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Stellar students reach for the stars

McGill’s 10 new Schulich Leaders began the 2023 fall semester as recipients of Canada’s premier STEM scholarship 

McGill's 10 new Schulich Leader Scholarship recipients

Oh, to be a fly on the wall when students find out they’ve won Canada’s largest Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) scholarship.

“The first thing I did was call my grandmother, then I walked a lap around my school just to calm down,” recounts Isabella Hensley, who attended Marianopolis College in Westmount, Quebec.

“It was undeniably one of the happiest moments of my life,” says Kevin He, a graduate of John Abbott College on Montreal’s West Island.

Meanwhile, Janelle Tam from Vancouver initially thought she’d received a rejection email. “When I saw that it was actually an offer from McGill, I stared at the screen in shock as I tried to process the contents. I was overwhelmed, beyond grateful, and so, so honoured,” Tam says.

The trio are among 10 new McGill students who have received coveted Schulich Leader Scholarships

The scholarships are the brainchild of McGill graduate and entrepreneur Seymour Schulich, BSc’61, MBA’65, DLitt’04, born from his vision that nurturing leadership in STEM fields is crucial for Canada’s economic prosperity. One of the country’s leading philanthropists, Schulich established the scholarship fund in 2012 to support outstanding students who possess a passion for STEM, an entrepreneurial mindset, and strong leadership skills.

Awarded annually to 100 students entering an undergraduate STEM program at one of 20 partner universities in Canada, including McGill, the scholarships are even more generous this year: $120,000 for students enrolling in an Engineering program and $100,000 for recipients starting a Science, Technology or Mathematics program.

“[It] gives me choices,” says Hensley, who is studying Mechanical Engineering at McGill. “I get to try for the jobs and internships that I want, instead of just which ones pay the best. This is going to give me connections and the best job experience and education.”

Hensley played an active role on the robotics team at her CEGEP and wants to design and build autonomous robots in the future. “The idea is that they will be able to take over the dangerous jobs that people still have to do today. I would love to start my own robotics company,” she says.

McGill’s 2023 Schulich Leaders will also benefit from student enrichment opportunities – and join the growing network of Schulich Leaders in Canada, an advantage not lost on these new students. 

“Beyond just the financial freedom the scholarship offers, the award provides access to an extensive network of inspiring entrepreneurs, engineers, and change-makers across Canada who share the same career goals as me,” says Tam, who is studying Software Engineering at McGill. “Connecting with and turning to these people for advice will open up many doors and help me envision what is possible for my future career.”

Tam has been working as an IT manager for a literacy and numeracy charity and programmed automation algorithms to support its expansion – one of her many accomplishments while in high school. “I am passionate about leveraging engineering and innovations in STEM to tackle systemic inequities,” says Tam, who aspires to one day launch a start-up that develops machine-learning tools to support front-line outreach workers.

Kevin He says he opted to study Software Engineering at McGill because of the co-op program opportunities that will help him attain his goal of working for top tech companies. He aims to become an innovator in the field and to develop software and technologies “that can enhance the quality of people’s daily lives.”

The two other incoming Schulich Leaders at McGill’s Faculty of Engineering are: Ryan Marshall from Winnipeg and Luke Heras from West Vancouver. 

The five new Schulich Leaders entering McGill’s Faculty of Science and recipients of $100,000 scholarships are: Kini Chen, Erika Wu and Tanya Sohrabi from Ontario, Aviv David from New Brunswick, and Victor Dekarli from Mission, B.C. 

Attending McGill is “a dream come true” for Dekarli who says it has been his first-choice university since he began researching post-secondary education at age 12.

“This scholarship will allow me to pursue my goals without worrying about the financial pressure that comes with attending University,” he says.

Dekarli is studying in the Faculty’s Biological Sciences category. He also has a deep interest in math and entrepreneurial ambitions centred on applied scientific research. 

As a high school student in the nation’s capital, Tanya Sohrabi did co-op stints with the Structural Quantum Optics research team at the University of Ottawa, which she calls an invaluable experience. “I am deeply passionate about the field of quantum optics and its implications for ground-breaking imaging technologies,” she says. 

Sohrabi initially planned to juggle two part-time jobs to pay for university expenses. Now, “I can wholeheartedly dedicate myself to my studies,” she says.

Like Sohrabi, Aviv David plans to enter the honours Physics program in his second year at McGill. “Understanding how the universe truly operates is one of my greatest goals in life,” says David. “Physics explains the underlying laws of our world, some of which are absolutely fascinating. I also believe that today’s advances in Physics are tomorrow’s advances in technology and engineering – which make our world a better place.”

He also expressed gratitude to the Schulich Foundation and McGill for awarding him the scholarship. “The financial freedom it has granted me is truly life changing,” David says.

McGill has welcomed 50 Schulich Leaders since Seymour Schulich created the scholarship fund. To date, 770 students from across Canada have received Schulich Leader Scholarships. Learn more about McGill’s 2023 Schulich Leaders.