Physics & Astronomy welcomes major award winning first-year student

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

By Natalie Quinlan
University Relations

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.

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 physical sciences, with an emphasis in astronomy and physics. To maintain a work-life balance, Patel enjoys listening to spiritual discourses, inspirational speeches and reading influential texts.

Meet all four Shulich Leaders beginning their studies at UWaterloo this fall.

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