June 25, 2020

Class of 2020: UCalgary’s President’s Award winners

Inspiring graduates recognized for academic achievement, leadership and contributions to the community
President's Award winners

The University of Calgary is pleased to announce the 2020 recipients of the President’s Award for Excellence in Student Leadership. The award was established in 2008 to recognize exceptional graduating students who have a record of academic achievement, consistently demonstrate leadership and make significant contributions to our community.

Catharine Bowman
Bachelor of Health Sciences, Honours (First Class)

Driven by a promise to her mother to help find a cure for lymphedema, a chronic inflammatory disease commonly associated with cancer treatment, Catharine Bowman came to UCalgary as a high school student and began working with lymphedema expert Dr. Pierre-Yves von der Weid, PhD, at the Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases.

Bowman’s work brought together researchers from four institutions across the country for a project that continues to this day. Although her passion for research was sparked by her mother’s struggles with lymphedema, Bowman now continues her research in honour of each patient she has met along her journey.

Bowman returned as a Leader in Health Sciences scholar in fall 2016, where she has continued to excel. She is part of UCalgary’s Scholars Academy, is the vice-president of the Alberta Lymphedema Association, established a speaking campaign on lymphedema and has delivered a TEDx talk on youth and leadership.

Her research and advocacy led to her being named in Forbes’ 30 under 30: Healthcare and Avenue Calgary’s Top 40 under 40. She also loves music and has co-ordinated and shared music programming with residents at Bethany, a long-term care facility in Calgary.

Bowman has accepted a seat with Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) to pursue an MD.

Catharine Bowman

Ruth Legese
Bachelor of Health Sciences, Honours (First Class)

Ruth Legese’s motivation stems from her own childhood experience fleeing the Ethiopian-Eritrean war and coming to Canada as a refugee. Having witnessed first-hand the impact health care inequity can have on communities, she is passionate about global health and helping provide quality health care to marginalized groups.

Locally, Legese presented the case for reinstating water fluoridation to the City of Calgary, mentored refugees and worked in Dr. Dylan Pillai’s Lab exploring infectious disease diagnostics. Internationally, she volunteered as a medical translator in Ethiopia, conducted malaria field work and helped teach graduate students about novel malaria diagnostics. She also spent the summer of 2019 in Uganda working with a team to help address gaps in the local community’s knowledge of maternal and child health.

Legese has served as co-president of the Health Sciences Students’ Association, and she established the Ethiopian and Eritrean Students’ Association – through which she piloted a city-wide anti-bullying campaign and a workshop series connecting UCalgary students to development projects in Ethiopia. As head of the African-Caribbean Students’ Association’s academic committee, she helped organize peer-tutoring sessions, study halls, a mentorship program, and workshops on resume-writing and obtaining research positions.

Legese will be attending the University of Alberta’s MD program in August.

Hannah Rahim
Bachelor of Health Sciences, Honours (First Class)

Hannah Rahim joined UCalgary as a winner of the prestigious Schulich Leader Scholarship. She is the managing director of STEM Fellowship — a Canadian registered charity that creates mentorship and experiential learning programs to help youth succeed in STEM. Rahim founded a branch of STEM Fellowship at UCalgary and was president for more than two years, creating a research internship program for high school students from communities traditionally underrepresented in STEM.

Through the MS Society’s legal advocacy program, Rahim guides MS patients through the Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefit written application. She also served as co-director of academics and training for the UCalgary Sustainable Development Goals Alliance, where she organized sustainability workshops and training programs.

Rahim has conducted health research in a variety of fields, including transplant immunology, neuroimaging and public health. She recently led two research studies, exploring birth tourism to Canada and physicians’ perceptions of medical cannabis. Her research has been published in the peer-reviewed journals Transplant Research and Risk Management and Science Advances.

She is currently an intern with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and will be beginning employment with Boston Consulting Group this fall.

Hannah Rahim

Haley Vecchiarelli
Doctor of Philosophy, Neuroscience

Haley Vecchiarelli was recruited to UCalgary from the United States for her exemplary research abilities. She graduated from Barnard College in New York and had two years as a research assistant under her belt before joining UCalgary.

Throughout her graduate work, Vecchiarelli has authored 15 peer-reviewed articles and is working on another four from her PhD work. She is a Vanier Scholar and Killam Predoctoral Laureate — and has presented her work both nationally and internationally.

Vecchiarelli has held leadership positions with international scientific societies. She was elected as trainee representative for the board of directors for the International Cannabinoid Research Society as well as the co-chair of the Gordon Research Seminar on Cannabinoids.

Vecchiarelli has a strong history of giving back to the community; she has volunteered with the Brain Bee planning committee and the Calgary Youth Science Fair. Within the campus community, she has planned the Hotchkiss Brain Institute’s Summer Student Symposium, mentored undergraduate students in the lab and chaired numerous committees within the Graduate Student Association, for which she received the GSA Lifetime Achievement Award and Leadership Award.

Vecchiarelli is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Victoria, where she holds a Canadian Institutes of Health Research fellowship.

Haley Vecchiarelli

Linhui Yu
Doctor of Philosophy, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Linhui Yu is an innovative thinker, researcher and volunteer. Her graduate research focused on building optoelectronic systems to quantify vascular brain activity, which can potentially allow scientists new insight into blood flow in the brain and its relationship with normal and diseased states. Her work has appeared in international peer-reviewed conferences and journals.

Yu actively seeks opportunities to help others. She has been involved with the Calgary Optics and Photonics Student Society, where she invited five international speakers to give lectures at UCalgary including a member of the Nobel Prize committee. As the initiator and outreach lead for STEM outreach on optics and photonics, she developed presentation and hands-on demonstration material for more than 700 Grade 4 and 5 students in rural communities.

As the president of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Graduate Students Association, she hosted a variety of workshops and research seminars. With SPIE (International Society of Optics and Photonics) she served as a workshop facilitator at international student leadership conferences and is currently a member of the society’s education committee.

Yu is now a research fellow at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, conducting translational research of biomedical imaging systems.

To learn more about this award, visit the President’s Award for Excellence website

Linhui Yu