Rover of the Month: Samuel Ng

“Building pyramids was a walk in the park in comparison to the development of semiconductor devices within the last half century,”

..the professor proclaimed at a quantum mechanics lecture one morning. I looked up from my computer screen, eyes widened. Now the whole class was awake.

My name is Samuel. I have just graduated from UBC Electrical Engineering. Come September, I will be starting grad school, pursuing my dream of quantum computing research.

I’ve always loved computers. They’re fascinating. Each hardware component exploits different types of physical phenomena to perform its desired function; billions of these components are packed inside the size of a coin; they work in harmony with other groups of hardware to perform logic operations and when they’re done, that cute picture of that cat from that wonderful chain mail appears on your screen. What this picture is, is about a million of colored pixels, arranged meticulously and accurately by billions of transistors switching between 1’s and 0’s at 4 billion times per second. I love computers.

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My fondness for computing started almost 2 decades ago when I was a kindergartener. Those days, I built mini cities (in SimCity, of course,) just to watch natural disasters terrify my clueless citizens. I especially loved watching gigantic monsters demolish buildings to ashes. (The citizens didn’t like it so much.) Then, one day, my conscience struck me: “Does my computer think I’m a horrible human being?” But wait, how did the computer even understand me? How did it perform exactly what I wanted it to do (ie. to create tyranny)? These questions haunted me throughout my childhood. They shaped my interest and motivation toward a career in the computing industry.

Unfortunately, from my upbringing in Hong Kong, I was never instilled with the notion to aim high. As a teenager, all I ever wanted was to get a bachelor’s degree, get a decently-paid, computer-related job, and I would stay in my comfort zone, my hometown. I was taught to keep my head down and to only have “realistic goals”. Over time, I became a pessimist when it comes to what I could achieve in the future. I didn’t believe I was capable.

Somehow, in Grade 11, I moved to Canada. Right now, if you’re expecting some sort of turning point in my life, you’re right – it got even worse. A change of environment is not something I was entirely fond of. I didn’t speak English very well. My attempted jokes received more awkward, blank stares than they did back in Hong Kong. It was shocking I wasn’t the prom king two years later.

Then came university. My close high school friend, Jenni, had told me how much she had learned from this Scout Group of which she was a member. I decided to check it out.

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There was something about the people of the 180th Pacific Coast Scout Group that drew me to them – they were always so energetic, enthusiastic, friendly. Everyone in the group was here because they wanted to learn to be the best version of themselves. When I first met them, they asked me what my aspirations were. I didn’t know. I decided to stay and find out.

We refer to ourselves as “the Rover Crew”. In the crew, the rovers looked far into the future. They had high expectations of who they wanted to become and they worked hard to reach those goals with systematic methods. Hearing inspirational life stories from other rovers, receiving advice from my mentor, Sam Chan, and having thought-provoking conversations with our Head Scouter, John Chow, expanded my horizons to ranges I never knew existed. Their aspiration and their confidence rubbed off on me.

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Volunteering in Scouts, participating and sometimes even leading several projects, I was shown that my actions could impact another person as much as theirs had impacted mine. I found myself pondering that “maybe, just maybe, like these people, I could learn to become someone who brings a bigger change to society, who leaves a deeper footprint on the history of humankind, who helps pave the path to a better collective future.”

Back in UBC, I was in my fourth academic year. I was taking a course on nanotechnology in electronics. This course talked about how quantum effects affected the operations of modern-day devices. More importantly, it highlighted how these phenomena could be exploited to create the next technological revolution – quantum computing.

After some soul-searching from being in Scouts, an epiphany came over me. I decided to amplify on my interests and my skills, to go after a goal that would have a longer-lasting impact; I decided to pursue a career in quantum computing research. I applied for UBC’s Masters in Applied Science program.

In my first year as an undergraduate student, “quantum mechanics” had always been a distant concept, an unreachable holy grail that I could never have aspired to touch. The old Samuel would have wanted to take the “safer route” and picked the path with the least resistance. It’s funny how fourth-year-Samuel had become excited with the prospect of a challenge. I let go of my self-doubt and dove deep into the field of quantum computing.

And I got in; I got myself a ticket on the future-train, I will be pursuing a Masters of Applied Science with a research field of quantum computing.

From scouts, I have found a sense of belonging; from scouts, I have found my confidence. My friends in this group helped me find the courage to chase after the wildest possible dreams I have had.

That’s the story of how Scouting paved my way toward Quantum Computing. That’s just one of the many stories from our Crew. What will yours be?                                            

Sandra Lee

2 Responses to “Rover of the Month: Samuel Ng

  • Very nice story Samuel!

  • Such an inspiring story. I am so proud of you, Samuel! I know that you will do great things in the future – best of luck! 🙂

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