Meet the 2021 Schulich Leaders
Waterloo welcomes outstanding students, celebrates tenth year of Schulich Leader Scholarships
Waterloo welcomes outstanding students, celebrates tenth year of Schulich Leader ScholarshipsBy Melanie Scott, Victoria Lumax University Relations
The Schulich Leader Scholarships are a national undergraduate STEM scholarship, established by businessman and philanthropist Seymour Schulich to encourage the next generation of entrepreneurial-minded, technology innovators. This year, the Schulich Foundation is celebrating their tenth anniversary, and in 2021 they’ve awarded up to 100 scholarships to students across Canada entering university. Since 2012, Waterloo has ranked as the top recipient with the largest number of qualifying applicants. Last year, the Schulich Foundation began providing the University with more than double the number of awards.
“I am very pleased to welcome this year’s cohort of outstanding Schulich Leaders to Waterloo and to celebrate ten years of partnership with the Schulich Foundation,” says Vivek Goel, president and vice-chancellor of the University. “I continue to be inspired by the passion these young change-makers have for discovery, disruption and building a better, more equitable world through STEM research and learning.”
To date, Waterloo has admitted 46 Schulich Leader Scholars, including the incoming 2021 cohort of Schulich Leaders. Learn more about the ten high-achieving students who have received this prestigious national award.
One of the first engineering projects Shanaya Barretto worked on was programming a robot to follow lines and transport objects. Though she had no experience and felt a little overwhelmed, by the time she was finished, she realized she’d never enjoyed working on a project more. After that, she joined her high school’s FIRST Robotics Team and took more engineering-related courses. Through these experiences, she realized that engineering was a great fit for her.
She chose to study Mechatronics Engineering because it would allow her to develop skills in a variety of disciplines, have a positive impact in the world and continue doing what she loves. She’s looking forward to the countless opportunities available at Waterloo, including her first co-op term and joining a design team.
As for Barretto’s career aspirations, while she expects them to expand through her co-op experience, she has always been interested in the aerospace industry, and would love to work on and design revolutionary rovers that have the potential to collect valuable information about distant planets.
In high school, Saptarshi Bhattacherya developed a mobile app, Chemfriend, that automatically balances chemistry equations and helps students check their chemistry homework. Wanting to maximize his impact, he made the app free.
“I have always been interested in engineering because of the inspiring motivation behind it: developing innovative solutions to problems that will ultimately help other people,” says Bhattacherya.
"Through my own engineering endeavours, I have tried to better the lives of others with good user experiences. In the future, I hope to cultivate more positive user experiences through the software I build.”
Bhattacherya has also developed a visual aid for the deaf and hard of hearing, called VADAR, which provides real-time transcription of words being spoken to its wearer. VADAR taught him the true potential of technology and how it could be used to democratize parts of the human experience. Ever since, he has tried his best to realize an altruistic vision of technology.
Throughout high school, Bhattacherya was also involved in several extracurricular activities, including being the lead software engineer in his school’s robotics team, which won first place in programming in the FLL provincial championship of 2017. He was also a member of the environmental club, leading a team to win first in Caring for our Watersheds Competition of Central Alberta.
At Waterloo, Bhattacherya is most looking forward to the amazing opportunities he will be exposed to and meeting a community of people who are united by their desire to build a better future for all. When asked about his future career aspirations, Bhattacherya says he hopes to work using AI for equity, making sure that everyone has access to the entirety of the human experience.
Alicia Bremer has always enjoyed math and problem solving. After learning to code during the pandemic, she realized that she wanted to pursue Computer Science. She especially likes how code can be applied in many ways to address real world issues. One of Bremer’s proudest achievements from high school is participating in Students on the Beamlines, an opportunity for young people to create a novel research project with the help of mentors and experts.
“I decided to attend the University of Waterloo because I really like the Computer Science program, especially the opportunity to do co-op every other term and gain real world experience,” Bremer says. “In addition to participating in the co-op program, I’m looking forward to meeting new people while at Waterloo.”
In her free time, Bremer enjoys running, which she says helps her maintain a good work-life balance and stay healthy. When she’s studying, she stays on task by taking lots of breaks and using a to-do list to organize her work.
Andrew Dong started participating seriously in math contests in grade seven and was quickly drawn to the pure, abstract nature of mathematics. At the same time, he did several coding projects and liked the feeling of creating something new on his own. Through these and other experiences, Dong decided that Computer Science was the right program for him. In high school, Dong was an executive of his school’s math and computer science clubs, where they discussed interesting topics that went beyond the school curriculum.
In Grades 10 and 11, he organized his school’s student-run hackathon, SpartaHacks. He was also active in sports, playing on the tennis, badminton and volleyball teams. Two of Dong’s most notable achievements were qualifying for the Canadian Mathematical and Computing Olympiads. Dong believes that his involvement in contests and enthusiasm to share ideas and organize STEM-related events are what helped him stand out as a Schulich Leader.
Dong is eager to gain experience in his field of choice through Waterloo’s co-op program. “I’m looking forward to using Waterloo’s co-op program to sample a diverse portion of the industry and discover what kinds of jobs I like and don’t like,” he says. “I also hope to do some co-ops in other countries, such as the United States or somewhere in Europe.”
When it comes to free time, Dong enjoys physical activity, such as running and basketball, or music related hobbies, such as listening to classical or pop music and playing the piano, which he began at the age of five.
Dong is looking forward to being on campus in September and believes the Computer Science program will be challenging in a fun and growth-inspired way.
Hon is also looking forward to growing as part of a community of Waterloo students who she says are strong in academics, extracurriculars and all aspects of school and work life.
Aung Khant Min has been interested in computers ever since he first used one. “I'm fascinated by the fact that an ingenious configuration of metals and minerals reliably runs the complex information systems that our modern world is based on,” Min says. “I believe that the age of computing and information is just beginning. Computing has so much untapped potential to improve quality of life and expand scientific knowledge. I want to contribute to society by harnessing some of this potential.”
Throughout high school, Min was part of various STEM and business clubs. He was also involved in a few start-ups and volunteered for various non-profits, including one called Chess in the Library. During the pandemic, Min was able to successfully lead the transition of many of these organizations to the virtual world. Min believes that his leadership skills and entrepreneurial inclinations helped him stand out as a Schulich Leader.
During his free time, Min enjoys playing ultimate frisbee and folding origami. To maintain a good work-life balance, he likes to spread out self-care activities between work, so instead of long work sessions and long breaks, he finds it more effective to do moderate work sessions, separated by short breaks.
What drew Min to Waterloo was its entrepreneurial culture and the experiential learning opportunities, which he believes are the best way of learning in an Engineering program. He is looking forward to applying what he learns in the classroom to real-world experiences.
In his future career, Min wants to be an engineer who builds impactful and interesting projects. He is currently interested in working in the fields of space exploration, education technology or artificial intelligence.
Kushal Mujral has been intrigued by technology since he was a kid, but a robotics course in high school is what really fueled his passion for STEM and programming. Throughout high school, Mujral was extensively involved on the robotics team and spent countless hours outside of school working on robots. When Mujral was in the role of head programmer in later grades, his team won multiple design and innovation awards, including coming in first place in the International Midwest Remote VEX Competition.
When asked why he chose the University of Waterloo, Mujral says because it has one of the best Software Engineering programs in the country and the co-op program is the largest and most reputable in the world.
“I was in the car on my way to school when I got an email from Waterloo’s Student Awards office about the Schulich Leader Scholarship with ‘thank you’ in the subject,” says Mujral. “I assumed it was an email saying ‘thank you for applying’, meaning I hadn’t won. Instead, it turned out that I actually won! My father and brother were in the car, and I told them with a very straight face so I could see their reactions. They were yelling for joy! After that I couldn’t stop smiling and rereading the offer letter for the next few days.”
While at Waterloo, Mujral is most looking forward to joining the design teams and robotics clubs, as well as experiencing co-op and gaining a better understanding of the intricacies of software engineering through his studies.
When asked where she was when she found out she was a recipient of the Schulich Leader Scholarship, Orucevic says: “I mindlessly checked emails on my couch, not expecting to find anything out of the ordinary. In turn, something life changing was sitting in my inbox. I was in shock. No words. I had my sister pinch me, I had to check if it was in my junk mail, I had to check if the email was addressed to another person. But, no. It was all mine. I started yelling deliriously which brought my parents running into my room. The rest is history.”
Orucevic jokes that what truly drew her to Waterloo was the bubble tea, the geese and the engineering mascot: the Tool. But actually, for her, Waterloo has always been the top choice because of its exceptional teaching staff, unique student cohorts and the co-op program. She believes these things combined will give her the best possible foundation for an excellent education and a fulfilling future career.
Orucevic is looking forward to being an active member in Waterloo’s inclusive student communities and to participating in student clubs. She has big dreams to make a positive and significant impact in the rapidly changing world of engineering and design, and she aims to become one of the engineering leaders of the future.
Eric Pei loves problem solving and mathematics. Both fueled his choice to study Computer Science at the University of Waterloo. During high school, Pei was involved in many clubs, including programming, robotics, mathematics and model United Nations. His proudest achievements are his strong performances at the Canadian Computing Olympiad, a contest where students spend two days solving algorithmic problems entirely on their own.
Pei says the 2021 Canadian Computing Olympiad had just ended when he checked his email to see that he had been awarded the Schulich Leader Scholarship. “I was happy and surprised because I wasn’t expecting to receive it,” Pei says. “Fortunately, thinking about the scholarship did not negatively impact my performance at the Olympiad. Receiving the Schulich Leader Scholarship has given me confidence in my future because I now know that the Schulich Foundation is willing to invest in me.”
When asked about the habits that help him achieve his goals, Pei says that he doesn’t consciously think about maintaining a work-life balance, but believes it’s important not to overwork himself. He remains on task by removing distractions and enjoys having large blocks of free time so that he doesn’t need to worry about working quickly.
Pei is looking forward to learning more in his mathematics and computer science courses at Waterloo, and is excited for the possibility to live and work abroad during co-op. At the moment, he doesn’t have a particular place in mind, but is interested in trying the unique experience of living outside of Canada. He is also looking forward to connecting with friends that attend Waterloo.
Brianna Thomas has loved science ever since she was little. Scientific projects and experiments with her father, including building circuits and paper maché volcanos, are where her passion for STEM began. Her scientific interests were nurtured through various experiences, such as science conferences, the Queen’s University’s Seven Eight Enrichment Days (SEEDS) program and through the amazing science teachers she’s learned from. In high school, Thomas was the project manager of her school’s Week of Remembrance, a unique leadership role where she coordinated various assemblies, events and fundraisers.
For Thomas, the key to having a good work-life balance is setting aside free time each day to pursue a hobby. Her hobbies include both science and arts pursuits.
Waterloo was always one of Thomas’ top choices for university because of its innovative environment and experiential learning opportunities.
“I found out I was a recipient of the Schulich Leader Scholarship while I was on a call practicing an online group presentation,” Thomas says. “When I saw the notification, I instinctively said ‘Oh my God’ and then just went silent for a few minutes as I kept rereading the letter. After receiving that news, I instantly knew I would be going to Waterloo, so that night I drove down to see the campus, and of course, its infamous geese.”
Thomas has been excited for university for as long as she can remember and believes that Waterloo offers an environment where she can grow both personally and academically. She is especially excited for the interdisciplinary nature of Life Physics and to be able to learn more about different areas of science.
Thomas loves seeing how the world works through the lenses of various scientific disciplines and in the future, she aspires to change the world for the better through scientific innovation.
If you're an employer looking for opportunities to recruit Schulich Leaders to your organization, please submit your information here.
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