Discovering the world of earth and space science

Anthony Girmenia (he/him), a third-year Physics and Astronomy student, shares his experience working in research positions and describes the remarkable projects he has worked on over the last few years.  

Anthony's co-op journey

An image of Anthony

Work term 1: Anthony worked at the University of Waterloo in the Faculty of Science as a research assistant. He delved into the dynamics of dark matter halos and how they interact through tidal forces.  

Work terms 2 & 3: Anthony worked at Environment and Climate Change Canada, in the Climate Research Division. He worked as a research assistant on a proposed Canadian satellite mission, called the Arctic Observing Mission, that will help monitor greenhouse gas emission in Northern latitudes.  

Work term 4: Anthony worked as a research assistant at the University of Western Ontario in the Physics and Astronomy department. He worked on predicting the capabilities of a telescope designed to detect small comets in the outer reaches of the solar system.  

Q & A with Anthony

Q: Do you have any accomplishments that you are most proud of?

A: “My biggest accomplishment was working on my project at the University of Western Ontario. I developed computer simulations of a telescope which predicted its ability to make groundbreaking detections of small solar system comets. During this time, I really felt like an independent researcher. I was able to take initiative and write a draft of a first-authored paper. This is a very big achievement for me.”

An image of Anthony Q: Do you recall facing any challenges along the way?

A: “Because the focus of my work terms is novel research, learning very niche information in an extremely short span of time is an ongoing requirement of the job. The resources I have access to become scarcer with each co-op, as the difficulty of the tasks increase. During a study term, one has access to lectures, professors, textbooks and so on. But with research projects, the topic at hand is not only new to you but also your supervisors. This challenge has been persistent throughout all my co-op terms. Every term, I was able to reflect on how I could improve in this aspect. I have seen growth in myself as a learner and seeker of information.”

Q: You seem to be doing a lot of research-oriented positions. Is that a coincidence or is this your path?

A: “I really like research. It isn’t an accident that all my co-op terms have been in this area.  For my most recent co-op, I really wanted to work in a position related to planetary science. I ended up emailing almost all astronomers I could find doing anything resembling this type of work to seek out job opportunities! I am also directing my future towards research. I plan on doing a master’s and then a PhD.”  

An image of AnthonyQ: Do you have any advice for first time co-op students?

A: “For students looking to apply for research positions, my biggest advice would be to get good grades. As you might not have experience in this area, it is always a good idea to use your grades to prove to potential supervisors that you are a capable candidate.”

Additionally, I truly believe in reaching out to everyone you can. Talking to senior classmates, graduate students, professors, can all provide invaluable insight. In particular, setting up meetings with professors to talk about careers in research has provided me with incredible guidance and even connected me with future supervisors!”

Q: How has your co-op experience shaped you?

A: “Being in research lets you explore and learn. It is not easy to carry out your tasks, so it really helps you grow as an individual and a professional. I think I have become a better learner. Networking with people allowed me to learn new approaches and strategies towards learning. My grades have also increased because of the experience I gained in problem solving and navigating different tasks.”

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