“I grew up in a small farming, community-based town near Montreal” says Mathematics student Olivier Gilbert, “I did math and science for fun, so I was always the odd person out.” Olivier consistently received support and encouragement from his family for his love of math, but was always keen on seeking out ways to get involved and help others. For example, in high school he and his friends shaved their heads and donated an extremely impressive $65,000 to Leucan, an association for children with cancer. Moving from a French-speaking to community wasn’t easy for Olivier, but, “I wanted a new experience, I wanted a new challenge, and I’m really happy to be here” he says.
Olivier is working towards a joint degree in Computer Science and Combinatorics and Optimization. When it came to choosing a university, he knew that Waterloo is the best in North America for Computer Science and was drawn to the fact that it has its own faculty of Mathematics. A new student can be easily intimated by the idea of asking a professor for extra help, but Olivier says “All the professors actually care, and that’s one of the best resources a university could have… professors are not out of reach, they’re just waiting for you to come and talk to them.” He recalls an experience from first year when Professor Kathryn Hare “actually came and sat down with every student and learned their name and something interesting about every one of them”. That’s definitely a nice way to get started in university!
“My family is in Montreal and I like to go home and visit when I can”, says Olivier. This is why he chose to opt out of co-op, but decided to find placements near home on his own. “I have the liberty of choosing when I want to study and when I want to work. I found these jobs through contacts and networking. Go out and talk to people! That’s how I found my past two jobs. Show them what you’re capable of.” Olivier has held positions with a drugstore company in Montreal at their headquarters and for another company making iPhone applications. After his first work experience, he was offered contract part-time work while in school.
Outside of work and school, Olivier is active in Mathematics Soceity (MathSoc), the Pure Math Club, the Computer Science Club, and the Campus Response Team. He also likes programming new games with his friends and hanging out at Waterloo Park. After his undergraduate degree, Olivier wants to get his master’s degree and work in security and cryptography. To all incoming students, Olivier says “Make sure you get involved in extra-curriculars and stuff outside of class or else you’ll miss out on 95% of what Waterloo has to offer.”