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Robot start-ups, a bump in the road to graduation, dating app dissertations, and a ceremony worth the wait – QMUL rounds up 2016’s graduation stories

This summer nearly 2,900 QMUL students came together to attend our graduation ceremonies, the culmination of years of hard work and achievement.

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Alice Billington with her son Isaac
Alice Billington with her son Isaac

Graduation is a chance to celebrate success across the university, but for some students, their time here has presented challenges and opportunities they may not have expected. We asked this year’s cohort to send us their personal reflections on their time here, and the responses highlight the range of experiences at QMUL as another year comes to an end.

Congratulations to all our graduates, here are just some of your stories.

Ahmed Al-Baiyaa tells us about his experience as an international student from Iraq studying dentistry and how he found a ‘new home’ at QMUL which allowed him to “overcome all the difficulties I had experienced in Iraq at a time of war and embrace the future with more positivity and motivation.” He says: “I learned that no matter what the circumstances are, if you have a dream and are truly passionate about it, you can make it happen. I had the best time at the graduation ceremony; what a rewarding feeling to finally see your hard work paying off.”

Ahmed obtained a Distinction in all his exams with honours and was awarded multiple prizes including the Principal's prize and Dean's prize for outstanding achievement. He was also awarded the title of 'Best Overall Student' for his performance in Year Five and was nominated to be the QMUL representative at the University of London Gold Medal competition for Dentistry.

Alice Billington tells us “I have had to overcome a pretty major hurdle to complete my degree. I fell pregnant in the winter of my second year and completed my exams at eight months pregnant. I then gave birth to my son Isaac in late July and returned to university when he was eight weeks old. It’s been a rough year but we are approaching his first birthday and I have my degree and my masters place.”

She adds: “Falling pregnant really changed the course of my degree and led me to focus far more on the position of women and children throughout history. In fact my dissertation, entitled ‘Sociology, subjugation and suicide: An intellectual biography of Hannah Gavron’ was an in depth study of a young mother, who had her children during her bachelors and PhD, and who wrote her PhD on the feelings of isolation and depression that faced young mothers in the 1950s.”

Alice graduated with a 2.1 in History, and will study a masters in modern and contemporary history.

Ross Ward graduated with First-class honours in Medical Engineering with Industrial Experience, and won a Principles Prize and the IMechE project Certificate for his final year project. “I was aiming to develop a novel, low-cost home based robotic rehabilitation device to aid functional recovery after stroke… Having seen first-hand the terrible disability that follows a stroke, I wanted to find a way to give every stroke sufferer the best chance to recover,” he says. Now with a successful working prototype he has set up Motus Innovations Ltd to continue developing this technology and won a £10,000 Build It award from QMUL and Santander. “My rapid progress has begun to attract big investors, and I can see a lot more progress around the corner.”

Adam Michael Packer graduated with First-class honours in Geography (BA) after having won the A.E. Smailes Award for best dissertation of the year. He says: “[The dissertation] interrogated how young homosexual students use locative media apps to organise new socio-sexual encounters and (re)negotiate how they understand themselves and their identity.”

His work has now been submitted to the Royal Geographical Society's Queer, Sexuality and Space Research Group.

SiYao Wang Is a student from Renmin University of China. After starting at QMUL in 2013 he had to return home because of visa complications. “What a nightmare for me. I had to have a one-year long gap year,” he says. “I felt in despair, lost and disappointed. I never expected the day when I could graduate because it is too far away.”

Eventually he got his new visa in May 2015 and finished with a 2.1 and has been accepted into Loughborough University to study sport management. “Looking back to the whole journey, it’s like a dream that’s filled with ups and downs, turns and twists, but finally I got through, my efforts paid off. I love Queen Mary. Thank you very much.”

Marion Myers graduated this summer after waiting nearly 40 years for the opportunity. She says: “I was an overseas student so at the end of the academic year [1977] I had gone back to Mauritius and wasn't here for the graduation ceremony.” She met her husband during her time at QMC and last year, at an alumni reunion in Melbourne, it was suggested they contact the university next time they visited England. “By luck the graduation ceremony was during our planned holiday in London this year, so it was a surprise to me when he [Marion’s husband] told me that this was being organised.”

Marion, who graduated with First-class honours in Mathematics added: “Mathematics education has been a very important part of my life, I have been a Mathematics teacher and head of Maths for quite a few years with great success so it is nice to finally attend the ceremony. It was a very emotional experience and I'm so pleased I did it."

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