Harrison Smith/torstar news service

Uzma Vakani, 18, just graduated from Holy Trinity Secondary School in Oakville with a 96.2 per cent average. When she isn’t studying, she keeps busy with home renovations.

Uzma Vakani is just as comfortable cracking a chemical code as she is wielding a hammer.

In fact, in between studying this self-proclaimed science fiend spends her time hanging shelves, installing cabinets or even creating her own study room.

“Hammering a nail is like figuring out how to solve an equation,” Vakani explains. “Sometimes you miss or do it the wrong way, but if you keep practising, you’ll hit that nail on the head. That’s how it is with me. I’m not afraid to pick up a hammer.”

Vakani, who graduated from high school in June with an impressive average of 96.2 per cent — attaining the highest overall mark in the Halton Catholic District School Board — hopes to one day be a dentist.

The 18-year-old Holy Trinity Catholic Secondary School graduate, whose favourite subjects are chemistry and biology, will begin studying life sciences at the University of Toronto at Mississauga in September, equipped with a $3,000 entrance scholarship and a $5,000 scholar’s award.

While proud of her marks, she’s equally proud about her hard work around the house.

Her latest project was to craft a customized study room, a nook in between her garage and laundry room that was once used just for storage.

This corner in her Oakville home, which she calls “the hole,” has now been transformed into “the perfect spot to pull out a textbook, read and research,” she explains.

Vakani’s interest in dentistry stems from an appreciation of being part of a profession that offers a much-needed service, she explains.

“Ideally, I want to be a dentist because the socializing aspect of it intrigues me, and because I like to be busy all the time, having an in-demand kind of job makes sense for me,” says Vakani.

After working as an assistant receptionist last year at Oak Park Dental, a family practice just down the street from her house, Vakani says she fell in love with the way “dentists interact with patients and develop a special type of trust relationship.”

She credits her good work habits to her parents. “My parents have taught me to appreciate the quality of education available in this country and put it to good use,” says Vakani, who was born in Pakistan and immigrated to Canada in 1995, when she was seven years old.

Her parents have also instilled a sense of deep-rooted religion in her. In between lab experiments, Vakani, a Muslim, always takes time out of her day to pray.

“My religion is a big part of who I am as a person,” says Vakani.

She visits her local mosque every Friday with her parents, two younger brothers and older sister.

“Praying is an activity that gives me direction and helps me to focus on keeping up a good behaviour and maintaining my work ethic,” Vakani says.

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