Don’t look for Liam Israels to take credit for his success.
“I don’t do things for reward; I do things because they’re the right thing to do,” explained the 19 year old. “I always challenge myself to take part in new experiences and expand my learning.”
For the third consecutive year, a student from the Medway High School in Arva has been awarded a Schulich Leader Scholarship, given to just 50 of the country highest achieving high school students. This year, Israels will begin his undergraduate studies at Western Engineering with a $100,000 scholarship in tow.
Launched in 2012, the $100-million scholarship program funded by Canadian philanthropist Seymour Schulich provides for 50 undergraduate scholarships across top Canadian universities each year. The program aims to allow the country’s most promising students to pursue their dreams and become global leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Two scholarship recipients are selected at each of the 20 participating universities, with five universities receiving an additional two scholarships for attracting the most applications. Students heading into engineering receive $100,000 while those planning to study other disciplines within science receive $80,000.
While achieving a 95 per cent average in his graduating year, academic success goes well beyond the classroom for Israels. Last fall, he got his first taste of campus after completing an internship at the National Research Council Canada in Western’s Research Park.
“I worked alongside a team of engineers developing sensors and digital maps for autonomous vehicles,” Israels said. “Specifically, my job was to reverse engineer messages from the CAN Bus system of the vehicle they had in their lab, which is like the computer system of the car.”
While in high school, he was involved – be it as a peer tutor, a student panelist for secondary school reform, or participant in the Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership conference and Rotary Seminar for Tomorrow’s Leaders, both of which he was selected by his peers.
Israels was also been selected to join an exclusive group of students from around the world on a one-week trip to the Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy, where he met with NASA astronauts and rocket scientists at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.
Laurie Farquharson, head of Medway’s guidance department, nominated Israels because he stood out by not wanting to stand out.
“He has been a quiet leader working with students as a peer tutor and mentor. He is willing to assist where and when required,” she said. “He is well respected by his peers not only because he does very well in his courses, but because he shares his knowledge with others. He loves to learn and wants to stretch his thinking when and where he can.”
She sees Israels as a problem-solver with a strong interest in climate control and environmental issues.
“We all know that our environment is in trouble. Liam will be part of the solution so that my grandchildren and great-grandchildren will have a healthy world to live in,” Farquharson said.
On his own, Israels has conducted scientific research into negative emissions technologies, specifically Direct Air Capture (DAC). At Western, he would like to continue this work involving the use of a chemical scrubbing technique to remove carbon dioxide from the ambient air – getting it in its purest form.
His next step is to improve the efficiency of the methods he used in the lab to build his own autonomous DAC device.
“I have tried to make a difference through the work I have done on climate change,” Israels continued. “In the future, my dream is to start my own carbon-capture company, which focuses on DAC devices for individuals to purchase – a market that has not yet been touched. I want to make a difference in the world; I feel engineering is an area where I can do that.”
His competitive nature and motivation to achieve the highest levels is also evident in his elite athletics. Playing Jr. B hockey for the Strathroy Rockets, Israels was recently drafted by the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League in the second round of the Priority Selection, 35th overall.
“I love hockey. But I’ve decided to slow it down a bit going into engineering. It’s (engineering) pretty busy, I’ve heard, but I’ll definitely still keep playing for fun. Let’s get through that first year,” said Israels, who had already taken classes this summer leading up starting full-time in the fall. “It’s been an adjustment, for sure, definitely a lot more self-teaching. They don’t hold your hand as much as they do in high school. It been a great experience so far.”
Israels said being awarded the Schulich scholarship opens time for him to focus on his studies.
“My parents were pretty excited, maybe more about the financial aspect,” he laughed. “Also, in the summer months, I can do internships and not have to worry about getting that summer job. This is really going to let me focus full-time on my undergraduate years.”