Science student graduates after an eight-year hiatus and a change of heart

October 04, 2021

Mandy Yip was only three courses away from completing a Bachelor of Arts degree at SFU when personal circumstances forced her to drop her studies and take on full time work in 2009. The former French major finally returned to SFU eight years later and will graduate this semester with both a Bachelor of Science degree and a Certificate in Genomics.

Yip worked at various jobs throughout her hiatus from SFU, including several years as a case manager in the travel insurance industry. Her language skills were valuable to her job interacting with health care professionals around the world in ensuring that travelers received medical attention and a safe return to Canada.

That’s how Yip also developed a passion for science, particularly medicine.

 “I realized that science, not French was more applicable to what I wanted to do as a long-term career.  Science offers so many opportunities for career development. To me, the ever-expanding fields of science are extremely intriguing and scientific topics have always piqued my curiosity,“ she says.

In 2017, Yip quit her job and enrolled at SFU again — this time as a biological sciences major in the Faculty of Science.  Adjusting to life as a mature returning student was challenging in the beginning. She discovered that much had changed in the years since she had studied science in high school. “It was very difficult to recall all of the basic knowledge in science subjects I had previously learned. I had to relearn all of the concepts in a very short time which was very challenging.”

Yip turned to her advisors and professors for help.

“I was fortunate to have met Dr. Carl Lowenberger who gave me some very useful and wise advice, and he pointed me towards many valuable resources that greatly facilitated my success.”

She says that Biological Sciences lecturer Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s courses in Genetic Analysis and Genetic Engineering reassured her that she had chosen the right educational path. “Dr. Fitzpatrick really inspired my interest in genetics, which opened up a world of possibilities for me. She is my mentor and I owe my success to her guidance and encouragement.”

Yip also took on Teaching Assistant positions for several courses. She says her maturity and case management work experience were an asset in assisting and guiding students.

It was also during this time that Yip’s beloved dog, Bailey of 16 years was stricken with cancer. “Before passing away, he received radiation therapy which gave us an extra year with him. It made me realize how important radiation is as a therapeutic option for both animals and humans.”

With her Bachelor of Science degree in hand, Yip now plans to enroll in the radiation therapy program at the University of Alberta. She hopes it will lead to a career helping cancer patients or as a researcher in the field of cancer genetics.

In the lead-up to our Fall 2021 Convocation, we'll be sharing stories from across our eight faculties about some of our amazing graduands.

SFU’s Fall 2021 Convocation will be held Oct. 5-8. It will be the university’s first in-person convocation since 2019. The ceremonies will be webcast on SFU’s YouTube channel for those wanting to join in from home and around the world. For more information about SFU’s Fall 2021 Convocation, visit Read more about our exceptional graduands here.

Be sure to share your convocation experience on social media by using the #MySFUGrad hashtag.