Mckenzie Oliver

Mckenzie Oliver

2015 AWSN Scholarship Winner

Heather Barnes


Program: Chemistry at King’s University in Edmonton, minor in English

Age: 19

Hometown: Edmonton, Alberta


The winner of 2015’s AWSN scholarship is Mckenzie Oliver, a bright chemistry student entering her fourth year of studies in Fall 2016 at King’s University in Edmonton.


Mckenzie was exposed to science early on from her father, an electrical engineer, and even as a child, she was already experimenting in chemistry.


“I had a couple ‘wacky experiment’ books and an early 2000’s science kit (which meant the most dangerous thing was a sponge soaked in iodine). I used to make non-Newtonian fluids out of corn starch and water and play with them.”


With love for both English and Chemistry, when it came time to decide which degree to pursue in university, it was Mckenzie’s desire to be a part of future scientific advancement that led her to select Chemistry. “I was excited about the advances in science and the way that they’ve affected the modern world,” she said. “I wanted to be part of that movement.”


Though Mckenzie was not personally intimidated by pursing a science career, she believes that there can sometimes be an “aura of importance” surrounding science that can discourage kids from choosing this career path. The viewpoint that science can be a hard career to succeed in is a reason why Mckenzie believes that the work of teachers and mentors is so important in encouraging an interest in science.


Mckenzie is quick to say that she had lots of amazing science teachers in her education, but that it was her grade 12 chemistry teacher, Mrs. Koelmans, whose influence was particularly impactful. Mrs. Koelmans’ personal experiences at university and her general love for chemistry were inspiring and valuable to Mckenzie, and helped solidify her decision to pursue the subject in university. “[Mrs. Koelmans] was really passionate and excited about science, which helped foster the same attitude in me.”


When asked if she had any advice for students considering entering a science degree program, Mckenzie said that the most important thing to have is the motivation to complete the degree. Science degrees can be very challenging, and whether your motivation for choosing a science degree is in order to have a secure financial future or because of love and passion for the subject, or a blend of both, your motivation is what will help you get through the harder aspects of your degree. As for skills that help one succeed in scientific careers, Mckenzie believes that effective communication and strong writing skills are key.


“Learning to talk at networking events, learning to ask questions in class and in presentations by people in the industry and in research presentations, figuring out how to give engaging and useful presentations, and generally being able to effectively say what you’re trying to say. Scientific writing is all about being concise and accurate, and that type of communication is valued in a lot more places than just journal articles. It’s a hard skill to develop but all it requires is a lot of practice.”


After Mckenzie completes her Chemistry degree, she is open to the idea of more education in the future as “science has a particular place of wonder in my life.” She is also considering joining the chemical industry in Edmonton, interested in the application of her knowledge to projects that are bigger than just the laboratory, and so there are many future paths that this bright chemist can take.