McGill’s Schulich Leaders firmly focused on the future

Six young students from across Canada will start at McGill this year after receiving the country’s premier STEM scholarships – the Schulich Leader Scholarships, worth up to $100,000
McGill’s newest Schulich Leader Scholars, from l to r: Ana Eugenia Quintero Garcia, Christopher Chong, Anne Sarah Dickman, Maggie QingFeng Xiong, Louis-Philippe Robichaud and Zhi Xin Joey Koay

A staple of any job interview is that tricky question about where you see yourself in five or ten years – but, in the case of McGill’s 2020 Schulich Leader Scholarship recipients, there’s no doubt about where they see themselves in the next decade faced with a turbulent world and no shortage of challenges.

“After graduating, I hope to be working on a technology startup employing engineering, physics and artificial intelligence to pioneer tomorrow’s solutions to today’s pressing global issues,” says Schulich Leader Christopher Chong, 17, a graduate of David Thompson Secondary School in Vancouver. Chong created Hydrofinity, a patent-pending project that recovers water from thermoelectric power-plants, and has won many accolades.

“After completing my undergraduate degree, I want to pursue a graduate degree related to aerospace engineering and envision myself helping to push the limits of space exploration,” says fellow scholarship recipient Ana Eugenia Quintero Garcia, 18, a graduate of West Island College in Calgary. Quintero Garcia is already a veteran innovator, having worked with a student team that won an Alberta science award for building a fluidized bed using a leaf blower (fluidized beds cause solid particles to behave as fluids and are widely used in many industrial applications).

Canada’s premier STEM scholarships

Chong and Quintero Garcia are just two of McGill’s bumper cohort of six Schulich Leader scholars from across Canada to receive the country’s premier Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) scholarships this year. The cohort includes three Faculty of Science students – Chong along with Louis-Philippe Robichaud and Maggie QingFeng Xiong. Both Chong and Xiong hail from British Columbia, while Robichaud is from Quebec City. Each will receive an $80,000 Schulich Leader Scholarship.

The 2020 contingent also includes three Faculty of Engineering students: Anne Sarah Dickman, Zhi Xin Joey Koay, as well as Quintero Garcia. Both Koay and Quintero Garcia are from Alberta, while Dickman is a Montrealer. Each will receive a $100,000 Schulich Leader Scholarship.

Record number of McGill recipients

Schulich Leader Scholarships are Canada’s largest scholarship program and recently doubled in size (from 50 to 100 annual scholarships). As a result, a record number of McGill students have been named recipients of the prestigious awards this year with the majority coming from high schools in Western Canada.

Winning a scholarship is a gruelling process. Out of a pool of more than 300,000 potential candidates across Canada, 1,500 high school students are nominated annually, of which 100 receive this award. Of the 100 recipients, 50 will receive $100,000 to pursue an engineering degree and 50 will receive $80,000 to pursue a science, technology or mathematics degree at one of 20 Canadian partner universities

Life-altering moment

There’s no question that receiving one of these scholarships has been a turning point in the lives of these six students – and a memorable moment.

“I received the email for the scholarship on my Dad’s birthday while I was playing my ukulele,” says Koay, 17, a graduate of Robert Thirsk High School in Calgary, who is working on a student science fair project to develop a mechanical heart valve failure detector for cardiac patients. “It has certainly lifted many financial burdens on our family and allows me to focus on my studies and side projects, which will strengthen and enhance my STEM knowledge.”

“I received the news when I came back from a run,” remembers Robichaud, 19, an accomplished Air Cadet and graduate of Champlain St. Lawrence CEGEP in Quebec City. “I saw that I had received an email from the McGill scholarship office with the word ‘Schulich’ in the title. I think my heart missed a beat. This scholarship opens a tremendous number of doors.”

The selection of this year’s six recipients brings to 24 the number of Schulich Leader Scholarships awarded to incoming McGill students since the program’s inception in 2012.

Seymour Schulich’s vision

Nurturing these promising students is exactly what Seymour Schulich, BA’61, MBA’65, DLitt’04, had in mind when he created the Schulich Leader Scholarships. A business leader, philanthropist and McGill graduate, Schulich set up the $200 million program to encourage Canada’s best and brightest students to become the next pioneers of global scientific research and innovation.

“I would like to thank the Schulich Foundation for this incredible opportunity,” says Dickman, 18, a graduate of Collège Jean-de-Brebeuf. Dickman served as her CEGEP’s student association treasurer and worked with her peers on numerous innovative projects, including the establishment of a scholarship fund to recognize involvement in student life.

“My thanks to Seymour Schulich for giving all young leaders in STEM a platform to change the world,” adds Xiong, 18, a published author, winner of a UBC Society of Women in Science and Technology Award, and graduate of J.N. Burnett Secondary School in Richmond, B.C. “You have not only helped all of us alleviate financial burdens, but you have opened up a gateway to endless possibilities.”