Big things have small beginnings

Posted on
Image shows man in white lab coat and gloves in a lab setting.

It’s commonly said that “big things have small beginnings”. This is certainly true for College of the Rockies alumnus Justin Miller who is well on his way to becoming a big thing!

Justin grew up in Cranbrook and, from a young age, wanted to pursue a medical degree. After taking a year off after high school to play hockey in the KIJHL (Kootenay International Junior Hockey League), he chose College of the Rockies as his starting point for his education.

“The College allowed me to save for my education while still attending classes,” he said. “I didn’t know which university I wanted to transfer to, so being at the College gave me time to explore my options while still receiving a first-rate education.”

Justin took advantage of the College’s Dual Admission agreement with University of Lethbridge, and after completing his first two years of University Studies at the College, transferred his credits to the university to complete his undergraduate degree.

While in his final year of his bachelor’s degree program, Justin has been working in the university’s toxicology lab. Thanks to funding from NSERC USRA (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Undergraduate Student Research Award), he was able to complete an oxidative stress study in rainbow trout liver cells over the summer of 2018. His lab supervisor suggested that Justin submit his project to the Canadian Ecotoxicity Workshop (CEW), a gathering of academics on the cutting edge of research in the ecological and toxicological fields.

Justin’s abstract of his project was not only accepted by the CEW board but while at the workshop he won third prize for his research poster – a significant achievement by an undergrad!

“I am very humbled to take away an award for my research,” Justin said. “I was excited just to attend and see what else is going on within the field. To win third prize for my research poster is really exciting. I was actually so shocked to hear my name being called that I had to double-check with the people I was sitting with prior to accepting the award.”

After obtaining his B.Sc., Justin plans to continue his research in a Master’s program.  With the ultimate goal of becoming a surgeon, he hopes to continue on to medical school. And with his research background, and the CEW award in his pocket, his chances of being accepted will certainly be bolstered.

Though Justin seems destined for big things, he credits his start in a small college with helping him to get where he is.

“Attending College of the Rockies allowed me to figure out what works for me in terms of study habits while also being in the comfort of my own home, a luxury many first years do not get,” he says. “I cannot say enough about the incredible professors at the College, especially in the biology, chemistry and math department. It was truly the profs that made my time there so enjoyable.

“Another perk of starting at the College is actually something that College of the Rockies doesn’t have,” he adds. “An additional 250+ classmates in each class! Small class sizes make all the difference in your early educational career.”

Learn more about College of the Rockies Dual Admission agreement with University of Lethbridge.

Photo credit: University of Lethbridge


UPDATE: In 2019, Justin, now a master’s student, won a first-place award for the oral presentation of his undergraduate research at the 40th annual North American Meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, the largest yearly gathering of environmental toxicologists in North America.