The next generation of STEM leaders: ECE student among U of T Engineering’s 2023 Schulich Leaders

Composite of headshots
From top left to right: Manroop Kalsi, Lucas Hilden, Adam Omarali, Serewaya Latif and Samantha Sedran.

NOVEMBER 16, 2023 • By Janet Rowe

Lucas Hilden (Year 1, MechE) was a Grade 8 student in the rural town of Falmouth, N.S., when he developed an aid that uses facial recognition technology to help Alzheimer’s patients recognize their loved ones.

Inspired by his grandfather, who suffers from the disease, the project won him a gold medal and innovation award at the Canada-Wide Science Fair that year.

“That experience showed me that the world of STEM is definitely where I belong and where I could make the most impact on society,” says the now-17-year-old, who is one of just 100 students from across Canada to win a coveted 2023 Schulich Leader Scholarship — including 10 now studying at the University of Toronto.

Awarded to incoming undergraduate students who demonstrate exceptional promise and leadership in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and entrepreneurship, the Schulich Leader Scholarships are designed to foster the next generation of global STEM pioneers.

For Hilden, who started three businesses in high school while nurturing his love of STEM and hosting coding camps for children, winning the scholarship reassured him that he was on the right path.

“I read the Schulich Leader Scholarship requirements and thought, ‘Wow.’ If I could write scholarship criteria to describe what I’m good at and what I do, it would literally be this scholarship,” he says. “When I found out I had won it, it felt like an important confirmation that I’m doing what I should be doing.”

The Schulich Leader Scholarships are an investment in Canada’s brightest minds

The Schulich Leader Scholarships were established in 2012 by businessman Seymour Schulich, who credits his success to a scholarship that enabled him to attend McGill University’s first-ever MBA class in 1965.

Valued at $120,000 each for students pursuing engineering programs and $100,000 each for science, technology and mathematics students, the scholarships cover the total cost of an undergraduate education — allowing Schulich Leaders to focus entirely on pursuing their goals.

“Schulich Leaders are extraordinary young people with big dreams, big ideas and unparalleled potential to change the world,” says University of Toronto President Meric Gertler.

“We are incredibly excited to welcome the newest Schulich Leaders to U of T, and we could not be more grateful to Seymour Schulich and the Schulich Foundation for investing in the ambitions of these remarkable students.”

This year, the 10 Schulich Leader Scholarship winners attending U of T come from across Canada — from Nova Scotia to British Columbia — and are pursuing engineering, computer science and actuarial science programs. Their interests range from robotics to artificial intelligence, programming to entrepreneurship in STEM and beyond.

For U of T’s Schulich Leaders, the future starts now

Sandy Welsh, U of T’s Vice Provost, Students, says it’s been inspiring to witness the impact of the Schulich Leader Scholarships on some of Canada’s brightest students year after year.

“These scholarships open doors to unlimited opportunity for some of our country’s most ambitious and brilliant young minds,” she says.

“They not only provide the financial support students need to pursue a U of T education, but they also come with an incredible network of peers, mentors and supporters and offer access to world-class faculty and leading industry experts. We are incredibly grateful to the Schulich Foundation for helping these future STEM leaders start their journeys here at U of T.”

Meet Serewaya Latif, Computer Engineering

Latif brings a wide range of skills and interests to her computer engineering studies at U of T. A graduate of Dunbarton High School in Pickering, Ontario, Latif has worked as a freelance full-stack developer and an innovation developer intern at RBC. She is also the founder of Resource ASK, an organization that connects Black entrepreneurs to the business resources they need to succeed.

“The initiative and talent of young leaders such as Serewaya Latif help make our department an invigorating place to work and to learn,” says Professor Deepa Kundur, ECE Chair. “We’re thrilled to welcome Serewaya to the ECE community and congratulate her and the others on their Schulich awards.”

2023 U of T Engineering Schulich Leaders include:

  • Adam Omarali, Engineering Science
  • Lucas Hilden, Mechanical Engineering
  • Manroop Kalsi, Engineering Science
  • Samantha Sedran, Engineering Science
  • Serewaya Latif, Computer Engineering

Read full story at U of T Engineering News, with files from Matthew Tierney