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Okotoks teen accepted to prestigious physics program

Kiera Dowell, 17, is one of 40 students - 20 Canadians - accepted into the Perimeter Institute International Summer School for Young Physicists (ISSYP), which will take place remotely in July.
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Seventeen-year-old Kiera Dowell, pictured on June 2, got selected to attend the International Summer School for Young Physicists.

An Okotoks student will be diving into quantum mechanics, black holes, special relativity and general relativity this summer, after being added to the short list of teenagers accepted to an esteemed summer school program for young physicists. 

Holy Trinity Academy student Kiera Dowell, 17, is just one of 20 Canadians attending Waterloo's Perimeter Institute International Summer School for Young Physicists (ISSYP). 

"I was super excited," she said of her acceptance. "I'm really excited to learn more about it just because you don't get to do it in school.

"I cannot wait, I think it's going to be a super cool experience." 

The program accepts between 30 and 40 students each year, an equal split of Canadian and international students. 

To apply, Dowell needed to write an essay detailing her interest, a transcript of her grades and a recommendation letter from her science teacher. 

She said that everyone in her life was very proud of her for garnering such a prestigious position. 

From July 18-29, the teen and her peers will undertake a deep dive into topics outside the realm of a high school physics classroom; participating in three hours of sessions per day and follow-up work in the evenings and weekends. 

The Grade 11 student said she loves math and science and can't wait to delve into all things physics. 

"I think it'll be like challenging to kind of wrap my head around the ideas because they're so out there," she said. 

According to its website, the Perimeter Institute is a leading centre for scientific research, training and educational outreach in foundational theoretical physics. ISSYP is in its 20th year and boasts more than 900 alumni in 60 countries. 

Participants are typically flown to Waterloo to stay and study for the duration of the program, however, this year's iteration will be held virtually. 

Waterloo is the hub for math and physics in the country, Dowell said, and while she is disappointed she won't get to attend in person, that doesn't diminish her sense of accomplishment. 

"I [am] proud of myself for getting into that big, prestigious summer school," she said. 

When she isn't Einstein-ing, Dowell enjoys volunteering with the Town of Okotoks and Hockey Canada. She also plays midget hockey and enjoys reading novels and spending time with friends and family. 

Though she is undecided at the moment, Dowell has her sights set on pursuing her scientific interest after she graduates next year. She is considering computer programming, software engineering or mechanical engineering as possible post-secondary plans. 

She added the logic of STEM is what keeps her coming back. 

"It all just fits together so perfectly," she said. "It's satisfying when you can figure it out and be able to solve it and it just all fits together seamlessly. 

 "I just really enjoy that aspect of being able to figure it out and work through it step by step." 

Lauryn Heintz

About the Author: Lauryn Heintz

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