Each spring over a million tulips bloom in Ottawa to mark Canada’s role in liberating the Netherlands during World War II, but only recently has Madelaine Liddy understood the sincerity of that international friendship.


Madelaine Liddy, an electrical and computer engineering master’s candidate, receives one of the first Dutch Liberation Scholarships.

Liddy, a master’s student in electrical and computer engineering with a specialization in quantum information, is one of the first recipients of the Dutch Liberation Scholarship, which celebrates 70 years of liberation. Seventy scholarships are to be awarded to Canadian students who will study abroad in the Netherlands between 2015 and 2017.

Not only will she collaborate on a research project at Delft Technical University next year, Liddy also received her award in the presence of Dutch royalty King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima during their visit to the University of Waterloo in May 2015.

“The whole award ceremony was cool. Until the scholarship, I never fully understood the magnitude of the connection between our countries,” she says now.

The award also speaks to another close tie: Waterloo’s Institute of Quantum Computing (IQC) and Delft University have signed a memorandum of understanding stating they will collaborate to advance the quantum computer field. So when Liddy received an email from IQC letting her know about the new scholarship opportunity, she knew she had to jump on it.

“It’s great to see two powerhouse research universities get together and say, ‘Yes, we want to propel the field forward and work together,’” she explains.

While at Delft, Liddy will continue her research into Nitrogen-Vacancy (NV) chemical sensors. By adding biological molecules to the surface of a diamond, magnetic fields change and the resulting sensor technology can be used to detect anything from water contaminants to glucose levels and even early stage cancer. The sensors are so sensitive, they can find one contaminated particle in every trillion, says Liddy.

Co-op opened the door to a world of opportunities

This complex research helped her land the scholarship, but Liddy’s unique Waterloo nanotechnology engineering and music double major undergraduate degree was also a factor. She says her co-op terms in the U.S. opened her eyes to inspiring academic and professional opportunities around the world.

“Once you have the experience of working in a lab in another country, you want to keep your options open,” she says. “There is a bigger world out there and it’s nice that Waterloo lets you explore it.”

Although she’s still working out the details of her trip – the rough plan so far is to study for six to eight months at Delft starting in the spring of 2016 – she’s already dreaming about chewy stroopwafels, fried bitterballen, markets and mills, with the help of her Dutch aunt.

The scholarship has even helped her understand more of her family’s connection to Holland, including that of her uncle Gavin Liddy, who served in Europe during the 1980s and 1990s. When her uncle took part in the Nijmegen Marches with the Dutch military, people would approach to thank him.

“The Dutch still remember what Canada did in WWII,” she says. “I find that so touching.”