Sarah WilsonWhen Sarah Wilson graduated high school a year early and started in the Computer Science program at Waterloo, there were big expectations. As a high school student, Wilson 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 volunteered in several community roles.

She won the prestigious Schulich Leader Scholarship as she began at Waterloo for her community involvement and potential for innovative research and entrepreneurship.

Now, having just completed her first term of studies, Wilson is already making waves.

She has recently been named a winner of the Leading Women, Leading Girls, Building Communities award for her work at breaking down barriers for women and promoting equality and diversity. The award is to be presented by Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife.

Wilson was part of a team that recently won first prize in the Scotiabank Data Science Discovery Days, which she describes as a hackathon with an AI twist. She and her team created a transaction fraud detection model with new insights on credit card fraud prevention methods.

She attended the NASA Space Apps Challenge, the largest space and science hackathon in the world where her team advanced to a run-off round of Global Nominees.

And there’s more. Wilson teamed up with fellow Schulich Leader Jason Amri and became VP for sales and marketing of the eco-startup 3cycle, a company tackling the urgent problem of global plastic waste. She became a first-year representative on MathSoc and a member of MathSoc’s board of directors. And she graduated from being a participant in hackathons to becoming an esteemed judge at the recent Deltahacks 9 hosted by McMaster University.

Sarah Wilson and other judges at the Deltahacks 9 hackathon

Sarah Wilson (centre) at Deltahacks 9 hackathon.

“I’ve come to realize that no matter how young you are, you can still make an impact on the world,” Wilson says. “Being at Waterloo, I’ve found so many ways to get involved. It’s been challenging, and it’s allowed me to try things that I’m not necessarily good at.”

But she also says that finding the balance between academics and other activities has been a key. Getting involved in clubs and societies, and making friends and socializing, is as much a part of the Waterloo experience as classes and assignments.

“I came to Waterloo thinking it would be all study and work,” Wilson says. “But once I got here, I realized there’s so much social life going on. There are tons of clubs and teams and events. And I think it’s a good balance.”

Sarah Wilson and team members at the Scotiabank Data Science Discovery Days

Sarah Wilson (fourth from right) and team members receiving the first-place award at Scotiabank Data Science Discovery Days.

As for what’s next, Wilson is keeping her options open. She says the recent foray into transaction fraud detection as part of the AI hackathon has fostered an interest in the field of financial technology, but that her interests are still wide and varied.

“I feel honoured and fortunate for all the opportunities I’ve had,” Wilson continues. “Everyone I’ve worked with at Waterloo has been so supportive and encouraging. I don’t know exactly where things will lead me, but I’m motivated to do work that helps make the world a better place, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.”