think this is great! Is there something to be gained from it? I'd would say yes. The more people we have trying to expand our knowledge of the universe the better. As they say, most problems are usually solved by the onslaught of more brains and so I believe the more people in STEM we have the more we will know. Which is awesome!
Is there a specific gain from an increase in the number of women, specifically? I'm not sure, but I can say with certainty we won't be worse off because of it.
OWEN D : I would like to see a focus towards getting women into fields like physics, math, comp sci, and engineering specifically. I say this because most women I know who have gone into STEM have gone into biology, which is a field that, if I remember correctly, has more women in it then men, so extra effort to get women into that field seems like a waste when it could be put towards other fields where there is a larger gender gap. Hopefully, we will eventually get to a place where we won't need to be making a push to have women, or any type of person for that matter, to enter STEM fields because there will be many there already and many more who will be inspired by them and follow in their footsteps.