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Tackling Theses Together

Posted by Merilyn Layne on August 3, 2020 in News

Kayleigh Rayner Brown (BEng’15, MASc’20) and Addison Rayner (PhD’20) met in their university laboratory, when Addison was beginning his master’s degree and Kayleigh her bachelor’s. They discovered they had a lot in common, including a co-op work term at the same company, and their relationship grew from there. After finishing their degrees, their relationship continued long distance, with Kayleigh in Ontario at Canadian Nuclear Laboratories and Addison in Montreal to complete a Mitacs Accelerate internship with Pratt & Whitney Canada.

When Kayleigh decided to pursue a master’s degree and Addison his PhD, the pair moved back to Halifax together, in the fall, and soon got engaged. They were married the following November.

Navigating Graduate Degrees and a new marriage

As 2020 grads, the pair now look back fondly on their time at Dalhousie as a married couple completing Engineering degrees . From coffee dates to late nights and early mornings, the two were always busy with engineering-related projects. When things got stressful or challenging, they were able to lean on each other, and being in the same area of study, they always understood what the other was going through.

Kayleigh says having similar personalities and commitment to their work played in their favour— “We are also both passionate about our research, so it was a bit of a luxury to be able to bounce ideas off of each other. For example, if one of us had a bit of a ‘eureka moment’ in our work, the other one was always there to share it, which led to lots of special moments together. In this respect we shared the journey of learning together during our degrees, which made things a lot more rewarding and fun.”

It wasn’t always easy to balance grad school and their relationship. It took practice and good communication to not take work home with them and to be present in moments together. Ultimately, they supported each other through encouragement and by “acknowledging that a graduate degree is a journey and it will be what you make it,” Kayleigh says.

Adapting to the pandemic

Going to school together every day was a great joy for Addison and Kayleigh. While they usually started their day together, their varied schedules did give them time apart which helped create a work-home separation. Of course, this all changed with the pandemic. COVID-19 brought their engineering work home. Both Addison and Kayleigh successfully defended their theses in the same week during the COVID-19 pandemic. While their defenses were not as they had originally envisioned, they found it rewarding and fun to demonstrate their knowledge. Plus, they were glad to see other people’s faces after their first two weeks of isolation.

The pandemic also changed their graduation celebration plans; a celebratory dinner is on hold until restaurants reopen. They held their own celebration in their first home, newly purchased, with their cats Hector and Gertrude.

After graduation, Kayleigh will be working as a research assistant for Dr. Paul Amyotte’s research team. She is also working with Dr. Peter Vanberkel and Dr. Paul Amyotte on COVID-19 research. They were awarded a Nova Scotia COVID-19 Health Research Coalition Grant for their project on applying bowtie analysis for COVID-19 risk reduction. Addison has been hired as a Post Doctoral Fellow to continue his high-temperature materials research with Dr. Stephen Corbin and Pratt & Whitney Canada.