Second Year: From Black Holes to Baking Cookies

Spring 2016

Mark Krammer

Schulich Leader at Western University

If Einstein’s theory of relativity needed any more proof, I would be happy to provide anecdotal evidence: my second year at university seems to have flown by! It’s been eight months since I came back to London last September, yet it feels like time has hardly passed at all. Over this past year, I’ve gained much more than just 10.5 course credits. In terms of academics, I’m much more adept in – and comfortable with – physics, math, and astronomy that I was in September. In terms of life experience, I’m unquestionably richer from the varied experiences I’ve undergone throughout the year.
Second year marks the beginning of the research component of the Scholar’s Electives program here at Western. As part of this program, I pursued research in my chosen field of study, astrophysics. Our research team looked at growing supermassive black holes at the centres of galaxies. You might have heard of these objects, which are sometimes called “quasars”. We compared data from two different black hole populations in order to determine whether the physical mechanisms operating in both populations are the same. The initial learning curve was steep, but the research was a wonderful experience that gave me a firsthand view of what real work is like in the astrophysics field. 
I also held the position of Residence Advisor this past year. As such, I lived in university residence as an upper-year student, acting as a mentor to a floor of over 40 first-year students. From running regular meetings with students on my floor to collaborating with other staff to plan building-wide events, the position required constant creativity to find new ways of engaging residents. As I soon discovered, a foolproof method of increasing participation turned out to be baking cookies! I greatly honed my cookie-baking abilities over the course of the year. The position wasn’t just about making cookies, though – at times, it could be challenging. I was brought outside of my comfort zone more than once. However, it was an incredibly rewarding experience from which I gained a wealth of valuable skills. I’m glad that I chose to be a Residence Advisor; it was absolutely worth it.
Even though the year has just ended, I’m already looking forward to walking back through the Western main gates in September. No matter how fast the summer might go by, I’m planning on making the most out of it and coming back refreshed, recharged and ready for next year. Here’s hoping the future holds many more interesting experiences and opportunities for growth!