Israeli Schulich Leader Helps Improve Public Transportation During COVID-19

UJA Federation of Greater Toronto is proud to partner with the Schulich Foundation to support excellence in STEM research in Canada and Israel. Through this series, we will be highlighting some of the exceptional Schulich Leaders in Israel who make up the next generation of entrepreneurial-minded technology innovators.

For Efrat Dim, a 2015 Israeli Schulich Leader Scholarship recipient, going into the STEM field was always about making the world a better place. Having completed a math and education degree at Ben-Gurion University, Efrat now works as an analyst team leader at Via – a leading tech company that creates equitable, efficient, and sustainable transit solutions for over 200 partners, including cities and transit agencies, around the world. “For me, it’s really important to work for a company that tries to do good in the world,” said Efrat. “Receiving the Schulich Leader Scholarship had such a big impact on me even after I graduated because I didn’t have to rush to find a job and pay off debt. It allowed me to take some time and really find a company that fits my values.”

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Efrat and her team at Via have created many transportation initiatives to ensure that users and essential workers are able to get around safely. They organized special services that drive patients to their quarantine hotels and even developed a system that keeps count of people riding on public transit, so that buses do not become overcrowded with passengers. “The pandemic has shown us that there are a lot of opportunities to use technology for good,” she said.

Efrat grew up in a very STEM-oriented family, with a father that has a Ph.D. in information systems and two older siblings in computer science. They lived in a small town in between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, which is now part of the city of Modi’in. Throughout high school, she majored in computer science and art. “I was always good at math and it was interesting to me, but I had to work really hard to understand and improve my skills,” said Efrat. “My father always encouraged me to work hard and I understood that this is something that is reachable and within my powers.”

After graduating high school, Efrat completed a year of volunteer service in an underprivileged community in Jerusalem, working in an elementary school with children from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds. She worked closely with the school’s math teacher, who she said inspired her to study mathematics and consider a career in education.

In 2015, when she was going into her first year at Ben-Gurion University, Efrat was awarded the Schulich Leader Scholarship. She said this had a “major impact” on her studies, allowing her to remain focused on her classes and make the most of her university experience. But more than that, becoming a Schulich Leader exposed her to a community of like-minded people to which she always wants to give back. “The Schulich team empowers us to go and volunteer our time to help others, and it’s really amazing to be in touch with the other scholarship recipients and see all the great things they are doing,” said Efrat. “Schulich just creates an environment that encourages people to help one another and stay connected, even after you finish your degree.”

In September 2021, Efrat will be starting a Ph.D. in learning science at Vanderbilt University, where she will be researching methods of combining technology and education.