Posted on 10 July 2012
Charles Bradbury is proof that age is no barrier to learning, graduating with a PhD in Chemistry at the age of 69. For him, retirement in 2008 provided an opportunity to fulfil a life-long ambition to become better qualified and return to bench chemistry.
Charles graduated from the University of Manchester in 1964, but at that time academic research was not an option due to financial constraints.
Charles, from Cupar in Fife, says: “A major part of my industrial chemistry career was spent running my own company in St Andrews and Cupar, with the primary focus on custom manufacture of fine organic chemicals for the pharmaceutical industry. Retirement at the age of 65 presented me with an opportunity to fulfil a life-long dream to study for a PhD.
“I was very fortunate to be offered a research place with Professor John Goodby’s Liquid Crystal Group in York. Age discrimination is alive and kicking in York – I am ever so grateful for the positive discrimination I have experienced from both staff and fellow students in my group and Chemistry department!”
Charles’ research focussed on the synthesis of novel tricyclic organic compounds. He hopes derivatives of these will find application in liquid crystal materials, possibly patentable, for use in TV and other displays.
He says: “The fascinating thing about work in materials science, and in particular with liquid crystals, is the multidisciplinary nature of the research. My studies have included subsidiary work in the fields of Biology, Physics and Engineering.”
His success is all the more remarkable since illness and heart surgery brought his research to a temporary halt half-way through the project.
“Thanks to the kind and excellent efforts of the staff at York and Castle Hill Hospitals, and the support of John Goodby and his team, I was able to resume my studies in 2010, completing my thesis in April 2012,” says Charles.
For Charles, studying in York proved to be a very enjoyable experience, not least for extra-curricular activities. He organised two staff-student expeditions by boat on the River Ouse and on foot along the Planet Walk to Naburn, as well as joining an alternative energy venture.
Charles will graduate with a PhD in Chemistry on 12 July at 3.30pm.
Ben Charig’s achievements at York do not end with a First Class degree in Mathematics and Physics with a year in Europe. He also successfully completed a project to cycle the length of the British Isles with his father, Ray.
Ben, 21, from Lincoln explains: “We started our Land's End to John O'Groats cycling project in April 2007 as a way of exploring more of the country. Due to our commitments, we decided it would be best to break up the trip into a series of five or six-day-long holidays.
“Wherever possible we cycled off-road on the Sustrans National Cycle Network routes and as a consequence, our final distance - 1432 miles - was significantly longer than the traditional 874 miles for Land's End to John O'Groats.
“We finished the ride last summer after five stages, altogether 25 days of cycling, and having sampled a wide range of different guesthouses and hotels along the way. Astoundingly, I rode the final 170 miles from near Inverness to John O'Groats in shorts and a T-shirt! All the while my mum performed the invaluable service of driving our support vehicle.”
Ben’s degree involved a year studying in Erlangen in Germany.
He says: “My year abroad was difficult in many respects. The Germans' diligent approach to studying is formidable and was on occasion a little intimidating, but the year was immensely rewarding all the same. I took part in a schools outreach programme in Nuremberg and helped organise an 'English School Day' for a class of 10 to 12-year-old schoolchildren. Their delight at doing something different from the normal school routine was really pleasing to see and something I shall not forget in a hurry.”
Some of his best memories of York are singing in the Minster with the University Choir and learning to ballroom dance with York Dancesport Society. He says he will also never forget trotting around campus with Kevin the Cow, the Nightline mascot, raising funds for Nightline in York and promoting the service to students.
His accomplishments at York also include first prize in essay writing competitions for students studying abroad run by both the British Council and the University of York.
He will shortly begin an MSc in Management of Intellectual Property Law at Queen Mary, University of London. After this he hopes to find a place as a trainee patent attorney.
Ben will graduate with a BSc in Mathematics and Physics with a year in Europe on 11 July at 3.30pm.
Gaining a First Class Honours Degree in English and Related Literature is a major achievement by any standards. But for James Harle it is all the more remarkable as he has faced significant personal challenges during his time at York.
James, 21, from Lustleigh, Devon, explains: “My dad died of pancreatic cancer during my second Easter holiday at Uni. It was an absolutely harrowing disease which saw him reduced to a shadow of his former self. He was diagnosed during my summer holiday the year before, so it was less than a year between diagnosis and death.
“Although I spent a lot of time on the phone to my family, usually giving support, I didn’t let it affect my studies. I can't cure cancer, but I can write good essays - so that's exactly what I focussed on. It’s very challenging to achieve a First, but worth all the hard work.”
James says he is taking away happy memories from his time at York, many of these connected to being a pioneer at the University’s Goodricke College, part of the new Heslington East campus extension.
He plans to use his experience with the University’s student publications Nouse and York Vision to move into writing professionally and is hoping for success in The Guardian Student Media Awards, with entries in six categories.
James will be presented with a BA First Class Degree in English and Related Literature on Wednesday, 11 July at 9.30am.
York-born Vikki Harrison is graduating with a First Class degree in Social Work.
For the 30-year-old former Huntington School and York College student, this was her second experience of undergraduate study and has not been without its problems.
Vikki says: “In my second year I became depressed and suffered recurring illnesses. My department was extremely supportive and kept me going, despite me wanting to leave at times. I was eventually diagnosed with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis and began taking tablets, which I will be on for the rest of my life.
“I was exhausted and struggled with concentration levels. I set out into the third year and final placement where I encountered a foot infection, then a kidney infection. Again, my department was great, as was the placement I was attending. I managed to write my best two pieces of work - an essay on children's rights and a dissertation on inclusive education for young people with the label of autism.”
Vikki’s first undergraduate study was at 18 when she began studying Cultural Studies in London, but dropped out after two years. After a few months in the United States, she moved back to York and worked as a Payroll Administrator for GNER, as well as doing voluntary work and counselling courses at York College.
Vikki says: “My first experience at university was not great. After that I worked to gain experience but always considered coming back to uni. I applied in 2005 but wasn’t given an interview. I didn't give up and applied again in 2009 and gained a place.
“To be able to say I have a First Class degree is something I only ever dreamed about. With excellent support and encouragement, it was possible.”
Vikki is now busy job-hunting and attending interviews.
Vikki says: “I am looking for a Social Work role or something connected. My interest is around education and I have a new found interest in children's rights from work I undertook on my degree. The degree prepared me to be busy and to be able to undertake lots of things at once. It has also made me more confident working with people. “
Vikki will graduate with a BA in Social Work on 11 July at 12pm.
Pete Jankowskyj is leaving university with ambitions of becoming a primary school teacher – a complete change of direction after 25 years working for Royal Mail.
Graduating with an honours degree in History, Pete has successfully combined his studies with a part-time job at York Mail Centre, Leeman Road. Before transferring to York, he worked for Royal Mail full-time in Oldham, first as a delivery postman, then for 10 years on the nightshift at Oldham Mail Centre.
Pete, 49, explains: “I never really did that well at school and back in 2004 while I was working on the nightshift I decided to go back to education. I’d always had an interest in History, but the impetus to go back to studying was to pursue a career in teaching.”
For Pete, 2004 marked the beginning of a journey which took him to Hopwood Hall College in Rochdale to study for GCSEs in Maths and English, followed by an Access Level 3 course, for which he gained top grades in 2008.
After receiving a number of offers from universities, he chose the University of York in 2009.
Pete says: “I chose York not just because of the excellent History department, but also because of the fantastic reviews and feedback York had got from students who had graduated there. The student to tutor relationship was also excellent and was one of the best in The Times Good University Guide.
“Moving to York gave me a fresh start all round and I have not been disappointed. It’s opened up a whole new world to me. I’ve always had an interest in History but studying it at this kind of academic level has been incredible.”
But it has not been all plain sailing and Pete admits he found the first year of his degree very hard.
“I very nearly finished in the first year,” says Pete. “There were family problems and I found it difficult to help family, work and study. It was only the amazing support from the University that got me through it.”
The highlight of his time at the University was doing a dissertation on the Anglo-Saxon sites of Yeavering and Bamburgh in Northumberland.
“Most people have never heard of Yeavering, but in Anglo-Saxon times it was the site of one of the largest royal palaces in the kingdom. The connection with Yeavering and Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People fuelled my interest for further reading on the subject and later became a crucial component of my dissertation research. I also met some wonderful people in the course of doing my research.”
Pete is enrolling at Selby College to do a GCSE in Science which he will need to become a primary school teacher. He is also volunteering at schools to gain work experience before applying to do a teaching qualification.
Pete will receive a BA in History on Thursday, 12 July at 9.30am.
Despite having three operations during her four years at York, Fiona Preston is graduating with a 2:1 degree in Philosophy and is going on to study for a postgraduate qualification in education.
Fiona, 22, from Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, was diagnosed with the bone disorder Ollier’s disease when she was seven months old. Since then she has had 19 operations.
Fiona explains: “Ollier's is a very rare bone disorder which affects approximately three people in a million. It tends to affect one side of the body more than the other. The long bones in the arms and legs grow unevenly and not straight, so have to be lengthened and straightened.
“It primarily affects my hands and legs. Cartilage swellings severely restrict movement in my hands and legs and have to be removed as they grow.
“The three operations I have had while studying for my degree have meant I have had to be very determined and patient. However, I have felt very well supported by the University. The Philosophy department has been particularly outstanding at supporting me with my condition.
“When I realised I had to take an extra year to complete my degree because of not being able to keep up with the work load, my department encouraged me and reassured me that I could take assessments at different times which best reflected my ability.”
Fiona says she is leaving York with some fantastic friends and memories.
“My most exciting memory is becoming a Christian in my second year and getting baptised,” says Fiona. “I have also had the opportunity to play in concerts and tour with the University concert band with my French horn which was specially adapted for my fingers.”
And it is her experience of teaching music on the children's ward at York Hospital that has inspired a desire to teach. She will begin primary school teacher training at Homerton College, Cambridge in September. She also plans to become involved with medical ethics, something she is passionate about.
Fiona will receive a BA in Philosophy on 12 July at 12pm.
Charlie Provost is graduating with a First Class degree with distinction in Education.
The 21-year-old from Aldridge, West Midlands, has focussed largely on children’s literacy and literature throughout her degree.
Charlie says: “I'm really interested in how people, particularly children, interact and communicate. I've explored this from a number of perspectives, ranging from Shakespeare through modern children's fiction to Twitter!”
While opening a specialist children’s bookshop is Charlie’s ultimate dream, in the short term she is working with Faithworks, a Midlands charity, doing youth and community work and helping to set up a before and after school club. After that, she is hoping to do a PGCE in primary education.
Charlie was one of the first students on the new BA in Language and Literature in Education (BALLE) course.
“I've loved being in York, it's a fantastic city,” says Charlie. “It's really felt like home for the past three years. As well as working towards my degree, I have worked in a cafe on Goodramgate and been a member of a church.”
Charlie will graduate with a BA in Language and Literature in Education on 12 July at 3.30pm.
Danielle Williams leaves York not just with a Masters degree in Chemistry, but as the female UK National Champion in taekwondo.
Throughout her four years at the University, the 21-year-old from Leicester has had to balance her studies with a rigorous schedule of training and sporting commitments.
“It hasn't been easy keeping up my training while studying for my degree,” says Danielle. “Trying to train around lectures and assignments has meant pulling a few all-nighters over the years, but I was determined not to miss a deadline and still get a good degree.”
And her dedication has paid off with a 2:1 honours degree and a clutch of medals, including gold and bronze medals at the 2012 EITF European Taekwon-Do Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Danielle, who has been training in taekwondo since the age of 10, says: “In order to get the best training and to compete in tournaments I've had to do a fair bit of travelling over the past four years. Every weekend I made the journey back home to Leicester to train with my instructor on Friday night and Saturday. On Sunday I'd travel down to Reading to meet with the ITF England coaches and the rest of the national squad for training, before making the return journey back up to York ready for lectures on Monday morning.
“Some weekends there would be a local or national competition which I would attend and every year I'd take a week or two off from my studies to travel out to the European EITF Championships to compete. Somewhere in between I'd have to find the time to complete tutorial work and lab reports and catch up on any missed lectures! I wouldn't have been able to do this without the support of my tutors, who have been very supportive and encouraging and helped me to schedule time off to travel and compete.”
Danielle takes away many fond memories of York and her friends here and is busy applying for jobs.
“York's a really nice city and I'm very glad it’s where I chose to spend the last four years. With finishing my final year project in Green Chemistry and training and competing I haven't really had much time to think about what I want to do. With regards to taekwondo, I’m still training hard and am hoping to be selected for the next European Championships, which will be in April 2013 in Slovenia and then after that, the 2013 World Championships in Bulgaria.”
Danielle will graduate with a MChem in Chemistry on 12 July at 3.30pm.