#UofTGrad17: Where are these 5 globetrotting grads going with their U of T degrees?

For many new graduates, a University of Toronto degree is a passport to study or work around the world
Plane silhouette photo
Oxford University, MIT and Columbia University are among the destinations for class of 2017 (photo by David Spinks via Flickr)

Oxford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Google-owned artificial intelligence company in England are among the next stops for the Class of 2017. 

New alumni move directly into exciting jobs – as underscored by U of T's status as the top Canadian university for graduate employability outcomes in the 2016 QS rankings.

Five U of T students planning adventures abroad spoke to U of T News about their steps after graduation:

Stephanie Gaglione

Niema Mohammad

Kourosh Houshmand

Yujia Li

Jason Martins

Stephanie Gaglione photo

Gaglione, a chemical engineering student, hopes to one day help improve biomaterial platforms for vaccines and drug delivery. A Rhodes Scholarship allowing her to study integrated immunology at Oxford University brings her a big step closer to her goal. She has already mapped out her future after Oxford – obtaining a PhD in chemical engineering at MIT.

What will you miss about U of T? 

This will sound corny, but I'll miss the engineering community. I really appreciated being a part of a large, vibrant and diverse group of students and all the creativity that came of that. 

If Oxford comes close, I'll be excited. 

How will you change the world with your U of T degree? 

My hope is that with an engineering base that I gained at U of T, I can bring new industry to Canada, particularly in the industries of immunology and immunotherapy and contribute to a new paradigm of what immunotherapy means. U of T gave me a great, well-rounded engineering education – something to build on and grow.

What was your top U of T moment? 

I would say the conclusion of the NASA project [a capstone engineering project]. It was by far the best group project I worked on. It was an opportunity for teamwork, friendship, travel and faculty mentorship all rolled into one. That project alone showed how much you can learn and grow in university. 

Read more about Gaglione in U of T's campus paper The Varsity

Niema photo
Niema Mohammad plans to go to Oxford University (photo by Geoffrey Vendeville)

Even as an undergraduate, Niema Mohammad has been published in scholarly journals. The student in U of T's highly competitive and demanding engineering science program is due to continue her education at Oxford University, with a DPhil in engineering science (biomedical engineering). She plans on developing a biomaterial platform for neural tissue engineering and neural repairs based on stem cell therapy.

If you could jump into a time machine and speak to first-year Niema, what would you say? 

To relax. I'd tell her everything will be OK, that you'll get through eng sci and don't have to worry.

What was the highlight of your time in university? 

A professor who did chemical engineering here gave a talk – he's from the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences & Technology. I heard his talk and was really interested in the work so I emailed him and said I'm in eng sc. And basically, he invited me to work with him for four months in my second year. It was a really amazing experience, and if it wasn't for eng sci, I wouldn't have gone there.

What's the most important thing you learned at U of T?

Over time, I realized that it’s not just your GPA that matters. It’s how you use the resources you have to make an impact on your community. 

Kourosh Houshmand photo on U of T campus

As a first-year student in political science and ethics, law and society, Houshmand bagged an interview with the world renowned linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky. Over the next few years, he studied in China and South Africa, worked for Vice and founded a non-profit to improve access to solar power in the developing world. His options after graduation include taking China studies at Peking University on a scholarship or data journalism at Columbia University.

What's the most important lesson you learned at U of T? 

If anything, I learned who I am. I learned the things that I love. I pursued all the opportunities I could've wanted in a city that's great. I was able to go to China, able to run my own non-profit work while I was here. All those things give you the breathing space to be yourself while getting institutional support. 

What was your top U of T moment? 

I think it would be China, where I did a summer abroad course with Professor Joe Wong at Fudan University. It was only then – after my second year – that I learned how much I loved that field of study. I was so interested in understanding China's economy. I realized how I love to study another country's economy, policies and politics while I'm in that country. I realized how important it is to be close to things you study. 

Any words of wisdom for new students? 

Do not wait until you graduate to do the things you want to do. You're never too young to do something you think is worthwhile.

Yujia Li photo

With internships at Baidu Inc. and Microsoft under his belt, Li is graduating with a PhD in computer science, focusing on machine learning. He has been working with Professor Richard Zemel's research group (Zemel is also the research director of the newly created Vector Institute). Li's next stop: London, U.K., to join the Google-owned artificial intelligence company DeepMind.

What's the most important thing you learned at U of T?

Be brave and ambitious. I did my PhD at U of T. A lot of it is about doing research, and when doing research you have to choose whether to do safe incremental work or do something big but risky. I learned to choose the bigger and more ambitious projects through which you learn to plan ahead, collaborate with others and achieve more.

What was your top U of T moment?

Probably the week before I submitted my first published paper. I spent a few nights working very late in the lab and leaving early in the morning, together with my lab-mate.  That period was stressful, but I learned so much. Luckily the paper got accepted and published.

Any advice for new students?

Enjoy life, work and study, learn from each other, collaborate with your team and dream big.

Jason Martins

Martins, in chemical engineering, already has the next two years mapped out. In September, he's heading to MIT for a Master of Science in Chemical Engineering Practice. In the fall of 2018, he's planning to go to Cambridge University on a deferred Gates Cambridge Scholarship to obtain an MPhil in energy technologies. 

If you could describe your experience at U of T in one word – what would it be? Why?

Energy. I think there is a lot of positive energy in the University of Toronto community. Outside of class, there are endless opportunities that keep students motivated to work on unique and exciting projects.

What were some of the highlights from your time in U of T engineering? 

My fourth-year capstone project was the most exciting experience by far. My team’s project was with industry advisers from NASA, exploring potential chemical pathways to convert carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of Mars into more “useful” chemical compounds for biological processing. 

What contributions do you hope to make now that you have your engineering degree?

Systems capable of capturing, storing, recycling or utilizing carbon dioxide have a crucial role to play in the coming decades as society transitions towards renewable energy sources. In the future, I will seek to apply my research and work in this field to create a sustainable world for future generations.


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