Stephen Conn, aged 25 from Portadown, will today graduate with an MEng in Chemical Engineering from Queen’s University Belfast despite overcoming a rocky journey of illness.
Stephen suffers from Crohn’s disease and during his placement year, he was progressively becoming more unwell and was placed on a supplement diet in April 2018.
Stephen said: “My consultant had said that I was likely to need surgery at some point and asked when I would like to do it. I’d hoped I could make it through my final year in 2017/18 and graduate before undergoing surgery. However, things just got worse and I was admitted to hospital in February 2018, the night before my 23rd birthday.
“I was feeling despondent and disappointed as I only had six weeks of term left after a long five years at university. However, looking back I was in so much pain that it soon put things in perspective. It was more important to get treatment and recover so I could return to complete my course later.
“I spent a total of seven months in hospital, had three surgeries, sepsis, countless infections and treatments. I finally got out in December 2018 after a long, traumatic and eye-opening experience.”
Stephen’s recovery is still ongoing but determined to graduate he returned to finish his degree in 2019.
“Throughout my time at Queen’s I had support such as using the green room for exams, extra time and flexibility with deadlines. As Crohn’s is an autoimmune disease which can be triggered by stress, this was a great help in easing some of the anxiety during term. When I came back in 2019, the staff in the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering were an amazing help in sorting out what modules and exams I had to complete. Thankfully, my hard work and determination have paid off and I am so glad to be graduating with a First Class Honours MEng in Chemical Engineering.”
Looking to the future, Stephen said: “I’d always thought I would go and work in the energy industry, however after my experience I would love to go into a career in pharmaceuticals. If I could play just a small part in helping deliver lifesaving drugs to those that need it most, that would be an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling career.”
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