Convocation profile: Michael Fryer

June 2010 | The Ring | Online here

Michael Fryer

Michael Fryer

The dinnertime conversation in Michael Fryer’s house may have centred on science and math, but it was never dull.

His father, a high school physics teacher in Sechelt, BC, and his mother, who has a background in biology, focused on “fun science” and ideas, he says, with the family figuring out the number of trees in the world, or using vinegar to show that blackberries can be used as an indicator of pH.

“We were good at leaving all the boring stuff for school and just dealing with the fun stuff.”

As a result of this early exposure, he says, he has more of a theoretical physics and math background than other students—something that may help to explain his academic success: Fryer, who is graduating this month, is receiving the Canadian Society for Mechanical Engineering Gold Medal for highest graduating GPA in his class. He also received the Faculty of Engineering Dean’s Entrance Scholarship, a UVic Excellence Scholarship, the Cunliffe Engineering Scholarship, and Norman Yarrow Scholarships in Engineering—twice.

But, he says, he didn’t do it alone, and thanks his classmates, friends, family and professors—including Dr. Rodney Herring, his thesis supervisor, and Dr. Tom Tiedje, the Dean of Engineering—for their support.

“Engineering is really a team effort: People helping each other on projects, helping each other on homework, helping each other with notes and studying for tests—it’s a big thing.”

The heavy workload makes the engineering community particularly important, and activities such as the Order of Pi, the Engineering Students Society and even a pick-up game of football after a difficult exam stand out for Fryer.

Fryer completed co-op placements with the military, Kodak, General Motors and the team of Dr. David Sinton, which was working on a device for early detection of ovarian cancer. He also undertook a research term and built a confocal acoustic holography microscope—it uses sound to build a 3D image of soft tissues—for his honours project.

“The end result was that I got a really good, broad range of opportunities in different fields related to engineering,” he says.

He also spent four months volunteering in Calgary and Uganda with Engineering Ministries International, a non-profit Christian development organization that designs buildings to serve the poor.

Fryer is spending the summer working for Tiedje and is considering attending grad school—he is looking at UVic and the University of Waterloo—and focusing on energy systems.

“I really like problem solving, and applying science to making things,” he says. “It’s pretty cool.”