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Kareem Baassiri

Meet the Faculty of Engineering’s valedictorians June 11, 2018

What advice would you give your first year self? What is your big idea? Meet Sophia Emerson, one of two valedictorians at the June 15 convocation for the Faculty of Engineering.

Name and Program

Sophia Emerson (people call me Sophie), Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering

Where is your hometown?

Newmarket, Ontario.

What made you choose McMaster?

When I first set foot on McMaster’s campus, I immediately felt this sense of community and feeling of home. I ultimately wanted to pick a school that would make me feel safe and McMaster just gave me that feeling from day one.

What will you be doing after graduation?

I will be completing my Master’s of Applied Science here at McMaster. I’ve already started. We’re working on the development of point-of-view biosensors for inspection of various contaminants in water.


What would you say to your first year self?

I would tell my first year self to branch out. I spent a lot time in first year focused on studying and hammering the books. I started to branch out in second and third year going into different extracurriculars and joining clubs and teams. My marks actually improved because the stress of studying was taken off.

Do you have any advice for current and future students?

I would tell future students to try and have fun with their time here. I know it may seem like a long road ahead, but 4 to 7 years can go by really quickly. You don’t want to waste these years studying like crazy. Make sure to make friends and memories along the way.

How has McMaster shaped the person you are today?

McMaster has helped shape me in more ways than I can count. From the friends I’ve made here, to the work experience I’ve had, to my time on clubs and teams - I have learned a lot that definitely helped me become the person I am today. I was shy and definitely introverted when I first came here. During the last five years, I have come out of my shell. McMaster has played a huge part in that.

What events did you enjoy the most at McMaster?

I really loved going to recruitment events during my time at McMaster. I loved speaking to incoming students about my time and experiences here.  It always makes me excited to talk to people who are interested in education and doing research. I had a lot of fun talking to students.

What is your definition of success?

My definition of success would be waking up Monday morning happy and excited about the work I am going to do that day. These days, I am very excited to go to work.

How has McMaster helped you create a brighter world?

In January 2017, I started a club for undergraduate researchers in engineering at McMaster. We created a society where students who research can learn more from each other and encourage each other to get involved in research. I think if we have more students who are working together to make advances, then we are creating a brighter world together.  

What is your big idea to create a brighter world?

I have a lot of little ideas to make the world a brighter place. My big idea would be to use research to improve the lives of the people around the world such as giving people access to clean water and cure major diseases that many people suffer from.

I also want to include more students in research and educate more students in research. I feel like if we had a lot of students working together to solve the problems we are faced with today, we can definitely make this world a brighter place.  


What motivates you to work hard?

I am a really competitive person so I feel that most of my motivation comes from the fun of competition. Whether that’s trying to one up my past self or competing for the best mark in a class, I definitely feel that a lot of my motivation comes from that.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be? And why?

To stop time or time travel. I have been here for 5 years and I have never been able to write a to-do list that I am able to finish on time. So if I could stop time that would be really great.

Who is your favourite professor? Why?

My favourite professor would have to be Dr. Carlos Filipe. He has been my supervisor in the lab since I was in second year and he has supported me in many ways. I think he has written five reference letters for me. He’s great. He always has a smile on his face, the biggest smile in the world. He’s never grumpy.

How do you relax?

When I am really stressed out I like to take my mind out of the situation and try to get a new perspective. Most of the time that means watching a movie or calling my mother to chat with her about my problem.