Latest cohort includes ten winners of the prestigious scholarshipBy Jon Parsons University Relations
For the eleventh year in a row, the University of Waterloo is welcoming a group of exceptional first-year students who were awarded a Schulich Leaders Scholarship.
The Schulich Leaders Scholarship is Canada’s largest annual science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) scholarship. There are 100 recipients throughout Canada, with individual scholarships valued at $80,000 and $100,000.
"Waterloo is proud to welcome this year’s cohort of Schulich Leaders," says Vivek Goel, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Waterloo. "These gifted scholars are change-makers who have the potential to make a significant impact through innovation that will change the world for the better."
"Schulich Scholars bring a unique drive and ambition that closely aligns with Waterloo’s strategic goals," Goel continues.
Recognizing the increasing importance and impact that STEM disciplines will have on the prosperity of future generations, businessman and philanthropist Seymour Schulich established the $100+ million scholarship fund in 2012 to encourage the next generation of entrepreneurial-minded, technology innovators.
Learn more about the ten high-achieving students who have received this prestigious national award and are starting undergraduate studies at Waterloo.
Subha Azrin was involved in developing apps throughout high school and intends to continue innovating with technology at Waterloo.
As a participant in the Technovation Girls competition, she helped create Phrase.ly, an Android English-learning app aimed at breaking language barriers faced by newcomers to North America. Azrin was also a key organizer of a tech program called Recess Hacks, which had over 100 participants throughout Toronto District School Board schools.
"I’ve always loved problem-solving," says Azrin. "To be able to build a device or code a program that solves a problem faced by millions of people is something that intrigues me. After taking part in a few hackathons and joining my school’s robotics team, I realized that I want to spend the rest of my life creating things to solve problems through the collaboration of hardware and software."
Azrin says she aspires to become the founder of a startup in the AI industry, utilizing the knowledge and aptitudes she is setting out to gain at Waterloo. She aims to become a strong leader in STEM, steering the future of innovation with like-minded individuals and inspiring youth around the world.
Tudor Barsan already had a good idea of what the University of Waterloo was all about through his participation in numerous mathematics contests with the Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing (CEMC).
He says it was this early experience with CEMC that helped inspire his passion for computer science and made him realize Waterloo was the only school for him.
"I am extremely excited to become a part of the Waterloo community and meet all the outstanding students at the university," Barsan says. "I am looking forward to applying myself through the clubs and design teams, as well as trying out different roles at a variety of companies through the co-op program."
"I plan to apply my algorithmic knowledge to tackle the unique challenges we face. The Schulich Leader Scholarship has introduced me to others with the same passion for the development of innovative technology, and I am excited to work alongside them soon."
Outside academics, Barsan is involved in athletics and was the captain for the Oakville rep soccer team for three years and was also a competitive volleyball player.
Charlotte Alexandra Brown is a student with many talents. Along with academic interests in biotechnology and accountancy, she was involved in a wide range of clubs and activities throughout high school.
She played hockey and soccer, participated in symphonic and jazz bands as a trumpet player, and was very active as an executive member of Best Buddies, a peer-support network.
Brown also took every opportunity to develop her skills in technology, which made her an ideal candidate for both Waterloo and the Schulich Leaders Scholarship.
"I developed my passion for biotechnology when I worked on a Moonshot Project with a team of other young innovators," Brown says. "We came up with an idea for our own company in the field of biotech by designing a product that would help people manage stress and burnout. It was such a fun and rewarding experience to work with other like-minded individuals while solving important problems in the healthcare field."
This experience led Brown to decide that pursuing a degree that combined biotech and accountancy was ideal for her. She says she is especially excited by the co-op opportunities at Waterloo and is looking forward to getting more experience working in the fields she loves.
Norman Chen is Waterloo’s latest Schulich Leader who has perhaps come from the longest distance to join the university.
Chen is from St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, and is among the top young scholars the province has produced in recent years. He says that he chose the University of Waterloo because of its reputation in engineering and especially in software engineering, the program he is beginning this September.
Along with his amazing grades and burgeoning academic prowess, Chen is a swimmer who until recently competed with the St. John’s Legends Swim Club and a chess player who represented his province at Canadian junior national competitions.
But for Chen, pursuing a degree at Waterloo and being involved in the community is also part of a broader goal of creating change. He is interested in doing work that has a social purpose and makes the world a better place.
"In the future, I hope to be able to have a positive impact on the world through the skills I develop in my studies and my career," Chen says. "I hope to help people who have not had as many opportunities as I have through the projects I help create."
Maggie Liu is set to start a program at the Cheriton School of Computer Science and says she can’t wait to connect with the student community.
In many ways, she has been preparing for a successful university career for several years, having been involved in coding and technology groups and contests throughout junior high and high school.
She was a student leader in the coding club and math club, and also participated in the Waterloo-sponsored Quantum School for Young Students and CEMC contests. This past summer, Liu completed an 8-week summer internship as an innovation developer at RBC.
"I am driven by the abundant opportunities and innovation in tech, and its ability to disrupt industries and businesses," Liu says. "From conferences and hackathons, such as Hack the North, I was able to learn more about technological advances and applications, and become inspired to impact the world one day with tech."
The star student is also looking forward to the opportunities for experiential learning at Waterloo, through co-ops and in the innovation ecosystem more generally. She says she learns best by doing, and so having a chance to experience the culture of tech companies is one of the main reasons she chose Waterloo.
Krishna Patel knew she wanted to pursue a career in tech since she was in grade ten. She chose a degree in computer engineering because of her interest in wireless communications.
Part of what set Patel on a path to Waterloo is a drive to create innovations that can help people. Helping people is nothing new for Patel, who in high school was able to launch a mental health organization to support young people.
She also gained experience from involvement with organizations like Women in Scholarship, Engineering, Science and Technology (WISEST) and with the Junior Achievement Company Program, where she learned what it takes to start a company from the ground up.
"My long-term goal in the tech industry is definitely building a startup, specifically with something in relation to tech and mental health education," Patel says. "I want to gain experience in different roles like product management, which I can do through Waterloo’s co-op program. Overall, I want to take tech and connect it to something meaningful to me and make a change in the world."
"What I’m looking forward to accomplishing most at Waterloo is taking the ideas I’ve had and turning them into a reality."
Ashwin Roperia is a natural fit for the Cheriton School of Computer Science. This star student from Brampton, ON, has already been doing cutting-edge work with technology and is set to hit the ground running at Waterloo.
"Even as a child I was always fascinated by computers and the latest technology," Roperia says. "Last spring, I was selected for the NASA Summer Internship program. I collaborated with NASA researchers and investigated the relationship between mosquitoes and the environment in the context of human health. I led a group authoring a research paper exploring the feasibility of mosquito count automation utilizing NASA datasets."
Roperia was also involved with the High School Intern Research Program at the Sunnybrook Research Institute, where he worked on developing software for the focussed ultrasound lab.
His interest in hands-on learning is a big part of the reason he chose Waterloo. He says he is especially interested in the potential learning experiences in the co-op program and also in Velocity and the broader Waterloo startup scene.
"I aspire to create my own startup and work towards making my ideas a reality," he says. "I hope to contribute to advances in emerging and exciting fields such as machine learning and fintech."
Sarah Wilson has known she wanted to go to Waterloo practically her whole life. She grew up in the community and already knows her way around campus.
"During the school year I would take part in workshops like Math Circles, Let’s Talk Science, GoCodeGirls and PhysiX," Wilson says. "Living ten minutes away and being the daughter of a Waterloo grad also made it one of my top choices since I was a little girl."
"As I got older and became more familiar with the programs, I realized that Waterloo is one of the top schools in the world for computer science and it would be an honour to study here," she continues
This accomplished student brings a lot to the table. She graduated high school at 16 and scored perfect in a math contest, but she is also someone who is involved in the community and wants to make a difference.
She was elected as a student trustee for the Waterloo Catholic District School Board, served as chair of the Ontario Student Voice Awards with the Ontario Student Trustee Association and does volunteer work in the medical field. Wilson is also involved in athletics, including karate, badminton and tennis.
She says she is most looking forward to being part of Waterloo’s startup and innovation ecosystem and is "also considering pursuing an MBA."
Michael Xu is excited to be starting at Waterloo because it is a place he sees as perfect for aspiring innovators.
He points to the "tech-focused campus with incredibly passionate people, co-op opportunities that provide valuable industry experience and a creator-centred intellectual property policy."
This star student, who is starting the software engineering program, already has significant experience under his belt, having been involved in developing apps such as an innovative touch-free recipe app that allows users to "air swipe," which means to swipe in space above the screen, rather than the screen itself.
In high school, Xu took his first programming class and became enthralled with software. It was what most motivated him to go into software engineering for his undergraduate degree.
As far as his future goals, Xu says it’s still a bit up in the air, but he knows where his main interests will be.
"At the moment, all aspects of tech appeal to me, from dev to design and to business, so my ultimate goal is to found a startup," he says. "Creating a product and growing a business seems like a fun, challenging career path."
Jonathan Zhou is joining Waterloo from Calgary, AB, and is going into the mechatronics engineering program.
Zhou says that one of the main reasons he chose mechatronics is because it is a broad subject area, with intersecting fields of computer engineering, computer science and software engineering. The main thing he says he is passionate about as a new engineering student is being able to build.
Building is not entirely new for this amazing student. In high school, he not only co-founded the school’s robotics club, but he also co-founded a non-profit robotics education company called Western Mechatronics, or WestMech for short. The goal of the company is to make robotics accessible to students by hosting summer camps, training competitive teams and hosting tournaments.
He says the parts of the Waterloo experience he is most looking forward to are the opportunities to get involved with entrepreneurship.
"I hope to continue growing my non-profit and hopefully get involved in some startups," he says. "I have a lot of ideas and I can’t wait to show them to the world."