First Semiahmoo Secondary, then Cambridge, and now Oxford.
It’s been quite a year for Tristan Downing, a 17-year-old Semiahmoo International Baccalaureate (IB) program grad who has just been named to the five-member Canadian Physics Team that will compete in the International Physics Olympiad next month.
The competition will take him first to Oxford University for a week of preparation before traveling to Tallinn, Estonia for the competition July 15-24.
This comes after Downing won a full entrance scholarship worth $200,000 to the University of Cambridge in January and was on the Semiahmoo team that won the UBC Physics Olympics in April (the second year in a row that a Semi team won the UBC event).
“It’s been a series of pleasant surprises,” Downing says.
To qualify for the national team, Downing had to write the Canadian Association of Physicists high school exam.
He finished first in B.C.
After the CAP exam, Downing and other top scoring students were invited to try out for the Canadian national team at UBC, where students spent a week writing four five-hour tests.
The written tests were on quantum mechanics and relativity; two experimental tests required students to express their knowledge of solar power and determine the structure of plastic by shining a laser through it.
“I found I was doing everything I knew how to do in the first two hours, and the rest of the time I spent staring at the ground and hoping the answers would pop out,” Downing says.
He credits physics teacher Louay El Halabi at Semiahmoo for his success.
“(Halabi) goes far, far beyond what a teacher needs to do for his class and it really shows,” says Downing.
“He’s one of the hardest working people I know.”