Aug. 29, 2022

Schulich Leader Scholarship winners embrace entrepreneurism and STEM learning

Six incoming students receive the prestigious STEM Scholarships
Schulich Leader Scholarship winners
From left: Alison Stanley, Ana Ducristea, Caleb Melin, Iliana Hodgins, Nabihah Hussaini, Nikko Po.

The University of Calgary is pleased to introduce the Schulich Leaders joining our community this fall. Three outstanding students are enrolled in the Faculty of Science and three are enrolled in the Schulich School of Engineering.

Created in 2012 by Canadian businessman and philanthropist Seymour Schulich, the Schulich Leader Scholarship encourages promising high school graduates to embrace STEM in their future careers. One hundred students in 20 partner universities across Canada receive the scholarship every year. These undergraduate scholarships of $100,000 or $80,000 each encourage high-achieving students to pursue a future in STEM.

Faculty of Science Schulich leaders

Ana Ducristea

Ana DuCristea achieved academic and extra-curricular excellence at her high school.

Her achievements outside the school were similarly impressive. After attending a summer camp focused on technical skills, she created a reminder bot that could understand English requests. The project impressed the NVIDIA director of AI, such that DuCristea was asked to speak on their AI podcast. DuCristea also helped lead her VEX robotics team to their first-ever competition win, and additionally, she raised $4,500 from sponsorship and grant pitches. Throughout her tenure, the team continued to perform well at subsequent tournaments.

DuCristea showed her entrepreneurial side by co-creating an instrument that interprets Morse code through a puff-suck interface. The design allows people with limited arm mobility to type quicker than with many existing and much more expensive tools. The open-source project became a finalist in the Hackaday prize and won a cash prize.

DuCristea is excited by the idea of creating new or better solutions to many of the problems facing society, and in the long term, has plans to create a series of STEM-based eGames aimed at teenagers.

Nabihah Hussaini

As a public relations officer for her high school’s student council, Nabihah Hussaini used the technical and design skills she acquired through course work to promote local and high school events. She was also a member of the Settlement Workers in Schools Program at her high school, which helped newcomers to Canada to settle in the community. She noted that this work helped her improve her public speaking and communication skills.

In her community, she mentored many youths through local programs including the annual Islamic summer camp, the Markaz Kids Summer Camp and Girls Inc., which empowers youth girls to pursue their interests in STEM professions. Taking it a step further, she even organized and instructed a summer camp for kids in the Muslim community by compiling educational activities, lessons and games.

Hussaini has continued to develop STEM skills in online courses such as the CS50 Introduction to Computer Science course offered by Harvard University and hopes to explore topics of interest within the technology.

Caleb Melin

Caleb Melin has been annually winning scholarships and awards at local music festivals, including Best Musicianship trophies for both piano and voice, for much of his young life. Additionally, he has been running his own business teaching piano to students throughout his high school years. He further nurtured his entrepreneurial spirit through a venture with his father in which they created an e-commerce business selling merino wool products.

He was also heavily involved in his high school community through sports — as captain of his high school’s soccer team — and as a member of the Student Representative Council where he served as president during his senior years in both elementary and high school. As a school leader, he organized his school’s first-ever winter games. Through his leadership, he inspired students to move forward with the ambitious but well-received project. His long-term vision is to create a thriving tech business after completing his studies.

Schulich School of Engineering Schulich leaders

Iliana Hodgins

Iliana Hodgins received her high school’s most prestigious award — the Windsor Excellence Award. The award recognized her scholastic achievement, leadership in Student Council and on the volleyball court, success in the performing arts (concert and jazz band) and her mentorship of younger students through coaching the junior volleyball team.

Hodgins was also assistant captain of her volleyball team, which won the North Shore Championships in 2021 and qualified for provincials. The team placed top five and she was awarded an honourable mention by Volleyball B.C. for her leadership and play.

As a young entrepreneur, Hodgins founded Iliana’s Bakery, an online business that leverages technology and social media to attract customers. Now a profitable business, she gives 10 per cent of earnings to community organizations. Hodgins has a dream to impact society through innovation and entrepreneurship by creating a startup in the AI neural interface technology field.

Nikko Po

Nikko Po knew from a young age what he wanted to do — engineering appealed to him right from the start. His fascination with numbers, structures and maps has brought him to university to further his learning so he can one day tackle issues and problems facing society. Po not only achieved excellence in his academic record in high school, but he was also a frequent volunteer. He was a member of the Student Leadership Representative at his high school, where he represented his grade and was spokesperson during council sessions.

He also instigated an application for a $10,000 grant to fund the school’s outdoor learning space. The grant provided funds to plant trees, develop a garden and build a greenhouse, and it provided students an area where they could escape the rigours of school. He was also a frequent volunteer in other high school activities and sports. Outside of school, he spent time volunteering at a care home.

Alison Stanley

As co-lead on her school’s iGEM team, Alison Stanley was awarded the 2021 iGEM silver level of achievement for their OXYBEGONE oxybenzone detector. She was responsible for conducting 3D modelling to substantiate how the detector could be successful and corroborated evidence through alternative methods.

As lead programmer on a second iGem project that focused on sustainable event planning software, Stanley was responsible for coding the CO2 EASY prototype. The project was pitched at MindFuel’s 2021 Tech Futures Challenge, and the team was honoured when the CEO of Mobility Quotient offered mentorship. The prototype allowed event attendees to calculate and offset their own emissions from attending an event.  

As an active student within her high school, Stanley was co-leader of her school’s Sustainability Club. She started the school’s first composting program and grew aeroponic and hydroponic gardens, which were later given to elementary classes to help teach about sustainable growing.  

Stanley is hoping to follow her passion for sustainability by focusing on renewable energy solutions, and dreams of starting her own engineering company one day.