Skip to Content


Brave Queen’s student graduation tribute to both parents who died during her studies

Robyn McCue, from Newtownabbey, has overcome the odds this year to graduate with a PhD in Psychology, despite sadly losing both of her parents during her studies.

Lanyon 20.07.2018 close-up from side

Robyn’s mum sadly passed away in January 2015 the day before her final undergraduate exam. Despite receiving the devasting news, she summoned up all her strength and decided to go ahead with it and went on to complete her undergraduate degree.  

In September 2015, she began her PhD but one month in, her dad sadly passed away.  

Robyn said: “I had just started my PhD in October of 2015 when I got a phone call from my older brother who said my dad had died at home of what was likely a heart attack. I think I just went into shock after that, I still hadn't really processed losing Mum in January of that year.  

One of the first things I did was let my supervisor know. He was incredibly supportive and had been the staff member I had spoken to after mum died during my undergraduate course. He let me know about my options in terms of taking time off from my PhD, and encouraged me to take as much time as I needed. It was really reassuring knowing that I had his support and the support of the School of Psychology. 

“Mum and Dad instilled in me the words ‘just try your best. So when faced with the choice of taking time off - which I didn't think would help me - or to keep going, I knew that they would want me to persevere.

“PhDs can be immensely challenging, even at the best of times. I'll be honest in saying that I struggled quite a lot in the first year of my PhD and I thought about quitting more than once. But the support of my supervisors and the School of Psychology was invaluable, as was the support of the incredible life-long friends I have made during my PhD. I would not be graduating if not for them.” 

 During her PhD, Robyn was the chair of a student-led mental health campaign, Mind Your Mood, which helped her to cope with her grief. Looking to the future, Robyn will be starting her training to become a clinical psychologist in London this September.   

Robyn added: “Neither of my parents went to university, but my brother graduated from Medicine at Queen’s in 2014 (he's currently training to be a paediatrician) and this summer I'm graduating with my PhD - so there's now two Dr McCues in the family. I know Mum and Dad would be over the moon at the thought of that.” 

Robyn McCue will graduate virtually today on Friday 10 July with a PhD Psychology degree from the School of Psychology at Queen’s University Belfast. 


For media enquiries, please contact the Communications Office, 028 9097 3091