Growing up in rural Cape Breton, Elizabeth MacCormick always had an appreciation for nature and the outdoors. Following that interest, she graduated from Cape Breton University in 2007 with a Bachelor of Science in Community Studies (BScCS) with a concentration in Biodiversity – choosing this undergraduate program for its flexibility in allowing her to explore a wide range of courses important to the study of conservation and the natural environment. Coursework topics included not only environmental issues, but also explored social and cultural complexities that are important to understand and communicate well when working in this area.
During Elizabeth’s undergraduate career, she was fortunate to begin working out of the Bras d’Or Institute with Dr. Bruce Hatcher, University Chair in Marine Ecosystem Research. Her time with Dr. Hatcher began with undergraduate research grants and upon graduation, she was able to continue working on various projects as a research associate. These projects ranged in topic from sustainable development and ecosystem-based management in the Bras d’Or watershed, to water chemistry profiling of coastal marine systems.
By-product utilization is a field generating attention from both industry and academia. Identifying opportunities for value-added products can not only increase industry profits, but it can also provide a possible solution to waste disposal concerns. Elizabeth’s current position at CBU is working on another research project focused on value-added by-product development in the food industry. Working with Dr. Stephanie MacQuarrie through the Organic Chemistry Research Laboratory and in collaboration with Saputo Inc., Canada’s largest dairy producer, they are exploring the potential for using biocarbon in the utilization and valorization of milk processing streams.
Elizabeth’s experiences in academia have led to many interesting moments; like watching the sun rise over the Atlantic while hauling crab pots, dealing with the aftermath of moose in field research sites, and seeing if it’s possible to compost a whale in horse manure (which it is).
“One of the perks of working in science research is the variety of projects you can get involved with– being versatile becomes a huge asset. My advice to students in chemistry (or any department for that matter) is to take opportunities to develop new skill sets and set yourself apart by communicating career interests to your professors. There are so many opportunities for students to gain valuable career experience during their undergraduate years. Whether those experiences are on campus or volunteering in communities, it’s important to surround yourself with those who inspire you to become a better researcher.”