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A passion for science connects U of T's new Schulich Leaders

"My parents' philosophy is that you either lead society or society leads you," says Schulich Leader Andres Lombo (photo by Jessica MacIssac)

Venture capitalist and champion of higher education Seymour Schulich established the Schulich Leader Scholarships in 2011.  Every year since, the University of Toronto has welcomed these talented science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students, who have also shown a commitment to their communities, to programs in the Faculty of Arts & Science and Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering.

Xarissa Thompson spoke to this year's Schulich Leaders about what brought them to U of T. 

Andres E. Lombo
Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, engineering science
(photo above)

What drew you to the University of Toronto?

The most important thing for me is the community. I was in an International Baccalaureate program with 37 other people. I really liked the sense of a close community, all working towards the same goal and graduating together.

What brought you to engineering?

My parents were both engineering professors in Colombia and they encouraged me in pursuing whatever crazy idea I had as a child. My parents’ philosophy is that you either lead society or society leads you. You have to take your curiosity and let it push you into exploring the world. And most times this will lead you into something that will really impact society. 

You’re passionate about sharing science with kids. How have you helped to do that? 

I founded Voyage Science with friends. There’s a stigma that STEM is for nerdy kids. Science should be open to everyone and I wanted to inspire that. Voyage Science did interactive presentations in the gym, not as a lecture, but by presenting awe-inspiring experiments. We’d come in with lab coats and goggles and they’d know something crazy was going to happen. It really created excitement and I also discovered that teaching is one of the best ways to learn.

And your future plans?

I am currently very open to a wide range of interests within engineering. I came to U of T because I really like the academic challenge, I want to dig into the nitty-gritty of every single topic that interests me. 

Carl Pinter
Faculty of Arts & Science, studies in life sciences
U of T Scarborough

(photo by Dawnelle Brown)

Why did you choose the University of Toronto?

Toronto is diverse, exciting, and offers so many opportunities. I see the University of Toronto as a place to develop into a mature and learned adult. 

What sparked your interest in science?

When I was seven, I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. If it wasn't for science, I would be dead. Thirty years ago my disease was very difficult to treat, and 50 years ago it was a death sentence. While I cannot pay back the doctors and the medical staff who helped me, I can pay it forward by contributing to the realm of science. 

What are some of your other interests?

One of my biggest passions is musical theatre and singing. I sang in my school’s choir and jazz group and have been involved the fall musical since grade nine. This past year I was cast as the lead in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Performing allowed me to connect with a lot of people and increased my confidence. 

What are your plans for the future? 

I see university as a time of exploration and discovery. I’m excited to start to experience what is out there. I don't want to plan too far ahead or close myself off to any particular area. I want to experiment.  

Jack Stanley 
Faculty of Arts & Science, studies in life sciences (microbiology and molecular genetics)
Trinity College

What drew you to the University of Toronto?

What U of T offers simply cannot be matched anywhere else in Canada. At the university, I can participate in cutting-edge research, or gain valuable work experience at a startup or larger company in Toronto’s technology sector. U of T offers nearly limitless possibilities to become involved in STEM in one capacity or another.
What drew you to STEM? Why do you want to pursue a career in the STEM field? 

I have always been a naturally curious person, and I enjoy learning how the world around me actually works. I discovered that I love working in a hands-on environment when I volunteered at an anatomy laboratory at UVic. Nearly any STEM subject fulfills my insatiable desire to ask questions and find answers. It’s where I can have the most impact on the world.

And your future plans?

I plan to move on to grad school and further my study in microbiology. Microbiology is really interesting because you are affecting people. Tech is moving so fast, you can examine things on such a small level. I truly believe that the intersection of biology and technology will be incredibly important in the near future and I want to be a part of that.

Aidan Aird
Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, engineering science

Why did you choose U of T?

The Schulich Leaders Scholarship was definitely a big part of it, but also the prestige of the engineering program. It’s consistently one of the top ranked, not just in Canada, but globally. 

What got you interested in engineering? 

My parents really encouraged and supported me in exploring whatever I was interested in. As kids, my sister and I spent a lot of time at the zoo, the ROM and the Ontario Science Centre, which really sparked my interest in science and engineering. It led me to be interested in science fairs, and in grade seven I was fortunate to advance to my first of four national science fairs. 

You’re very interested in encouraging others to explore STEM. How have you done that? 

A couple of years ago my sister Keeley and I started STEM Kids Rock, a science outreach program for kids.  We have an extensive collection of prehistoric fossils, exotic insects and unique minerals that we take to community centres, museums, libraries, schools, and community events. We have over 50 student volunteers that have helped inspire over 100,000 kids. 

You have also worked a lot in philanthropy. 

I’m very passionate about ending youth homelessness and have even slept on the streets a few times during the winter, in order to get a better idea what it may be like to be a homeless youth and to help raise funds and awareness. It was tough. It was really eye-opening to think that kids do this every single night and then still go to school. I struggled to do it one night a year.

What are your future plans? 

I look up to people like Elon Musk or Bill Gates, who really give back through philanthropy, and I aspire to one day be like them.