His personality isn’t the only thing that’s electric about Etienne Dreyer, who at age 19 recently finished his undergraduate education before many even start.
With a 4.10 GPA, Dreyer is the youngest-known person to graduate from the University of the Fraser Valley’s bachelor of science program. He first caught the eye of future instructors when his homemade Tesla coil wowed judges at the 2011 Fraser Valley Regional Science Fair (FVRSF), hosted by UFV.
Made partially from old microwave parts, Dreyer’s coil produced hundreds of thousands of volts and streams of electrical discharges when plugged into a standard 120 V wall outlet. He quickly became the de facto keeper of UFV’s Tesla machine after starting university when only 16.
Still, the Abbotsford local insists he was never the smartest student in class.
“I’m glad I’m not a genius,” he says.
“I think I’m a slower learner than my classmates because I want to know it in my gut instead of my head. The better I understand something rather than just knowing the answer to it, the more I’m satisfied with what I’m studying.”
Dreyer’s hunger for knowledge was fed by his mother, a nurse who dutifully cruised thrift shops and hardware stores for electronics her son could dissect and examine.
“She wanted us to explore real things, not fantasy. There’s a lot that’s entertaining about the real world around us.”
Being homeschooled alongside five siblings allowed Dreyer to focus on his interests, namely science and math. Having graduated from UFV, he’s already started lab work ahead of entering Simon Fraser University’s Master of Science program with an NSERC Canada Graduate Scholarship. worth $17,500. At SFU he is studying data collected at CERN, the 27 km particle accelerator that helped scientists discover the Higgs boson particle.
Ultimately, Dreyer hopes to be a research professor working with grad students, while also teaching undergrads. It’s something he got a head start on while sharing with UFV science students – giving a quantum mechanics lecture, and presenting on Tesla coils and other topics.
His excellent work earned him UFV’s 2015 Dean’s Medal for Science.
A well-rounded teen, his other interests include physical activity like hiking, skiing, and cycling as well as right-brain activities like singing, classical guitar, and writing – all the while enjoying time with family and friends. He aspires to follow in the footsteps of other Christian physicists and mathematicians such as Sir Issac Newton, Leonhard Euler, Michael Faraday, James Clerk Maxwell, and Wernher von Braun.
While some might imagine the universe as a series of random conveniences, Dreyer sees intentional equations waiting to be unlocked.
“We are studying the way God made our universe, struggling to grasp his design. That’s what makes science exciting!” he says.
“My faith is what drives me to appreciate the beauty of what I study.”