People of SFU

SFU’s 2023 Schulich Leaders: Building solutions for a better tomorrow

August 15, 2023
Alexander Charnetski and Lilian Pham are SFU’s 2023 recipients of the prestigious Schulich Leader Scholarship for young minds pursuing science, technology, engineering and math.

New undergraduate students Alexander Charnetski and Lilian Pham were drawn to STEM because of their shared passion for building things for the betterment of society—from inventing physical products to software applications.

When asked what they’re most looking forward to during their studies, both Charnetski and Pham cite the same reason: making a positive difference.

As SFU’s 2023 recipients of the prestigious Schulich Leader Scholarship for young minds pursuing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), Charnetski received a $120,000 scholarship in engineering science, while Pham received a $100,000 scholarship toward her computing science degree.

Alexander Charnetski

Charnetski, whose interests shifted from theoretical to applied sciences as he got older, hopes to use his education and training to solve practical problems with practical solutions. “I love working with my hands, but I also want to infuse science into that and create something that will be of use to and help others,” he says.

While he will start SFU in the fall, he says the Schulich Leader community has already proved to be a wonderful network for meeting other young people across Canada in engineering fields.

“I’m so thankful for the connections I was able to make because of this scholarship,” says Charnetski. “It’s comforting to know you have that kind of support throughout your studies.”

Charnetski is the third generation of his family to attend SFU—his mother was an SFU student, and his grandmother did her master’s degree at the university—but it was the thoughtful student experience and institutional commitment to innovation that drew him there.

Lilian Pham

Similarly, Pham was inspired to immerse herself in the mostly male-dominated field of computing science because of her mother and grandmother, who came as immigrants to Canada and never had the opportunity to pursue a university education.

“The Schulich Leader Scholarship changed my life,” says Pham. “I am beyond grateful and excited for the confidence it has given me to excel, connect with other leaders and apply for internships in the future.”

Pham and her older brother, also a computing science student, have been collaborating on projects since they were young. Most recently, they have been working on apps together using artificial intelligence—a field that Pham has expressed strong interest in. Aiming to bring another woman’s voice into conversations, she aspires to open her very own software development company one day.

“I would love to be the first woman in my family to create something like this for myself,” says Pham. “I really believe in female representation and hiring more women in my field.”

Like Pham, Charnetski has big plans for his time at SFU. The North Delta teen already made headlines back in 2020 when he created more than 500 surgical mask straps on his 3D printer and donated them to area hospitals to help take pressure off the back of hospital workers’ ears.

“I want to do something that is beneficial for the world and the people around me,” he says, “and I hope that by the end of my undergraduate studies, I can firmly say that I created something that has helped at least one person—and hopefully many more in the future.”

About Schulich Leader Scholarships Canada

Recognizing the increasing importance and impact that STEM disciplines will have on the prosperity of future generations, businessman and philanthropist Seymour Schulich established this $100+ million scholarship fund in 2012 to encourage our best and brightest students to become Schulich Leader Scholars: the next generation of entrepreneurial-minded, technology innovators.

Through the Schulich Foundation, these prestigious entrance scholarships are awarded to 100 high school graduates enrolling in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) undergraduate program at 20 partner universities in Canada. Every high school in Canada can submit one Schulich Leader Nominee per academic year based on academic excellence in STEM, entrepreneurial leadership and financial need.