In many ways, Broderick Causley is your average university student. Having just completed his second year at Algoma University, he works part-time in the university library, dreams of graduate school, and of one day becoming a professor. But with a 98% average in the Mathematics program and entrance this past summer to a very prestigious math institute at the University of Alberta, Causley is anything but average.
The Fluid Dynamics Summer School, put on by The Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences (PIMS) took place from July 23 - 27, 2012 at the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. It is intended for senior undergraduates, Masters students and starting PhD students having a strong background in mathematics, physics and/or engineering. In total, 18 students attended, from schools like The University of Cambridge in the UK, University of Göttingen in Germany, and Yale University in the US.
In only his second year at Algoma U, Causley sought direction on a future in mathematics. He asked Algoma University Professor Dr. Michelle Atkin about possible opportunities, and she passed along the names of some contacts at Carleton University. One of those contacts recognized Causley’s potential, and recommended he apply to the PIMS Summer School. He did, and much to his surprise, was accepted. “I couldn’t believe it when I got the call offering me a place at the school,” he recalls. “I thought it was one of my friends playing a trick on me.”
Causley comes from a fairly modest academic background. His mother is a bookkeeper, and his father worked at Algoma Steel. Even so, he remembers being interested in mathematics and wanting to attend university from a young age. He tells the story of peeking into a Grade 7/8 classroom when he was only in Grade 2, and understanding with delight the solution of an algebraic equation. “Right there was my Eureka moment”, he said.
He claims to have always wanted to be a University professor, and still does. Causley works as a teaching assistant at the University, delivering lectures and marking papers in some of the first-year classes. He admits that speaking in front of a large group can be intimidating, “But when I’m speaking about math, I’m very much at ease,” he said.
Math is Causley’s life. He started the first Math Club at Algoma U, and when he’s not snowboarding or out walking – “I walk all the time, even in winter, and walking in storms is even better” – he is constantly mulling over complex problems. He admits to riding the bus rather than getting a ride with friends or family, “just so I have time to think.”
As a child, he was constantly counting by doubles and doing math puzzles, but wasn’t certain of where math fit in his life. His studies took him to Sault College to study mechanical engineering before coming to Algoma University in the fall of 2010. He credits the faculty at AU with helping to discover his path forward. “I couldn’t have dreamed bigger than where I am right now,” he says of his experience at Algoma University. “Everyone here wants you to succeed, not just learn. I am convinced that I would not have had these opportunities at any other institution.”
His experience at the PIMS Summer School was one he will never forget. Aside from the challenge that the daily experiments presented, Causley felt a very special bond with his new friends almost instantly. “I feel like I won the lottery,” he said of the experience. “For us to be able to come together and meet like-minded people was really spectacular.” The diverse student group created for some interesting moments, such as when they first entered the West Edmonton Mall and were confronted with a skating rink. “The rest of the group wanted to know whether it was common in Canada to find a skating rink in a mall,” he said. “I had to set them straight on that one.”
The social aspect of the trip is what surprised Causley most, such as the invitation to the Faculty Club after the culminating presentations on the Friday. The group stayed for most of the evening, which Causley described as “a taste of what the future could hold” for him.
Causley is very appreciative of the opportunity that has been afforded him, and understands what a privilege it was to be selected as the youngest participant in a group comprised mainly of Masters and PhD students. “It was an honour to work with all of these professors, and learn from them, but it was even more of an honour to work alongside the students, who will be leaders in their fields,” he said.
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