PSI celebrates another adventure in research and discovery

Eighth class of Perimeter Scholars International urged to pursue truth, no matter where it takes them.

Learning physics and doing physics are two very different things. One provides a pathway of discovery that leads to a destination; the other might hit one frustrating dead-end after another.

By pursuing both – in learning the breadth of today’s theoretical physics, and then writing their own research essays – the eighth class of Perimeter Scholars International (PSI) graduated today with more than just a toolkit. They are problem solvers, critical thinkers, fellow adventurers in a journey to uncover truth.

“The world as a whole is in quite a confused state. We need clear thinkers,” Perimeter Director Neil Turok told the students, their families, and their colleagues at the annual PSI celebration on Friday.

“It’s a crazy, ambitious pursuit when you are going after the truth. … Go into this with open eyes. You’ve got tools which enable you to do anything.”

Every year, Perimeter receives hundreds of applications to the PSI program, which is unique both for the challenges of the subject matter and for its focus on teamwork between students, PSI Fellows, and faculty.

The eighth class of PSI brought together 27 students from 20 countries on six continents for an intense 10-month physics bootcamp. Having earned their PSI certificates, graduating students will receive their MSc degrees from the University of Waterloo at a convocation ceremony this fall.

Class valedictorian Tomás Reis, from Portugal, looked back at a year of Frisbee and pool, board games and study sessions, tutorials and assignments and long sleepless nights, and blackboard after blackboard covered with ideas.

“It was a tough adventure, but we choose to do physics not because it’s easy, but because it’s fun,” he said to chuckles from the audience.

“What I’ll remember most fondly is when we just sat around and talked, waiting for time to pass, but secretly hoping that it wouldn’t. … Only by knowing people who came from so far, I met people so similar to me.”

Not everyone is leaving town; this year will see a record 14 “PSI-ons” stay on at Perimeter to pursue their PhDs. But whatever path they take, Perimeter Faculty member Davide Gaiotto reminded them, they are in for thrilling, and possibly exasperating, challenges.

“Look critically and honestly at what you’re doing – to your assumptions and conclusions – and do not accept something [that] is not quite right,” he urged the class. 

“Seek truths, and distinguish them from things that are not true. Keep trying, keep struggling, keep working, do your best, and you will succeed.”

The PSI class of 2017 in the Perimeter Atrium

For the families in attendance, the ceremony also provided a chance to finally experience the environment they’ve been hearing so much about.

“It was too good an opportunity to miss,” said Rosemary Carter, who flew from New Zealand to watch daughter Emily Rose Carter Kendall graduate. When asked if she’d expected to attend such an event when her daughter was a child, Carter laughed. No! We knew she was clever, but we didn’t know she was this clever.

Cormac McCarthy, who came from Ireland to support daughter Fiona McCarthy, was excited to see Perimeter for himself. “You hear all about it, so it was good to actually get here. It’s very impressive,” he said. 

We don’t understand what she does, he added. We haven’t a clue.

– Tenille Bonoguore and Stephanie Keating



About Perimeter Institute

Perimeter Institute is the world’s largest research hub devoted to theoretical physics. The independent Institute was founded in 1999 to foster breakthroughs in the fundamental understanding of our universe, from the smallest particles to the entire cosmos. Research at Perimeter is motivated by the understanding that fundamental science advances human knowledge and catalyzes innovation, and that today’s theoretical physics is tomorrow’s technology. Located in the Region of Waterloo, the not-for-profit Institute is a unique public-private endeavour, including the Governments of Ontario and Canada, that enables cutting-edge research, trains the next generation of scientific pioneers, and shares the power of physics through award-winning educational outreach and public engagement.

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“It’s a crazy, ambitious pursuit when you are going after the truth.”


– Neil Turok, Director, Perimeter Institute