Improving his community

Monday, February 15, 2021

Jyler Menard’s experience during his undergraduate studies at the University of Waterloo encouraged him to return to pursue graduate studies in the Faculty of Mathematics. However, Menard, who is currently doing a master’s in Computational Mathematics, also wanted to help other students have a more wholesome experience during their university years. 

“The support that Waterloo provides through design teams, co-op infrastructure, and student initiatives is invaluable,” Menard explained. “I chose to go to Waterloo because of those things, and I’m staying here for my master’s because of those things.” 

But Menard believes there is always room to improve student support outside the classroom. So, after participating in a physics-themed hackathon during a co-op term in Montreal, he was inspired to bring something similar to Waterloo. Working with fellow students Bethany Bouchard, Tim Whittaker, and Anya Forestell, Menard helped organize “Schrodinger’s Hack” last October, Waterloo’s first physics hackathon

“There should be opportunities for you to grow in different ways and to explore different spaces to develop ideas,” Menard said. “Taking risks and getting involved is how we learn who we are, and who we want to be.” 

About 32 teams participated in the first Schrodinger’s Hack, which saw students work to create physics-related projects over the course of a week. Menard helped to reach out to presenters, bringing in people from the Canadian Space Agency, TRIUMF, and Riot Games to lead workshops throughout the week-long event. 

“They all gave very cool presentations, and based on the feedback we received, participants really appreciated being exposed to different research paths and careers,” Menard shared. There are plans in place for Schrodinger’s Hack to become an annual event. 

In his research, Menard has a strong interest in mathematical biology. Working with Professor Chris Bauch, he has helped develop a model to understand better how communities of people adopt behaviour to mitigate climate change. Going forward, he intends to center his research around using tools from mathematics and physics to understand the principles governing how communities of organisms interact and coexist in an observable, lab-based environment. 

When Menard finishes his master’s, he intends to pursue a PhD in physics or applied mathematics. But where his career path is concerned, it will be mostly guided by his aim to improve his community continuously. 

“I’ve always wanted to become a research scientist,” Menard revealed. “But from my experience so far, it seems like one of the best ways that I can ‘do good’ for society as a whole is to be a researcher and then also volunteer in my community.”