Waterloo students shine during career changing work terms


Every year the University of Waterloo honours the best of the best, and singles out one co-op student from each of the six faculties to receive the Co-op Student of the Year Award. 

This year, six accomplished students were singled out for their work on co-op that went above and beyond the typical work term expectations. 

The recipients of the awards are: Josh Bradshaw (engineering), Melanie Chanona (math), Sorina Chiorean (science), Akash Kapoor (arts), Perakaa Sethukavalan (AHS), and Natalie Sham (environment).

During her time working for UN-HABITAT in Nairobi, Kenya, Natalie Sham created a sustainable housing rehabilitation index, a tool that allows the agency to maintain a more knowledgeable position on the current state of existing formal housing in the world. Sham developed this program through the use of multivariate statistics which evaluate and compare the housing situations in different countries. Housing is evaluated based on the four pillars of sustainability: environmental responsibility, social equity, economic health, and cultural vitality.

Akash Kapoor, the faculty of arts recipient, was awarded co-op student of the year for the second time for his work at Price Waterhouse Coopers. He independently designed a tool increasing auditing efficiency by two per cent, reducing the time span of an audit engagement by over 6,500 hours.

Josh Bradshaw worked as a web developer at WatrHub, which is a self-described online intelligence hub for suppliers of water and wastewater treatment technologies. There, without any direction to do so, he identified and undertook the challenge of solving several small issues with the WatrHub process. This work drastically reduced the time needed to use the tool, which then allowed the company to increase their number of clients served by 60 per cent.

“When I was hired at WatrHub I was granted an incredible opportunity,” Bradshaw said. “The company has invested heavily in me … I have decided to return to my position in the summer to carry on my work … [and] I will be acting as a campus ambassador for WatrHub during the next semester.”

Sorina Chiorean worked as a field and lab intern at Environment Canada where she performed research to optimize the current method of running tests involving radioactivity and immunology on collected animal samples. This discovery will lower the cost and time needed for these tests.

“This co-op term has allowed me to apply my biochemistry knowledge to an area that I am passionate about ­— environmental protection. I had the chance to travel and work with a variety of different individuals, from federal employees to researcher groups from Chile. This helped me build and foster important contacts for the future and has resulted in a job offer for a Master’s position,” Chiorean said. 

Perakaa Sethukavalan worked as a clinical research assistant at Sunnybrook Hospital where she did significant research regarding prostate cancer. She published four articles, and was the first author on two of them.

“[Co-op] definitely has let me apply my knowledge … it was a great experience,” Sethukavalan said. 

Sethukavalaan also presented at the 2013 American Society of Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology, the 2013 Annual Scientific Meeting of the Canadian Association of Radiation Oncology, and a poster discussion at the 2013 European Cancer Congress. 

“I knew I needed to be more confident and as I progressed, with the experience of speaking at national and international conferences, I was able to become more confident,” Sethukavalan said.

“It is a great honour to be recognized for the work that I did … it is definitely one of the proudest moments of my university career.”

Students can nominate themselves for the upcoming 2014 Co-op Student of the Year Award, or be nominated by their co-op employers or other students, faculty, and staff. Students must have received “Outstanding” in the term they’re nominated for. The top two students are also eligible for the Canadian Association for Co-operative Education Co-op Student of the Year Award.


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