Summer Graduations - Wednesday 4 July

Summer Graduations - Wednesday 4 July

The University would like to congratulate all of its students on their graduation day.

For our graduands today is a celebration of the culmination years of study and hard work. We are united with them and their family and friends in a shared sense of pride in all of their achievements. Here are a few examples of this year's outstanding student success stories and our honorary graduates.

To watch ceremonies live, download videos of previous ceremonies, and view picture galleries, visit our Graduation website.

Honorary Graduate

Dame Emma Kirkby, the English soprano, is one of the world's most renowned early music specialists.

Originally, Dame Emma had no expectations of becoming a professional singer. As a classics student at Oxford and then a schoolteacher she sang for pleasure in choirs and small groups, always feeling most at home in Renaissance and Baroque repertoire. She joined the Taverner Choir in 1971 and in 1973 began her long association with the Consort of Musicke. Dame Emma took part in the early Decca Florilegium recordings with both the Consort of Musicke and the Academy of Ancient Music, at a time when most college-trained sopranos were not seeking a sound appropriate for early instruments.

To date, she has made well over a hundred recordings of all kinds, from sequences of Hildegarde of Bingen to madrigals of the Italian and English Renaissance, cantatas and oratorios of the Baroque, works of Mozart, Haydn and J. C. Bach. In 1999 Emma Kirkby was voted Artist of the Year by Classic FM Radio listeners. In November 2000 she received the Order of the British Empire, and in June 2007 was further honoured in the Queen's Birthday Honours List for appointment as a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. In 2011 Dame Emma was awarded the Queen's Medal for Music, awarded annually since 2005 to recognise individuals who have had significant influence over the musical life of the United Kingdom.

Fiona Dunbar

For high-flying student Fiona Dunbar the sky will truly be the limit on graduating from the University today. The 21 year-old's feet will barely touch the ground following the ceremony – she is set to jet off to London to pursue a career with one of the UK's leading airlines in a matter of days. Fiona – who is originally from Muchalls near Stonehaven and graduates with an MA (Hons) Geography and Spatial Planning – has secured a place on the British Airways Leaders for Business Graduate Programme. She was selected from around 6000 applicants to become one of only 10 candidates chosen for the coveted scheme. She said: "The opportunity to apply for the graduate programme came via one of the careers alerts I had set up on my emails. The application process entailed four stages of interview and I obtained really valuable support from the Careers Service at the University who helped me prepare for each stage. The aim will be to become a general manager working for British Airways, and I'm so excited to be working for a company that is recognised as one of the great, traditional British organisations. The three year graduate programme will involve a number of placements so I'll get to experience all aspects of behind the scenes at British Airways – from cabin crew to check-in."

For Fiona, departing for the Big Smoke will mark a real change in lifestyle having grown up in a small coastal village. She adds: "Before I left home for University I had lived in the same house in Muchalls my entire life. I've only visited London a couple of times as a tourist so I don't know the city that well. I'm scared but excited at the prospect of embarking on the next chapter of my life there, and know I've been given such a great opportunity to start on my career path."

Fiona's is the first of her family to graduate. Her Mum and Dad will join her at her ceremony today.

Mark Speed

They say water is life, and that phrase has never rung more true than for Mark Speed (28), orginally from Dunfermline. After completing his undergraduate degree in Geography at the University his enthusiasm for H2O led him to obtain a PhD in Environmental Geography in which he graduates today (4th July). His thesis primarily focused on the use of isotopic and geochemical tracers to characterize the hydrological functioning of the River Dee, NE Scotland.

Whilst juggling the demands of an undergrad and postgraduate degree, Mark played water polo. Mark said: "It is the most physically intense sport I've ever played. It's a cross between swimming and handball with all the physicality of wrestling and rugby." Water polo was the first team sport introduced to the Olympics - it's an incredibly demanding sport with players often swimming over 3 km per game and treading water for more than 30 minutes. He plays for Dunfermline in the Scottish National League, Caledonia in British National League and Scotland. He also captained and coached the university's team and was a university sports bursar for 5 years.

When the University's Aberdeen Aquatic Centre is completed, Mark intends to help establish an Aberdeen City water polo team. Currently living in the Pittodrie area of Aberdeen, Mark continues his passion for the environment by working as an environmental analyst in the oil and gas industry.

First Class - Hydrocarbon Exploration

The first class of the MSc in Hydrocarbon Exploration at the University of Aberdeen graduate today. The degree is run by exploHUB, a joint industry/ academia training centre preparing exploration geoscientists for the challenge of discovering the Earth's remaining hydrocarbon resources. Iulia Zaharia, who was sponsored by Sterling Resources throughout the course, said, "exploHUB has been a great experience for me. It is truly unique, because it is a learning experience based on practical work, rather than courses. Different exploration-related projects involving real data were assigned during the program in a similar manner as they would have been done in an oil company. It also provides an opportunity for personal growth, through exposure to different cultures and work-practices."

The short courses were carried out by both university academics and also experienced industry professionals. Students undertake fieldtrips in the North East of Scotland, the Isle of Skye and Wyoming, U.S.A. to gain valuable apply the theoretical knowledge that can be applied to global petroleum provinces. Students undertook a further 3 month individual project in addition to the 9 months from the Postgraduate diploma to make the course into a Masters.

David Sweeney BSc - Honorary Graduate

David Sweeney is Director for Research, Innovation and Skills for the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

He graduated from the University of Aberdeen with a First Class Honours degree in Statistics in 1976. Mr Sweeney subsequently joined the Glasshouse Crops Research Institute as a statistician. As a statistician, he worked on the development of mathematical models of plant growth before moving into senior management in the IT area. In 1996 David Sweeney became Director of Information Services at Royal Holloway, University of London, and served in a national role as Chair of the Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association. He was appointed Vice-Principal in 2004. As Vice-Principal, he led the Brand Review exercise at Royal Holloway, and the implementation of the College brand through all communications media. He also had a lead role in co-ordinating the College's preparations for the Research Assessment Exercise and advised on developing Royal Holloway's research-led commercial and consultancy activities. He was a member of the Universities UK Research Assessment and Funding Options Group, and also chaired the Board of West Focus.

David Sweeney was appointed Director (Research, Innovation and Skills) of HEFCE in 2008. In this role he is responsible for developing policy on Research (including the Research Excellence Framework), Business and Community, and Employer Engagement. David Sweeney, a Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society, is a former Chair of the Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association.

Christina Porter

When Christina Porter graduates today with an Honours degree in Chemistry a very special small person will be watching from the wings – her 20-month-old daughter Faith.

The 22 year-old from Peterhead took a year out of her studies following her third year to focus on being a full-time mum. She returned to complete her final year where she juggled parenthood with her degree – often completing 12 hour days at the University. She said: "When I returned to University the challenge was finding the time to both be a good mum to Faith, whilst doing the very best I could in my studies. My mum and dad were a great support to me. My mum looked after Faith during the week so I could attend the University and my dad helped with whatever he could.

"My weekdays would involve getting the bus from Peterhead at 7am and leaving the University to return home at 8pm so that I could spend as much time as possible at the weekend solely focused on my daughter. When I was on campus, if I wasn't in a lecture or tutorial I would have my head in my books in the library. Many evenings and weekends I would spend at home with Faith, studying whilst she was in my arms or playing."

Christina is the third in her family to graduate from the University – she follows in the footsteps of her sisters Charlene (28) who graduated with a PhD in Medicine & Therapeutics (Immunohaematology) and Victoria Forbes Porter Ritchie (31) who graduated with a MSc in Medicine and Therapeutics (Gasteroenterology) last November. Christina now hopes to enter into a career in drugs discovery. During her time at University she learnt clarinet and joined the Aberdeen Karate Club which she says helped teach her the focus and discipline she needed to get through her studies.

Christina's daughter, parents and sisters will all attend her ceremony today.

Four Graduating Friends Journey Across the World for Charity

Walking down the graduation aisle will be the first step in a 10,000 mile journey across the world for a group of engineering graduates. Putting their mechanical skills to the test, Lewis Houston (24) and Craig Morrison (22), both of Aberdeen, Fraser Galbraith (22) of Edinburgh and Jonathan Findlay (25) of Fraserburgh, will soon depart for the where they will drive across half the world for the charity CLAN. Teaming up as the 'Friengineers', they will journey across deserts and mountains in their tiny car nicknamed, 'Suzy the Suzuki'. Choosing an unusually arduous route, they will drive across Europe to Azerbaijan, take a ferry across the Caspian sea, then travel the old silk road through Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Russia to cross the finish line in Ulaan Batar.

Lewis said: "We wanted to visit as many different countries, cultures and landscapes as we could. It is more than 10,000 miles without support and it's not going to easy. We'll be journeying across mountain ranges and deserts. We will drive across one of the highest roads without tarmac in the world and cross a 1000 mile stretch of uninhabited desert.

"One of the most difficult part of planning to trip is unravelling all the red tape. Every country has its unique laws and figuring out when borders are open has been challenging. We've planned a lot, but some things we'll just have to figure out when we're there." Fraser added: "I'm a bit nervous, I know folks have died in the past. We're very excited for the journey and to raise so much money for CLAN. It's quite a meaningful thing to Craig and to us. CLAN helped Craig's grandfather when he was diagnosed with cancer."

Lewis continued: "The main thing is that we're helping CLAN in Aberdeen and the Mongolian children's charity. We've raised nearly £10,000 pounds for CLAN and the car will be given to a family in need in Mongolia." After their epic trek across the Eastern hemisphere, they will be begin jobs in Aberdeen, London and the Middle East in the oil and gas industry. "We have a bit of a time crunch, Jon has to be back in exactly six weeks to start his new job. It might be the last time all four of us can be together to make this kind of journey and we're going to make the most of it."

Lewis Houston is graduating Civil and Structural Engineering and Fraser Galbraith is being awarded a degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering. Jonathan and Craig are graduating with degrees in Mechanical Engineering.

You can follow their journey at or on Facebook.

James Mcleman

22 year-old James Mcleman will literally be looking to the stars to see his future. The Aberdonian, who graduates with an honours degree in Physics from the University, is set to pursue a career in astrophysics.

An insatiable thirst for knowledge from a young age led him down his chosen academic path. He said: "I have always been the kind of person who wants to understand the details of how things work and why. Studying Physics at secondary school level convinced me that I wanted to continue academic studies in the subject."

James - who attended Clarkhill Primary in Peterhead - will now embark on a PhD at the University which is being funded through a prestigious Scottish Universities Physics Alliance Prize Studentship. He continues: "My PhD will be looking at developing tools to measure the nature of gravity more precisely which would allow us to better understand why certain astrophysical processes - such as star formations - occur. I'm hoping to build links with the European Space Agency as part of my research. In ten years time it would be amazing to say that I'd played a part in helping us better understand some of the great mysteries of the universe."

James is the third in his family to graduate from the University following in the footsteps of his father and sister who both graduated with degree in Geology from the institution. James founded the University's Physics Society in the first year of his studies. His parents will watch him graduate today.