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Magalie Durepos-Létourneau

Schulich Leader, Engineering I

An aspiring aeronautics and space engineer, Magalie has already worked with the Canadian Space Agency to launch a cosmic ray detector on a stratospheric balloon. She’s also a pianist and piano teacher, and founder of the Recycle and Share program.

What does it mean to be named a Schulich leader?

For me, being a Schulich leader is a lifelong commitment to bringing positive change with integrity, innovation and leadership. It means pursuing my passion for STEM with the incredible opportunity to focus entirely on my studies and career goals, to one day better society through engineering. By alleviating financial stress, this scholarship will allow me to join engineering clubs and design teams to gain valuable knowledge and experiences. It is also an opportunity to connect and be part of an amazing network of like-minded leaders and successful entrepreneurs, scientists and researchers. I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity!

What is your dream job?

Even though I am open to other options, my dream job at the moment would be working in the space industry, either designing rockets, satellites, telescopes and rovers, or pursuing research on the origins of the universe. I have always been fascinated by space and would love to lead a team to explore other worlds, whether it be through theoretical research or by designing objects that allow us to see and examine places we can’t physically go to yet. Experiments conducted in space often offer an important insight that can be used to solve problems on earth and by exploring the universe, we learn more about the origins of our own planet.

What made you choose McMaster Engineering?

Reading up on different universities, McMaster Engineering seemed to me like the best institution for undergraduate research opportunities. Their many design teams and engineering clubs give students the opportunity to connect and learn valuable hands-on skills outside the classroom, which is something I aspire to do. Additionally, in speaking with current students and staff, I felt that McMaster was where I could further pursue my passion for STEM and take part in valuable opportunities. Finally, the flexible co-ops and the common first year were also important as it will allow me to explore different streams of engineering before choosing a discipline in second year. I am thrilled to be a part of the Fireball family!

What are you most passionate about outside of the classroom?

One of my passions other than science has always been music. I have been playing classical piano since the age of 4, and I learned to play other instruments performing with my high school’s music group. I believe music is a universal language to express feelings that cannot be put into words, and it has been an essential part of my life and well-being. Music enhanced my creativity and pushed me outside my comfort zone by performing on short notice on quite a few occasions, or even on instruments I didn’t know very well. I have learned many life lessons through music, and I apply them to every other aspect of my life as well. Finally, teaching piano for the last two years gave me the opportunity to share my knowledge and hopefully inspire a few students to pursue this beautiful art, whether it be as a hobby or more seriously. 

Who is your role model?

I have many role models who have and continue to inspire me because of their moral compass, their devotion to important social causes, their leadership and their careers. I have always been inspired by activists such as Malala Yousafzai, Martin Luther King or even more recently Greta Thunberg because they are a constant reminder to have the courage to do what is right, and to use our voice to stand up for what we believe in. I think these are the kind of people who truly make society move forward as a whole, and their acts of selflessness make this world a better place. I have also been inspired by people like Chris Hadfield, since he is the first astronaut I learned about as a child. By explaining complicated concepts related to space into words everyone could understand, I was able to comprehend and learn a lot at a young age because of him. I think he truly changed people’s perception of space exploration by using the media to explain what he did, and I remember being fascinated by his work. Finally, I am constantly inspired by my parents, for their determination and ambition in everything they do. The core values they taught me as well as their constant encouragement to dream big make me the driven and passionate person that I am today, and the person I hope to be one day. 

How have you stayed motivated during the pandemic?

One thing I started doing in 10th grade and kept doing during the pandemic was hanging up pictures of my dreams above my desk. For me, it was pictures of stars, universities I hoped to get into or even companies or institutions I dreamed of working for one day. That way, every time I was tempted to procrastinate or waste time on my phone, I looked up and found motivation in my goals. Another thing that helped during the pandemic was keeping a routine and exercising regularly.

What are you looking forward to and/or are most nervous about working virtually this Fall? 

I am looking forward to learning virtually since I think it will allow me to grow and gain new technological skills that might be valuable to future employers. However, it goes without saying that online learning will probably make it more challenging to meet people and work in groups. Thankfully, McMaster has already created great programs such as Ember and Archway to help us connect with other students, staff and mentors which I am looking forward to.

What three things would you take with you to a desert island?

One thing I would bring would be a journal, so I could keep track of the days and of who I am to stay grounded. On a more practical level, I would bring an axe to cut wood and make hunting and fishing gear to survive. Finally, I would bring a book called How to survive on a desert island because let’s face it, I probably wouldn’t survive very long without it!