Meet the 2020-2021 National Scholars

We are pleased to announce and welcome these outstanding students as our 2020-2021 cohort of National Scholars.

Sophia Abolore

University College
Major: Computer Science

Sophia Abolore chose the University of Toronto as the best institution to pursue her dream: working with artificial intelligence systems to develop autonomous vehicles. “U of T has always been my dream school,” she says. “I sometimes have to pinch myself every now and then.” In high school, Abolore volunteered as a teen ambassador for Canada Learning Code, served on the Youth Parliament of Manitoba, and founded a mental health website, Upside, for teens and young adults. At U of T, she’s already been accepted into the autonomous vehicle program, Autoronto. Abolore hopes to spend her career in AI research, working to produce environmentally conscious autonomous vehicles that are accessible to those whom our current transportation ecosystem fails.




Odessa Hewitt-Bernhard

Trinity College
Major: Philosophy, Political Science

Odessa Hewitt-Bernhard is taking a wide range of humanities courses, planning to launch from this foundation into more intensive study of philosophy, political science and French. She hopes to then earn a law degree and work in human rights. “I know that the experience of learning at this school will equip me with the knowledge I need to be a thoughtful and caring member of my community,” says Hewitt-Bernhard.  I am overjoyed at the opportunity this school gives me to learn and grow, but the opportunity gives me a sense of responsibility as well.” She plans to become involved in activism and community work and believes that her studies at U of T will help her make long-lasting changes in the world.




Ashna Jain

Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering
Major: Industrial Engineering

Engineering student Ashna Jain hopes to address global issues through system design—in particular, systems that stimulate sustainable growth. A traveller who has visited more than 75 countries, she has already designed water filtration and transportation systems for developing communities and has become involved with Engineers Without Borders. “I believe engineering, and potentially graduate studies in policy development thereafter, will support my efforts to engender positive change and create impactful solutions to global problems,” she says. Jain chose the University of Toronto because of its Centre for Global Engineering, global outlook and partnerships, and mentorship opportunities—especially those available through the BMO Financial Group National Scholar program.




Vedika Jha

Victoria College
Major: Molecular Genetics, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology 

Even before beginning her first year at U of T, Vedika Jha worked in biochemistry professor Dr. Warren Lee’s cell biology lab. She has also conducted research in the Amazon rainforest, investigated e-cigarette use among adolescents, and danced competitively. At U of T, Jha has already joined Victoria University’s Students’ Administrative Council and dance club, and applied to work on a research project exploring the genetic underpinnings of cerebral palsy. “I heard about it through the National Scholars program,” she says. “I hope to find more opportunities like this in my undergrad, and I know that the National Scholarship program will help me do so.” Jha plans an impactful future in research addressing climate change, antimicrobial resistance or developmental disorders.




Madeleine King

University of Toronto Mississauga 
Major: Drama

Madeleine King is a humanities student who is passionate about theatre, and her one-act script has already won awards at the National Theatre School competition. No wonder King is looking forward to taking production and scriptwriting courses, and to a career as a drama teacher. “Knowing that theatre builds self-esteem, challenges perceptions, delivers impactful and easy-to-understand messages and maximizes learning, I hope to write and produce shows that will inspire positive change and influence the next generation to do the same,” she says. King also captained her high school swim team to four provincial championships and works as a youth leader. She enjoys experimenting with visual arts and plans to expand her skill set this summer by filming a new one-act script.




Adam Radek Martinez

Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering 
Major: Machine Intelligence, Molecular Biology and Genetics 

Adam Radek Martinez chose the University of Toronto for its world-class research programs. Still in his first year, he has already become involved in a stem cell cancer research project—and even before coming to university, he published an academic paper on a bacterial biosensor for measuring silver particles in the environment. His achievements also include representing Canada in the International Science Fair and founding a startup, Flowboat, which connects high school students with mentors in engineering and business. “I believe that my education, with a very strong math core and relevant scientific subjects, is uniquely positioned to produce the best future bioengineers,” Martinez says. “I hope to be a researcher who can contribute positively to the world through science and engineering.”



Asha Mior

Victoria College
Major: Global Health

Asha Mior is already an experienced environmental advocate, and she threw herself into public speaking, debate, and the Model United Nations program while in high school. At U of T, she plans to continue this trajectory with a program of courses in global health, political science and psychology. Inspired by U of T’s Vic One program on research ethics, she hopes to focus on public health as it relates to social and environmental issues. “I hope to use my education to advocate for important issues such as climate justice and health equity,” she says. “Above all, I want to educate and empower my peers, uplift the voices of those who are most vulnerable, and create meaningful and lasting change in the global community.”




Jacqueline Seal

Victoria College
Major: Bioinformatics and Computational Biology 

In high school, Jacqueline Seal balanced interests in social and scientific innovation. She volunteered as a reporter at a Hague International Model United Nations in Singapore and analyzed the factors correlated with tuberculosis outbreaks as a national finalist for the STEM Fellowship Big Data Challenge. She also took part in the international Technovation challenge and did bioinformatics research at the University of Calgary. At U of T, Seal continues this balance by exploring the intersection of computer science and human health.  “I hope to pursue an interdisciplinary career at the nexus of biochemistry and computer science, in an innovative setting that will simultaneously challenge and inspire me,” she says. Seal sees her future in socially-minded health or environmental entrepreneurship. 




Elizabeth Wong

Victoria College
Major: Social Sciences

Elizabeth Wong is currently taking social science courses, and planning to major in diaspora and transnational studies, human geography, sociology or philosophy. Social issues are her passion. “I hope to promote fairness by thinking critically about social problems from the perspective of all individuals and groups involved,” she says. “I aim to find solutions
to important problems facing communities, and help build socially, economically, and environmentally equitable spaces.” Wong was involved in student government at her high school, and balances her hard work with love for music, cooking and the outdoors. She hopes to complete meaningful research related to equity, diasporic communities and culture.



Maryam Younis

Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering
Major: Computer Engineering

An engineering student at U of T, Maryam Younis is also a top-level athlete. Both roles, she says, offer her the opportunity to break down barriers to equitable access for girls in sport and in STEM fields. A three-time winner of the national taekwondo championships in her age categories, she has also represented Canada at the Commonwealth, Pan American, and World Championships. Younis is also one of the youngest certified taekwondo coaches in Canada. At U of T, she is channeling her love for math and physics into computer engineering. “I continuously challenge myself by asking, ‘How will I change the future?’,” she says.  “I hope to enhance artificial intelligence, building secure computer and cloud platforms. This will broaden the accessibility of technologies worldwide.”



We invite you to meet the National Scholars from other years: