The University of Winnipeg



Sir William Stephenson Scholar – Megan Rutherford

Megan Rutherford, ©UWinnipeg

Megan Rutherford, ©UWinnipeg

Two very accomplished women in science have earned the prestigious Sir William Stephenson Scholarships for this academic year. Taylor Hanson and Megan Rutherford are both in their final year of study at UWinnipeg. Both share a record of achieving academic success and demonstrating extensive community service and volunteerism — which is integral to winning this $7,500 scholarship.

“It is fantastic that two talented female scientists have won this year’s Stephenson award,” shared Dr. Melanie Martin, physics. “Both are dedicated students who have presented their research at many national physics and chemistry conferences and have been recognized for their work.”

Rutherford’s road to studying chemical physics was not a straight line. Prior to diving into the subject, Rutherford trained as a synchronized swimmer since the age of six. She has competed nationally including the Canadian Winter Games, the American Junior National Championships and was the team captain of the 2011 Canada Winter Games. Although she is no longer a swimmer she remains involved with the sport as a coach and a volunteer.

After attending university for a year, she was unsure of her path and decided to take a break. During this time she worked at an agricultural research company and travelled.

Her travels included Australia and Fiji. In Fiji she volunteered for a non-government organization that delivered healthcare services to remote villages. 

When Rutherford returned home she registered for the STEP Student Manitoba Program, which led her work at the Child Protection Branch of Manitoba Family Services. She worked in a unit called StreetReach, a program that was responsible for tracking and protecting sexually exploited youth.

During her time with StreetReach she registered for Atoms, Molecules and Spectroscopy, an introductory course in quantum chemistry at UWinnipeg.

“I completely fell in love with the world of physical chemistry,” shared Rutherford. “Never before had I been so interested in a topic. It inspired me to explore other areas of physical chemistry. This is how I came to work in the Quantum Materials Research group for Dr. Chris Wiebe…which is a wonderful intersection of chemistry and physics.”

Since falling in love, Rutherford has worked as a research assistant and enjoys teaching physical chemistry to other undergraduate students. Over the past year, she has worked in UWinnipeg’s Free Tutoring Centre, as well as given tutorials for the chemistry department’s physical chemistry courses.

Dr. Chris Weibe, ©Dan Harper

Dr. Chris Weibe, ©Dan Harper

Her professor and thesis advisor Dr. Christopher Wiebe (chemistry) notes, “I have always been very impressed by Megan’s drive and intellect. Megan is also an excellent teacher and is well liked as a tutor in our department. She is truly passionate about chemistry and physics and she is excelling as a researcher in our Quantum Materials group. Megan has a very bright future ahead of her!”

Rutherford intends on completing a Masters in Condensed Matter Physics and hopes to continue her research and develop new materials that exhibit interesting quantum phenomena.

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