They’ve come from 17 countries around the world, and though they may speak different languages at home, here in Waterloo, they all speak physics, all the time. These 28 outstanding physics graduate students have converged on Waterloo to attend Perimeter Scholars International (PSI), an innovative and intensive 10-month Masters level course being held at Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (PI), in partnership with the University of Waterloo.
University of Waterloo President David Johnston and Perimeter Institute Director Neil Turok recently celebrated the program’s official launch at Perimeter Institute. “PSI is a bold and exciting partnership that is very much in keeping with the spirit of innovation driving both Perimeter Institute and the University of Waterloo,” said Johnston. "These students are pioneers of a new model for research training and I expect we’ll soon see some remarkable new scientists graduating from the program."
Dr. Turok says he sees the PSI program as key to Perimeter’s goal of creating the optimal environment for theoretical physics research. “When I arrived at Perimeter last October, creating an exceptional training course for future physicists from around the world was right at the top of my list of priorities. The University of Waterloo was wonderfully supportive right from the start. A steady influx of bright new minds is enormously important to our field.”
The PSI course is designed to expose students to the full spectrum of theoretical physics, bringing them rapidly to the leading edge of current research. The schedule is intense, with daily lectures given by a stellar array of international scientists, as well as Perimeter researchers and University of Waterloo faculty members. Visiting lecturers for this year include such eminent scientists Nima Arkani-Hamed of the Institute for Advanced Study, David Cory of MIT, Leo Kadanoff of the University of Chicago, Xiao-Gang Wen of MIT, and many others. Several of the world’s most distinguished theoretical physicists, including Stephen Hawking and Sir Roger Penrose, are PSI Patrons, acting as advisors to the program.
The Canadian physics community was integrally involved in getting PSI off the ground: Professor John Berlinsky, of McMaster University, is PSI’s Academic Program Director, and the University of Waterloo’s Professor James Forrest was instrumental in shepherding the proposed Perimeter-University of Waterloo partnership through University channels to Senate approval last year, enabling PSI students to receive their Masters degrees from the University of Waterloo.
Once the program was announced, word spread quickly in the international physics community; within three months, over 220 applications had been received for the 28 spots. Director John Berlinsky said, “We were overwhelmed and gratified by the response. Many of these students could have gone anywhere in the world, and they chose to come to PSI—they are an incredibly diverse and talented group. I’m also pleased that over twenty percent of PSI students are women, which is unusually high for a graduate level physics course.”
In addition to research training at the cutting edge of theoretical physics, PSI students have all of their tuition and transportation costs covered, and are provided with lodging in student housing at the University of Waterloo, laptops, and meals. The innovative learning model incorporates daily roundtable discussions between students and lecturers, and individually tailored support from tutors to maximize the capabilities of each student. While formal evaluations are de-emphasized, students complete daily problem sessions and a final research project under the supervision of a faculty member at one of the participating institutions.
Dr. Turok says that PSI appeals to adventurous students who know that they love physics, but are not yet specialized in a particular area. “PSI is for those who want to experience the full breadth and power of theoretical physics, and gain wide problem-solving experience before homing in on their specialized field of research," he said.
Interested applicants can check www.perimeterscholars.org for 2010/11 application information.
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 www.uwaterloo.ca