Story

Dan Weaver
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​​​​​​​​​​​PhD candidate, Physics​​​ & Environmental Studies​

I grew up reading about the stars and planets, planning to become a scientist one day.

I completed a BSc in Astronomy and Astrophysics at U of T. I loved it. Spending long nights taking data at the observatory on the roof of the physics building was an incredible experience. Next, I pursued a BEd. Although I did not become a teacher, I learned skills that contribute to my current work, especially when preparing talks.

After my BEd, I interned for a year at the Toronto Atmospheric Observatory. It gave me valuable experience working in a research lab and analyzing data. Following the internship, I wanted to grow as a scientist, so off to graduate school I went!

I have a sense of adventure. I enjoy the outdoors—exploring and wilderness camping. These attributes helped me find my niche. I enjoy field work. My research involves travelling to faraway places to understand the planet better.

As a PhD candidate in the Department of Physics; I am undertaking a collaborative program in Environmental Studies. As part of Prof. Kim Strong’s experimental atmospheric physics research group, I conduct fieldwork at the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL) on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut.

The goal of our work is to understand the earth and its atmosphere. We are still developing a complete understanding of how our atmosphere moves and interacts with the rest of the planet. I want to contribute to a field where the knowledge generated relates directly to improving our quality of life.

Professors here are engaged in amazing research projects that align perfectly with my interests. I could not have found a better committee to advise my research anywhere else. They help lead projects like PEARL and the Atmospheric Chemistry Experiment (onboard Canada’s SCISAT satellite mission). I work with faculty members who have connections in the global scientific community. 

I travel to the edge of Canada to understand our planet better. Travelling to the high Arctic for field work at PEARL is absolutely remarkable. It is a privilege to visit a part of Canada few people see. I wrote a series of articles for U of T News about our latest trip to PEARL.

Being at U of T is about more than accomplishing your research. I’ve dropped into public lectures on politics, astronomy, and chemistry. There is a culture of knowledge here beyond one department or one research team. A feeling of discovery permeates the air.

Following graduation, I want to continue researching the changing atmosphere and its impact on society. I plan to pursue academic and government job opportunities. At the same time, I have a passion for teaching and engaging the public about the importance of science. Hopefully, the path I follow will offer opportunities for science, adventure, and education.

Experimental physics is a wonderful combination of frustrating, laborious, exciting, and satisfying experiences. Problem solving is a part of life in a research lab. Seek opportunities to gain lab experience. There is no better way to determine whether this is the right path than to dive in.

Graduate education has been very different from undergrad. There is a need to develop tangible skills to support experimental research. I have learned about using tools, working with electronics, and expanded my communications abilities. I’ve also learned about computer programming, which supports work in all areas of physics. I’ve become a valued member of a research team. Graduate school is an intense opportunity to learn, grow, and contribute new knowledge to the world.
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