Skip to content

Saanich student scores prestigious $120K Schulich Scholarship

SMUS Grade 12 student Maya Achuthan plans to study engineering at UBC this fall

Maya Achuthan’s early interest in science alerted her to the existence of the prestigious Schulich Leader Scholarship.

Since Grade 8, the teen’s been keen on a scholarship that sets her up for success starting this fall. The Schulich Leader Scholarship comes with $120,000 and connections to build on her ongoing learning outside of educational institutions.

“For years, I’ve known about what it can do for people and the calibre of exceptional people who win it,” Achuthan said. “Covering the costs of university has always been something I wanted to do by myself. It’s such a huge weight off my shoulders and I can just focus on becoming an engineer and doing what I love to do.”

She’s the first from St. Michaels University School to earn the scholarship that targets students identified as potential leaders in science, technology, engineering and math. It also recognizes the blend of academic excellence and creativity.

A relative newcomer to Greater Victoria, Achuthan lived in Alberta in Grade 8 and 9 while competing in national-level science fair competitions. It’s there she first met people through that network who earned the title of Schulich Scholar.

Since joining the SMUS student population in Grade 10, she’s served as head prefect, competed on the rowing and track teams, co-led the economics club, was a member of the student ambassador program, the marine club, the sustainability council and the SMUS Talks club.

She dove into biomedical engineering as a young student without even realizing it as she prepared for science competitions over the years – researching things such as gene editing therapies, diabetes and enzyme research.

Now in her senior year, deciding what program to go into was actually an easy step.

She’s enrolled in the biomedical engineering program at UBC in September.

Having visited the Vancouver labs this year, she liked what she saw – work on global issues such as sustainability and the food crisis from a biomedical sense.

“It keeps my options open for what I want to do beyond university and it’s such a cool new relevant field,” Achuthan said.

For her project this year, she built a compact photobioreactor – essentially a device to grow microalgae. She grew a specific algae that photosynthesizes at rates much faster than usual, as a renewable and organic source of carbon capture. From her perspective, the device could be available in compact and dense housing – to bring carbon capture to the masses.

She got to prototype it this year, with funding and support from UVic, and it’s something she may follow up on in the future.

“Just to prove to myself that I can come up with these ideas and actually make them into something,” Achuthan said. “I think there’s a lot of potential for it. Looking at the market right now, this kind of technology is already really, really interesting. Other companies are already picking it up.”

Alongside the tremendous funding, being named a Schulich Scholar provides an amazing networking opportunity. She’s excited at the prospect of continuing those intellectual conversations with people of influence – taking advantage of the experience of those who “laid the path.”

“You can’t even put a value on that, that’s incredible,” she said.

In the meantime, she’s planning some mother/daughter travel this summer, with time set aside to reacquaint herself with the UBC campus. But for the moment she’s focused on the present, enjoying all the accoutrement of graduation.

“Every single thing I wanted for next year has come true. I’m very surprised but very grateful.”


Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

Longtime journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
Read more