Order of the White Rose


A remarkable changemaker

In the corridors of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she is studying for a PhD in chemical engineering, Zhouhang (Amelia) Dai can often be spotted wearing a cozy pink sweater. She describes it as a signature item, reflecting the “warm and fuzzy energy” she strives to share anywhere she goes.

Combined with an insatiable curiosity encouraged by her parents and a dedication to building inclusive communities, that energy has propelled Amelia to an astonishing list of accomplishments, not the least of which is being named the latest recipient of the Order of the White Rose and its accompanying scholarship.

“Amelia is exceptional in every way,” enthuses Dr. Charles Haynes, head of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of British Columbia (UBC), from which Amelia graduated last spring. “She is not only our most talented student by far—and perhaps ever—she is also our most supportive and caring, and that is truly remarkable. Our entire department is convinced she is destined to become a recognized and admired leader who will make our world far better.”

Amelia says she was first drawn to engineering when, after Grade 11, she participated in a month-long STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) and leadership summer program organized by Shad Canada. As part of the program, she spent a month in Vancouver, where the natural beauty of the region fuelled her determination to apply science to real-world problems such as climate change. “It was one of the best experiences of my life, helping me to explore who I am and who I want to become. I made a commitment to own every moment as my authentic self, to venture outside my comfort zone, and to support others to be better versions of themselves.”

At UBC, Amelia earned no less than 20 academic, scholarship and community awards, including finishing head of the graduating class of the Faculty of Applied Science in 2023. Between semesters, she completed six different internships totalling 36 months, including a year-long stint at Tesla’s cell development lab, to deepen her knowledge of renewable energy processes. “I want to use my engineering and research skills to close the cost and efficiency gap between fossil fuels and renewable energy, including through process optimization, to help tackle the climate crisis,” Amelia explains.

At the same time, having witnessed and experienced gender- and race-based prejudice, Amelia has made the promotion of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) a top priority. “Community building has always been one of my core values, and I believe it’s important to share and celebrate our differences in ideas and cultures,” she says. She has volunteered countless hours developing a mentoring program for high school girls with Women in Engineering, and is currently working with the Volta Foundation, a non-profit organization serving the community of battery professionals, to promote DEI.

With the support of the Order of the White Rose scholarship, Amelia is now embarking on the next chapter of her remarkable journey. “I intend to become a better learner by developing my research skills, a better advocate for diversity in engineering, and a more effective changemaker,” she says.

Zhouhang (Amelia) Dai

Credit: Thierry du Bois