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Career switch ignites a dormant passion

As a 12-year-old in Western Australia, Kristy Guerin wanted to become a vulcanologist – despite the absence of active volcanoes in Australia.

Although it took her a few years and a career switch from nursing, Ms Guerin will graduate from The University of Queensland with a Bachelor of Science (Earth Sciences) with Honours on Tuesday, 19 July 2016.

She is one of up to 3,000 students graduating at 10 ceremonies at St Lucia campus from July 19 to 22.

She has also been selected as the valedictorian for her graduating group, and remained a Registered Nurse throughout her studies.

“I knew I needed to change careers to a field I’ve been passionate about since childhood, and I’ve loved being here,” she said.

“I think I left it way too long, but it’s the best decision I ever made.

“If anyone else is thinking of switching careers to follow their passion, I would say ‘just do it’.”

Kristy said earth sciences was an exciting study area within science, where students were able to combine lab work with academic study and practical field work in unusual locations.

“One highlight was touring a Mt Isa underground mine and being two kilometres beneath the Earth,” she said.

UQ School of Earth Sciences lecturer and ARC DECRA Fellow Dr Charles Verdel said Ms Guerin was one of the “top students we’ve had in Earth Sciences over the past few years”.

“In addition to an excellent academic record, she has received a number of awards, including the Dean’s Commendation for High Achievement, the H.C. Richards Memorial Prize, and the Geological Society of Australia Gold Medal for undergraduate studies,” Dr Verdel said.

Kristy received a Bachelor of Nursing degree from Edith Cowan University in 2008, and she spent several years as a practising nurse around Australia before beginning at UQ in 2013.

She completed her honours study on bauxite in Western Australia, supervised by Head of School Professor Paulo Vasconcelos. She has worked as a tutor in the School and has studied at Rio Tinto Exploration during her holidays.

July’s 4500 graduating students include about 400 research higher degrees. Together, they bring the global community of UQ graduates to more than 236,000 – including more than 12,350 PhDs in at least 170 countries.

That community includes Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, actor Geoffrey Rush, the founders of Wotif.com, Eurovision Song Contest runner-up Dami Im, Nobel Prize winner Professor Peter Doherty, to name a few.

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