Celebrating students

(Edmonton) As an only child, Lucila Chen has all the love her parents can give her, and in gratitude, she wants to make them happy.

Thanks to the University of Alberta President’s Centenary Entrance Citation scholarship of $50,000, that has become much easier.

Chen, the 2011 recipient of the U of A’s richest undergraduate scholarship, says the money, paid over four years, will ease her parents’ load of paying for their daughter’s dream of becoming a doctor.

With Chen’s father unable to work because of constant, debilitating pain after surgery, the family is supported by one income only. The centenary scholarship will make it possible for Chen, 18, to follow her dream of becoming a neurologist, so that she can research the mysteries of pain management and someday, be able to help people like her father.

“He’s had constant pain, no one really knows what that is about, and I’m thinking by studying nerve pain, I could do something about that.”

Being awarded the scholarship will mean her parents “don’t have to worry about me,” said Chen, who is deeply grateful to the U of A.

A resident of Abbotsford, British Columbia, Chen has enrolled in the Faculty of Science where she hopes to earn a degree majoring in neuroscience, and then enter the U of A’s medical school.

She is among the outstanding students, faculty, researchers and staff being honoured at Celebrate! the University of Alberta’s annual celebration of teaching, learning and research, being held Sept. 16 at the Myer Horowitz Theatre.

Graduating first out of 271 students in her Grade 12 class, and with a healthy final grade average of 97.5 per cent, Chen had her pick of areas to study. But of them all (including an abiding fondness for music), her first love is science.

“I’ve always liked science. It’s a basic knowledge you should have; how things in our world work.”

Her natural love of learning has distinguished her as a student; Chen filled her final year at Yale Secondary School in Abbotsford with seven first-year university equivalent courses, carrying the heaviest academic load of any student in the school.

In the bit of spare time she has left over from her studies, Chen strikes a balance by volunteering in a local hospital, visiting patients. She also helps run a bingo at a nursing home and particularly enjoys sharing her time with seniors.

“They are the ones who everybody forgets about. Some don’t have family coming in, and it is important to cheer them up. They are still part of society. And I make friends along the way; it’s a two-way benefit.”

Chen credits a balance between work and play for helping her excel academically.

“Studying takes a large chunk of time, but if you don’t make time for friends or other things you enjoy, that drains the life out of you. The more balance you have, the happier you are studying.”

As she gears up for university, Chen is excited about joining the U of A community. “I’ve been to Edmonton before, as part of a band trip (she played trumpet in high school), and we went to the U of A for a workshop. I really liked the energy on campus, and it’s really exciting, now I get to be a part of that.

“I’m over the moon; I’m just so happy right now.”

To learn about other award recipients go to the Celebrate! page.