A Saanich teen is one of the country’s highest achieving students and is headed to the University of Cambridge on a full scholarship.
Keiler Totz, a Grade 12 student at St. Michaels University School is one of two high school students in the country selected for a $150,000 Blyth Cambridge Commonwealth Trust Scholarship. He got the news earlier this month after having completed a rigorous application process, which culminated in an intense interview last November in Toronto before a panel of judges, including the head of admissions for the highly regarded English university. By the time he knew he had risen to the top of the 34 students shortlisted nationally, he was sold on the experience abroad.
“The more and more I learned about the Cambridge environment, the more I knew it would be the right place,” Keiler said. “I’ve always been really academically driven, studied really hard and trying to get the best grades and learn enough as possible. It looks absolutely amazing.”
Keiler hopes to enter the field of engineering, then biomedical engineering, ultimately ending with a career in research, though still 17, his plans could change.
“I always thought he’d be getting an athletic scholarship,” said Keiler’s mother, Suzanne. “It’s one of the most prestigious there is; almost like a needle in a haystack.”
Keiler attributes his love for physics to his teacher, Richard Curry, himself a University of Cambridge alumnus. Curry, also St. Michaels’ rowing coach, has encouraged Keiler to trade in his basketball for a seat in a skull.
Keiler hasn’t spent too much time contemplating all of the possibilities, however, instead participating in soccer, regularly volunteering at the Royal Jubliee Hospital and completing 11 advanced placement courses prior to graduation, including a first-year math course at the University of Victoria.
Keiler also spent last summer conducting cancer research on an internship with the B.C. Cancer Agency.
“You’re just thrown in there and expected to work, but once you get the grasp of the lab, it’s an amazing feeling,” Keiler said of the experience staining tumour tissues.
Keiler’s father Karlheinz has watched his son excel academically throughout life – including picking up Mandarin while the family lived in Singapore – and doesn’t describe the scholarship as much of a surprise.
“There were two in all of Canada chosen for his age, so that shows that the child is quite bright,” he said.
Keiler was featured in the News in 2011 when he attended Deep River Science Academy at the Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories in Ontario. As the only student from Greater Victoria admitted at the time, he worked on a remote control vehicle to measure ambient radiation levels and record internal visual conditions inside buildings slated to be decommissioned. He hopes to return to the academy which affirmed his desire to obtain an undergraduate degree in education this summer as a tutor, a role Suzanne once held during her first year of university.
“He’s absolutely in heaven right now,” she said.