On Sunday, June 20, 2010, friends, families and members of the Perimeter community came together in the Mike Lazaridis Theatre of Ideas to celebrate the inaugural convocation of the Perimeter Scholars International (PSI) Master’s program.
In a short ceremony presided over by Mike Lazaridis, founder and Board Chair of Perimeter Institute, the 28 students received both a Master’s of Science degree in physics from the University of Waterloo and a Perimeter Scholars International certificate from Perimeter Institute.
“For you, the first graduates, PSI provided a path – an adventurous path – that has taken you from the students you were to the young scientists you have become,” said Lazaridis. “From your many languages and cultures, you have learned to speak a new language fluently: theoretical physics, a field which has given us our most fundamental insights into the universe, and the means to learn even more. I am a firm believer that bringing the right people and the right ideas together at the right time can change the world. Each of you has the skills you need to go out and prove me right, and forge new paths into the future.”
The day marked the culmination of one of the most ambitious undertakings in PI’s history, the creation of a unique one-year Master’s course in theoretical physics that brought in gifted students from 16 countries to tackle an incredibly wide-ranging syllabus, taught by 35 top lecturers from all over the world.
Reflecting on the occasion, PI Director Neil Turok said, “It’s with a mixture of pride and sadness that we say farewell to the first class of PSI scholars. It seems only yesterday that they arrived. It was very intense, both for the students and for us behind the scenes. PSI’s Academic Director John Berlinsky and the program’s administrator Debbie Guenther, as well as our extraordinary tutors Callum Durnford, Tibra Ali, Denis Dalidovich and David Gherson, all did heroic jobs.”
Academic Director John Berlinsky was impressed by both the graduates’ hard work and camaraderie: “Each one came with their own unique background, and inevitably each had to confront their own particular challenges. Remarkably, they got along well, supported each other, and had fun. They have persevered and emerged with tremendously enriched skills and knowledge.”
The paths PSI graduates will take from here are diverse. Some are continuing their training in theoretical physics at universities that include Harvard, University of California, Berkeley, and locally at the University of Waterloo and Perimeter Institute. Others are taking a slightly different tack, joining industry research centres like Google, pursuing climate modeling, or tutoring at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in South Africa.
Such diversity of paths is, in the eyes of Neil Turok, an indication of the program’s success. He said, “The program did just what we’d hoped: took very bright and talented young people and exposed them to the whole spectrum of theoretical physics, so they could find out what they want to do next, what makes their hearts sing. I have been very impressed in reading their final papers, and watching their oral presentations – they are truly young scientists now.”
“It was an experiment that succeeded beyond our wildest expectations,” he added. “It has changed Perimeter’s community: now we can’t imagine PI without PSI.”
PSI’s second class is set to begin in late August, consisting of 31 students, 14 of whom are women. The group comes to Waterloo from 15 different countries, from Finland and Australia, to Nigeria and Colombia.
The inaugural class of Perimeter Scholars International poses with PSI Patron Stephen Hawking, PSI Director John Berlinsky, PI Director Neil Turok, and the PSI Tutors in the PI Atrium, shortly after their June 20 convocation ceremony.
About the University of Waterloo
In just half a century, the University of Waterloo, located at the heart of Canada's Technology Triangle, has become one of Canada's leading comprehensive universities with 28,000 full- and part-time students in undergraduate and graduate programs. Waterloo, as home to the world's largest post-secondary co-operative education program, embraces its connections to the world and encourages enterprising partnerships in learning, research and discovery. In the next decade, the university is committed to building a better future for Canada and the world by championing innovation and collaboration to create solutions relevant to the needs of today and tomorrow. For further details, visit http://www.uwaterloo.ca/