Physics students win awards at national conference

By Lynn Easson-Irvine, November 1, 2007

    Sara Cormier, a second-year core physics student at McMaster, and University of Toronto student Rob Welch won awards at the Canadian Undergraduate Physics Conference. Photo courtesy of Faculty of Science.
The Canadian Undergraduate Physics Conference (CUPC) is the perfect venue for young physicists to share the results of their research projects, network with their peers, hear presentations by world-renowned physicists and learn about what is happening in physics in Canada.

The annual conference hosted about 200 undergraduate students in physics, engineering physics and science from across Canada.

This year, the conference was hosted by Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, and McMaster was enthusiastically represented by eight physics and astronomy students and 11 medical physics students.

One of McMaster's participants, second-year core physics student Sara Cormier, won third prize for her oral presentation on Ellipsometry investigations of a morphological transition in thin diblock copolymer films.

Also participating was Rob Welch, a University of Toronto student, who won first prize for his oral presentation on Plateau-Rayleigh instability as a probe for the mechanical properties of confined thin polymer films

Kari Dalnoki-Veress, associate professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at McMaster, is the connecting factor between these two students and their research. He is Cormier's supervisor and was Welch's supervisor this past summer.

"I think what sets students like Sara and Rob apart from others is that they are not only remarkably bright and focused so early in their careers, but their recognition of 'team' is phenomenal," said Dalnoki-Veress. "It is that sense of team spirit and their acknowledgement of collaborated efforts that will take them far in their academic and professional careers."

When asked about her research project and what fuels her interest in polymers, Cormier replied, "I love working with polymers because it is a visual research area of physics. I like to look at things and see how they change."

Welch's reaction was just as enthusiastic: "Using polymers allowed me to watch a beautiful process that usually happens too fast to see in nature."

Alison Sills, associate dean of studies for the Faculty of Science, explained that science students have a wide variety of learning opportunities to choose from in their field of interest.

"There are a great number of opportunities available to undergraduate students in science today, especially those who show exceptional promise," she said. "The Faculty of Science encourages its Departments and Schools to seek out and mentor these students. The McMaster science community is very proud of Sara and Rob and we congratulate both of them on their wins."

The conference not only gave Cormier and Welch the chance to present the research they compiled from their summer jobs in Dalnoki-Veress' lab, but it provided all 19 students with an amazing opportunity to present their own projects and provided them with a wealth of information. In addition to the oral and poster presentations, there were also tours of local research facilities and a career and graduate studies exhibition.

"It was an overwhelming, but at the same time incredible experience," said Cormier.