Schulich Leader finds formula for science success

Charlotte Motuzas of London is one of six Schulich Leader Scholarship winners who will attend Western in the fall. (Submitted photo)

Charlotte Motuzas has her sights set on becoming an astrophysicist.

And she’s quite clear that means staying on terra firma. “I’m not the sort of person who would like to go into space,” she said with a laugh. “I’m the sort of person who would like to figure out the formulas to get people into space, to Mars, then bring them back.”

Motuzas, a graduate of South Secondary School in London, is one of six Schulich Leader Scholarship winners starting studies at Western in the fall.

Studying astrophysics is a logical extension for her passions. “I’ve loved math for a really long time and I love numbers. I really, really like working with formulas – and physics is a special way of doing formulas and solving problems.”

Problem-solving is her super-power.

She has been a top performer at most of Ontario’s and Canada’s top math contests, including having attained top marks among classmates for every Waterloo math or financial literacy competition she has written throughout high school. She has won numerous ribbons and medals for competitions in DECA, an international organization that prepares emerging leaders for entrepreneurship, including in financial literacy.

Motuzas was part of the robotics team that took home top prize in a regional challenge in 2018 and was on its way to a solid run this spring until COVID-19 ended competitions.

She and her twin brother have also volunteered with Let’s Talk Science – the Canadian program helping kids learn and enjoy science, technology, engineering and math – since they were in elementary school.

She could hardly believe she’d been awarded the scholarship when she got the call from Western in late May. “I was, like, ‘This can’t be real. I have to see it to know it’s for real.’ The general vibe was kind of shock.”

Western’s physics program is both specialized and diverse enough that she could decide later to study geophysics or pursue just about any other stream.

“I’m excited to learn more about the different kinds of physics and find out the things that make the lights click on in my head,” Motuzas said.

“I really do like space and I think there’s going to be so many opportunities in the next 10 to 15 years. I’m the kind of person who likes to go where there are things happening continuously.”

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.

For Motuzas, the Schulich Leader Scholarship opens academic and financial doors. “This means that I will be putting my efforts into school and I won’t have to worry about how I’m going to afford school or how I’m going to manage debt after I graduate.”

She credits exceptional high school teachers and her family for being ‘super-supportive’ every step of the way. “I studied a lot. I always handed things in on time. I always paid attention in class. But I still feel so lucky to be here.”

***

Profiles of all six incoming Schulich Leader Scholarship winners can be found here.