Summer Graduations - Tuesday 3 July

Summer Graduations - Tuesday 3 July

The second day of Summer Graduations at the University of Aberdeen sees an 82 year-old collect a doctorate from the institution - 60 years after he first graduated - and the first cohort of dentists receive their degrees.

Honorary degrees will also be awarded to businessman and philanthropist Ian Suttie, Chairman and and Chief Executive of First Oil Plc, and The Honourable Lady Dorrian, Judge, Senator of the College of Justice.

The University would like to extend its congratulations to all graduating scholars.

Examples of just some of the outstanding achievements of today's students can be seen below, and degree ceremonies can be viewed as they happen on our live stream.

John Forsyth

John Forsyth epitomises the mantra "you're never too old to learn" and will graduate from the University of Aberdeen for a second time today - 60 years after he collected his first degree from the institution.

The 82 year-old, from South Belfast, graduated in Zoology in 1952 and after undertaking a postgraduate course at Imperial College London, joined the Colonial Service, working for five years as an agricultural entomologist in Ghana.

He joined the Royal Horticultural Society in 1963 and then joined Queen's University, Belfast, as a lecturer in Natural history in 1966, where he stayed until he retired in 1995.

Throughout this time John harboured ambitions of gaining a doctorate – to 'catch up' with wife Pamela, who gained her PhD 58 years ago.

He said: "When I retired in 1995 I didn't want to fall into a rut. I'd always hoped to be able to call myself a 'doctor' but I thought I'd probably left it too late.

"I had been doing fieldwork researching bats in Northern Ireland when I got talking to Professor John Speakman from the University of Aberdeen and he encouraged me to take the plunge and finally go for the PhD.

"That was 1997 so it's been quite a long journey to get here today. My studies have been interrupted by a degenerative eye condition which makes it difficult to study for long periods of time, and working with animals – which don't always do what you want them to at the times you want them to do it!"

John studied colonies of Leisler's bats in County Antrim's Lagan Valley and in Country Tyrone. His research has changed how we estimate population numbers in roosts.

He said: "I studied around 20 roosts and at one roost in County Tyrone fitted tiny devices known as passive integrated transponders (PITs) to 120 bats.

"They need to go in under the skin and when you first take a large needle to a very small bat it is quite scary – though they are not harmed in any way.

"I fitted video cameras outside the roost and the PITS logged the movements of the tagged bats. The usual way to estimate bat numbers is to do an exit count where you go to a roost in an evening and count how many bats leave.

"But I found that for every transponder bat there was also an unmarked bat – meaning there are twice as many in each roost than previously thought."

John will be watched by Pamela and daughters Patricia and Elspeth when his long wait for a doctorate comes to an end and he is awarded a PhD at Elphinstone Hall, King's College, Aberdeen.

Katherine Duncan

A passion for debating has inspired a legal career for Katherine Duncan but there is no argument over the 21 year-old's success as she graduates today with a First-class Honours degree.

For the former Robert Gordon's College pupil, collecting an MA in history marks the first step towards her ultimate ambition to become a barrister.

Katherine, who lives in Spring Gardens, Aberdeen, was inspired to enter the legal profession through her involvement in debating at the University.

She has juggled her studies around her role first as vice-president and then president of the Aberdeen Debater, as well as two part-time jobs.

Katherine has done much to promote debating, where two sides debate a policy or idea in a structured way from opposite perspectives, in the city. She established an annual competition for Scottish schoolchildren in 2008 which this year attracted entries from 40 schools, with pupils travelling from as far afield as Shetland and Glasgow to compete.

Through her involvement in debating, Katherine has developed a passion for legal argument and will begin a Graduate Diploma in Law at the College of York in September.

She will then undertake the Bar Professional and Training Course in London and has secured a prestigious scholarship from Inner Temple, which will sponsor her studies.

Katherine said: "My history degree has given me skills in research, presenting an argument and analysing evidence which will help me when I begin the Graduate Diploma.

"It is a very intensive course designed to give you the legal knowledge requires to begin a career as a barrister in just one year.

"I was delighted to secure a scholarship as it will allow me to continue with other activities such as debating and mooting which will help me to refine and develop my verbal argument, and to travel to London for mini-pupillages which will help my career in the future.

"It was an intimidating process to go through as I was interviewed by a panel of four QCs!"

Katherine fitted her history degree around a much sought-after paid internship at the University, working with the communications team to prepare stories for the media, and a Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award.

She also had to complete her dissertation early as she was accepted onto a programme organised by the history department in which students spend three weeks working at the Washington Naval History and Heritage Command centre during the Easter holidays.

Katherine added: "Spending time in Washington was a wonderful opportunity and I put my history skills to good use writing articles for a national campaign on the War of 1812.

"The placement and my internship with the communications team have really helped me to improve my written communication, which requires different skills to those for debating. I hope this will stand me in good stead for a future career in law."

William Hunter

Marine biologist William Hunter has plummeted to the depths to conduct his research but today he will be on a high as four years of hard work is recognised as he collects his PhD in Ecology

William, who lives in Turriff, Aberdeenshire, has travelled to the bottom of some of the world's most inhospitable oceans to study the tiny creatures which survive in these extreme environments.

The 28 year-old spent time in India, where he worked on board a Japanese research ship and journeyed to the floor of the Arabian Sea, where oxygen levels are just one per cent of normal levels found in oceans, in a tiny submarine.

There he studied low-oxygen tolerant animals such as specially adapted shrimps, brittle stars and polychaete worms but during his studies Will has worked with marine life much closer to home, as he supported his studies by working as a diver at MacDuff Aquarium.

Completion of his PhD was perfectly timed as he submitted his thesis just 18 days before wife Charlotte gave birth to the couple's first son Ruairidh.

"Studying for a PhD can feel like a long journey so finally completing it was an absolutely wonderful feeling – topped only by the arrival of Ruairidh just over two weeks after I finished.

"It's been a difficult journey but an enjoyable one and I'm now hoping to continue my research work with a post-doctoral fellowship."

William is currently working four or five days a week at the MacDuff Aquarium. He said the experience has helped him to share some of his knowledge with the public.

"It has been great to be able to talk to visitors about marine life and the marine environment," he added.

"It is a good opportunity to raise awareness of how fragile the marine environment is and the important role it plays.

"The Macduff Aquarium is a wonderful place and as far as part-time jobs for deep sea biologists go, I couldn't ask for more. I hand feed the fish in the main tank, which gives you the chance to really get to know them!."

Will's graduation will be watched by Charlotte, who he credits with being 'infinitely patient' in supporting his studies and his baby son Ruairidh.

The first cohort of students from the University of Aberdeen Dental School will graduate today.

The 13 graduates from the programme – which is Scotland's first graduate entry dental degree – will now embark on vocational trainee posts at dental practices throughout Scotland.

The Aberdeen Dental School, which welcomed its first cohort of students in September 2008, is set to produce 20 newly qualified dentists every year, providing a significant increase in the numbers of trained practitioners entering the profession in the North of Scotland.

Incentives are in place to encourage graduates to continue to work within the NHS and it is expected that many of Aberdeen's graduates will choose to remain in the North and North-East of Scotland, thereby improving access to NHS dentistry for thousands of people across the region.

The dental school project was made possible with more than £17.7 million of funding coming from project partners, the Scottish Government and NHS Grampian. The new state of the art building was opened officially in January 2010 and has been providing dental care to patients from throughout the region since summer 2009 with the graduating students amongst the first to make use of these teaching and clinical facilities.

Professor James Newton, Director and Head of the University of Aberdeen Dental School said: "I am delighted to welcome this first cohort of students to the dental profession; who would have believed that when it was announced in the summer of 2007 that not only there would be a new Dental School in Aberdeen but that within such a short period of time we would be enjoying our first graduation. We at the Dental School look forward to watching our successful students develop their careers in dentistry and very much hope that some of them will one day return to pass on their expertise to future generations."

Debbie Thomson

Twenty-five-year old Debbie Thomson will swap city life for island life as she embarks on her career in dentistry.

Debbie will head across the waters in August to undertake her one year vocational training post with the Montfield Dental Clinic in Lerwick, Shetland.

She said: "I really wanted to try something different, so when the opportunity to practice in Shetland came up I jumped at the chance.

"I'd also heard really good things from people within the dental community who had practiced on the island in the past.

"I undertook three placements in Stornoway during my studies, and so got a taste for what life on an island is like.

"I visited Shetland for the first time last month and the people I met could not have been lovelier or friendlier, so I'm really looking forward to embarking on my year living there."

Debbie – who is originally from Oldmeldrum and attended Inverurie Academy – is the first of her family to graduate.

Her graduation today marks the end of 8 years as a student. She entered the dental degree programme having already obtained a degree in Biomedical Sciences from the University.

She continued: "During my final year of Biomedical Sciences the idea of moving into dentistry started to appeal and when the University of Aberdeen introduced the dental degree programme, it felt extremely opportunistic.

"The degree has been challenging – not least being faced with your first patient at the end of first year! But very quickly it became second nature and I'm really looking forward to beginning my career in this field that will allow me to work with lots of different types of people in a hands-on job which I'm really passionate about."

Alison Ingram

A long and international journey to realise dental dream concludes for Alison Ingram as she graduates today as a Bachelor of Dental Surgery.

Alison, from Dufftown, originally trained as a psychiatric nurse in Glasgow and later commenced a microbiology degree in New Zealand.

It was during that time that she first met dental students which lead to her deciding a career as a dentist was for her.

This then brought her all the way back to Aberdeen where she was accepted into the first class of students to study in the new Dental School.

Alison said "I really loved my time studying dentistry and found being part of a new course really interesting."

After graduation she will spend a year working in Elgin as a Vocational Trainee for 12 months where she will consolidate the skills learnt at University.

Ultimately she hopes to stay in Elgin and practice there.

She said "Elgin is an area in need of dentists and it will be good to be near home."

Alison will spend the day celebrating with friends and family at a reception at the Suttie Centre.

Shaunna Beedie

Shaunna Beedie (21) from Inverallochy, graduates today, Tuesday July 3, with a First Class BSc in Biomedical Sciences before she embarks on a very competitive PhD from the Wellcome Trust.

The 4 year post-doctoral will be split between the University of Aberdeen and the National Cancer Institute in Maryland, USA.

Only five Wellcome Trust/NIH studentships are funded each year.

For this Shaunna had to submit a lengthy application and face a gruelling ten panel interview in London, which she admits sometimes had moments of "lost in translation" due to her thick Scottish accent.

She will spend two years in Aberdeen screening forms of the drug Thalidomide that are clinically useful but with no side effects, before spending a further two years in America testing the drug.

Shaunna said "I was really interested in doing further research after my degree but I didn't know where I wanted to do it. This PhD will give me the opportunity to study here and abroad, which for me was perfect."

Shaunna hopes to get into teaching after her research - an interest that was sparked by her time on different teaching schemes at the University.

She spent 3 weeks in Estonia teaching English to young children as part of the College of Life Sciences and Medicine's Estonia trip, and she also spent 3 months in Portlethen Academy as part of a BP Tutoring scheme teaching Biology to pupils.

Shaunna would love to come back to the University and to continue her research and pursue a career in teaching. She is passionate about public engagement with science, and this is something she hopes to continue throughout her very promising career.

She will spend the day celebrating with her family.

Emma Woodham

Emma Woodham, from Muir Of Ord, near Dingwall, graduates today with a First Class degree before she embarks on PhD in cancer research.

Emma (22) graduates with a BSc in Biochemistry and the Leonard Simkin prize for Biochemistry.

She will undertake a four year PhD in the Beaston Institute for Cancer Research, funded by Cancer Research UK.

"I will be investigating how and why cancer cells move differently to normal cells, leading to the spread of cancer, specifically in the case of skin cancer.

I applied to do a PhD as I would like to pursue a career in research and would eventually like to teach students. The advancement of techniques in recent years are revolutionising the study of cancer so I'm lucky to be entering the field at a very exciting time.

Studying here was particularly good due to the excellent facilities at the Institute of Medical Sciences in Foresterhill where I completed my honours project."

Students spend an intensive 10 weeks in a laboratory which is an opportunity that not all universities offer.

"During my time here I have also made many lifelong friends and my time here will never be forgotten."

Emma will spend the day celebrating with her parents Mary and Colin Woodham, brother Gordon, and friends.

George Breen

George Breen, from Aboyne, graduates today with a First Class in Sports and Exercise Science.

George (39) has had a lifelong passion for sport and sought to combine this with the academic aspects of his previous career in engineering, so he decided to go to University to study Sport and Exercise Science.

He said: "My intentions were go into teaching physical education, however due to the fascinating topics covered in my degree programme I quickly developed a passion for scientific research."

This interest was further developed when he won a highly competitive 2011 Oliver Bird Summer Studentship within the Musculoskeletal Research Group where he worked primarily in the tissue culture lab. In addition George was awarded in 2010 the Saltire Energy Specialist Undergraduate Award in Sport and Exercise Science for his academic achievements.

George, who previously played football at a semi-professional level says his main sporting interest now lies in road cycling.

George hopes to continue his new found love of academia into a career in biomedical research where his main interests are in musculoskeletal biology and how exercise can help increase the health span of the increasingly ageing population.

Keith Robertson

Local barber shop owner, Keith Robertson, 42, from Dyce, graduates today with an MA in History.

Keith of "Hair @Keith's" has balanced his studies with his barbershop on the Spital which sometimes resulted in some close shaves with deadlines.

Keith always chose classes near lunchtime so he could run back up the road and open the shop up after lectures.

His clients included Aberdeen students as well as some of his lectures.

When asked how he felt about the pressure of cutting the hair of those who were marking his essays he said "When someone is in the shop you don't want to talk shop".

Keith left Linksfield Academy in 1986 and did apprenticeships in various salons including Snipz and Wilks before moving to Turnbull's barber, also on the Spital, in 1994.

In 2007 when he learnt the news that Turnbull's would close down he decided to enrol at the University of Aberdeen where he went straight into second year due to his previous qualification from the Open University.

After his second year he continued his studies part-time as he opened up his now popular barbershop.

Keith said "After graduation I am looking forward to catching up on some reading. I have a massive pile of books recommended to me by my academic clients.

"When you are studying you only really have time to read snippets of books – I'm looking forward to rectifying that."

Keith, who has two sons Andrew (9) and Stewart (4), will be supported on the day by his wife, Gail, and his mother and father.

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