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McGill students David Matthews and Katherine Trajan have pretty remarkable résumés. Recently, their already stunning credentials became even more impressive with the addition of the world's oldest and most coveted academic honour: The Rhodes Scholarship.
Matthews, who is pursuing concurrent degrees in honours music and biology, has been a violinist since the age of four. He was not ready to compromise his love of music for his interest in science and jumped at the opportunity to study both. Despite the dizzying course load that comes with, he's maintained straight As.
Like Matthews, Katherine Trajan exemplifies commitment and stamina. A passionate environmentalist, the 23-year-old from Nanaimo has chosen to pursue an MSc in water science, policy and management at Oxford. "Because of the critical role of water in human development," she said, "I was convinced that I wanted to apply my degree in a way that would benefit those in the global south and tie-in environmental concerns." She is working on an undergraduate degree in civil engineering with minors in environmental engineering and world religions.
For his part, Matthews somehow manages to spend time on an exhaustive variety of extra-curricular activities. He's been president of the Music Undergraduate Students' Association and Music Student Senator. He's sat on the editorial board of McGill's Science Undergraduate Research Journal, has played the violin in the McGill Symphony Orchestra and the Savoy Society, and has participated in the Principal's Task Force on Student Life and Learning. He's the residence don at Douglas Hall, volunteers at a senior residence and collaborates on chamber music with friends. Recently, he's added winger to his list of job titles by joining a D-league, intramural, co-ed hockey team called Please Be Gentle – although he claims to be "quite terrible." His commitment to student life at McGill has been recognized through the Student Society of McGill University Award of Distinction and the Forces AVENIR Laureate in the Undergraduate Personality category.
The equally well-rounded Trajan has dedicated much of her non-academic time to a second water-related passion. A former Martlet, she swam with the team for five years, clocking 24 hours a week at practice and competing six months a year. Trajan qualified for the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) Nationals five times, was awarded the Marie-Claude Saumure Memorial Award for top combined athletic and academic performance in 2006, and the Martlet Foundation T. Palmer Howard Award for leadership on an intercollegiate team and academic achievement in 2005. She has been on the Principal's Student-Athlete Honour Roll and a CIS Academic All-Canadian 2001 through 2006. Out of the pool, Trajan is a member of Engineers Without Borders, Promoting Opportunities for Women in Engineering, and Gorilla Composting. A classically trained pianist and vocalist, she has volunteered as a music teacher and performer.
Both have already expanded their horizons abroad. Looking to improve his French, Matthews interned in Senegal this past summer. Working as a reporter for a community radio station while living in Dakar reinforced his resolve to continue his studies in a field that is socially relevant while "finding a way to become an engaged citizen, be it in Canada or internationally."
Matthews has decided to pursue his master's in global health and social policy at Oxford. When asked how he feels about winning the Rhodes, he said, "This is an incredibly exciting opportunity and a great honour," adding modestly, "It's also nice to be 22 and to actually have an answer when people ask you what you'll be doing next year."
Reached on her field study semester at the Bellairs Institute in Barbados, Trajan said winning the award has not "settled in yet," but said, "the most wonderful thing about this award is that it brings you in contact with students from all around the world, bringing a wealth of experiences and perspectives to one specific topic."
Matthews and Trajan are both in their final year at McGill. They will undoubtedly continue building upon their exceptional records once they leave for Oxford in October 2007.