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Why Give | Impact stories

From winning a scholarship to the future of sustainable energy: Niko’s student journey

Scholarships change lives—just ask Niko Andrianos. He is the first person in his immediate family to attend university, an incredible feat that donor support helped make possible.

Niko Andrianos received the donor-funded UBC Centennial Scholars Entrance Award in 2018, allowing him to enroll in UBC’s Integrated Engineering program. Now, six years later, he has graduated and is working towards his Master of Applied Science. We caught up with Niko to learn more about his university experience, his hopes for the future and the impact donors have had on his journey.

What was it like winning the Centennial Scholars Entrance Award?

I still get excited thinking about the award because it truly changed my life! My dad is a first-generation immigrant—he dropped out of grade school to support his family and moved to Canada from Greece with $100 in his pocket. He didn’t know how to speak English, but he built an amazing life in Canada from the ground up.

Winning the UBC Centennial Scholars Entrance Award is the reason I could come to UBC—without it, the cost of university would have been impossible for me and my family.

Do you have a favourite memory to share from your time at UBC as an undergraduate student?

One of my best memories is of my final year capstone project. My team built an automated foosball opponent—in other words, a robot that can play foosball against you. Our professors weren’t sure we could pull it off and to be honest, neither were we, but we made it happen! The last day of class for the Integrated Engineering program is known as design and innovation day and my peers voted our robot project of the year.

Another highlight for me was joining the UBC men’s rugby team. I played in high school and took a break to focus on school when I started university. But I missed it, and thanks largely to the UBC Centennial Scholars Entrance Award, I had the chance to pursue passions outside of academia and joined the UBC men’s varsity rugby team in my third year. I’ve never looked back since! In 2023, we won the Canadian University Men’s Rugby Championship against my hometown school, the University of Victoria, which was awesome!

Where is your favourite place on campus to grab lunch?

Mercante, hands down! It has great pizza.

What did you enjoy most about the Integrated Engineering program?

The program placed a big emphasis on technical communication, which I wasn’t expecting but ended up really enjoying! All engineering projects involve a lot of people—including non-engineers and engineers from different backgrounds—so being able to communicate effectively with everyone is important. It opened my eyes to the different jobs an engineering degree can lead to, like project management.

Now that you’ve graduated and started your Masters, what is the focus of your studies?

When I first came to UBC, I wanted to study sustainable clean energy sources—specifically how to unlock the potential of nuclear fusion.

My research now focusses on energy distribution, which is different from nuclear fusion but still falls within the renewable energy sector. It looks at how we can be more efficient with existing resources. Countries like Canada will soon need a lot of energy, and while building more energy infrastructure is an option, it is expensive. The alternative is to use current resources more efficiently, so I’m working on techniques that will help us optimize what we already have.

I think there’s great potential for this research to make an impact and help societies thrive. Plus, working on making the most of what we already have is a metaphor for a lot of things in life, which I find inspiring.

What aspirations do you have for the future?

It would be a dream come true if energy was accessible to everyone, everywhere, all the time. My hope is to play a part in the innovative thinking needed to make this happen, and I’m learning those skills right now at UBC. At some point in my career, I’d also like to give back in a teaching capacity. I’m not sure what that looks like just yet, but perhaps it’s going abroad to teach people about the importance of renewable energy.

What would you like to say to the UBC donor community?

In some ways, I don’t think I realized how good I had it during my undergrad. Now, as a Masters student balancing work and school, I understand the full impact the UBC Centennial Scholars Entrance Award had on my undergraduate experience.

Thank you so much and please know you are changing lives! Supporting students like me says so much about your character, and I really think you are superheroes!

You can give students like Niko a chance to realize their full potential and thrive.
Support FORWARD for Students today and help create a better tomorrow.

WATCH: Niko Andrianos, interviewed at the start of his UBC journey