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Graduate Spotlight '22: Elizabeth Bernier

Elizabeth Bernier

Name: Elizabeth Bernier (Eb)

Town: Sanford

Major: Psychology

Elizabeth Bernier — who goes by Eb — has pretty much done it all as an undergrad Psychology major.

She’s a research assistant, both for a USM professor and for the Maine Medical Research Institute’s Center for Psychiatric Research. As part of her Honors thesis, she created her own empirical study. She’s co-authored four papers and was primary author on three advocacy pieces. She interned at Waban, working with adults with developmental disabilities. She’s received an academic achievement award from the Psychology Department — twice.

She’s also a Mitchell Scholar and a TRIO student. At graduation this Saturday, her GPA will be nearly 4.0.

When Eb enrolled in USM four years ago, a career in psychiatric research seemed impossible. It’s possible now. 

“Initially I just wanted to try to obtain a stable future. I wanted some stability in my life. I didn’t think psychiatric research was something I could obtain given my background and my experiences,” she said. “But as I learned more about it, I realized it was something people at USM could help me with and things were obtainable. I just decided to go for it.”

Eb chose USM in part because she’d had a good experience with the University and its faculty through Upward Bound, and in part because it offered a helpful financial aid package. Once a student, she dove into campus life, joining — or helping to run — the Leadership Development Board, Queer Straight Alliance, Psych Club, and USM’s chapter of the community service group Circle K International, among others. 

Eb also dove into her academics, double minoring in both biology and Honors, securing unpaid and paid research assistant positions, co-authoring papers with professors and researchers outside USM. 

After graduation, Eb plans to take a gap year to wrap up some publications, serve as a research assistant at the Maine Medical Center Research Institute, and spend time on advocacy work that is dear to her. She’ll also apply to graduate programs. 

Ultimately, she wants a career in psychiatric research, with a side of advocacy work focused on housing insecurity, neurodiversity, and how mental illness and neurology are intertwined with identity. 

“I will definitely miss a lot of things about USM but I’m very excited!” she said of graduation. “I’m hoping to keep in touch with many of the professors and faculty members here at USM.”