Hannah Alli

Merging passions: Combining engineering and entrepreneurship as a Schulich Leader

Even before attending university, Hannah Alli had explored ways to combine entrepreneurship and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

“I have an interest in sustainability and renewable energy, and I know my passion and my education as an engineer will ensure that I make a lasting contribution within this field,” says Alli, a second-year mechanical engineering student.

In grade nine, Alli founded a natural soap company, Tyrra Cosmetics, where she makes each product by hand and donates 10 per cent of profits to water-related charities.

“I’ve learned a lot about running a business with Tyrra Cosmetics,” she says. “My scholarship essay emphasized the importance of accepting failure and using the lessons gained to motivate and guide me as I work to achieve my long-term goals.” The highlight of Alli’s academic career has been winning the Schulich Leader Scholarship, which she received in 2022 that recognized her entrepreneurial pursuits and her academic achievement in STEM subjects.

Representing women in STEM

Although she still runs Tyrra Cosmetics, Alli is thinking about launching a startup that centres on her interest in engineering. “Entrepreneurship is probably my true passion, but engineering is what gives me the skillset that I need to succeed,” she says.

“Mechanical engineering is a challenging program. Knowing that I won the scholarship is a reminder to help keep me focused on my goal of becoming an impactful engineer who hopes to aid in sustainable development,” Alli adds. “I feel like the scholarship really helps to improve my self-confidence.”

As a scholarship winner, Alli faces less financial pressure and has been able to expand her network within the York community. She has had a chance to volunteer with a cleantech startup called Reefers Technologies and has taken on the role of the events Chair of the Lassonde Engineering Society.

Her advice for women thinking of pursuing careers in STEM: start early and develop confidence by listening to those who encourage you and not those that try to limit you.

"If you're spending so much time thinking about it, that means you want to do it, so you should go for it,” she says. “There's always going to be that regret in your mind that you didn't do it, so it's always worth a try.

"Aim for the stars; you might just reach them, but if you miss at least you'll land on the clouds!"

Explore York's Scholarships and Bursaries

The Schulich Leader Scholarship supports undergraduate students with an entrepreneurial interest who are studying within STEM fields.

  • Canadian high schools can nominate one graduating student each year who shows strong leadership skills and academic excellence.
  • York is one of 20 Canadian universities to participate in the Schulich Leader Scholarship program.
  • The Schulich Foundation provides scholarship recipients with enriching opportunities, including access to job fairs and top STEM employers, mentorship and regional events.
  • Recipients are also connected to a network of other Schulich Leaders.