October 2021 Alumni Spotlight

Hey there Physsoc- long time, no see! My name’s Ella and I was your Physsoc Secretary in 2018-2019 and President in 2019-2020. I graduated with a degree in Astronomy in 2020 and have had two very different jobs since. Also, after graduation, you have way more time for hobbies and side projects. Who knew?

Immediately following grad, I started working for Engineers and Geoscientists BC as a Program Coordinator in their Programs and Professional Development Department. I spent just over a year there, then took a well needed week off and started

my new(ish) job. Currently, I am the Quantum Computing Outreach Coordinator for UBC Geering Up. In the last year, I also got a chance to take my film photography to the next level and launch my own small business for shoots, prints, and other merch. Honestly, I am incredibly lucky and grateful that post grad (in a panini, no less) has gone the way it has! I also have an even more intense caffeine addiction than in undergrad.

All the soft skills you learn in university (working in groups, prioritizing tasks/deadlines, doing reports/presentations) come in handy in any job. Also, little things (like getting good at spreadsheets in PHYS labs, or getting used to approximating big numbers in Astro classes, or even having a half decent note taking system from lectures) come in handy in loads of different types of jobs. You wouldn’t think that admin jobs would overlap so much with a field like astronomy, but I’ve been continuously surpris

ed. I don’t do a ton of partial differential equations anymore, but working in a company on a quarterly financial system is essentially doing 13-week terms but instead of finals, you have reports due. Same soup, different spoon.

I’m also pretty stoked that in my current role, I get to pull in my physics and astronomy background in a more direct way. I don’t claim to be an expert in quantum computing, but I understand the physics behind it enough to be able to guide a team of grad students in developing accessible curriculum for lots of different age levels. With the right framing, you can teach an 11 year old about entanglement and superposition. How COOL is that? I think I barely knew what cells were at that age, but I was extremely confident that the mitochondria was the powerhouse of them. I also get to work with software engineers and know how to support them in development and can help them troubleshoot different parts of the software. Do not check my PHYS 210 mark; I swear I can code.

More than anything, though, I feel like university taught me one key thing; how to work pretty damn hard.

I know I can do the 12 hours days ad nauseum because, well, I did, and I have a slightly creased piece of paper to show for it. However, I also know that burn out feels pretty bad, and a 5 year degree full of trial and error definitely was not without qualms. And if I am going to dole out unsolicited, unqualified advice in this, It would be this: it’s going to get better and also get some sleep. Two reasons: one, I bet you don’t sleep enough because, well, school is like that. And Two: Unless you’re a superhuman, anything you do after about 11pm will probably be wrong and or a complete mess that you’ll have to rewrite anyways.

Finding the time to sleep enough, exercise, cook food, and work on personal projects gets a lot easier after grad. I also have the brain capacity to read books again, which I didn’t realize just how much I missed. I’m so grateful to have done the degree I did and all the doors it opened up for me. I’m also very glad to be in a position to get to use my favourite subjects in a job and that I think really matters. I also clearly love giving unsolicited advice and if you ever want to chat about life after uni, let’s chat (ella.meyer@ubc.ca)!

Thank you Ella, for writing an alumni spotlight section!