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Graduation and a unique award for ‘most exceptional’ 2015 honours class at SAMS

In the university world there are – rare and unforgettable – occasions where a group of students, individually and collectively, are simply extraordinarily able, extraordinarily collaborative and extraordinarily challenging.

In 2015, the entire year [a quite unique instance] graduating from SAMS today, 14th September, have been this sort of group from the outset.

Earlier this year, in a conversation with SAMS Dr Anuschka Miller in the Sound of Kerrera, at SAMS’ experimental seaweed farm, it could not have been more obvious how excited she was about the calibre and promise of this group.

Any teacher at any level knows the very special delight – the sheer privilege – of working with minds and people like this – but an entire year group…

A top academic professor has described this honours class of 2015 at the Scottish Association for Marine Science [SAMS] UHI as the ‘most exceptional’ he has ever seen.

Professor Geoffrey Boulton, a former Vice Principal of Edinburgh University, and current SAMS UHI President, praised the 18 fourth year SAMS students as he awarded the coveted student of the year prize to the entire class at the Dunstaffnage campus’ graduation ceremony.

The cohort of SAMS UHI students gained 13 first class honours degrees and all five of those specialising in Arctic Studies received firsts. The announcement earlier today was clearly no coincidence – that Dr Finlo Cottier of SAMS, who started the Arctic Studies degree, had been honoured by Norway’s Arctic University at Tromso with the award of an adjunct professorship.

Professor Boulton, who last year received the prestigious Founder’s Gold Medal from the Royal Geographical Society, said: ‘I have been teaching university students for more than 50 years and you are the most exceptional class I have known.

‘You have all developed high technical level skills and you have developed the capacity and confidence to grapple with complexities without being overawed by them. We are proud of you.’

grad58 copyThere was individual success for two of the fourth year students [left]: Catherine Tate was presented with the SAMS Council Award for Academic Excellence and Kevin Purves was given the SAMS UHI Award for Overall Achievement.

Students were joined in their celebrations by family members who had travelled from across the UK and Europe.

Dr Pete Taylor, who currently works with SAMS Research Services Ltd at Dunstaffnage, was named UHI Postgraduate student of the year, and also won SAMS’ Johanna Fehling Memorial Prize for the best published paper by a PhD student.

Dr Taylor [below] said: ‘I was delighted and flattered to be nominated for the UHI Postgraduate Student of the year award but to win the award was an honour, as I am well aware of how high the standard of postgraduate students is within SAMS and the wider UHI student community. It was also a deeply felt honour to be awarded the Johanna Fehling Memorial Prize in light of what it represents – a memorial to a young woman who gained her PhD at SAMS UHI, but whose life was tragically cut short by illness.’

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UHI Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Clive Mulholland, who gave the Principal’s address at the ceremony last Friday, said: ‘Pete has performed at the highest level throughout his PhD and is a deserving winner of our postgraduate student of the year award. His work has included national and international collaborations and he has great passion and enthusiasm for his science.’

SAMS UHI lecturer Dr Kirsty Crocket was presented with an award from the university after receiving the best student feedback.

Guest speaker Guy Grieve, Director of the Ethical Shellfish Company on Mull, gave an inspirational speech reminding the graduates that they can ‘give a voice for the ocean, which can’t speak for itself’.

Dr Lois Calder, Head of Education at SAMS UHI, said: ‘Congratulations to all of our students and staff on an extremely successful academic year. The performance of this year’s honours students is testament to their enthusiasm and effort and to the quality of teaching at SAMS UHI.’

The 2015 graduation class is going to one to try to keep track of. It will be fascinating to discover what they go on to do.

This group is a fully inspirational phenomenon from a fully inspirational institution. Our congratulations to the graduates and to their dedicated and brilliant teachers at SAMS. For them, working with this group of students must have felt like sticking their fingers in the mains electricity supply.

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