Ordinary things interest Katja Murray: playing chess, competing at trivia, shopping for just the right decorative throw pillows for her soon-to-be home in London.
And extraordinary things fascinate her: biomedical engineering, and designing machines that can graft human tissue and manufacture synthetic organs, for example.
Murray is one of six new Schulich Leader Scholarship students who will be attending Western this fall.
She is a graduate of Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School in St. Catharines, where she earned a 99 per cent average in an all-STEM course load, en route to receiving international certification in French and a Governor General’s Academic Medal for highest academic standing in her school.
An observer might call her a polymath, but she demurs – it’s just that she wants to see and do and learn everything.
“I’ve never thought of myself as really smart. I work hard, I do my homework; that’s always been my mentality.
“I’d like to say I’m well-rounded. I’m an athlete, I’m a musician, I’m a people person. I think I’m hard-working. I like to discover things within all walks of life.” Katja Murray, Schulich Leader Scholarship winner
In addition to being a competitive swimmer (freestyle and breaststroke are her specialties), she plays lacrosse and is a left-winger on championship-winning hockey teams.
She is a classically trained opera singer. And, during her spare time in COVID-19 quarantine, she learned to play piano to a Grade 6 Royal Conservatory level and polished her chess skills with online players from around the world.
With her diverse studies and extracurricular activities, Murray’s planning-and-organizing apps get a workout. “It takes a little bit of practice and eventually you fall into a routine.”
Her work at a dental clinic reinforced how much she likes the gear and gadgetry of medicine and how machines and AI can be used to improve health care. “That’s when I found out there was such a thing as Biomechanical Engineering and I said, ‘Ooh, that sounds like fun.’ ”
After returning home from a walk this spring, she found an email saying she had won a Schulich Leadership Scholarship. “I was not expecting to win at all. I just figured it was something I should do and you never know what happens.”
Several immediate and extended family members are Western alumni and she looks forward to carrying on that tradition. She also hopes to join as many intramural teams and clubs as she can.
Murray has planned out a first-year course load that includes physics, engineering, biology and statistics, and is genuinely excited about the possibilities. “It looks like it’s going to be so much fun.”
Created by Canadian business leader and philanthropist Seymour Schulich in 2012, the $200-million Schulich Leader Scholarship program encourages high school graduates to embrace STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines in their future careers.
The program provides 100 undergraduate scholarships of $80,000 for students entering science, technology or math programs and $100,000 for students pursuing engineering degrees across top Canadian universities each year.
Profiles of all six incoming Schulich Leader Scholarship winners can be found here.