Order of the White Rose


Willow Dew, 2021 Recipient of Order of the white`Rose Scholarship


Some praise her intellectual abilities and perfect grade point average, others her assertive leadership and exceptional social involvement. When asked to describe herself, Willow Dew, the newest Order of the White Rose awardee, shows a great deal of humility. “I am a curious person who loves to learn,” she simply says.

From an early age, she already had a thirst for knowledge. “It’s a part of me, but certain parts also come from how my parents raised me,” admits the student who recently completed a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering at the University of Alberta. As a young child, her parents tried to entertain her on long car rides throughout her native Alberta by naming each river they passed. “I know a lot of river names in Alberta, even if I’ve never been on those rivers,” she says, laughing.

It was also in this western Canadian province known for its fossil fuels, that the engineering student acquired her first technical experience in the latter industry. She developed a solid understanding of energy systems, but above all, she strengthened her convictions: renewable energies are the future. “We all know the way we’re creating energy is not sustainable,” says the 23-year-old student, who has won a dozen awards and scholarships for her academic excellence. Seeking to make a difference in the fight against climate change, she is currently enrolled in a joint master’s program at three European universities to study bioproducts and bioprocesses that favour the use of renewable raw materials in chemical production.

During her undergraduate studies, her passion for green chemistry was particularly evident in EcoCar, a group of students developing zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Seen as a team player and leader, Willow Dew was able to propel her collaborators to the finish line: In 2020, one of their vehicles earned them first place in the North and South America competition, and second place in the world at a virtual international energy efficiency competition normally held annually in California.

Yet she notes that one of her proudest achievements with EcoCar is the fact that she has helped to increase women’s participation in the project: from a handful of female students out of about 60 members, the team has reached parity - a feat considering that the national average is only 22% of women engineering students. “We need more than 50% of the population involved in developing solutions to climate change. Women should be a part of it,” she says.

Whether through mentoring activities to motivate women to enter the STEM field or volunteering to teach dance or cello classes to children in need, Willow Dew finds her strength in social engagement and has always been committed to giving back. “I don’t think I would be who I am without these inspiring people who have shown me the way,” says Willow, who confesses to having had several inspirations, including her mother, also a chemical engineer. “If I can be that person to anyone, I will have succeeded.”

Willow Dew, recipient of the 2021 Order of the White Rose scholarship
Photo: Denis Bernier