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Faculty of Science

Department of Physics & Astronomy

Alumni Profiles

Kyle Pastor

  1. What undergrad program did you graduate from?
    • McMaster Physics & Astronomy (theory branch when it existed)
  2. What year did you graduate?
    • 2011
  3. Did you do any schooling after undergrad? If yes, what did you do?
    • I did a Masters of Physics at Mac in Theoretical Polymer Physics with Dr. An-Chang Shi, then I entered the Masters of Quantitative Finance program at Waterloo where I am currently finishing up my last few months.
  4. What do you do now? (where do you work? What is your job title? Are you still in school? What is a typical day like?)
    • As part of the program I have been interning at Scotiabank for about 6 months now full time. I do a lot of programming and a bit of modeling financial systems. I also help develop tools for the traders to use in their day to day operations. My job title is Financial Engineer Intern as a part of Global Capital Markets division of Scotia. I usually get in at around 8:30am and am bombarded with about 10 autogenerated emails. These tell the developers (me) if anything bad happened overnight when calculations were running. I usually have about 5-8 tasks on the go all at once, and new requests come in all of the time. They could be a quick bug fix, or a long term project where I need to do Java,C++,C,Perl and scripting all together across the many systems we have in order to get something running. It is usually super busy in a good way, and the work is quite varied and interesting. You are never bored! A lot of the stuff I do is called regression testing. This means that since we have a huge code base, if someone makes a change to the "core" code, it could have an effect on all of the dependent code. If I change the "+" to become a "-" in the code, then it looks like we lost a lot of money... Stuff like this is a daily chore that must get done, usually by interns :(
  5. Did your Physics & Astronomy degree help you in your current position?
    • Getting a physics degree is probably the most versatile thing you can do today. Just being able to problem solve and know a bit of math is super useful in a large variety of jobs. I would suggest everyone to LEARN TO PROGRAM (C++, Any Scripting language like python or perl). If you can code, and know physics you will never go hungry! It prepares you very very well and you can go on to do basically anything in a quantitative field.
  6. What advice do you have for a first year student considering enrolling in a Physics & Astronomy program?
    • Advice for first years... It will be very hard at first but don't get to down on yourself. One of my worst courses was First year physics, and I was a super physics nerd to begin with. It progressively gets way way more interesting as you move from course to course, year to year, so the struggle is totally worth it. Also, try not to just "learn the equations". Physics is all about looking at a problem and understanding it, not about going through the motions. Take the time to really think about what you are doing and go through your conclusions to see if they make sense. Think about the craziest cases and see if what you think breaks down. Also a lot of tests are online... so there is that :P

Alex Chan

  1. What undergrad program did you graduate from?
    • Honours Mathematics and Physics (4 year program)
  2. What year did you graduate?
    • Class of 2010
  3. Did you do any schooling after undergrad? If yes, what did you do?
    • Master of Science in Computational Physics (2 year program)
  4. What do you do now? (where do you work? What is your job title? Are you still in school? What is a typical day like?)
    • I am a software developer at Systemware Innovation (SWI - www.swi.com ).
      Official Job Title: Consultant
      Not in school anymore but encouraged to keep learning and improving both financial and programming knowledge.
      What is a typical day like?
      Currently on contract at TD (Toronto downtown financial district) for 7 of 18 months (extended as needed).
      I am a part of TBSM (Treasury and Balance Sheet Management) Modelling team of seven. I'm there Mondays to Fridays 8:00-16:00. My job is two-fold:
      (1) I work with business users to meet production requirements. This includes going to meetings and making revisions to existing code.
      (2) I help develop and test new applications/processes that TBSM developers and business users will use in the near future.
      Let's just say days move very quickly.
  5. Did your Physics & Astronomy degree help you in your current position?
    • I would say that having a background in physics and programming specifically definitely helps with what I am currently doing. The major takeaway being the problem solving skills I developed. I cannot emphasize enough the amount of doors that open when you have programming experience.
  6. What advice do you have for a first year student considering enrolling in a Physics & Astronomy program?
    • Take all programming courses offered by Physics & Astronomy. It will be difficult but the payoff will be worth it.

Derek Attewell

  1. What undergrad program did you graduate from?
    • Graduated from Honours Physics with a Specialization in Astronomy
  2. What year did you graduate?
    • Graduated in 2011
  3. Did you do any schooling after undergrad? If yes, what did you do?
    • Masters in Astronomy at McGill University
  4. What do you do now? (where do you work? What is your job title? Are you still in school? What is a typical day like?)
    • Currently working as a Consulting Analyst at InfoTech Research Group in downtown Toronto. InfoTech is an IT research and consulting firm that focuses on applicable research with measurable results. I am in the Data Research group specializing in data management and business intelligence.
  5. Did your Physics & Astronomy degree help you in your current position?
    • My degree in Physics and Astronomy equipped me with a wide variety of highly valuable skills which not only helped get this position, but set me apart from other entry level applicants. Working in the data group, I make use of the analytic and quantitative skills this degree uniquely provides, along with a talent for problem solving.
  6. What advice do you have for a first year student considering enrolling in a Physics & Astronomy program?
    • Physics and Astronomy provides a valuable and employable degree along with an unprecedented variety of skills (math, data, programming etc) that open a variety of doors. I would strongly suggest supplementing the course requirements with additional programming to become one of the most employable job candidates in an evermore competitive environment. Alison Kinross

Alison Kinross

  1. What undergrad program did you graduate from?
    • Honours Physics
  2. What year did you graduate?
    • 2013
  3. Did you do any schooling after undergrad? If yes, what did you do?
    • I graduated from HackerYou in April 2014, which isn't official schooling but it is similar. It was a front-end web development bootcamp that was full-time for 9 weeks.
  4. What do you do now? (where do you work? What is your job title? Are you still in school? What is a typical day like?)
    • I work at JUICE Mobile as a Junior Front-end Web Developer. I really enjoy the work and feel lucky to have a permanent position. A typical day for me involves coding a mobile ad unit - an example would be a car with a 360 view that the user can tap and swipe to interact with, although each unit is different and I'm glad I get to challenge myself often. I'm not currently in school but I haven't ruled out doing a Master's in Computer Science one day. Or possibly something else :)
  5. Did your Physics & Astronomy degree help you in your current position?
    • Yes, although not directly. The analytical and problem-solving skills, as well as just the general math skills, have been very helpful. Also, having a physics degree combined with having more practical training at HackerYou was what made it so easy to get a job.
  6. What advice do you have for a first year student considering enrolling in a Physics & Astronomy program?
    • There are so many benefits to enrolling in physics and astronomy, so I would advise people to give it some thought! First, it's a huge differentiator when job seeking as it's a rare degree that is also very technical. Second, throughout your time in the program you will experience small to medium class sizes with tons of opportunities to speak with professors and T.A.s one on one. The department also employs a relatively high number of its undergraduate students every summer in research projects that help you to determine whether you'd like to pursue an academic path. Most importantly, it's a lot of fun! Don't assume you have to be a genius to succeed in physics - it's much more important to learn to be determined to keep trying even as the problems become more challenging.

Charmaine Tressler

  1. What undergrad program did you graduate from?
    • Honours Physics (Biophysics Specialization)
  2. What year did you graduate?
    • 2010
  3. Did you do any schooling after undergrad? If yes, what did you do?
    • Yes. I completed my M.Sc. in physics from McMaster University with Dr. Cecile Fradin.
  4. What do you do now? (where do you work? What is your job title? Are you still in school? What is a typical day like?)
    • I am currently working full time as a Sales Engineer - 1ntern at Help Desk Technology Corporation, which develops business management software. I am also completing further education in sales. As an intern, I am currently training in all aspects of the company such as administration, technical support, sales, and consulting.
  5. Did your Physics & Astronomy degree help you in your current position?
    • The educational value of a physics degree is multifaceted and goes beyond mere academic value. This line of study helps develop logical and analytical thinking, problem solving, technical skills (such as programming), as well as time management skills. In addition, the curriculum develops an aptitude for professional writing and presentational skills. These skills form the foundation for a successful career in any field.
  6. What advice do you have for a first year student considering enrolling in a Physics & Astronomy program?
    • Although a physics degree may seem intimidating at first, once you become comfortable with the workload, the knowledge and skills you develop throughout your undergraduate degree will benefit you in your future career, whether it is centered around physics or not. Also, I would strongly advise prospective students to consider enrolling in the co-op program as it is an excellent means of test-driving different work opportunities.

Ian Rowe

  1. What undergrad program did you graduate from?
    • Honours physics co-op
  2. What year did you graduate?
    • 2011
  3. Did you do any schooling after undergrad? If yes, what did you do?
    • No
  4. What do you do now? (where do you work? What is your job title? Are you still in school? What is a typical day like?)
    • Project Manager at Bruce Power, I really don't have a typical day, every day is different but I spend a lot of my time away from my desk either out in the field working with people to implement projects or in meetings to develop projects in their early stages. Ultimately, as the Project Manager, I'm responsible for the successful completion of all aspects of the project, which is where having a technical and theoretical knowledge of the area is helpful.
  5. Did your Physics & Astronomy degree help you in your current position?
    • Yes, both in getting the job, since I went back to a company I did co-op for, and in my current role. My projects are all related to radiation protection and detection, e.g. replacing various radiation monitors with modern, state of the art devices, implementing modern shielding to protect workers and more. This is where having a strong physics background is key.
  6. What advice do you have for a first year student considering enrolling in a Physics & Astronomy program?
    • Definitely consider co-op, you can travel, you can try out different jobs and careers, and meet a lot of people who you can network with down the road - it's definitely worth it.

Michael Afanasiev

  1. What undergrad program did you graduate from?
    • Honours Physics
  2. What year did you graduate?
    • 2010
  3. Did you do any schooling after undergrad? If yes, what did you do?
    • After my undergrad I did a Masters at the University of Western Ontario, in geophysics. After I completed this, I moved to Switzerland, to continue studying geophysics as a PhD student at ETH Zürich.
  4. What do you do now? (where do you work? What is your job title? Are you still in school? What is a typical day like?)
    • Right now I’m still doing my PhD in Zürich, while being employed as a research assistant. With this job it’s a bit difficult to really pin down a typical day, but I guess it’d go something like this. Spend the normal working day (about 9 - 6:30?) in the office, writing and modifying elastic wave propagation codes, and testing these codes within Switzerland’s supercomputing network. After work, we’ll all usually hang out and have a good times. Occasionally, I reminisce fondly of my days at McMaster.
  5. Did your Physics & Astronomy degree help you in your current position?
    • Absolutely. The P&A program at McMaster really does provide a broad, comprehensive, and well-taught overview of front-line physics. Want to delve deep into profound fundamental theories of the universe? Sure. Want to also learn how to solve challenging engineering problems? Yeah you can do that. Want to pick up some substantial programming skills along the way? Why not.
  6. What advice do you have for a first year student considering enrolling in a Physics & Astronomy program?
    • Learn how to code. The learning curve is quite steep, but if you’ve mastered this skill you will be infinitely more employable (within and outside the physics industry). Many of the problems we work on today are too large to be contained within a physical experiment, so the only option is numerical simulation. If you come out of this degree with a good understanding of the fundamental physics & math, and some solid programming skills, just go out and choose whatever job you’d like. Also, good luck.

Jessica Carvalho

  1. What undergrad program did you graduate from?
    • Honours Mathematics & Physics
  2. What year did you graduate?
    • 2004
  3. Did you do any schooling after undergrad? If yes, what did you do?
    • I continued with graduate studies, completing my M.Sc. in 2006 and my Ph.D in 2010, both with the Physics Department at McMaster, under the supervision of Prof. Kari Dalnoki-Veress.
  4. What do you do now? (where do you work? What is your job title? Are you still in school? What is a typical day like?)
    • I currently work for Canada Revenue Agency with the Department of Scientific Research & Experimental Development (SR&ED) as a Research and Technology Advisor. My department provides income tax credits for Canadian companies undertaking eligible R&D work in science and engineering. As a technical reviewer, I am responsible for reviewing SR&ED claims to ensure they meet the eligibility requirements of the program.
  5. Did your Physics & Astronomy degree help you in your current position?
    • In order to understand the SR&ED work claimants have undertaken, my job requires me to have a strong foundation in both scientific and engineering concepts as well as research principles and methods. Thus, I use the knowledge and research skills I gained through my physics degrees on a daily basis.
  6. What advice do you have for a first year student considering enrolling in a Physics & Astronomy program?
    • I would advise first year students considering enrolling in the P&A program to take advantage of all the resources the department has to offer. Get involved in summer research programs to gain hands-on research experience. Volunteer with outreach events. Participate in CUPC. Get to know the people in the department, and take advantage of their knowledge, experience and advice.

Katie Harding

  1. What undergrad program did you graduate from?
    • Honours Physics
  2. What year did you graduate?
    • 2010
  3. Did you do any schooling after undergrad? If yes, what did you do?
    • Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) at Western University, graduated 2012
  4. What do you do now? (where do you work? What is your job title? Are you still in school? What is a typical day like?)
    • I’m the Science & Data Librarian at UOIT. I help science faculty and students to use the scientific literature. This includes teaching, research consultations, building library collections, and lots more. I also am involved in developing programs for managing the university’s research data.
  5. Did your Physics & Astronomy degree help you in your current position?
    • My physics degree helped me to build a broad understanding of physics, and to gain some familiarity with other scientific disciplines. This background, combined with my research experiences, helps me understand the information that I work with and teach others about.
  6. What advice do you have for a first year student considering enrolling in a Physics & Astronomy program?
    • Get research experience! Even though I did not pursue graduate studies in physics, my experiences with summer research positions and doing an undergraduate thesis helped me to enter my Master’s program and to get a job as an academic librarian in the sciences.

Rob D’Ortenzio

  1. What undergrad program did you graduate from?
    • Honours Physics
  2. What year did you graduate?
    • 2011
  3. Did you do any schooling after undergrad? If yes, what did you do?
    • Yes, I did a masters in experimental physics at McMaster University.
  4. What do you do now? (where do you work? What is your job title? Are you still in school? What is a typical day like?)
    • I am a second year medical school at University of Toronto. As a medical student, a typical day includes many experiences. It may involve clinical exposure in the hospitals and community, or classes, seminars and small group sessions to gain a strong foundation in medicine.
  5. Did your Physics & Astronomy degree help you in your current position?
    • Absolutely. I believe that my physics background gives me a fresh perspective and problem solving skills that makes me a unique team member. Also, the wide range of research and volunteering activities I was able to pursue in my degree at McMaster allowed me to be a strong candidate when applying to medical school.
  6. What advice do you have for a first year student considering enrolling in a Physics & Astronomy program?
    • If I were to go back, I would definitely choose Physics at McMaster again. If you are a student who is interested in learning the fundamentals of science, and constantly find yourself asking "Why?" when presented with information in your other classes, physics may be for you. I believe the satisfaction of completing problems in physics is unrivalled by many other science fields, where memorization plays a larger role.

Nick Jago

  1. What undergrad program did you graduate from?
    • Honours Physics
  2. What year did you graduate?
    • 2011
  3. Did you do any schooling after undergrad? If yes, what did you do?
    • After undergrad I did my Masters of Science at McMaster in financial math. A one year course based masters program.
  4. What do you do now? (where do you work? What is your job title? Are you still in school? What is a typical day like?)
    • I currently work in the investments division at Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan. I work in Natural Resources group where we make private investments in Agriculture, Oil & Gas, Timberland and Mining. The goal of the group is to find/source investments in the aforementioned industries, analyze the opportunity by researching the market and forecasting potential financial performance, and then executing on the transaction if it provides an appropriate risk adjusted return (in other words the return is commensurate with the risk involved in the investment). When working on a transaction a typical day might involve any of the following: 1. traveling to the investment opportunity to make sure it exists! 2. working in excel to build a financial model to determine what the potential returns might be (forecasting income or dividends to Teachers') 3. speaking with lawyers and accountants as we conduct our legal, financial and tax due diligence. When not working on a transaction I will be completing work to monitor the investments we currently hold in our portfolio, this might include communicating financial results of the company to the rest of the group, speaking with the portfolio company on the current status of a harvest (agriculture or timber) or production (oil and gas).
  5. Did your Physics & Astronomy degree help you in your current position?
    • My physics and astronomy degree, although not directly related to my day to day work, has helped me to think critically and solve challenging problems. Although there is a lot that I had to learn as I had not been taught it directly in school (accounting, economics, etc)
  6. What advice do you have for a first year student considering enrolling in a Physics & Astronomy program?
    • Study something in school that interests you so that you may easily become engaged and work hard. If physics is something that interests you, study it, don't get discouraged because it is challenging, this is a good thing!. Think seriously about what you want to do after school (grad school vs work force) and put yourself in a position to work towards and realize that end goal.

Andrew Mergl

  1. What undergrad program did you graduate from?
    • Honours Physics Co-op
  2. What year did you graduate?
    • 2011
  3. Did you do any schooling after undergrad? If yes, what did you do?
    • I did one year of biochemistry at McMaster to get prerequisites for medical school.
  4. What do you do now? (where do you work? What is your job title? Are you still in school? What is a typical day like?)
    • I am currently in my second year of medical school at St. George's University in Grenada in the Caribbean.
  5. Did your Physics & Astronomy degree help you in your current position?
    • Understanding basic principles of physics helped me to easily learn physiology. My P&A degree also let me understand many medical imaging technologies on a fundamental level. Modalities such as x-ray/CT, MRI, ultrasound, and PET all rely heavily on physical and mathematical techniques.
  6. What advice do you have for a first year student considering enrolling in a Physics & Astronomy program?
    • The skills and modes of thinking you learn and develop in the P&A program are not only very valuable for "doing physics" but they are also useful for many other disciplines.

Evan Sinukoff

  1. What undergrad program did you graduate from?
    • Honours Physics Co-op
  2. What year did you graduate?
    • 2011
  3. Did you do any schooling after undergrad? If yes, what did you do?
    • I spent a year at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center continuing work from my co-op terms before starting grad school at University of Hawaii at Manoa, Institute for Astronomy, where I continue to study.
  4. What do you do now? (where do you work? What is your job title? Are you still in school? What is a typical day like?)
    • Since 2012, I've been a graduate student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Institute for Astronomy. I recently earned a Master degree and am transitioning into a PhD dissertation project as a NSERC doctoral fellow. My research is focused on the detection and characterization of extrasolar planets. I study their occurrence patterns to inform models of planet formation and evolution. I also recently conducted a search for black holes wandering our Galaxy...results pending. A typical day involves data analysis via computer programming and on several nights per year I observe on some of the world's most powerful telescopes atop Mauna Kea.
  5. Did your Physics & Astronomy degree help you in your current position?
    • Absolutely, my co-op at NASA allowed me to gain research experience, network with astronomers, and build my CV (letters of recommendation etc.), which strengthened my grad school applications. The physics and astronomy courses at McMaster also prepared me well for graduate studies.
  6. What advice do you have for a first year student considering enrolling in a Physics & Astronomy program?
    • I would highly recommend that new students seek research opportunities as soon as possible. Enrolling in the co-op program provides a natural engine to jumpstart your future career, whatever it may be (you'll also earn a paycheck). Seek out the people and companies you want to work for and email them to introduce yourself and express interest. Don't be shy! The worst they can do is say "no", and most of them likely will, but all you need is one "yes" or even a referral to someone else who they think might be interested. At that point, you've just opened the first of many doors. Keep in mind, many potential employers/advisors don't realize they could use a student until someone asks.

Rob Peters

  1. What undergrad program did you graduate from?
    • Honours Physics
  2. What year did you graduate?
    • 2008
  3. Did you do any schooling after undergrad? If yes, what did you do?
    • Yes, I completed both a Masters (2008-2010) and PhD (2010-2014) in Experimental Polymer Physics.
  4. What do you do now? (where do you work? What is your job title? Are you still in school? What is a typical day like?)
    • I am currently a Capital Markets Project Consultant for SunGard Financial Sustems. In this role I work in multiple programming languages, improving and adapting Sungard's enterprise risk management software to meet the business needs of various clients. My day mostly consists of consulting with clients and working with a team of other consultants to design and implement software modifications as the financial needs of our client change.
  5. Did your Physics & Astronomy degree help you in your current position?
    • Though physics is not directly involved in what I do day to day, the analytical thinking and data management that I learned through my degree in physics has helped me in my current role. As well, the programming background I received through my undergrad and graduate work did allow me to learn new languages quickly and as needed.
  6. What advice do you have for a first year student considering enrolling in a Physics & Astronomy program?
    • My advice to a 1st year physics student would be to recognize that your physics degree is only one component of your education. Find other ways to get involved and develop work, volunteer or leadership experience during your time as an undergraduate student. Though a Physics degree in itself is a great feat, there is much to be gained from diversifying and realizing how you can improve yourself (and your resume) through non-scholastic endeavours.

Judi Agar

  1. What undergrad program did you graduate from?
    • Honours Physics with Origins Research Specialization
  2. What year did you graduate?
    • 2010
  3. Did you do any schooling after undergrad? If yes, what did you do?
    • Yes, I completed a M.Sc (2008-2010) in Astronomy and Astrophysics at Western and then went to Nipissing to complete a B.Ed (teacher’s college)
  4. What do you do now? (where do you work? What is your job title? Are you still in school? What is a typical day like?)
    • I am now a teacher! Right now I am supplying in the Simcoe County Board, and waiting for a contract to open up so I can have my own class full time! Last year (the 2013-2014 school year) I taught full time at St Thomas More Catholic School in London UK. I taught general science from Years 7 - 10, and A-levels physics.
  5. Did your Physics & Astronomy degree help you in your current position?
    • I would say that physics has helped me in my current position a great deal, since I am now a physics teacher! Beyond that, I think physics teaches you to be a good problem solver, and look for a variety of different ways to tackle a problem.
  6. What advice do you have for a first year student considering enrolling in a Physics & Astronomy program?
    • My advice for a first year student would be to get organized and stay organized! Physics can be a lot of work, but also a lot of fun! Also, make friends with others in the physics program. Completing assignments and studying for exams is so much better when you can all be helping each other out along the way!

McMaster University - Faculty of Science

Mailing Address

Department of Physics & Astronomy,
McMaster University

ABB-241
1280 Main Street West
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
L8S 4M1

Contact Information

Telephone Inquiries:
+1 (905) 525-9140 ext.24559
Fax:
(905) 546-1252
Email Inquiries:
physics@mcmaster.ca

McMaster University - Faculty of Science

Mailing Address

Department of Physics & Astronomy,
McMaster University

ABB-241
1280 Main Street West
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
L8S 4M1

Contact Information

Telephone Inquiries:
+1 (905) 525-9140 ext.24558
Fax:
(905) 546-1252
Email Inquiries:
physics@mcmaster.ca