Four exceptionally talented students are making their way to Waterloo with a prestigious scholarship in tow.

First-years Evangeline Dryburgh, Jason Amri, Shahed Saleh and Zeel Patel are all winners of the Schulich Leader Scholarships, the largest STEM scholarship in Canada and valued at $80,000 or $100,000 for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs. The incoming Schulich Leaders distinguished themselves with high grades, leadership roles within their communities and participation in entrepreneurial ventures.

Majoring in either mathematics, science or engineering, the four were selected from more than 1,400 nominees across Canada vying for one of only 50 scholarships.

Read more about each recipient below.

Evangeline Dryburgh

Mechatronics Engineering — $100,000
Marmora, Ontario

For Evangeline Dryburgh, the decision to attend the University of Waterloo was an easy one. With both her parents as Waterloo alumni, the 17-year-old grew up with Waterloo pegged as her number one choice. Dryburgh’s dreams were made reality the day she received her $100,000 Schulich Leaders scholarship.

Evangeline Dryburgh“I was sitting at the lunch table with all of my friends when I got the notification… I was so excited, I threw my phone across the table and started crying,” says Dryburgh. “Everyone thought that something horrible had happened when it was really the opposite.”

Starting her studies of mechatronic engineering this fall (a large academic feat in and of itself), Dryburgh admits she’s most proud of her extra-curricular achievements. Having earned her black-belt in karate at the age of 13, volunteering at her local hospice centre for four hours every Monday and fencing at a national level, Dryburgh has a packed schedule outside of school. It’s a list of accomplishments she also juggles between playing rugby, badminton, participating in student council, the environmental club and diversity club. With her freshman year at Waterloo set to start in a couple of weeks, she’s anticipating to keep that busy schedule going.

“I am very excited for the co-op program and working with different companies and employers,” says Dryburgh. “In the future, I want to work in clean energy. I am interested in nuclear fusion and I would love to work with a team to create a safer, greener type of energy that could change the world for the better.”

Shahed Saleh

Windsor, Ontario

Mechatronics Engineering — $100,000

Shahed Saleh was studying for exams when she received notification of her Schulich win. Jumping out from under her textbooks, Saleh immediately shared the news with her family.

“I calmly told my family and they screamed for a few minutes — a reaction that consisted of happiness, relief and excitement,” says Saleh. “MyShahed Saleh family has been my greatest support through my many initiatives through high school and I thank them for being patient with my very stubborn, ambitious self.”

The 18-year-old says she sought out Waterloo for its balanced, yet ambitious environment and saw the University as the greatest way to develop herself as an innovator.

“The University of Waterloo represented this through its standards for academic excellence, entrepreneurial support and competitive design teams,” says Saleh. “The most attractive aspect, however, was the reality that the Faculty of Engineering at Waterloo is a family that looks to generate change in the world through a unique form of creativity that can only be achieved when many minds work together.”

Saleh credits her growth in leadership to the extracurriculars that continued to keep her busy during high school. With a passion for robotics, Saleh is already familiar with co-op placements, having completed one at St. Clair College where she designed, 3D-printed, coded and reported on mechanisms to be used for industrial robots at international manufacturing plants.

“Much of the inspiration I receive for my engineering projects comes from tinkering with old, usually broken electronics and my love for visual arts,” says Saleh. “I hope to lead a meaningful career in the field of robotics, but most of all, I wish to continue impacting and inspiring youth.”

Jason Amri

Ancaster, Ontario

Computer Science — $80,000

Jason Amri says he’s always had a passion for STEM. Even as a young child, the 18-year-old has been consumed with taking things apart just to put them back together again. It was through this every day experimenting that he discovered the opportunities associated with computer science — and he’s been hooked ever since. To harness this passion, coming to Waterloo seemed like the natural next step.

Jason Amri“I remember exploring the [University of Waterloo] on [Google] street-view when I was 12, dreaming that one day I’d be a student there,” says Amri. “I’ve always been drawn to Waterloo’s reputation. In my mind, no other Canadian university offers the same dedication to entrepreneurship and innovation.”

Having already started a business — Diy5, a site that helps anyone get the tools and parts they need to get started in hobby electronics — Amri continues to bring his extra-curricular passion to school by leading the math, coding and maker clubs. He was also the web administrator for his school’s newspaper, an executive on his school’s DECA team, founder of their economic debate club and an elected member of student council.

“Outside of school, I like to tinker with microcontrollers and design my own circuits,” says Amri. “I’ve built tons of apps and devices over the years, really anything to satisfy my curiosity. I also try to spend time at the gym or cycling if I can.”

While Amri aspires toward a career in technology, he’s keeping an open mind to various work opportunities.

“Right now, I’m drawn to the potential in the world of FinTech and interested by our growing need for information security,” says Amri. “I’d also like to continue to pursue entrepreneurship while in university and see where that takes me.”

Zeel Patel

Brandon, Manitoba

Physics and Astronomy — $80,000

For 18-year-old Zeel Patel, deciding between not one but two separate Schulich scholarships was a challenge. Having first received a notification from the University of Victoria, Patel says she ultimately turned-down a west-coast education to hold out for her dream school — the University of Waterloo. As fate would have it, Patel got the good news from Waterloo a few weeks later.Zeel Patel

“The University of Waterloo struck me as being extremely resourceful and supportive towards its students’ initiatives and actively involved with creating a positive impact, not just in its direct community, but rather with reaches far beyond through its ambitious students,” says Patel.

A self-proclaimed “toddler at heart,” Patel’s innate curiosity for uncovering the world’s mysteries influenced her with dreams of one-day becoming an astronaut.

“As I’ve grown, I’ve seen people slowly stop asking the golden question of ‘why.’ Since I find it exciting to have my questions answered by more questions, I’ve never been afraid of asking,” says Patel. “I guess that both of my parents being engineers and implementing STEM into practically everything I’ve done since early childhood had a hand in developing my passion in this area of study as well.”

A member of Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Sanstha (BAPS), a socio-spiritual Hindu organization, Patel credits her many successes to the guidance and teachings she’s received under her guru Mahant Swami Maharaj. As a result, Patel spends much of her spare time giving back to her community, whether it’s through charitable causes or educational pursuits.

 “Something that might have helped me stand out as a Schulich Leader is an annual workshop I established called Exploring Careers in STEM for Girls,” says Patel. “My goal was to increase interests for females in the area of [STEM] and I consider it a success as I have been notified by my school that over 80 per cent of the girls that attended the workshop have signed up for STEM related courses that used to hold an average of one to two girls per class for the past couple of years.”

In the fall, Patel will be studying physics and astronomy. To maintain a work-life balance, Patel enjoys listening to spiritual discourses, inspirational speeches and reading influential texts.