Arvin's story

The Work Learn International Undergraduate Research Award allowed Arvin to explore his passion in research and reaffirm his interests.

Exploring passion through the Work Learn Undergraduate Research Award

I have always had many questions: Why is the sky blue? Why do stars shine? Where does oil come from? I have always wanted to learn as much as I can about the universe we call home and it didn’t take long for me to realize that science was the way to satisfy my passion for learning.

Thanks to my sponsor, Petroliam Nasional Berhad, a Malaysian oil and gas company, I was able to pursue my tertiary education in my home country, Malaysia, and here in Canada. I am now in my fourth year at UBC, majoring in Geophysics and minoring in Astronomy.

When I first considered becoming involved in research at the university, I was nervous. I didn’t know anything about the workload or if I would fit in. Eventually, my desire to experience something new overcame my fear. I sent multiple e-mails to professors in the EOSC, Physics, Astronomy and Mathematics departments, inquiring about available summer positions. I was offered a position with Catherine Johnson, professor of Planetary Geophysics in the Earth and Ocean Sciences department. At the same time, I applied for the Work Learn International Student Research Award as a result of a friend’s recommendation. Unlike many other award application processes, this one was straightforward and not too tedious.

My summer research experience was nothing short of amazing. I worked with Professor Catherine on generating seismic probability density maps for the InSight lander. InSight is a NASA program and its mission is to place a geophysical lander on Mars to study its deep interior.

Building Connections

This research experience has benefitted me in many ways, some of which I did not expect at all. I learnt how to use new software that would be useful to me as a geophysicist. I was also excited to be able to apply the theories I learnt in classes to real-life problems. Meeting and interacting with professors, graduate students and other undergraduate students from different backgrounds was another unexpected outcome of my summer placement. I had very interesting conversations with people who are experts in their own fields and gained new knowledge from these conversations, while honing my communication skills at the same time. Not all conversations revolved around work, though. I learnt a lot about the norms of different countries as my colleagues were from many different parts of the world.

Being on Professor Catherine’s research team meant that I had the opportunity to attend meetings with her entire team, which was combined with Professor Mark Jellinek’s research team. Graduate students and professors presented their work and findings in these meetings, allowing me to learn new things and to ask questions.

I have always wanted to be a scientist, discovering new things, working with different types of people and being excited about discovery. This research opportunity was my first step towards achieving this goal, and you could say it has been a dream come true. Now that I have experienced doing research, I know that it is something I enjoy. In fact, I am continuing my research with Professor Catherine this term through a directed studies course. This experience taught me that we may not always get the results we want every time, but that’s the beauty of science; every time you stumble, you realize what you don’t know and now you have more questions to work with. It’s a never-ending learning process!