Go to page content

On their path

Spring science graduates find each other during educational journey

special feature: Class of 2023

The Gazette’s latest special feature celebrates Memorial’s newest alumni.

By Kelly Foss

Spring graduate Sydney Hillier was halfway through her undergraduate degree when she was in a car accident in 2018.

The traumatic event sidelined her plan to complete a bachelor of science degree in biochemistry (nutrition) at Memorial University.

“I had a lot of health issues before the accident and, at the time, I didn’t have the best GPA,” she said. “So, when the accident happened, I said ‘I just need to figure out what I want to do.’”

She ended up taking almost two years off to recover. During that time she travelled, opened a salon and had a number of significant life experiences before returning to her studies in 2020.

‘A complete 180’

The time away paid off for Ms. Hillier.

“If I had just kept trying to push through, my overall health and GPA would have suffered for it in the end. In my first two years, I had actually done very poorly in courses from trying to juggle everything, but after I returned from my time off, my GPA each semester was closer to 4.0. It was a complete 180.”

The St. John’s, N.L., resident is now accepted into a graduate program in neuroscience with the Faculty of Medicine and is hoping to be accepted into medical school upon completion.

“Those scholarships are out there, you just have to go looking.” — Sydney Hillier

She says opportunities to participate in research during her undergraduate degree allowed her to make the connections she needed to find a master’s supervisor.

“After getting to know Dr. Scott Harding in Biochemistry, I worked for him and then I started volunteering at the Miller Centre with Dr. Michelle Ploughman from the Faculty of Medicine,” she said. “I got involved in clinical trials with stroke and multiple sclerosis patients, and then more MUCEPs with other professors in the Faculty of Medicine radiology department and in the Biochemistry department. It was just one stepping stone after another.”

A male and a female in graduation gowns in front of glass windows.
Sydney Hillier and Adam Herritt will collect bachelor of science degrees during convocation ceremonies on May 31.
Photo: Submitted

‘Amazing’ experience

In spring 2021 Ms. Hiller received scholarships to participate in a food and nutrition field studies course at Harlow Campus, something she says was an “amazing and life-changing” experience.

Next month, she is heading back to Europe for a month to study at the University of Galway, also covered by a scholarship.

“People have said ‘You get to go to all these cool places,’” she said. “But I want to let other students know it’s possible, even if you don’t have financial help from your family or have a perfect transcript. I certainly don’t. Those scholarships are out there, you just have to go looking.”

While at Harlow Campus, Ms. Hillier grew close to fellow Memorial student Adam Herritt.

Now a couple, the pair is preparing to walk across the stage to collect their degrees during Memorial’s convocation ceremonies at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre on March 31.

“I always sat at the front of the class and that allowed my professors to get to know me even more.” — Adam Herritt

Mr. Herritt says his path to graduation was a little more linear.

He has completed a joint B.Sc. (honours) degree in psychology (behavioural neuroscience) and biochemistry (nutrition), receiving several scholarships and making the Dean’s List along the way.

Originally from Hermitage-Sandyville, N.L., Mr. Herritt says he is especially grateful for his time living on campus.

“I have to give a lot of thanks to residence,” he said. “I lived there for my first three years and without it, I wouldn’t have made it. I met many of my friends there and had a lot of great meals at the dining hall.”

He is now considering his next steps, which might include medical school at Trinity College Dublin.

“I’ve been accepted, but I’m not sure if I’m going to take it or not,” said Mr. Herritt. “It’s a big decision to pack up and move to another country.”

Not just a number

Although he was born with hearing loss, he says his professors wore clear masks during the pandemic.

“I always sat at the front of the class and that allowed my professors to get to know me even more.”

He also says he made sure to drop by his professors’ offices regularly, following the advice a relative gave him.

“A cousin had gone to Memorial and he told me not to be afraid to speak to my professors about anything, and not just about grades,” said Mr. Herritt.

“You always hear ‘You’re just a number in university,’ and that no one is going to care about you. But they are a lot more willing to help when they know you are trying and not just coming to them when something goes wrong. It was the best advice.”

The text "Spring convocation 2023" is over a claret background with a subtle damask pattern and a gold Memorial coat of arms in the lower right-hand corner.

To receive news from Memorial in your inbox, subscribe to Gazette Now.

Class of 2023

A new life

With a degree and job at Memorial, fall graduate — and his family — embrace N.L.

Family milestones

Grandfather and granddaughter receive Memorial honours during convocation week

One step at a time

Memorial employee and master of arts graduate savours crossing the finish line

‘Monumental’ research

Fall master's graduate seeks to disrupt traditional narratives in public spaces

‘Open views’

Master of fine arts graduate uses bicycling as a vehicle for creativity

Learning every day

Marine Institute graduate develops problem-solving skills with every voyage