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UM Alumna Ella Thomson

Ella Thomson

Schulich Leader alumna using AI to transform how diabetes is managed

Ella Thomson [BSc(EE)/17] developing an implantable, artificial pancreas

November 1, 2021 — 

To mark the 10th anniversary of the Schulich Leader Scholarships, we caught up with UM Alumna Ella Thomson [BSc(EE)/17] who was awarded the Schulich Leader Scholarship in 2013. Eight years later, she is now a 5th year PhD student in electrical engineering at Stanford University. Her research focuses on using AI to transform how diabetes is managed.

Thomson is developing an implantable, artificial pancreas to help control insulin release in individuals with diabetes. At this time, the technology is available as treatment, but these systems still require external intervention to replenish insulin levels and are therefore limited.

With Thomson’s research in developing an implantable, artificial organ, her goal is to use science and technology to address the limitations of existing treatments and in turn improve patient outcomes as well as the quality of life for people who depend on such technology. 

“It’s valuable to know that I’m working on research that can have a meaningful impact in the future,” says Thomson. “It’s motivating to know that I can apply my diverse skill set to solve a problem that doesn’t have a good solution at the moment.”

As a Schulich scholar, she had the opportunity to connect with and be inspired by many people who were also working on interesting and innovative projects in the Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) fields of study. The Schulich Leader Scholarship enabled her to focus on research programs, experiences and priorities that would make the best of her education.

Even after graduating with her undergraduate degree at UM and going on to graduate studies, Thomson still participated in panels and other virtual events and networking sessions within the Schulich Foundation. Doing so has helped her stay connected to the organization.

The Schulich scholarship was only the beginning of her success story. Since being a Schulich scholar, her excellence has been recognized by multiple institutions and scholarship committees across the country. In 2017, Thomson became the third recipient of the Order of the White Rose scholarship. This $30,000 scholarship is awarded annually to a Canadian, female engineering student at the master’s or doctoral level, highlighting women making significant contributions to engineering and celebrating the achievements of women in a primarily male-dominated field.

Thomson encourages all students, especially those early in their post-secondary education, to get involved as much as possible. “Take advantage of as many opportunities and programs as you can. Try to expand your horizons beyond your degree,” she says.

To simply participate and be present is instrumental to getting involved and making an impact on campus, just as Ella Thomson has. 

About Schulich Leader Scholarships:

The University of Manitoba is proud to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Schulich Leader Scholarships. The scholarship was established in 2012 to encourage the next generation of brilliant students to pursue careers in STEM. The $100+ million scholarship fund allows students to fulfill their ambitions and leave an impact on the world.

Read more about this year’s Schulich Leaders and the scholarship.

For more information visit: If you’re a company looking to hire Canada’s top STEM talent, let us know here.

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