Co-op is the time to explore and learn

Expanding your skillset

Light matters

As I head into my final year of university and look back, I absolutely loved my first co-op job as a Mathematical Physics student.

During that co-op term, I worked in the Nano-Photonics and Quantum Optics (NPQO) Lab at the Institute for Quantum Computing here at Waterloo. It was a great opportunity for me because I gained research experience, developed my programming skills, and began thinking about the type of career that interests me.

The goal is to make a quantum computer

The NPQO lab experiments with the interaction of light and matter on the quantum scale. Their research focuses on the development of photonics devices for controlling these interactions and enhancing them. The goal is to make a quantum computer by eventually producing strong enough light-matter interaction to transmit quantum information. It’s an exciting group where projects often lie at the intersection of nanoscale engineering and quantum physics.

I worked on the design of a device to strengthen the interaction of light with a charged particle. In more technical terms, the project’s aim was to design an ion trap with an integrated optical cavity, with the goal of making strong light-matter interactions occur. This problem is tricky because ion traps and optical cavities tend to interfere with one another. We were trying to determine if you could suppress this unwanted interference enough to build a stable system.

It's proving time

It was a great project to work on, with elements of computational physics, quantum mechanics, optics, and engineering.

I developed some experience programming in Python, and I had a chance to present a poster at the Canadian Association of Physicists Congress!

The next step in the project is to begin fabricating and testing our designs, with the goal of constructing and carrying out the experiment. It was amazing to be involved in transforming ideas into actual designs and to know that those designs could someday help advance research in quantum computing.

If you keep an open mind and are open to applying for jobs outside your program, I believe there’s no limit in where your ambition can take you.

Learning by doing

I would strongly encourage prospective Physics students to consider a co-op degree. I’ve had the opportunity to work in diverse fields, develop my technical skills, and gain experience. If you keep an open mind and are open to applying for jobs outside your program, I believe there’s no limit in where your ambition can take you.

Looking back to that first co-op term, I realize I’ve been attracted to these types of research positions. I have also been an

  • undergraduate research assistant at IQC and the Department of Pure Mathematics
  • data scientist at Zero Gravity Lab
  • bioinformatics co-op student at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Perhaps it was that positive first experience, but I now know that co-op offers you more than the typical 9 to 5, and I’m looking forward to the next exciting step in my career.