Science Co-op Student of the Year Winners Recognized

The Science Career and Cooperative Education (SCCE) office proudly announces the winners of the 2017 Science Co-op Student of the Year Awards.

Top awards were presented to Rahul Sharma, Biochemistry Co-op – Year 3 winner; Jacob Pierscianowski, Chemical Biology Co-op – Year 4 winner; and Victoria Marando, Chemical Biology Co-op – Year 5 winner.

The SCCE invited Science Co-op employers to nominate students who had gone above and beyond during their work terms over the past year. Winners were chosen based on academic achievement, the strength of their employer nomination letter, the student’s personal statement, and contributions to cooperative education and extracurricular activity at McMaster or in the community. The SCCE manages 13 unique cooperative education programs for the Faculty of Science. Each year they help students secure over 400 work terms across a variety of sectors. All programs start in year 3 and follow CEWIL accreditation standards and guidelines.

Nominees and award winners were recognized at a reception at the Skylight Room in March 2018. There, the Acting Associate Dean of Science, Robin Cameron, SCCE representatives, employer supervisors, and guests of nominees, gathered to celebrate the achievements of the winners and nominees.

In addition to the award winners, the following students were nominated for their excellent work by their co-op employers:

  • Year 3 nominees: Christine Pham (Molecular Biology & Genetics), Mina Sadeghi (Biology & Pharmacology), Mehreen Tariq (Mathematics & Statistics), Shira Weiss (Life Sciences) and Angeli Li (Life Sciences).
  • Years 4 and 5 nominees: Danielle Cimino (Life Sciences), Briony Lago (Chemical Biology), Natalia Ogrodnik (Chemical Biology), Ana Portillo Martinez (Biochemistry), Achini Da Silvi (Life Sciences), Michelle Wiskar (Actuarial and Financial Mathematics), Megan Hartwell (Mathematics & Statistics), Jordan Thiessen (Actuarial and Financial Mathematics) and Laila Omar Nazir (Medical and Health Physics).


Winner Profiles:
Rahul Sharma (Year 3 Recipient) completed his first co-op work term in the Animal BioSciences Department at the University of Guelph, under the supervision of Drs. Alexandra Harlander and Audrey Elias. Sharma studied biomechanic perturbations in poultry, and the ability of domestic birds to be trained to self-medicate for injuries incurred while in captivity. Dr. Elias stated: “We completed more work, and with a healthier attitude, in those three months than I have ever seen in any other lab. Rahul is an exemplar of the best the Science Career and Cooperative Education program has to offer.” Along with maintaining a very high GPA, he is also community minded. He has volunteered with both the Canadian Blood Services and St. Josephs Healthcare. Within co-op, Sharma has provided support and guidance to new co-op students at the annual Gathering of the Minds event.

Jacob Pierscianowski (Year 4 Recipient) spent eight months working with Dr. Tatiana Koutchma at Agriculture and Agri Food Canada. During his work term, Pierscianowski led a scientific project that investigated the effects of ultraviolet light processing on quality parameters of green juices. His immediate supervisor, Vladimir Popovic wrote: “Jacob displayed a remarkable sense of independence, self-motivation, maturity and professionalism which is uncommon for undergraduate level co-op students. Further, his theoretical knowledge and practical skills were very impressive.” His strong work ethic is also apparent outside of his work term; he holds an 11.5 cGPA, and since 2016, has been an active member on the Science Co-op Advisory Committee. In addition, Pierscianowski has helped provide information and guidance to co-op applicants during co-op admission interviews and to new co-op students at the annual Gathering of the Minds event. Outside of co-op, he was an active member on the McMaster Science Society from 2015-2017 and often involved in Chemistry & Chemical Biology information sessions and presentations.

Victoria Marando (Year 5 Recipient) completed eight months at NMX Research Solutions in Quebec, under the supervision of Dr. François Bilodeau. Marando was involved in a number of challenging NMR projects, including the development of fragment-based screening methods. She handled her projects in a “very professional manner, delivering high quality results and reports which outperform industry standards.” Her supervisor said: “What makes Victoria's achievements even more remarkable are her capacity to integrate new and complex scientific concepts and identify correlations between them.” One of her accomplishments during her work term was helping to create the first annual Academic-Industry Partnerships Symposium hosted by the Institute Armand Frappier. The inaugural event was a huge success.

At McMaster University, Marando has been an advocate for international co-op work terms (her first eight months were spent at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden) and she has always made herself available to any student interested in working abroad. Since first year, she has been an active member in the McMaster Science Society, and helped to develop and organize the first two Ontario Science Students Association Leadership Conferences. In addition to winning the Year 5 award, she was selected as McMaster University’s nominee for the Cooperative Education and Work Integrated Learning Canada (CEWIL) and EWO (Education Work Ontario) Co-op Student of the Year competitions. In both the CEWIL and EWO competitions, Marando was recognized with an honorary mention, an outstanding accomplishment and placing her among the top co-op students in Canada and the province.

Marando’s work at the Karolinska Institute was featured in a recent Daily News article. This fall, she begins graduate studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Congratulations to all of the winners and nominees.

More information about the Science Co-op program at McMaster can be found at or by emailing The SCCE is also thrilled to support the new Hire McMaster.

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