2017 Winner of the Governor General's Silver Medal

Nicholas BensonThis Friday at convocation, Nicholas Benson will be awarded the 2017 Governor General’s Silver Medal. He graduates with a Bachelors of Science Honours combined in Computer Science and Mathematics with an impressive 9.0 GPA. We spoke with him through email about his time at UVic.

What made you decide to major in computer science and mathematics?

Nicholas: In high school and introductory calculus math courses, I'd memorized machinery for solving certain problems, but in Math 222, I encountered actual math. To me, math is the art of crafting logically indisputable answers to interesting questions. Two people may approach the same question in very different ways; you often appreciate the beauty of a proof you would never have created yourself.

What were some of the highlights of your UVic program?

Nicholas: One of the most enjoyable mental activities during my degree was preparing for the Putnam with Peter Dukes, discussing problem-solving strategies, which eventually led to my first USRA.

Another highlight was participating in the UVic Programming Club, briefly leading it. The club is a place to brainstorm about competitive programming problems. The sound of a dozen people excitedly chatting about their ideas is unforgettable.

Did you take part in research opportunities while here? 

Nicholas: I did a USRA with Peter Dukes (Math), then a USRA and JCURA with Kieka Mynhardt (Math), then a directed studies with Frank Ruskey (CSC), then an honours project with Valerie King (CSC). Each of these was great fun, and I enjoyed a variety of topics.

At UVic you can get to know your professors, and they have time and care to engage in research with interested undergrads. It’s nice to do math or theoretical computer science without assignments and deadlines – just thinking, and learning from (and with) your supervisor.

Where will the future be taking you?

Nicholas: This summer I started a Masters in theoretical computer science at UVic under Dr. Valerie King, where I’ll study some interesting questions we found during my honours project, research other areas of theoretical computer science, and attend conferences; hopefully honing my interests. After that I hope to do a PhD at another mathematically interesting theoretical computer science group. I would also like to try a work term at Google along the way.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Nicholas: I’d like to thank my high school teachers and pastor, for demonstrating that one can be logically-minded and Christian; my father, for his support throughout my degree; Peter Dukes and Frank Ruskey, for inspiring and facilitating my fascination with their respective fields; and my delightful girlfriend who helped me edit my responses to this.