By Breanne Massey
Special to the Pioneer
A love of science has fuelled a lifelong pursuit of academics in physics for an East Kootenay native.
Kyla Smith, an alumna of David Thompson Secondary School graduating class of 2003 in Invermere, has been accepted to the University of Oxford to complete a Ph.D. in Education focusing on physics education in the United Kingdom.
“My proposal is on the shortage of physics teachers,” said Ms. Smith. “There’s actually an international shortage… what I’d like to do is learn about it there, then study the shortage that we have in Canada.”
Physics is the study of matter and energy, and it helps explain how much of our world and the universe work. Her goal is to conduct physics education research in Canada after learning new approaches and methods from some of the world’s most renowned teachers in educational research. With the long-term dream of working with Ministries of Education in Canada to implement changes to the curriculum and the recruitment of physics teachers in Canada, Ms. Smith is focused on evaluating the shortage of physics teachers closer to home.
“I think the shortage is due, in part, to that not many people go into physics, then there aren’t many teachers for the younger generation and the cycle continues,” said Ms. Smith.
In 2008, Ms. Smith graduated from the University of Victoria (UVic) with a double-major in Physics and English. She went on to complete a Bachelor of Education for secondary school education with a specialty in Classroom Diversity at UVic in 2011.
Her latest completed credential was a Master of Science in physics in 2019 at the University of Manitoba (U of M) where physics captured Ms. Smith’s energy. She received six awards from various governing bodies in 2018, including First Place in the Division of Physics in Medicine and Biology from the Canadian Association of Physicists Congress.
According to the Winnipeg CBC, Ms. Smith requires $120,000 CAD for four years of tuition and fees to complete a doctorate in the United Kingdom as this distinctive program is currently not offered in Canada. She hopes to raise $37,000 CAD to cover the first-year tuition and fees on a GoFundMe Campaign that was created by her colleagues in Manitoba.
However, Ms. Smith will lose her spot in the program if she is unable to pay the first year’s tuition by the start of this fall’s semester.
“It’s a really huge and scary number,” she said, indicating it’s a daunting task.
“I feel so touched that they set up the GoFundMe for me. It’s making my dream of going to Oxford possible.”
After completing the Oxford program, Ms. Smith plans to return to Canada to help share her passion for physics in a wide variety of programming.
“We have a real problem with a lack of women in physics,” she explained. “The numbers are really low, and it’s stagnating at a very low percentage. That’s a big part of the rationale as to why I’m doing what I’m doing… if physics were more accessible, then we could have a more diverse set of physicists. That’s what’s driving me.”
Her brother Fraser Smith alerted the Pioneer about the GoFundMe campaign.
“She is an inspirational teacher and a passionate physicist, and she aims to help encourage more young people to pursue this important field. Physics is currently a male-dominated career and Kyla has been a leader in this country in trying to figure out why that is and how to change it,” said Mr. Smith.
To contribute to Ms. Smith’s first year of studying abroad, please visit https://www.gofundme.com/help-kyla-get-to-oxford to make a donation.
If there is any additional funding from this campaign, it is expected to be donated to the Columbia Valley Community Foundation, which has previously provided financial aid to Ms. Smith for her education.