Celebrating standout co-op students in work-integrated learning month

Friday, March 1, 2024

Award recipents lining up to receive award, and other people are clapping for themIt's time to celebrate! Co-operative and Experiential Education (CEE) recognizes outstanding co-op students during work-integrated learning month.

By: Cameron Stirrup (he/him)

As March is work-integrated learning (WIL) month, it's a great time to celebrate and promote co-op and WIL programs. On March 20, we’ll announce the 2023 Co-op Students of the Year and Problem Lab award recipients.

The annual Co-op Student of the Year awards pays tribute to the impact students had in the workplace in 2023. Ahead of the awards ceremony, we're celebrating the notable achievements of the nominees who received honourable mentions for their co-op work term achievements.

 top quote

Our co-op students continue to show extraordinary innovation in the workplace. These students make a monumental impact in the world of work. We congratulate them on their tremendous accomplishment.


- Ross Johnston, executive director of Co-operative Education


Meet the Honourable mentions

Name Term Faculty Program/year
Yucheng (Tony) Cao Fall 2023 Arts Fourth-year Accounting and Financial Management
Christopher Macartney Winter, spring 2023 Engineering Fourth-year Biomedical Engineering
Ivy Wang Winter 2023 Environment Fourth-year Honours Planning
Janvi Tamakuwala Winter, spring 2023 Health Fourth-year Health Studies
Ethan O’Farrell Winter 2023 Mathematics Fourth-year Data Science
Grace Laevens Winter, spring 2023 Science Fourth-year Honours Biology

Yucheng (Tony) Cao (he/him)

Accounting and Financial Management, Faculty of Arts

Cao pushed boundaries as a venture capital analyst at Amplify Capital. During his work term, he engaged in market research and deal sourcing. Cao also supported the vice president of finance in leading a review of the annual audit at the company. By taking the initiative to screen more than 200 companies, Cao helped Amplify fundraise $35 million.

Christopher Macartney (he/him)

Biomedical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering

Macartney demonstrated his expertise and professionalism in his role as a mechatronics intern at Psyonic, a biomedical bionic prosthetics startup. Specializing in the assembly of prosthetic hand components, Macartney contributed to the donation of a bionic hand to Psyonic’s earliest test user, providing an amputee with state-of-the-art bionic technology.

Ivy Wang (she/her)

Honours Planning, Faculty of Environment

During her work term as a research assistant at CanmetENERGY, Wang developed her research skills while making a positive impact. Her work contributed to helping Indigenous communities utilize alternative forms of power. By using research to encourage a switch to hydrokinetic energy, her research helped to reduce fossil fuel emissions.

Janvi Tamakuwala (she/her)

Health Studies, Faculty of Health

Tamakuwala conducted innovative research as a pancreatic medical research laboratory assistant at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre (PMCC). Noticing how a cancer subtype impacted male and female mice differently, Tamakuwala showed how these differences can be identified. Her data contributed to a new Canadian Institutes of Health Research grant and PMCC has opened a new research space specifically for the control of sex differences in experiments.

Ethan O’Farrell (he/him)

Data Science, Faculty of Mathematics

O’Farrell, a genomic data analyst at the Michigan Neuroscience Institute, analyzed DNA sequence data during his co-op work term. In his role, he helped develop tools to visualize DNA sequence data and designed two web apps for lab collaborators to reference in experiments.

Grace Laevens (she/her)

Biology, Faculty of Science

Laevens demonstrated exceptional efficiency in strengthening international food supplies during her co-op work term as a laboratory research assistant at Ceragen. By isolating 400 strains of bacteria, Laevens’ project directly increased lettuce yields by 20 per cent. She was also involved in developing a new facility for plant trials which doubled company capacity.



Meet the Problem Lab recipients

The Problem Lab identifies and understands innovations to important problems of economic and social significance. CEE recognizes six recipients.

Problem Lab recipent Term Faculty Program/year
Ashley Juraschka Fall 2023 Engineering Fourth-year Architectural Engineering
Claire Thompson Winter 2023 Engineering Fourth-year Biomedical Engineering
Luna Li Winter 2023 Engineering Third-year Civil Engineering
Victoria Ventura Winter 2023 Arts Second-year Legal Studies
JD Zhu Winter 2023 Engineering Second-year Mechanical Engineering
Adrian Jendo Fall 2023 Engineering Fourth-year Mechanical Engineering

Ashley Juraschka (she/her)

Juraschka worked at Toronto Dominion Bank to resolve issues related to fraud-induced cybercrime caused by deepfakes. While all industries are at risk of attack, Juraschka pinpointed how financial institutions must take precautionary measures.

Claire Thompson

At the Orthotron Laboratory at the University of Waterloo, Thompson researched spinal biomechanics. Thompson noticed an issue within the research process, specifically relating to recruitment and knowledge transfer.

Luna Li (she/her)

While working with Aecon, Li realized that the company was experiencing delays due to an inefficiency with the shipping and tracking of metals. Li aimed to turn this into an efficiency to improve organization.

Victoria Ventura (she/her)

Ventura, the president and founder of the University of Waterloo’s Mock Trial team, worked at Romano Law Office. At the firm, she noticed inefficiencies in conducting court proceedings online. These inefficiencies compromise the integrity of justice systems.

JD Zhu (he/him)

At Grand River Hospital, Zhu strived to solve an issue related to personalized cancer treatments. He noticed how slower and costly simulations limit the development of these treatments. Utilizing CompuCell3D and TOPAS programs helped him improve operations for medical physicists in ensuring accuracy for patients.

Adrian Jendo (he/him)

While working at Carta, Jendo helped facilitate a new web form upload tool to house financial documents. The change improved customer satisfaction while filing documents. 



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