Brianna Smrke (2013)

Affiliation at the time of the award: McMasterUniversity

Citation: Ten billion isolated neurons cannot think, but a brain can. Something about the connections between these neurons causes the whole system to become “emergent” – more than the sum of its parts. Brianna Smrke was fascinated by emergence before she knew the term existed. A third-year student in the enriching and challenging Arts & Science Program at McMaster University, she has experienced emergence in her own academic path. Her self-created courses on complexity science, time spent in a structural virology laboratory, exploration of caves in Kentucky and creation of cardboard furniture, among other pursuits, have woven together, leading her to discover a compelling sense of purpose.

Brianna wants to make our educational system more emergent. She wants to foster the connections that will liberate the untapped potential of students, professors and community members so that extraordinarily enriching experiences like hers become normal. She has shared her compelling narratives about the importance of interconnection as a TEDx speaker and Thiel 20 Under 20 Fellowship Finalist. Currently, she is co-leading a team to create a social innovation “collaboratory” at McMaster University that will allow diverse groups of students and community members to combine their knowledge to co-create solutions.