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A meeting of minds

Schulich Leader scholars draw inspiration from face time with Principal Suzanne Fortier

Principal Suzanne Fortier with Schulich leader scholars

Schulich Leader scholars (from left) Iveta (Iva) Demirova, Mana Moshkforoush, Katherine Sirois and Raphael Hotter with Principal Suzanne Fortier.

: Owen Egan

They sat down as scientists to discuss the topics of the day.

In late February, McGill’s Principal, Professor Suzanne Fortier, met with seven of McGill’s current Schulich Leader scholars.

“It was amazing to talk with the other scholars and the Principal about big issues we all care about,” says Miasya Bulger, a first-year Bioengineering student and one of two Schulich Leader scholars who started at McGill this year.

Awarded by The Schulich Foundation, the Schulich Leader Scholarships provide significant funding to 50 new undergraduates each year pursuing studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in Canada.

The discussion included the role of disruptive technologies and big data in society, ethics in science, and the relationship between policy and innovation.

“The Principal’s career path is definitely of interest to us,” says Iva Demirova, a Schulich Leader scholar in the second year of her Biochemistry degree.

“I enjoyed hearing about her participation in the economic forum in Davos, and about her past positions on various committees. It got me reflecting on my own path. I’m passionate about finding a way to make an impact outside of academia,” says Demirova.

The McGill Experience

Shifting from her role of scientist (Fortier has her PhD in Crystallography) to that of the University’s top administrator, the Principal told the Schulich Leader scholars, “I’m always thinking about how we at McGill can offer you the kind of student experience that will serve you well.”

For Demirova and Bulger, McGill has exceeded expectations.

“I’m in love with my degree and what I can do with it,” says Bulger. “I’m realizing I can dive into one specific topic, I can be a jack of all trades, I can go into business as an engineer, I can go into research… And I want to try everything out.”

On top of her coursework, Bulger is taking a coding boot camp offered by the McGill Artificial Intelligence Society. In addition to weekly meetings and assignments, she has her own project based on a public data set. “It’s a lot of work!” she says with a laugh.

The boot camp drew her to the McGill NeuroTech club where she’s also contributing to the early stages of research into a wheelchair controlled by brainwaves.

For her part, Demirova started Esprit Science last year with fellow Schulich Leader scholar Katherine Sirois. Alongside other STEM undergrads, they organize bilingual coding workshops for high school students around Montreal. Some of those students have special needs, but Demirova learned that they are able to have just as much fun and success in the workshop.

“It made us aware of how powerful a tool coding is, for everyone.”

“We see that McGill is more than just classes,” Principal Fortier told the Schulich Leader scholars, who impressed her with their extracurricular activities. “It’s also about the energy of the community of students leaders who are excited to improve the world.”