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Concord launches Scholarship for Elite Women in Physics

March 10, 2024
Kailtyn Sims (left) and Neha Nasir, recipients of the Concord Scholarship for Elite Women in Physics

Kaitlyn Sims (left) and Neha Nasir, recipients of the Concord Scholarship for Elite Women in Physics

Canada’s largest community builder, Concord Adex, is also in the business of supporting talent and ambition. In the field of physics, which is historically male-dominated, the company’s leaders saw an opportunity to influence change, while supporting women and fostering medical and technological discovery.

“Physics and all STEM fields have the potential to unlock groundbreaking change in the world, and we at Concord are proud to support equal opportunities for underrepresented students to uncover what’s possible,” said Gabriel Leung, Concord’s Vice President of Development. “By spotlighting these pioneering leaders, our goal is not only to empower this generation, but inspire future generations to come.”

Gabriel Leung, Vice President of Development at Concord Adex

Gabriel Leung, Vice President of Development at Concord Adex

The Concord Scholarship for Elite Women in Physics at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) recognizes first-year, female-identifying master’s students who demonstrate the capacity for excellence in physics research. 

Concord’s donation was matched by the university, creating a two-year scholarship of $30,000 for each recipient.

“To create the greatest impact, we were looking for an exemplary institution focused on scientific innovation and diversity,” said Leung. “Acclaimed for their world-class professors, facilities and programs, we believe TMU provides the framework for a well-rounded and profound learning experience for students. These factors made TMU the undeniable choice.”

This year’s Concord scholars are Neha Nasir and Kaitlyn Sims. Both are pursuing their MSc in CAMPEP Medical Physics.

Neha Nasir in the lab

Neha Nasir in the lab

Nasir chose medical physics due to its interdisciplinary nature where she felt she could make meaningful contributions to health care, while pursuing her passion for physics and science. She spent her summer before grad school at an Alberta military base working with Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) on the radiological and nuclear technological team for their annual NATO precise response event. This was after collaborating with the DRDC in undergrad to investigate tools for monitoring radiation exposure of soldiers in the Canadian Armed Forces. Now, her research is focused on radiation biology and investigating fingerprints of cell death in cancer cells.

“I get to do challenging and innovative research in a growing field, while supporting other women pursuing physics,” she said. “Even if I play a small role, it can have such a big impact.” Nasir also co-founded the Women in Physics Committee at TMU in 2022, an inclusive and welcoming environment for all women and underrepresented groups in physics at any stage of their career, including undergrads, grads and faculty.

Kaitlyn Sims in the lab

Kaitlyn Sims in the lab

Sims, also a member of Women in Physics, is a former competitive figure skater, and was first inspired to study physics because of a film she watched as a child about the physics of figure skating. She now teaches the sport to children, including lessons on the relationship between physics and movement on ice. Her undergraduate research focused on developing a lung X-ray imaging model that could be used for studies on lung ventilation. Now, she’s focused on improving real-time X-ray imaging using a novel detector of coronary artery disease.

Sims explained: “Medical physicists are health-care professionals who use the principles of physics to ensure treatment plans for patients are safe, and diagnostic imaging tools, like X-rays, ultrasounds and CT scans, are effective.”

“Even if I wasn’t a recipient of this scholarship,” added Sims, “I would still thank Concord for providing this opportunity for women in physics. This award motivates me to keep on going, so that I will hopefully inspire other little girls to say ‘I want to be a physicist.’” 

As for Nasir, the scholarship validates her pursuits. “Genuinely, thank you. This funding reassures me that what I’m pursuing is meaningful and that I’m supposed to be here.”

They both have advice for girls and women studying physics. 

“Keep going,” said Sims. “Don’t stop no matter what people tell you. There will be a lot of people who tell you that you can’t do it. But you have to find that group of people who support you and stick with them.” 

“Don’t measure your success based on someone else’s standard; set your own,” added Nasir. “It can be a very intimidating path that can also be very long. But if it’s something that you are genuinely passionate about, passion can take you a long way.”

The Concord Scholarship for Elite Women in Physics is part of the President’s Awards to Champion Equity (PACE) (opens in new window) . Founded by TMU President Mohamed Lachemi in 2016, PACE has a goal to raise $10 million for scholarships and awards to support students from equity-deserving groups.