2015 Co-op Students of the Year impact the community in positive ways

Co-op, Engineering, Science, Peter B. Gustavson School of Business

Each year, UVic's Co-operative Education Program and Career Services recognize three co-op students who have made outstanding achievements in their academic achievement, workplace performance and community involvement. One student is selected from each of our three major program areas.

The 2015 Co-op Students of the Year are:

AINSLEIGH HILL (physics and biochemistry)

Co-op Student of the Year - Optional and Professional Co-op Programs

Although Ainsleigh Hill is only 19 years old, she has demonstrated a passion for problem solving and an aptitude for science well beyond her years. After graduating from high school at 16, Hill followed her love of math and science to UVic, where she is pursuing a degree in physics and biochemistry.

For her first two co-op work terms, she joined the Lymphoma Biology and Informatics team at the BC Cancer Agency's Terry Fox Laboratory, and immediately impressed her co-op supervisor Dr. Andrew Weng by teaching herself how to program in C++ and R within a week-skills that come in handy when the team analyses mass cytometry data for B Cell lymphoma using computer algorithms.

Hill quickly proved herself able to brainstorm as an equal with the postdocs and bioinformaticians on the team. She is a natural problem solver and trailblazer; when a standard mathematical expression commonly used to measure data was yielding inappropriate values, she was able to modify the expression to remedy the issue-the new expression is now referred to as the "Ainsleigh index".

"Ainsleigh has a unique combination of high intelligence, intellectual curiosity, scientific smarts and mathematical insight, enabling her to make tremendous contributions to the bioinformatics project," says Dr. Weng. "Her contributions will earn her authorship on at least two papers next year."

Hill has been a champion of co-op, encouraging many of her friends to join the program. She credits co-op with helping her zero in on her career aspirations. "I have always liked math, but hadn't considered computer science as a career path before this co-op," she says. "With bioinformatics, I've learned that I really enjoy computer programming-I am looking forward to have a job similar to this one in the future."

More than a career, Hill sees science as a way to maintain a sense of childlike wonder. "Through science we can glimpse the world through the lens of a child discovering the world for the first time," she says. "Through science, I hope to always be discovering and understanding new things."

FRANCIS CHARBONNEAU (electrical engineering)

Co-op Student of the Year - Engineering and Computer Science/Math Co-op Programs

Francis Charbonneau has a passion for making the world a better place. The fourth-year electrical engineering student has made a point of completing six co-op work terms with organizations committed to sustainability and renewable energy. He has also demonstrated a commitment to community through his volunteering and extracurricular activities.

Francis spent his first two work terms with Watanabe Engineering Ltd., where he conducted power quality analyses and designed electrical drawings for water and sewage lift stations. He followed that up with two work terms at Ballard Power Systems, where he designed and verified electrical systems for fuel cell structures.

His final two work terms were with SgurrEnergy as a Renewable Energy Consultant. In addition to managing projects assessing wind resource and power performance of wind turbine generators, Francis provided technical reviews of wind farm cabling, compiled risk matrix reports for various projects and was involved with assessing wind resources at proposed and operational wind farm sites. He did such a good job that he was offered a full-time position with SgurrEnergy after graduation.

"The type of work that I have done in my last co-op work terms is exactly what I was dreaming of when I started my studies in engineering," says Francis. "I want to help build a more sustainable society-co-op has helped me achieve this."

An exemplary student, Francis has also been active outside the classroom. He has been a member of the men's novice varsity rowing team, and is currently a co-director of sports with the Engineering Student Society. He volunteers as a Big Brother and encourages fellow co-op students to embrace job shadowing opportunities to learn the most about their possible career paths.

"The co-op program at UVic has significantly enhanced my personal, professionals and academic development. It's given me the chance to be part of a positive change."

KARLEY SKARET (business)

Co-op Student of the Year - Business Co-op Program

Learning through work experience was a key factor in Karley Skaret's decision to attend the Peter B. Gustavson School of Business. She knew that the mandatory co-op program would give her the opportunity to apply theory in real life workplaces, and with two co-op work terms under her belt, she has already learned a lot.

Her first work term was with Calgary Wildfire Management, where she organized events to promote the Government of Alberta's Sustainable Resource Development and created an organizational system to track and manage the office's promotional material. Last summer, she was hired as an office accounting clerk with RGO Office Products, but was quickly promoted to work on a strategically important business processes improvement project.

"Her ability to work through problems and bring forward solutions exceeded my expectations," says her supervisor Jonathan Gebert, CFO and VP Finance & Operations. Karley was tasked with mapping internal processes, reporting areas of improvement and developing solutions to help guide the strategic direction of the company. "I learned how to manage various internal cultures as well as financial and organizational sensitivities in order to frame solutions in a positive way," says Karley. "The experience has helped me develop my interest in strategic planning, operations management and internal business relations, which will serve me well in international business."

Karley has also shown a commitment to giving back to the local community. She has volunteered with Soup Sisters, the Canadian Diabetes Association, and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and was the Vice President of the Young Women in Business UVic Chapter.

"Co-op has enhanced my classroom knowledge and has helped me achieve superior results on projects-I look forward to continuing to develop my career and leadership skills with my future co-op work terms."


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Keywords: student life, community, employment, co-op

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