Student Feature: Jocelyn Coulombe

Posted on Friday, December 1st, 2023

Written by Kylie Riches

Headshot of Jocelyn.

Meet Jocelyn, a Physics student in her final year at UofG. 


Discuss your first lecture on campus and how that went.

I lived in a “Physics Cluster” in South Residence on campus my first year, meaning that everyone living in my section was majoring in physics or science. This gave me the opportunity to get to know some of my peers during Orientation Week before lectures started, so I was fortunate to be familiar with some classmates going into my first lecture.

My first physics lecture was with ~80 peers that I quickly got close with given that we shared almost all our classes. We were a mix of personalities and levels of shyness, but our Professor was so friendly and personable from the start that I felt very comfortable with the group and setting by the end of the hour!

Explain how you think you have changed from first year to now and the impact that UofG has had on that change.

Going into first year, I didn’t know anyone at the school, what to expect from classes, or where my degree would take me. But living and eating on-campus first year, then living a bus ride or a walk away from campus with other students in subsequent years, while continuing to go to the campus gym, play intramurals, and study at the library with friends made me feel at-home on campus throughout my degree. Being engaged and excited about my studies at the University kept me connected with peers, comfortable in lectures and talking with Professors, and confident enough to keep expanding my comfort zone. I think this led to success and achievement in and out of the classroom, and helped me grow to become a more confident and passionate person, student, and young professional.

When did you become interested in your field?

Coming out of Grade 12, I had no idea what I wanted to do in terms of my career. But I recognized that I did well in physics and enjoyed biology in high school, so Guelph’s program seemed like the perfect mix for me- and it was! My career-oriented interest in the field of space and remote healthcare grew from my Co-op work experiences, which I’ll describe below.

Top three favorite things about UofG (one word/ phrase answers):

  • Beautiful campus environment
  • Small class sizes = close-knit community with peers
  • Positive and supportive atmosphere

Favorite thing to do on campus?

Hangout on Johnston Green! If you don’t know it, Johnston Green is a large field in front of Johnston Hall, surrounded by beautiful trees. I often meet up with friends there to eat lunch on the grass, play sports, or study at a picnic table. Come spring and summertime, the field is filled with students enjoying the sun!

Did you have an A HA moment? A time when something you learned, or a professor just blew you away.

My physics professor in my first year asked me to meet him in his office after class one day. I had no idea why, but I went. We chatted about the class for a bit, and then he spoke about the potential he saw in me. He told me stories of famous physicists who were curious, ambitious, and unwavering in pursuing their goals, and said that he believed I could do great things in the field if I too stayed curious, ambitious, and unwavering. I couldn’t believe this professor took two hours out of his evening to chat with me one-on-one, and I was so inspired by his passion and confidence in me. I left his office that day with a whole new view of what my degree experience could and would be.

Discuss some of your extracurriculars on campus (intramurals, clubs, councils, etc.)

At the University, I’ve enjoyed participating in Ultimate Frisbee intramurals. I also spend a lot of time at the Athletic Centre on campus; I like to work out in the Fitness Centre, join workout classes like kickboxing and Zumba with friends, and play basketball and volleyball during drop-in hours at the gyms. In my second year, I volunteered fundraising for Guelph’s Medical Brigades group in preparation for their medical mission trip to Panama.

Tell me a little bit about your co-op experience.

I am SO grateful for my co-op work experiences- they were quite literally life-changing. My first placement was eight months with Canadian Nuclear Laboratories as a Radiobiology and Health Student Researcher. The team and I were investigating the health effects of exposure to radiation in deep space, which was a topic I knew nothing about beforehand but ended up loving. This was a company and position that I would not have known about or felt confident enough to apply for, had Guelph’s Co-op department did not facilitate the process.

The connections I made with industry professionals and the introduction to the field of space health from my first co-op, led to my second eight-month co-op at the Canadian Space Agency. In this role, I worked with the Operational Space Medicine team and got to work directly with Canadian astronauts David Saint-Jacques and Jeremy Hansen! I am continuing to work part-time and remotely with this team while I finish my degree, and I look forward to working full-time with them after I graduate.

What would do you tell future students about Guelph? What would you tell them about the field?

Firstly, congrats and welcome to the Gryphon Family! Your degree is what you make of it, and it can be incredible if you take it by the reigns and seize every opportunity Guelph offers. You don’t have to know “what you want to do when you graduate” yet, just stay open-minded and expose yourself to as many different possibilities as you can, by talking to people, attending conferences, trying different work placements through a co-op program, etc. Talk to your professors- this might seem daunting, but it is so valuable. They were in your shoes once too, and now they are here to help you succeed and find your passion, but you have to take the lead! I think the word “Physics” sounds scarier than it is and doesn’t let on how much fun it can be. There are so many cool applications of Physics to all sorts of industries you may not expect- it opens the door to jobs you never knew existed!

Where do you hope to be in 5 years?

I hope to be working with the Operational Space Medicine team at the Canadian Space Agency, facilitating the development of a lunar healthcare system for astronauts! After working full-time for a bit, I intend to pursue further education, but I’m not sure exactly what yet. But not having my mind set yet does not worry me; in fact, it’s kind of exciting. I trust that giving my all to the meaningful work I’ll be doing, and learning as much as I can along the way, will lead me to my next step.

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