Student stories

Ballard Power Systems is perfect learning environment for physics co-op student

Kasey Luft

Ballard Power Systems

Physics student Kasey Luft has always been interested in applying his skills in the real world. After completing three co-op work terms, including the latest with Ballard Power Systems, he's tailored his studies to pursue a career that fits.

1. Who is Kasey Luft?

I am from Didsbury, Alberta, a small town north of Calgary.  I actually chose UVic partly because the co-op program, I had heard many great things about the co-op program and I wanted to be apart of it.  I also chose UVic to see the ocean and experience the west coast.  I am taking a BSc. in physics.  The astronomy program first drew me into physics, I knew many of Canada’s top astronomers and astrophysicists are at UVic and having the HIA (Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics) so near solidified my decision. 

2. How did you hear about the co-op program?

I heard about the co-op program, for the first time, through other people who had enrolled at UVic.  After joining info sessions in Calgary, I learned much more about the program and how good it was.

3. How many co-op work terms have you completed?

I have completed 3 co-op terms so far, I am currently finishing my BSc. in Physics on my fourth and final co-op.

4. On your most recent work term, what was your job title and role, and what were your responsibilities?

My job title is a Failure Analysis Investigator for Ballard Power Systems Inc.; Ballard is a fuel cell producing company.  My responsibilities include running scope meetings, sample preparation, analysis, and report writing.

5. What did you hope to learn from working for your co-op employers?

I hoped to learn new skills and improve upon ones which I already have which would help prepare me for the “real world”.  I was also excited to learn about each of the organizations and businesses which I worked for and how they function. I also hoped to learn which path I wanted to take for my career, and after my first co-op I decided to solely focus on a career in physics instead of astronomy.

6. How closely did you work with your employer/supervisor?

My supervisors were there for guidance when I needed it and if I had any questions they were always ready to answer them.  For the most part, I had my own projects to work on and gave weekly updates to my supervisors.

7. What was the biggest surprise about your work term?

On my current co-op I was amazed at how much I needed to learn about the company and its processes.  The first two weeks had a huge learning curve. 

8. What did you learn on your work term? New skills? Responsibilities?

I have learned much about the company and how a business runs.  I have also learned an incredible amount about fuel cells and how they operate, and their failure mechanisms.

I have learned much about project and time management skills.  I have also improved my technical writing skills which is very beneficial in this field.  This co-op has also given me the opportunity to improve my hands on capabilities as well.  As for responsibilities, it is my responsibility to schedule meetings, analyze and interpret data and create technical documents.  I am responsible for most of the project, with my supervisor being there whenever I have questions.

9. How did your work term relate to your academic studies?

A lot of the analytical equipment used for failure analysis is based off of fundamental physics principles.  It is interesting to see these principles we learned about in class being used on an everyday basis. 

10. What made you excited about the job?

Everything, the job is perfect for a physics student as I get to use my problem solving skills to understand why a fuel cell has failed.  I also liked the idea of the amount of responsibility which this job entails; it is very similar to a full-time position.  Lastly, I liked that I was working for a renewable energy company on the forefront of fuel cell research.

11. How did you use your core competencies in the workplace?

The core competencies are used daily here.  I am continually assessing each of the projects I am working on, changing priorities between tasks and managing my time accordingly.  A lot of research skills are harnessed when analyzing and interpreting data.  I communicate with the rest of failure analysis team daily and reports are always being written.  In this position I am continually learning, there is something new going on everyday at Ballard, which makes it a very interesting place to work. 

12. What advice do you have for other students who are thinking about taking part in co-op?

If you can, definitely take part in the co-op program, it is one of the most important things you can do with your degree.  Coming out of university with 16 months of experience looks good on any application.  You are also exposed to so many different fields, especially in physics it is important to sample as many industries as you can to help you decide which path you want to take, or not take.  You will also make many friends in the process and go to interesting places, it is by far the best decision I have made.

More about Physics and astronomy co-op