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Harvard dreams come true for UNB grad

Jackson Weir is living the dream at Harvard University where he has recently enrolled in the biological and biomedical PhD program months after graduating with honours from the University of New Brunswick.

Growing up in Saint John, Jackson often had what he called a “distant dream” about attending Harvard but it was his highly successful undergraduate years on UNB’s Fredericton campus that helped forge that faint hope into reality.

Jackson graduated in May 2021 from UNB with a bachelor of science with honours in biology with a cell and molecular biology concentration. An accomplished student when he attended St. Malachy’s Memorial High School in Saint John, Jackson was awarded the President’s Scholarship when he entered UNB, covering most of his annual tuition.

In his first year at UNB, Jackson presented his award-winning research project to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the second annual Prime Minister’s Science Fair in Ottawa. In 2020, he was named a Sir Howard Douglas Scholar and served as junior editor-in-chief of the Atlantic Student Research Journal.

In 2021, Jackson was one of two finalists from UNB for the inaugural McCall MacBain Scholarships, Canada’s first comprehensive leadership-based scholarship for master’s and professional studies. The prestigious award enables students to pursue a fully funded master’s or professional degree at McGill University while connecting with mentors and participating in an intensive leadership development program.

Jackson withdrew his name from the finalists’ list after he was accepted into Harvard. Now, he is in Cambridge, Mass., where he still feels the need to pinch himself every now and then.

“I attribute so much of where I am today and who I am as a person to my time at UNB,” he says. “I think UNB shaped me as an academic, as a leader and as a person and I’m very thankful for that. The scholarships enabled me to pursue my academic and research dreams without the pressure of maintaining financial stability. It definitely enabled me to gain lots of research and academic experience which probably helped in my application to get into a university like Harvard.”

Jackson’s research involves designing treatments in the lab that clinicians can use to treat patients. He is working in the cancer research field, trying to find ways to enhance different treatments for cancer patients and discover new targets that can be exploited therapeutically.

“The purpose of the PhD is to contribute original research and knowledge and ideas to the field,” he says.

Jackson is very thankful for his time at UNB. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without my incredible academic experience at UNB,” he says.

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