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Brielle Chanae Thorsen, sixth recipient of the Order of the White Rose

December 2, 2020 - Source : NEWS

With immense pride, Polytechnique Montréal’s administration today awarded the sixth annual Order of the White Rose scholarship to Brielle Chanae Thorsen, a graduate of Queen’s University’s (Kingston, Ontario) Bachelor’s of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mathematics program. This $30,000 scholarship created in 2014, is awarded annually to a Canadian woman engineering student who plans to enroll in graduate studies in this field, in Canada or elsewhere in the world.

Brielle Chanae Thorsen, sixth recipient of the Order of the White Rose. (Photo: Chris Noakes)

Brielle Chanae Thorsen, sixth recipient of the Order of the White Rose. (Photo: Chris Noakes)

Originally from Cochrane, (near Calgary, Alberta), Thorsen is pursuing her studies at Queen’s University, in view to earn a Master’s in Mechanical Engineering. Dr. Mona Nemer, Canada’s Chief Science Advisor, was guest of honour at the sixth annual Order of the White Rose award ceremony, held online this year.

Over the years, white roses have become the symbol of Polytechnique Montréal’s commemorative activities to mark the tragedy of December 6, 1989, which cost the lives of 14 young women and injured several others. Upon the commemoration’s 25th anniversary, Polytechnique created the Order of the White Rose in tribute to the victims as well as the wounded, the families, the faculty members, the employees and the students who were forever affected by the tragedy. This $30,000 scholarship is awarded annually by the Polytechnique administration to a woman engineering student who intends to undertake graduate studies in engineering (master’s or PhD) at the institution of her choice, in Canada or elsewhere in the world. Nathalie Provost, who was injured on December 6, 1989, is one of the patrons of the Order of the White Rose scholarship.

very proud to say that in Autumn 2020, the proportion of women in our undergraduate engineering programs exceeds 29%, whereas in 1989, women accounted for only 17% of Polytechnique’s student body. Today, their numbers have reached or surpassed parity in certain specialties, such as biomedical engineering and chemical engineering,” said Philippe A. Tanguy, President, Polytechnique Montréal.

Scholarship winner Brielle Chanae Thorsen remarked: “We all need to remember the women who came before us, especially the victims and survivors of the Polytechnique tragedy. We must all have an equal opportunity to pursue a rewarding career without being the targets of discrimination or violence, regardless of our gender, race, sexuality, or religion.”

She continued: “I want to follow in the footsteps of my father, who is also an engineer. Throughout my academic career I’ve had the opportunity to explore different facets of mechanical engineering. I’m now in a position to make an informed choice about what inspires me most—which is specializing in sustainable energy. I am a strong nehiyaw iskwew (Cree woman) and a fearless female engineer. I plan to use my knowledge to benefit Indigenous communities in the North, and to run my own business.”

Order of the White Rose scholarship evaluation criteria are based on academic record (30%), technical achievements (35%) and non-technical achievements (35%). Established by Polytechnique Montréal, the selection committee comprises deans from the engineering faculties of the University of Toronto, Queen's University, Université de Sherbrooke, Dalhousie University and University of Victoria, and is chaired by Michèle Thibodeau-DeGuire, Honorary Chair of the Polytechnique Board of Directors and the first woman to earn a civil engineering degree from Polytechnique in 1963.

Remarkable accomplishments

Brielle Chanae Thorsen has distinguished herself in several subjects, notably in engineering mathematics, computational tools, system design, energy efficiency and all that relates to the electrical grid and energy generation, as well as automated and robotic systems. She was also the recipient of the Queen’s University Peer Leadership Award in 2020 and was named an American Indian Science and Engineering Society Sequoyah Fellow in 2018.

Thorsen has already held various work positions, notably in robotics engineering for Defence Research and Development Canada, specifically in the Counter-Terrorism Technology Centre in the Autonomous Systems Organization on the Unmanned Air Vehicle team. She also has worked in engineering data management for Suncor Energy.

At Queen’s, Brielle Chanae Thorsen has contributed to various research programs, including a project to enhance the electrical grid, and the modelling and implementation of intelligent/controlled batteries at transformer box stations—the latter to optimize the purchase and sale of electricity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. She also participated in the control systems design of an off-grid power generation and distribution system to meet demand, improve efficiency, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. She was involved in another project for mountain search-and-rescue teams, in which she developed an algorithm to model autonomous search-and-rescue drone coordination.

Thorsen is a member of the Saddle Lake Cree Nation. As part of her early education, she followed the French Immersion program from kindergarten through grade 10. She was inspired by the strength of character and commitment of her family circle, including her grandfather from Goodfish Lake, her mother, a laboratory and X-ray technologist, and her father, an engineer, all of whom provided her with confidence in her ability to help change the world.

Convinced that integration into a university requires engagement, Thorsen became involved in a wide range of activities through which she was able to put to good use her communication skills, leadership, and commitment to the Indigenous community and to women.

Brielle Chanae Thorsen is passionate about keeping girls in sports. As a member of the Queen’s Varsity Women's rowing team, she was selected to represent Team Alberta at the 2017 Canada Summer Games. She was also an assistant coach for the Kingston Special Olympics Swim Club from 2017 to 2019.

Thorsen has been passionately involved in student life, including as part of the Queen’s University Mathematics and Engineering Curriculum Committee, the Queen’s chapter of the Canadian Indigenous Science and Engineering Society, and Queen’s Engineers Without Borders. She was the first-ever Canadian national student representative elected to the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) and is also part of the Circle of Advisors for the Queen’s Aboriginal Access to Engineering (AAE) initiative.

Following a racist attack on one of her university’s residences, she was invited to speak at the Queen’s Engineering Society board meeting, where she emphasized the community’s responsibility to advance reconciliation, and to rid the campus of all forms of racism.

As a guest speaker last August, Brielle Chanae Thorsen shared her career path and passed on her passion and love of mathematics and coding to young participants in the Sisterhood of Native American Coders summer camp. In 2018, she helped organize the IndigeSTEAM Power2Choose Indigenous Youth Summer Camp and also became a volunteer for Sagesse, a Calgary-based organization working to break the cycle of domestic violence.

Learn more

Brielle Chanae Thorsen - Profile
Order of the White Rose website

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