By Jennifer Gouchie
Special to the Journal Pioneer
Sebastien Roy-Garand will spend the next couple of months boldly going where few men have gone before.
The 19-year-old Indian River resident is working in Vancouver, B.C., this summer as a St. Mary’s University research student at TRIUMF, a world-renowned laboratory for particle and nuclear physics. The opportunity was made possible by an undergraduate research scholarship awarded to Roy-Garand by the Canadian Institute of Nuclear Physics, which will cover his wages during his time there.
“It’s more of a research experience than a job offer. I’m technically not getting paid by TRIUMF nor am I a co-op student,’’ he clarifies.
Roy-Garand is thrilled with his decision to join the team at TRIUMF – Canada’s particle accelerator centre and home to the world’s largest cyclotron. He’ll be working on a couple of different complex projects during his time there, including the CANREB-ARIEL project (Canadian Rare-isotope facility with electron beam ion source; Advanced Rare Isotope Laboratory). He will also be involved with the IRIS experiment – an innovative rare isotope reaction spectroscopy station led by SMU and located at the UBC-based TRIUMF, one of only three subatomic research facilities around the globe specializing in producing extremely intense beams of particle.
Roy-Garand, who will enter his third year of a bachelor of science degree in astrophysics at SMU this fall, has been interested in science for as long as he can remember. His parents, Marie-Anne Roy and Greg Garand, have nurtured, encouraged and supported their only son throughout his formative years, gifting him with a plethora of science-related books, toys, puzzles and Lego.
But there’s one book in particular that stands out in his mind.
“When I was five or six, my parents gave me a French book about space for Christmas, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever,’’ he fondly recalls. “But on the last page of the book, there was a picture of an alien which scared me to death. But I’d still go to space if the opportunity ever presented itself.’’
It wasn’t until his graduating year at Three Oaks Senior High School in Summerside that he decided to pursue an education in physics.
“I knew I liked science and learning how things work, so I took physics and calculus courses which opened up a whole new world for me. I found it fun and liked the challenge of the classes.’’
After completing his bachelor of science at SMU, he plans to pursue a master’s degree in physics and most likely go on to become a professor. There are really only two career paths he can take as a physicist – experimental and theoretical. The latter fits his personality perfectly.
“Questions need to be answered,’’ he simply states.
He was shocked, surprised and somewhat humbled to receive three amazing job offers this summer in his field.
“The opportunity was initially presented to me with the options of British Columbia, Michigan and Germany, but my supervisor thought it would be best if I worked in B.C. this summer,’’ he explains. “There’s still a possibility for work at those other facilities in future years.’’
It is an incredible experience for Sebastien, who will spend the remainder of the summer working on a couple of different complex research projects.
“A typical day starts with meetings in the morning and the rest of the day is spent working on the device, trouble-shooting, changing parts, monitoring data and deciding what needs to be fixed.’’
It’s all still a bit mind-boggling for the small-town boy who had no idea what to expect when he arrived at the facility and, admittedly, doesn’t always completely understand everything at times.
He’s been a little bit lonely but otherwise adjusting well to life on the West Coast where he’ll remain until the middle of August. He’s made new friends at work and has been taking the time to explore the beautiful Vancouver area on weekends.
His family and friends have been supportive, for which he is grateful.
“Lots of people are very excited for me.’’