Sept. 15, 2021

Undergrad research in neuroscience and bioethics sparks interest in law

Health law might seem the obvious choice for first-year law student Mary Wilkinson but she's keeping her options open
Mary Wilkinson

When Mary Wilkinson was studying neuroscience at the University of Alberta in her undergrad, pursuing legal education wasn’t top of mind. Her research was focused on developing a diagnostic tool that used brainwaves to assess consciousness in people with brain injuries. When it came to writing the ethics section of her honours thesis, her interest was piqued.  

“I had a section in my thesis about bioethics which focused on defining what is and isn’t consciousness, and the difficulties that come when applying that to real people in a medical context,” explains Wilkinson. “The more I learned about health law during my undergraduate studies, the more I became interested in bridging the knowledge between what we know about the brain and the law and how they interact in a political kind of way.” 

Wilkinson rewarded for academic excellence 

As a result of her academic excellence, the first-year student was awarded the Dean of Law Award of Excellence, which has further confirmed she made the right decision about her chosen path.  

“I think a lot of people, especially women, struggle with imposter syndrome,” says Wilkinson. “I know I did, making a big pivot from neuroscience to law. Receiving this scholarship validated the idea that I’m supposed to be here, even if I don’t have a background in law, or in an area that many people think is more favourable to pursuing legal education.” 

Mary Wilkinson

Mary Wilkinson is a first-year law student.

Health law obvious choice, but keeping options open 

Wilkinson chose to attend UCalgary Law for its reputation in innovation, the close-knit community, and the modern curriculum. She was also keen to stay close to home — she grew up in Ponoka, Alta. — to have the support of her family on her law school journey. And while pursuing a career in health law may seem like an obvious choice, she’s keeping her options open. 

“I’m looking forward to having a bit more academic freedom than I did in my undergrad, and being able to explore different areas of law,” she says. “I’m interested in health law, but maybe tax law will blow my mind. Not having to put myself in a box right away is exciting.”