Coming from a
-focused family, undergraduate chemistry was a natural choice for Jelena Madzarevic. During her third year, a fateful summer internship at an engineering firm exposed her to the building industry — and lit a career path combining her micro-level chemistry know-how with macro-level applications in sustainable construction. After completing her BSc, she earned a Master’s in Building Sciences at TMU, and is now a Building and Material Science Specialist for world-leading construction services company, EllisDon.
What’s it like working for a world-class construction company?
It’s the best! EllisDon actually built TMU’s iconic Student Learning Centre and lots of skyscrapers in downtown Toronto. I get exposed to some of Canada’s largest, most technically challenging builds and work with an entire team of engineers and technical people like myself. We use our expertise in building science to advise projects on technical risk which could range from looking at things at a material property level or bigger picture like envelope systems and how they interact with each other.
How did your science degree equip you?
The principles I learned in chemistry and physics apply to building and architecture — from thermodynamics of heat transfer across walls to how materials behave at the molecular level. My science degree gave me skills and knowledge that I cherish for life — especially curiosity for how things work at a fundamental level. I really love that part!
Fond memories as a student?
Chemistry labs were really fun. I remember mixing things together, making banana fragrances, and also tinkering with very expensive, delicate equipment as a research volunteer in professor Bryan Koivisto’s lab. Even as an undergrad, we got to do cool things that are typically limited to specific industries or research.
How did being a FOS student shape you beyond academics?
I had lots of opportunities to develop personally. We were like underdogs — not exactly sure what we wanted to do, but the culture was driven, with amazing stories of those who, for example, failed first year chemistry initially but successfully pursued PhDs or other competitive professions. Being inspired by them and being active in student governance helped me grow from a teenager into a young professional. I was recently elected to the Ontario Building Envelope Council board of directors, and I couldn’t have done it without the motivations I developed at TMU!