St. Mike’s Julia Kim Wins Top U of T Science Award

St. Michael’s graduand Julia Kim is off to do graduate work at Cambridge University on a Trinity College studentship in the fall. It is not surprising, therefore, that Kim is the recipient of the 2024 Rose Sheinin Award, recognizing the highest-performing female student graduating from a science program at the University of Toronto. She received the award at convocation on Thursday, June 13, 2024.

Julia Kim and St. Mike’s President David Sylvester

Julia’s strong academic record was the byproduct of her desire to learn.

“It was a drive to understand things as profoundly as possible. There are certain areas of pure mathematics and theoretical physics which I find to be beautiful, so it was natural that I should devote myself to these studies and try hard. The good grades and the possibility of being recognized by the university followed, though they were not the primary goal,” she says.

Julia was St. Michael’s nomination for this year’s Governor General’s Silver Medal, which is one of the highest honours a graduating student at the University of Toronto can achieve. She will also receive St. Michael’s Academic Achievement Award in Mathematics  and Physical Science. She is graduating with an Honours Bachelor of Science degree, with a double major in mathematics and physics and a minor in statistics.

 “The subjects I studied and the research I pursued were somewhat eclectic, being reflective of a broad number of my academic interests. I wished to determine what scientific research was like and whether it was for me,” she says.

Julia came to U of T, with St. Mike’s as her home college, to pursue her profound interest in physics and discovered that the field overlapped with other fields of study. Over the course of her undergrad, she also dabbled in computer science, engineering, statistics, and economics.

“I retain an attachment to physics, which was my primary passion when I began my degree. However, I am also focused on acquiring a more practical set of skills, namely in statistics and computer programming, she says ”Theoretical quantum computing is therefore interesting to me in its intersection between physics and computer science, and in its potential for useful applications. In pursuing it, I would be able to retain the beauty of studying theoretical physics, whilst gaining a more practical edge from other subjects.”

Her passion for physics arose from a romanticized notion of the great physicists. “I held in my mind a romantic view of the great scientists such as Einstein, Curie, and Rutherford. I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to study the same things they studied and to be able to understand the phenomena they discovered. I felt myself inspired by them, and so I wished to follow in their footsteps. That combined with some talent and interest in mathematics got me started,” she says.

Up next for Julia is a Master’s degree in mathematics at Cambridge University in England, where she hopes to develop a greater mathematical maturity in topics of pure and applied mathematics, theoretical physics and statistics.

While planning her degree, she found herself often writing to ASK SMC, a resource offered by St. Mike’s Office of the Registrar and Student Services.

“I would wish to thank St. Mike’s for the number of resources which they provided to myself and other students. Throughout my undergrad, I ask questions about loads of different things like transcripts, exceptions, and scheduling courses. They were always incredibly helpful and responsive, and accessible over phone and e-mail. The resources and staff there were beneficial in assisting me with the questions that I had throughout my undergrad,” she says.

In addition to her studies, Julia  was the academic coordinator for the University of Toronto Machine Intelligence Student Team (UTMIST), a student organization that promotes machine learning on campus by connecting students, graduate students, professors, and industry leaders in the field of machine intelligence. As a member of University of Toronto Aerospace Team’s (UTAT) Structures division, she helped build Defiance, the first experimental hybrid rocket flown in Canada. She has also written science articles for the Varsity, U of T’s student newspaper. Off campus, she wrote Instagram posts for Girls in STEAM, which promotes STEM education for girls and minority groups.