Michelle Liu Awarded the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship

Posted on Thursday, November 17, 2022

The Centre for Law, Technology and Society is delighted to announce that PhD Candidate Michelle Liu is among the recipients of the 2022 Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, making her the only doctoral student in Canada to receive both this award and the prestigious Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholarship in 2022.

Michelle Liu was awarded the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship to support her PhD studies in civil engineering PhD studies at the Faculy of Engineering, University of Ottawa, under the joint supervision of Prof. Beatriz Martin-Perez in the Faculty of Engineering, and CLTS Faculty member Prof. Jena McGill in the Faculty of Law.  

In addition to her full-time PhD studies in engineering, Michelle Liu is a full-time JD candidate in the Faculty of Law, Common Law Section. She is the first person at the University of Ottawa to pursue both degrees concurrently.  


As a Queer, racialized, and woman-identifying engineer (P.Eng), Michelle Liu undertook a PhD to examine the opportunities and challenges for engineering standards and professional norms to improve their consideration of equity, diversity, and inclusion. 

This interdisciplinary research is ground-breaking in the Canadian engineering context, and its broad dissemination could spark an overhaul on how the profession views the inclusion of differently-identified individuals in engineering, the meaning of public interest, and the role that engineers can play in contributing to social justice. 

Her doctoral proposal and leadership record both scholarly and in the community has placed her among the recipient of both the 2022 Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship and the 2022-2025 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholarship, Canada’s most prestigious doctoral awards. She is the only doctoral student in Canada who has received both awards this year. 

The Government of Canada launched the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships program in 2008 to strengthen Canada's ability to attract and retain world-class doctoral students and establish Canada as a global centre of excellence in research and higher learning. Vanier Scholars demonstrate leadership skills and a high standard of scholarly achievement in graduate studies in the social sciences and humanities, natural sciences and/or engineering and health.  


In Michelle Liu’s words, “Receiving the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship in the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) category in addition to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholarship has allowed me to discuss my work with greater confidence in engineering spaces. When I was in the process of solidifying my PhD topic, I received feedback that my idea may be more suitable for a PhD in the social sciences. I took that advice to heart, but I also believe that the problematic culture and practices within the engineering profession may be in need of a ‘by engineers, for engineers’ solution in addition to the extraordinary work that research projects in the social sciences are doing about diversity and inclusion in science, technology, engineering, and math. I ultimately decided to continue my PhD in the Faculty of Engineering and am grateful that NSERC and the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation see merit in the content and location of my research.”  


Michelle Liu’s identities and experiences motivate her to serve in roles that advance EDI, including as a member of the Equity Advisory Group of the Law Society of Ontario and Chair of the Waterloo Engineering Alumni Council. Engineers Canada named Michelle Liu one of thirteen EDI Leaders in Engineering Workplaces in 2021-2022, which followed her 2019 Certificate of Recognition from City of Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky for her community contributions, and her Kitchener-Waterloo Women of the Year finalist standing in the same year, among other awards. Michelle Liu was the 2021 recipient of the University of Ottawa Rovinescu Award of Excellence for Community Service.  

Until recently, Michelle Liu was the Program Coordinator for CLTS-hosted The eQuality Project. As a JD student, she has been the President of the Common Law Student Society (AÉCLSS), the Co-President of OUTLaw, and one of the Faculty of Law Representatives on the University Senate in 2021-2022, and has been re-elected to all three roles for 2022-2023.  

Michelle Liu earned her Honours BASc and MASc in civil engineering from the University of Waterloo and has worked in construction and design at national and international engineering firms. Michelle Liu also worked at the law firm Blake, Cassels & Graydon, where she will be articling in 2023 while continuing her doctoral work.  

Michelle Liu aspires to become an academic at the intersection of engineering and law, a goal she believes that the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship and the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholarship program will help her achieve. 

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