2022 Co-op Student of the Year Award recipients

Photo collage of all the winners in professional attire

Each year, we present one student from each faculty with a Co-op Student of the Year Award for their exceptional contributions to their employers. The awards take place during the winter term and celebrate student achievements from the winter, spring and fall terms of the previous calendar year. Congratulations to our Co-op Students of the Year!

2022 Co-op Students of the Year 

Jeremy Ernest

Jeremy Ernest (he/him)

Master of Public Service, Faculty of Arts
Employer: Ontario Treasury Board Secretariat

As a strategic policy analyst, Jeremy developed and applied his knowledge and skills to engage stakeholders, staff and leadership. This included:

  • Hosting two networking events for new hires to connect and learn from staff and management.
  • Leading in a mentorship program to help his colleagues and classmates learn.
  • Assisting with the creation of briefing materials for organizational stakeholders and leadership.

“Within co-op, I learned new things because I was able to apply and gain confidence in my skills and in my ability to develop
them further.”

Jennifer Tsai

Jennifer Tsai (she/her)

Biomedical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering
Employer: Cembrowski Lab, University of British Columbia, Department of Cellular and Physiological Sciences

As a computational neuroscience researcher, Jennifer mastered experimental methods, microscope processes and computational modelling. Her accomplishments included:

  • Discovering a new, separate sub-division of the brain region involved in episodic memory.
  • Developing visualizations and presentations, coding with bioinformatic packages and studying data science principles.
  • Continuing her research outside of work through lectures, networking and reading.
  • Awarded the 2022 Experiential & Work-Integrated Learning Ontario (EWO) Co-op Student of the Year Award

“The skills and perspectives that I've gained from my co-ops have allowed me to think more holistically about my main interest
in neuroscience.”

Breanna DeFreitas

Breanna DeFreitas (she/her)

Geography and Environmental Management, Faculty of Environment
Employer: Evolugen

As a sustainability intern, Breanna contributed to various projects and proposals. Highlights of her work term included:

  • Managing projects and validating the work of consultants to ensure everything was completed on time and within budget.
  • Delivering the Greenhouse Gas Data Quality Control six weeks early.
  • Analyzing more than 20 research reports to present key findings and recommended next steps.

“Co-op has allowed me to learn more about myself and the work that I would like to do when I graduate, try new things and learn invaluable lessons along the way.”

Rachel Almaw

Rachel Almaw (she/her)

Health Studies, Faculty of Health
Employer: Mobilize Clinical Biomechanics Lab, University of Waterloo

As a fellow and lead researcher, Rachel led several large projects in the lab. Her contributions included:

  • Developing and executing a research study on the experiences of Black and White Canadians living with osteoarthritis.
  • Initiating an online library and a demographic questionnaire to ensure future research is equitable and diverse.
  • Presenting her research at Stanford University and receiving the Top Undergraduate Presentation award.

“Research would have never been a part of my future if it weren't for co-op. And to that, I say thank you. I would not be here if it weren't for co-op.”

Alex Zhu

Alex Zhu (he/him)

Computing and Financial Management, Faculty of Mathematics
Employer: Mastercard

As an associate consultant, Alex shaped key projects, delivered client presentations and liaised with internal and external stakeholders. He was instrumental in:

  • Creating a “Welcome to Canada” guide for new employees from Russia and Ukraine.
  • Leading a project that required multiple readouts to client executive teams and navigating difficult questions.
  • Launching a unique call centre savings initiative to save millions of dollars each year.

“Co-op has made me feel more confident in myself as a worker, leader and individual contributor.”

Isaac Cheng

Isaac Cheng (he/him)

Physics and Astronomy, Faculty of Science
Employer: National Research Council Canada

As a junior researcher, Isaac utilized his expertise in astronomy and programming to accomplish groundbreaking work, including:

  • Developing an exposure time calculator for CASTOR, a Canadian-led space telescope.
  • Creating a graphical user interface (GUI) for his exposure time calculator.
  • Constructing CASTOR mission tools incorporated into the Photometric Observations of Extrasolar Transits (POET) mission.
  • Awarded the 2022 Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada (CEWIL Canada) Student of the Year Award.
  • Honourable mentions for the 2022 EWO Co-op Student of the Year Award.

“Co-op is the best thing I could have asked for in my academic career. My work terms allowed me to explore the different subfields that interested me, greatly expanded my professional network and offered me opportunities beyond anything I could have hoped for.”

Back to top 

2022 Co-op Student of the Year Awards honourable mentions

Máire Slater (she/her)

Masters in English Rhetoric,
Faculty of Arts

Slater worked as a content developer at the Canadian Revenue Agency. During her work term, Slater learned how to effectively conduct card sorts, run tree tests, edit in HTML and basic coding. She presented at RhetCanada and won the Michael Purves-Smith Student Paper Award.

Emily Steiner (she/her)

Mechatronics Engineering,
Faculty of Engineering

Steiner earns recognition for a co-op term as a research and development engineering co-op at Lumafield. She investigated a trade-off in X-ray imaging and discovered a new optimal setpoint that produces at the same high quality, but three-times faster. Steiner integrated, analyzed and improved features for a critical new product.

Reeya Dalpati (she/her)

Faculty of Environment

Dalpati oversaw data analysis, presentation creation, project research and support tasks during her co-op term at Left Turn Right Turn, a transit consulting firm. Dalpati automated geospatial processes, which increased efficiency for the organization.

Lauren Monhemius (she/her)

Environment and Business,
Faculty of Health

Monhemius worked as a marketing operations student at Blackberry. Monhemius designed a successful nurture email template, increasing open rates from 13 to 21 per cent within the first month of release. Monhemius was appointed as the lead email marketer for a flagship event, overseeing the creation of 40 event-related email campaigns.

Mariam Omilabu (she/her)

Health Studies,
Faculty of Health

Omilabu worked as a research assistant at the Temmy Latner Centre for Palliative Care (TLCPC). She created a screening tool to help physicians identify patients’ social needs. Omilabu interviewed health providers, investigated patient charts and called bereaved caregivers to get feedback.

Mahdi Farzad Naimi (he/him)

Health Studies,
Faculty of Health

Naimi excelled as a pancreatic medical research assistant for the University Health Network, becoming the first undergraduate student in his lab to develop surgical and anesthesia skills to advance pancreatic cancer research. Naimi also gained expertise in mouse orthotopic surgeries while utilizing sterile techniques to study the genetic mutations involved in tumor development.


Vinayak Bector (he/him)

Computer Science,
Faculty of Mathematics

Bector’s work was key in the development of five mobile applications, the creation of two technical reports and the implementation of various bash scripts during his co-op term as an android mobile application developer at RouteThis Inc. During his work term, Bector proposed a new feature for flagship software development kits and pitched the idea to the organization’s director of product management.

Anthony Girmenia (he/him)

Physics and Astronomy,
Faculty of Science

Girmenia worked as a research assistant at the University of Western Ontario’s Earth and Science Exploration department. After only 10 weeks in his role, he completed the first draft of a paper outlining the details of a computer simulation. Girmenia diagnosed and fixed bugs and created a data algorithm that boosts processing speed by more than 300 per cent.


Back to top  

Celebrating 65 years of Co-operative Education at Waterloo

As a special celebration for the 65th anniversary of Waterloo Co-operative Education, Co-operative and Experiential Education recognized one student this year from across all faculties for exemplary performance during an international co-op term.

Andrew Ding

Andrew Ding (he/him)

Faculty of Environment

During his term at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, Ding applied his skills to a research effort aimed at accurately determining demographic data in functional urban areas in 30 developing countries.

He employed two indicators for studying urban migration patterns and linked geographical extents of more than 2000 metropolitan areas based on gridded world population and satellite imagery data.


Back to top