Bergeron Medal Recipients 2020 – Theresa & Semi
Each year, a top student graduating from the Lassonde School of Engineering is selected to receive the Bergeron Medal in recognition of their academic and entrepreneurial achievements in the Bergeron Entrepreneurs in Science and Technology (BEST) program at York University.
This year, the Bergeron Medal has been awarded to two students Theresa Nguyen who has just graduated with a dual degree in Mechanical Engineering and International Development and Semi Hasaj who graduated with a degree in Space Engineering.
Theresa Nguyen has had invaluable contributions to both BEST and Lassonde Community. Her passion and commitment to enriching our students’ experience through a range of extracurricular activities have had a positive impact on our students, and their educational and development experience at Lassonde.
She has been the champion for so many initiatives at Lassonde through her student clubs’ engagements such as Lassonde Student Government, Engineers without Borders, and Lassonde Media Group. During her role at Engineers without Borders Club, she provided amazing support to the BEST Lab for the Engineering in Developing Communities Course as she managed outreach activities cross-campus, creation, and execution of the interview process, facilitating the training Bootcamp, and also capturing students’ feedback from their experience.
Theresa has always been willing to support our experiential learning activities such as the BEST Startup Weekend and Hackathon where she mentored the students and provided advice and insight for their projects which enabled students to reframe and focus their ideas on suitable target markets. She also helped us with other programs such as recruitment for the Technion Course where she shared her experience taking the course and the impact that it had on her personal and professional growth.
Here is what Theresa says about her experience with BEST:
Working with the BEST Lab was a way to enrich my undergraduate career. As a student who wasn’t sure what pursuits, she wanted to be a part of, through the BEST Lab I was able to find what I’m passionate about and how to help other students find that as well. With the BEST Lab, I participated in Technion 2016. I thought I was good at pitching, but I got even better in the experience and had my first-hand experience in understanding entrepreneurship, a field I’m now interested in. Since then, have helped with recruitment for future Technion programs, including sharing experiences in open houses and giving feedback to students.
After Technion, I’ve stayed affiliated with the BEST Lab. The people in BEST Lab are very open, engaging, and insightful. Most importantly, I found the BEST Lab to be a place full of different opportunities, and I think this is where a lot of value in the BEST Lab is. I was fortunate to partake in various activities with BEST Lab, such as the Engineering in Developing Communities course in Ethiopia when I was President of the Engineers Without Borders York University Chapter. It was a great collaboration as we were able to pave a pathway for engineers who are in the common predicament of wanting to use their engineering to better the world. I’ve also been a part of the Innovation and Creativity course, which is a really interesting course to truly bring in the “Renaissance Engineers”. Through the BEST Lab, I have also been able to go to Silicon Valley and learn from entrepreneurs and connect with many high-profile companies, as well as become a mentor in the BEST Lab Experience and use my knowledge to help others. Overall, I definitely think being a part of the BEST Lab has shaped my future and my undergraduate degree. There are many people in the BEST Lab who I attribute any successes I have to, as they are supportive, caring people who want to see the best in the students who come through their doors. I also feel more certain about the type of work I want to be in, and I feel great knowing that there is a network of people willing to support my endeavours.
Semi Hasaj was one of the Lassonde team members who won the global Engineering & Commerce Case Competition (ENGCOMM) hosted by Concordia University in Montreal in February 2020. The international case competition hosted 14 teams from around the world to provide innovative solutions to three separate cases brought forward by GlobalMedic, ESB, and L3Harris. BEST Lab and Lassonde School of Engineering were so pleased with this achievement especially as it was the first time York University entered the competition
Semi also took the York-Technion course and joined MATT, one of the BEST Lab startups, upon completion of this course and played a key role in leading the development of two tools that use computer vision to assess patient health from their movement.
Here is what Semi says about his experience with BEST:
The BEST program was an amazing opportunity for me to hone in on entrepreneurial skills, combine them with my engineering knowledge, and meet many people like myself who are eager to solve problems. I’m someone who likes using technology to not only create useful services and products, but test them in the market. The Technion course, for example, was an exceptional opportunity to be exposed to what it takes to develop and pitch your own product. Above all, I’ll never forget the value of focusing on the problem rather than the solution, as Prof. Maxwell always said.
I took the knowledge from BEST Courses (ENTR 3600, Eng 3033) to begin working for a start-up in the BEST Lab up until graduation. Having been a regular in the Lab for a year, I can confidently say the people running it and participating it are exceptional.
I would highly recommend anyone who has entrepreneurial interest to take part in the BEST program. The combination of education and experience with technology and business, I believe, is vital for anyone who wants to solve problems. For myself, this experience with BEST has shifted my career focus for exactly this reason. To develop a technically sound solution with equally sound business fundamentals is a rare achievement, and the BEST program has taught me how to do it.