Scott Miskey (BSc ’20, MSc ’23) failed several courses when he first started his undergraduate degree at Brock in 2012.
Despite his rocky start, he finished his graduate degree with a 98 per cent average.
At Brock University’s 113th Convocation ceremony Friday, June 16, Miskey was recognized in absentia with the Governor General’s Gold Medal, an award presented annually at Spring Convocation to the graduate student with the highest academic average.
He is also this year’s Faculty of Mathematics and Science graduate student recipient of the Board of Trustees Spirit of Brock Medal, which honours students who demonstrate leadership, courage, innovation, inspiration and community involvement.
A decade ago, Miskey would never have dreamed of receiving such prestigious awards. At the time, he’d recently quit school after failing some courses in Brock’s Neuroscience program and was working in the Alberta oil fields with his uncle.
“I didn’t take school seriously,” he said. “My parents wanted me to go to university, but I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.”
His oil rig career didn’t last long. Less than a year into his physically demanding job, Miskey exchanged oil pipes for chemistry pipettes and gave university another chance.
He returned to Brock in 2014 with a new outlook, but his grades didn’t improve much.
Then, during a second-year organic chemistry class, Miskey heard a guest lecture from the late Professor Tomáš Hudlický.
“He talked about the structure of morphine and the synthesis of naturally occurring opioids,” said Miskey. “I found that really interesting so I decided to volunteer for his lab.”
The hands-on learning opportunity changed his mindset.
“I think that most people learn by doing, and the best way to ‘do’ is with guidance from experts in the field,” he said. “Getting the practical aspect, compared to just the theoretical, helped me more deeply understand the subject matter. It really improved my academics.”
While working in Hudlický’s lab, Miskey learned skills and knowledge in organic synthesis. In addition to assisting with purifying compounds and performing simple chemistry reactions to make natural products from scratch, Miskey joined group meetings and got a taste of working in research.
Miskey spent much of his time in the lab working on his undergraduate thesis, which was an approach to a total synthesis of a natural product called daphenylline.
After graduating in 2020 with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and Mathematics, Miskey continued his research and involvement with the lab via a master’s degree in chemistry.
Soon after completing his graduate thesis, Miskey was offered a job with Gilead Sciences at a satellite site in Seattle, Wash. As a medicinal chemist, he works on compounds that are expected to treat inflammation and cancer.
Miskey credits his academic and career success to taking an active role in his education.
“Intelligence can only get you so far,” he said. “It’s about your attitude, behaviour and habits.”
He advises students to volunteer as research assistants, give their undivided attention to lessons, ask questions and visit instructors during their office hours.
Although he was not at Convocation to accept the two medals recognizing his achievements, Miskey is proud of his academic journey and is grateful for the practical approach to learning he experienced.
“I thank Brock for the recognition,” he said. “I am especially grateful to the late T-Hud for allowing me into his group, transferring to me some of his knowledge in the art of chemical synthesis, and mentoring me during these formative years.”