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Born leader

'Exceptional' Science student named national 3M award recipient 

Student Life

By Michelle Osmond

Nicholas Qiu is determined to bridge the disparities between people and build a sense of community in everything he does. 

Young man with glasses, wearing a dark suit and tie, is smiling, standing in front of white blurred background
Faculty of Science student Nicholas Qiu is one of 10 Canadian students bestowed with the 3M award.
Photo: Submitted

The third-year Faculty of Science student has spent his personal and academic life dedicated to supporting others.

Now, he’s being recognized as a leader for that dedication.

Mr. Qiu has been chosen as one of 10 Canadian students to receive the 2024 3M National Student Fellowship Award.

Sponsored by 3M and administered by the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, the 3M National Student Fellowship honours up to 10 full-time diploma and undergraduate students who have demonstrated outstanding leadership in their lives and at their post-secondary institutions. 

3M is a company of scientists and researchers who work directly with customers to improve homes, businesses and lives across Canada and around the world.

Mr. Qiu will receive a certificate and recognition at the annual Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education conference in Niagara Falls, Ont., in June and a $2,000 award.

Giving back

Mr. Qiu says leadership is a commitment to inspiring individuals while fostering an inclusive and collaborative environment through support and community engagement.

“Coming from an academic family, I have been fortunate to receive a lot of educational support,” he said. “It has inspired and given me the tools necessary to help others, just as my parents and siblings have done for me.”

His dedication to helping other students led Mr. Qiu to co-found LearnFreely.

“Nicholas is . . . within the top one per cent of undergraduate students I have taught and supervised over the past two decades.” –– Dr. Yuming Zhao

LearnFreely is a not-for-profit tutoring organization addressing educational disparities by providing free, one-on-one tutoring and other academic resources to local high school students to better prepare them for the transition to university and to create a more inclusive university landscape.

“We are very fortunate to live in a country that provides free education for grade school students,” Mr. Qiu said. “However, there is still a significant disparity in educational attainment due to socio-economic and social differences, leading to situations where many students are not adequately learning fundamental skills. Consequently, as students progress through their education, they tend to constantly play catch-up, which can have detrimental effects on their university experience and their transition into the workforce.”

‘Exceptionally intelligent and diligent’

Mr. Qiu is also a teaching assistant in the Help Center in the Department of Chemistry and the undergraduate chemistry labs at Memorial.

He is an executive member of the Memorial University Chemistry Society and helps organize events to build community and enhance student engagement, things he says were absent when he started university during the isolation of pandemic restrictions.

Off campus, Mr. Qiu volunteers at The Gathering Place, where he helps make and serve breakfast and teaches piano lessons.

“This passion and commitment to students [from my instructors] inspires and motivates me to help and inspire others.” — Nicholas Qiu

He regularly visits patients at the Health Sciences Centre, is a co-tournament director with the Newfoundland School Chess Association, a coach with the Vanier Chess Club, and volunteers with Shallaway Youth Choir group, Lauda, a choir for neurodivergent children.

Dr. Yuming Zhao, a professor in the Department of Chemistry, nominated Mr. Qiu for the award.

“Nicolas is an exceptionally intelligent and diligent undergraduate student, who is within the top one per cent of undergraduate students I have taught and supervised over the past two decades,” noted Dr. Zhao. “He shows not only unwavering dedication to academic excellence, but also outstanding leadership. I am especially impressed by his passion for tutoring and teaching young students. His efforts have greatly inspired many young students to pursue and excel in STEM careers.”

Driven by community and passion

Mr. Qiu says Memorial University has been a nurturing environment for him.

He says he loves the sense of community and the support and dedication of his professors and instructors.

“This passion and commitment to students inspires and motivates me to help and inspire others. Smaller class sizes have allowed me to develop meaningful relationships with my instructors and have also made me feel a strong sense of community and a high degree of support among peers.”

After his undergraduate degree, Mr. Qiu plans to pursue a doctor of medicine degree and use the skills he develops at Memorial University to make lasting contributions to the medical field, patient care and his community.


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