Alum of the Month: Hannah McSorley

VIU Alumna Hannah McSorley shares her enthusiasm about being a researcher in the field of environmental science.

VIU Alumna Hannah McSorley shares her enthusiasm about being a researcher in the field of environmental science and says the inspiration, opportunities and encouragement she received at VIU lead her down this pathway.

January 14, 2020 - 8:45am

It’s been a few years since Hannah McSorley graduated from Vancouver Island University, but her connections to the institution remain strong. Thanks to a research background in environmental analytical chemistry which she gained while still a student at VIU, as well as significant field experience in hydrology, McSorley is working for the university’s Coastal Hydrology Research Lab as an analyst and field technician. Her current research project profiles changes in dissolved components during stormflow in the Leech River watershed, part of the Greater Victoria Water Supply area on Vancouver Island, to get a better understanding of water quality in recovering forests on the west coast.   

Her enthusiastic involvement in water science began in VIU’s Applied Environmental Research Laboratories (AERL). The experience she gained in work-op positions in the AERL helped her get the job she has currently, and inspired her to pursue a master’s degree in geological sciences. McSorely credits the Adult Basic Education program for getting her excited about chemistry and venturing down that pathway.


What did you take at VIU?

When I started at VIU I was interested in pursuing a degree in biology. However, I needed to do some math, physics and chemistry upgrading to get into the program, which I did through the VIU Adult Basic Education program. I was surprised at how much I liked those topics, which I had previously avoided. I’m certain that the excellent ABE teachers influenced my enjoyment, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I had an aptitude for pure science. I was inspired and fell completely in love with chemistry, a topic I had previously seen as daunting. I took as many chemistry classes as possible, worked as an analytical research assistant, became the president of the chemistry club, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in both biology and chemistry.

How did your time at VIU influence your career path?

I had an excellent experience at VIU. Each of my professors was engaging and helpful, and I couldn’t imagine a better undergraduate experience. I felt that student engagement was a high priority and each of my classes, field-trips and labs delivered an interesting learning dynamic.

The chemistry department at VIU opened a new world of possibilities for me - for academics, applied research and personal growth.  My research career started at VIU and my work remains strongly tied to the university. The skills, knowledge and passion for research that I gained during my senior undergraduate years as a work-op student in the Applied Environmental Research Labs (AERL) gave me a solid foundation. When I graduated, I had two years of laboratory work experience and was the primary analyst on an industrially partnered project in the AERL. My experience and connections at VIU got me a short-term position with Environment Canada, and then I joined VIU’s Coastal Hydrology Research Lab as an analyst and field technician.


What do you see yourself doing in the future?VIU Alum of the Month: Hannah McSorley

I am thrilled to be working in environmental research and I truly couldn’t have done it without the inspiration, opportunities and encouragement I received at VIU. In each research role I’ve held, the skills and knowledge that I gained at VIU have been invaluable. I want to contribute to the community and regional water security through scientific research and communication. I am pursuing a master’s degree in geological sciences (ecohydrology) at UBC, which is part of a Canada-wide NSERC strategic network called forWater. My research project focuses on the relationships between hydrology, water quality and forest management in a regional water supply. I’m just finishing my degree now and I hope to continue working as a researcher in the field of environmental science.


How are you staying connected with your VIU family?

My formal studies at VIU are complete, but I’m still part of the VIU community. I remain affiliated with VIU’s Coastal Hydrology and Climate Change Research Lab as a graduate student at UBC and I visit the campus regularly. I made some incredible connections in the Chemistry and Biology departments at VIU and stay in touch with my former lab mates. 


What advice would you give new VIU grads?

Each person’s experience is their own, and the energy you put in will determine the results you yield. Make your VIU experience exactly what you want it to be. There are so many opportunities on campus – for employment, sports, social events, professional development and networking. You’ll have many opportunities to develop and grow. Seek them out and take chances; you never know what you might discover about yourself or where each small step will lead.

Tags: AERL | Alumni | Chemistry | Research | Science | Our Alumni

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