On parade

The University of Bath alumni blog

Celebrating our 50th with alumni overseas

📥  Bath, International

I have been accompanying the Vice-Chancellor on a tour of Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore to celebrate our 50th anniversary year with alumni. And bumping into an international rugby star along the way...

Saturday 2 April - The tour begins

We spend a lot of time celebrating how international a university we are, and I'm often heard citing how great it is that we have 100,000 alumni in more than 150 countries, but as I looked at my schedule before leaving the house this Saturday morning, I did sort of wonder - 15,000 miles in five days!

The Vice-Chancellor and I are going to celebrate the University's 50th anniversary, with alumni events in Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore, accompanied by a tag team of Events colleagues: Sarah in Dubai, and Laura in Hong Kong and Singapore - a big 'thank you' for all their help. Record crowds are expected in each venue.

Here's hoping for no delays, and luggage that stays with us all week - oh, and - channeling a previous correspondent - some decent coffee.

Saturday 2 April - Arrival in Dubai

A warm welcome was bound to await us as we arrived into Dubai at midnight, but I confess I was impressed with this set up in the hotel room - and it was edible too!

A warm welcome.

A warm welcome.

As for the Bath duck, was that genius irony, or does everyone get one? It's almost as though they have got their hands on our 50th memorabilia plans...

Dubai duck.

Dubai duck.

Saturday 2 April - Dubai event

One down, two to go. That went really well. A great spread of ages among the graduates, some locals, some expats, a warmly received speech from the Vice-Chancellor (and the technology worked - unlike during my rehearsal...) and we also launched our new Alumni Network here in UAE.

You can see more pictures of the event on our Flickr page.

Alumni event in Dubai

Our Dubai event

Monday 4 April - Celebrity spot

Sean Fitzpatrick, All Blacks legend, on the same plane. He's going to the Hong Kong Sevens; we're not. We shall be in Singapore by then.

As you might imagine, he was absolutely fascinated to hear how it's the Economics & Politics degree from Bath in 2003 that makes Steve Borthwick such an expert when it comes to cracking opposition line out codes. As a proud Scotsman it was difficult for me to wax lyrical about England's Rugby Union success in the 6 Nations, but a Bath graduate is a Bath graduate, and I'll take the opportunity to celebrate their achievements whenever and wherever (even at 39,000 feet above Chittagong if necessary).

Should have asked him what he thought about Luke Charteris (BSc Sport & Exercise Science 2005) touring New Zealand with the Lions next summer.

Neutral territory, the British & Irish Lions - not for "Fitzy" though!

Sean Fitzpatrick

Sean Fitzpatrick

 Tuesday 5 April - Arrival in Hong Kong

Got to the hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui a little before 11pm, a decent flight from Dubai. I can now understand why people have been telling me it's a good idea to break the long trip to the Far East with a stopover in the middle.

A great meeting with Dr Betty Chan (Honorary LLD 2015) among others today, then prepare for this evening's event.

130 alumni have registered for the reception, which could make it our largest ever alumni gathering in Hong Kong.

Lots of HK can make you feel that you're a long way from home, but then, en route from the MTR in Central, you realise in many ways it's just the same as Bristol really.

Harvey Nichols Hong Kong

Harvey Nichols

Except when you see the bamboo scaffolding...

Bamboo scaffolding

Bamboo scaffolding

Tuesday 5 April - Another successful event

Sir CK Chow (Honorary DEng 2001) is a great performer. To observe him working a room is to witness a master at work - definitely hope I can pick up some tips.

Cracking event tonight, fabulous location and venue, and a great crowd.

Another pair of excellent speeches, from the Vice-Chancellor and Sir CK. The biggest "ooh" definitely came for the pictures of student accommodation nowadays - I think we may have recruited quite a few postgrads just on the basis of wanting to return to campus and enjoy the modern comforts!

Student bedroom

Student bedroom

Student kitchen.

Student kitchen

Two events down, one more to go; both great successes. As Sir CK put it, if we have achieved this much in our first 50 years, just imagine what the next 50 could bring!

Off to Singapore at 8.30 in the morning, the penultimate (and shortest) flight.

Thursday 7 April - Arrive in Singapore 

The alumni tell us we need to improve our brand here in Singapore - don't tell the Director of Marketing & Comms. Perhaps we could amend our logo a little to pretend to be this one? I'm sure the United Overseas Bank wouldn't mind.

And I bet Martyn Whalley would love to have a crack at persuading the Bath planners that a neon logo on a 50 storey building would be just the ticket in our 50th Anniversary year!

United Overseas Bank logo

United Overseas Bank logo

Thursday 7 April - Singapore event

Here's the calm before the storm (a phrase you can say a lot in Singapore, although actually we haven't been caught in the rain yet).

The High Commissioner's residence

The High Commissioner's residence

That's the third and last event done - another success. Now there's just the small matter of 300+ follow up emails to send, conversations to pursue regarding placements, mentoring, donations, research partnerships, visits back to Bath, and everything else you try desperately to retain having had hundreds of conversations. Thank goodness for business cards and the visual cue they can give.

Only one fly in the ointment - the High Commissioner's visitors' book revealed that we somehow managed to let a Bristol graduate through the net! I'm all for GW4, but really, that's a bit much...

The visitor's book

The visitor's book

Fly home tonight, land at 5.10 tomorrow morning in Heathrow. I will be out training the U10 boys and girls rugby by 9.30 - looking forward to it. It's always good for the soul when the little terrors reveal quite how unimpressed they are by where you've been in the last week - puts it all into perspective.

A great trip, though, real enthusiasm for the University, for the roles that alumni can play to support us, excellent venues, record turnouts, money raised, and no technology hiccups.

My thanks to Laura Andrews and all the team back at the ranch in DDAR for helping to make it all look so easy - it's not, and the people who matter know how much work goes into it.

I'll shut up now - that's more than enough blogging from me...


Meeting Bath's finalist at the British Council International Alumni Awards

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📥  International

Dr Toby Jenkins, Erdem Aydin and Professor Tony James at the British Council International Alumni Awards 2016

Dr Toby Jenkins, Erdem Aydin and Professor Tony James at the British Council International Alumni Awards 2016

Dr Toby Jenkins and Professor Tony James have just returned from a whirlwind tour of Turkey, where they attended a Medical Biotechnology Workshop at at the TUSSIDE Conference Hall, TÜBİTAK Gebze Campus from 17-18 February 2016.

The workshop is part of the UK-Turkey year of Science and Innovation sponsored by the UK Science and Innovation Network and the British Council. The aim of the workshop was to build networks with the aim of applying for both Newton-Katip Celebi and Horizon 2020 funding.

Tony writes:

During our visit we attended the prestigious British Council International Alumni Awards Ceremony in Istanbul at the British Consulate. We had the pleasure to meet Erdem Aydin, a PoLIS alumnus and reporter on the International News Desk at CNN Turk, who was a finalist for the ‘Professional Achievement’ category.

Erdem was exceptionally positive about his time in Bath and grateful for the excellent support he received during his for his time in Bath. Toby - a keen cyclist - was happy to hear that one thing Erdem particularly missed from Bath was the cycle ride to the University. The traffic in Istanbul currently prevents him from cycling.

When we bumped into him he was busy getting updates about the then-breaking news about the Ankara bombing. He is a true professional reporter, more concerned about the news than worrying about the award ceremony.

While Erdem did not win the category, he is an exceptional alumnus who will continue to spread the good word about Bath as he excels in his journalistic career.


Alumna becomes first female Sri Lankan civilian officer to earn military qualification

📥  International

University of Bath alumna, Jeevanthie Senanayake, is a civil servant in Sri Lanka. She completed her MSc International Public Policy Analysis (MIPPA) in 2012, and has since gone on to be the first female Sri Lankan civilian officer to earn the military qualification Passed Staff College (PSC).

Countries including the UK and Sri Lanka have joint staff colleges to train their military and civil servants. Jeevanthie’s college provided her with essential military training, a theoretical basis for war fighting, an exposure to the policy of war, all of which which helped her to attain this qualification.

Jeevanthie Senanayake

Jeevanthie Senanayake

Jeevanthie said of her achievement: “I feel proud of myself. It is not easy for even a military officer to obtain this qualification. It involves a lot of hard work.

“To be the first female civilian to have earned this qualification is something to be proud of. I also won the prestigious ‘Golden Pen’ award for the best research at the Defence Services Command and Staff College last year. That was the first time a civilian officer had won that award.

“Before I started my masters I was an officer of the Sri Lanka Administrative Service, which is equivalent to the civil service in many other countries. I was attached to the Ministry of Defence in Sri Lanka before I studied for MIPPA, and my duties involved working with the Department of Police. After MIPPA I went back to the Ministry of Defence and was posted in the Development Division. Whilst there I worked with the military educational institutions including the Defence Services Command and Staff College and the Sir John Kotelawala Defence University.

“MIPPA gave me a very good overall understanding of policies in different countries and regions of the world. In addition, it gave me the basic understanding of different approaches to policy analysis as well as the importance of evidence based policies. All of this has helped me to shape up my thinking process.”

Jeevanthie hopes to be part of the defence set up and policy community of Sri Lanka to assist in defence of the country from future threats.

Congratulations to Jeevanthie on this great achievement from all of us at the University of Bath.


Bath graduate translates award-winning Syrian Journalist

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📥  International, MA Interpreting & Translating

Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp completed the MA Interpreting and Translating programme with German and Russian at the University of Bath in 2004. Soon after graduating, Ruth was employed as a linguist and researcher in the UK civil service where she added Arabic to the languages she translates from. She is the co-translator (from Arabic) of The Crossing: My journey to the shattered heart of Syria, an account of the ongoing war in Syria by exiled Syrian writer Samar Yazbek, 2012 winner of the International PEN Pinter International Writer of Courage prize.

The Crossing has been described as ‘one of the first political classics of the 21st century’ by The Observer. Author Samar Yazbek, spoke to the Guardian about her powerful and moving account of her devastated homeland. She tells how she risked her life to cross illegally back into Syria, and how she has been an eyewitness to the unfolding chaos and misery. Read the article here.

Ruth Ahmedzai

Ruth Ahmedzai

Ruth commented, “It was a very difficult book to work on: because of the time-sensitive topic - the worsening Syrian crisis - there was a very tight deadline, which was tough with such a complex, lyrical text. But above all, it was emotionally challenging: it is a book laden with heart-breaking scenes, with shocking brutality but also much poetic beauty.”

“It has been a privilege to contribute to British readers’ understanding of what is going on in Syria, and I am glad that Syrians are finally being given a voice internationally. The book has led to other opportunities to translate Samar’s writing, including a comment on the refugee crisis for the Guardian.”

Ruth has run a successful freelance business as a translator and editor since 2009, working mainly with commercial, government and NGO clients, but increasingly in publishing. She is also the translator (from Arabic) of The Bride of Amman, a novel by Fadi Zaghmout and a book she is promoting this autumn. Ruth has a number of possible books in the pipeline for the future, and she is currently translating an academic text (linguistics).

She explains, “One thing I love about translating is that I never know where the next contract might take me. I’d be very happy if the next book is non-fiction, particularly history or politics. I love not knowing what’s round the corner, but it’s reassuring to know that with three languages (Russian, German and Arabic) covering so many countries, and particularly as a translator of German, there is always plenty of well-paid commercial work to fall back on.”


Professional Doctorate in Health graduate talks to Viva Survivors

📥  Uncategorized

Dr Denise Proudfoot completed her Professional Doctorate in Health from the University of Bath in 2014 while working as a nurse lecturer in Dublin City University. She has a background in mental health, primary care and sexual health promotion in nursing. Denise’s thesis is entitled ‘a narrative exploration of the experiences of mothers living with HIV in Ireland.’

She spoke about her research and Professional Doctorate experience with Dr Nathan Ryder from Viva Survivors. You can listen to the full interview and Podcast here.

Dr Denise Proudfoot

Dr Denise Proudfoot

Can you describe your research, and how you came to do a Professional Doctorate?

My research was a study with HIV positive mothers in Ireland. I set out to provide an understanding of their lives.

I originally worked as a Nurse in London specifically with people who are HIV positive and most of my case load were women. At this time there were limited options for drugs to be given to mothers during pregnancy that would have prevented the baby having HIV. In the mid-1990s the development of combination therapy, a combination of antiretroviral drugs had a significant effect on the health of people with HIV, and equally had a significant impact on the chances of a pregnant HIV positive woman having a HIV positive baby. So that’s had a huge effect on the lives of HIV positive mothers.

When I decided to do a Professional Doctorate I was trying to think about research, I wanted to do something I was passionate about and interested in. My background is in mental health nursing and general nursing, but I still had a huge interest in HIV.

I really wanted to look at what it’s like for women now, and in the last 15 years, what it’s like to be a mother. Increasingly the chances of your baby being born with HIV is very low as HIV positive woman now take medication in the second trimester of the pregnancy and this reduces the chance of having a HIV positive baby to less than 1%.

There’s been huge advances and developments in the area of HIV in the biomedical discourse. I wanted to examine at the social meaning of the process, and used a feminist mothering research approach to explore what it’s like to be a HIV positive mother, and maybe give voice to these women.

How did you make the transition from working in the area of mental and general health nursing to finding a supervisor and starting your research?   

Since the early 2000s I have been working as a lecturer in nursing. A lot of my colleagues had started PhDs or Doctorates and I knew it was inevitable I would want to do one so I started looking at options. I came across the Professional Doctorate in Health at the University of Bath and started in 2007 as a part-time student, combining this with my lecturing at Dublin City University.

What was it like carrying out the research?

There has been little research in the last 10-12 years around women’s experiences, that’s something that came up in my literature review.

My study was a narrative study. I interviewed 11 mothers who were attending a HIV peer support centre in Dublin about their experiences. The research was enjoyable, the actual data collection which was interviews with mothers and women was really interesting and relatively straightforward.

What was the impact of your research?

One of the key findings I summarise in my thesis is being a mother impacts on the HIV experience. And vice versa, being HIV positive impacts on mothering. A lot of the women when they’re diagnosed their priority is their children, the first thing they want to know is ‘is my child HIV positive’ irrespective of the age of the child. Some woman were pregnant, some had young children, and others had older children. They are very child centred and this impacted on their responses to their HIV result.

Did you feel there were differences between a PhD and your experience on a Professional Doctorate?

Yes there are quite a few differences. The reason I chose a Professional Doctorate was because I like structure and the peer element of the programme was quite strong. In the first couple of years we did a lot of research training looking at both qualitative and quantitate methods which I think is important.

We had assignments which is different to a PhD where you have a narrower focus. I enjoyed the structure, and as I progressed through the programme there were milestones to achieve.

Another difference is you’re journeying with other people. The majority of people on the doctorate were mature students and senior professionals across health disciplines so you have an interesting group of people to work with. Some were clinicians, whereas I came from an academic background in a practice discipline.

The thesis is smaller in the end compared to a PhD, but it’s very much quality as opposed to quantity at 45,000 words. One of the skills you develop is you have to be quite succinct, but I got a good overall research training, I feel I have a good understanding  of other research methodologies that I might have got if I’ve done a PhD.

I was working full-time as an academic while I was a part-time student and it was quite challenging, but because I was in an academic environment it helped, I had access to alot of resources. Probably the last three years were the busiest for me.

What advice would you give to someone who is starting the Doctorate?

My advice is to choose a topic that you’re passionate about and interested in to sustain your interest over a long period of time. You learn an awful lot about yourself throughout the process. Keep going, take breaks if needed, there are times when it’s straight forward and times when challenging. It’s definitely worthwhile.

Dr Denise Proudfoot, Nurse Lecturer in Dublin City University
Professional Doctorate in Health 2014



Getting reconnected with Bath


📥  Get Connected, International, Uncategorized

Action for M.E. CEO and Bath alumna, Sonya Chowdhury, recently volunteered her time and expertise at one of our ‘Get Connected’ events. It was the first engagement she’d had with us since she graduated in 1998, but within 24 hours of the event she had booked plane tickets to attend the World Health Assembly summit as a guest of the CEO of the largest cancer fighting organisation in the world. Read her story below. 

Being asked to speak on a panel at the ‘Get Connected’ event in London about working in the charity, NGO and policy sectors not only gave me a chance to share my experience, but opened doors that I would never have expected to be there for me.

The Chair of the Panel, CEO of the Union for International Control of Cancer and alumnus [and recent honorary graduate], Cary Adams, spoke with me after the event and invited me to Geneva. Little did I know that 24 hours later I would have plane tickets booked and four days at the World Health Assembly summit at the United Nations in my diary.

Sonya Chowdhury

Sonya Chowdhury

This was an incredible opportunity for me to develop a greater understanding of how policy and decision-making happens at a global health level. From a personal perspective, the insight and learning was immense and I couldn’t possibly have got as much from just reading about the systems or structures in place. Alongside this I received a masterclass in CEO networking from Cary (who was phenomenal to watch in terms of ‘working the room’) and benefited from being introduced to a number of influential and inspiring individuals.

I don’t know how much you know about M.E., but it’s an illness that quite literally steals lives; a long-term neurological condition that affects many of the body’s systems and leaves children and adults with extreme, persistent exhaustion and a range of nasty symptoms including cognitive dysfunction, sleep difficulties and pain amongst many others. Many of the 250,000 people in the UK will M.E. describe being trapped; existing but not living.

Politically, M.E. has a very low profile in the UK (it’s different in the Netherlands and the US) so finding a way to mobilise people and significantly increase the profile of M.E. is critical. Having the opportunity to gain a better understanding of how we might do this through engagement at World Health Assembly level, and exploring how to build networks and create a bigger collective voice, will ultimately benefit people affected by this devastating illness. Supported by Cary, I am now developing a proposal for a five-year plan to achieve just that, and build on the collaboration work we are already undertaking such as establishing an International Alliance of leading charities across the globe.

The Panel was my first real engagement with Bath Alumni since I left in 1998. I am surprised and delighted by what it has offered me, personally and professionally, as well as the potential for people with M.E. and the charity that I run. Hopefully, there will be more to come!


Galapagos Island trip


📥  International

PhD students Elisabeth Grey (Department for Health), Becky Mead and Dana Buchan (both Department Biology & Biochemistry) are doing evolutionary related research at the University, and have just returned from a trip to the Galapagos Islands.

Dana and Becky’s projects are investigating the teaching of evolution in schools as part of the GEVOteach (Genetics & Evolution) teaching project, whilst Elisabeth is looking into how evolutionary messaging can be used in diet and health advice.

Their trip to Galapagos was arranged and fully funded by Bath alumnus Dr Jonathan Milner, who is already funding their PhDs and has just donated £5 million to the University to establish the Milner Centre for Evolution, the first evolution science centre in the UK.

You can read the accounts of their life-changing trip below.

We are lucky enough to have the Evolution Education Trust (EET), headed by Jonathan Milner, as our PhD scholarship sponsor. The EET was formed to promote a greater public understanding of evolution, and as such it is also involved with the Galapagos Conservation Trust, an organisation that supports scientific, educational and cultural initiatives aimed at conserving Galapagos (the famous archipelago that was an inspiration to Darwin’s theory of evolution). Dr Milner was keen for us to see the fantastic work of the GCT and arranged for us to join them on a 2 week trip to Galapagos.

The first week of our trip was spent visiting several of the eastern islands in the archipelago. This was a fantastic opportunity to see the great variety of environmental conditions on the different islands and how this is reflected in the species that inhabit them. Many of the animals we saw are unique to Galapagos, including, of course, the famous finches. It was possible to get very close to a lot of the animals since, having no natural predators, they are relatively unfearful of humans. Swimming side-by-side with wild sea turtles, was a particular experience we’ll never forget!

This tour also introduced us to some of the threats to these unique islands. We saw many invasive plants, such as blackberry, which have been introduced by man and are fast eliminating the endemic vegetation on which certain animals have come to depend. The sea-life is also at risk: among our fellow travellers were a couple of marine biologists who conducted bio-surveys of the sea water in different locations. In all the samples we found a high number and range of vital plankton, but also many microplastics.

Elisabeth Grey is completing a PhD Research Programme in Health

Every moment spent in the Galapagos was mesmerising, thought-provoking and life-changing. As soon as we arrived we were inundated with wildlife that showed no fear (and often took no notice) of humans. On landing at San Cristobel Airport I initially thought I had flown back through time: in the sky a huge, black, almost pterodactyl-like bird was circling above us. I was to see many other frigatebirds during my two week stay on Galapagos.

Male Frigatebird

Male Frigatebird

To follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin and visit the Galapagos had been a distant dream but, thanks to the overwhelming generosity of Jonathan Milner and the Evolution Education Trust, I have just returned from the trip of a lifetime. Along with two of my PhD student colleagues from the University of Bath I joined the Galapagos Conservation Trust’s (GCT) Supporter Cruise and spent time on Santa Cruz Island learning about GCT-funded education projects.


Seal basking in the sun

Life on board the Majestic was truly wonderful. We sailed by night, visiting a different island each day. Every island was unique with its own spectacular landscape and fascinating flora and fauna. I soon became accustomed to marine iguanas hiding among the black volcanic rocks, sea lions basking in the sun, Sally Lightfoot crabs with their startling orange shells bright against the dark coastal cliffs, and the finches, mockingbirds and lava lizards which all appear similar, yet vary between islands. It is easy to see how Darwin’s visit here helped shape his views on evolution.

I have so many amazing memories, but those prehistoric-looking frigatebirds really encapsulate the wonder, mystery and magnificence of the islands for me. Seeing the male frigatebirds on Genovesa Island, their mating calls reverberating through their enormous red throat pouches, is something I shall never forget.

I learnt to snorkel in the brilliant turquoise ocean. I entered a new world where I immediately became engulfed in schools of fish and then found myself the centre of attention of curious sea lions playfully darting around me. Snorkelling around Kicker Rock we were treated to turtles, sea lions, rays, sharks, an octopus and - somewhat tingly! - jellyfish. But perhaps the most poignant moment was seeing a turtle eating a plastic bag. Even in these glistening, remote waters, the impact of humans is inescapable.

Becky and tortoise

Becky and a Galapagos tortoise

On Santa Cruz we visited a school and an eco-club. I felt honoured to participate in a teacher workshop which included tortoise tracking in the highlands. I was impressed with the dedication of the teachers and trainers to the environment and sustainability. I was particularly encouraged by the positive attitude of teenagers at the eco club who viewed conserving nature as their responsibility. It gives me lots of hope for the future of these islands and really highlights why funding from organisations such as the GCT is vital.

I have been so inspired and motivated by this incredible adventure. I am very grateful to my sponsor, everyone at the GCT, those on board the Majestic, and those who I met during my time on the islands: you all made me feel so welcome and opened my mind to new ideas and ways of thinking. I hope I can use this experience to improve my research into how evolution is taught in UK schools, and I look forward to working with the GCT in the near future to develop teaching resources.

Becky Mead is completing a PhD Research Programme in Biology

The Galapagos education system currently serves just over 5,200 primary and secondary students through a network of 20 public and private schools on the islands of Santa Cruz (9 schools), San Cristóbal (6), Isabela (4), and Floreana (1). Some of these schools are extremely small and isolated.

Tomás de Berlanga School

Tomás de Berlanga School

During my second week in the Galapagos Islands I was extremely privileged to visit Tomás de Berlanga School on the Island of Santa Cruz. This fee-paying school offered bilingual primary and secondary education to approximately 130 students in a rural forest setting.

The school was situated four miles from the centre of town on the road to the highlands. Children and staff were bused in and out from the fairly remote site every day. The school itself was made up of several single story blocks integrated into the forest. The blocks (pairs of classrooms, art, administration/reception, canteen, toilets, music and library) were separate but close together and linked by crushed lava pathways lined with trees and shrubs.

The classrooms were fairly basic by UK standards, just desks and chairs, a white board and a few posters on the walls. There was no air conditioning, just fly screens in the windows. Resources seemed to be very limited but were reported to be much better than most other schools on the Islands. As a consequence of the school’s location the constant dampness meant that paper resources perish quickly. There was no evidence of any science equipment or lab in the school and so probably only taught in theory.

Pupils at Tomás de Berlanga School

Pupils at Tomás de Berlanga School

I was given access to 24 students in two classes (grades 6 and 7) ranging from 10 to 12 years old, who had not been taught about evolution. Evolution education in Ecuador is carried out in the 9th grade (13 years old). This is comparable with the students in the UK before the changes in the Primary National Curriculum were introduced in September 2014.

Both classes were given the same translated questionnaires I intend to use to collect data from year 6 students in the UK. The questions were selected from a large scale American study, part of the AAAS Project 2061 (Flanagan and Roseman, 2011). This research will form part of my thesis and allow me to compare the evolutionary knowledge of children from the Galapagos Islands, the USA and UK.

Dana Buchan is completing a PhD Research Programme in Biology



Interpreting and translating alumni triumph at United Nations


📥  International, MA Interpreting & Translating

The United Nations interpreter examinations are renowned for being incredibly challenging, rigorous and highly competitive. They aim to single out the best in the interpreting world.

So when we heard that MA Interpreting and Translating alumni Katherine Nield and Jaya Mishra had passed the UN interpreting exams just two months after graduating, we were excited to share their success. Out of the 25 entrants (approx.) who sat the exam in Geneva in January, only four passed the challenging assessment.

This means that Katherine and Jaya can now interpret for the United Nations in Geneva on a freelance basis and have this prestigious accreditation to their names. We asked Katherine and Jaya about their experience, how they prepared for the exam and what advice they have for future Bath MA Interpreting and Translating alumni.

Katherine’s experience…

The main thing I did to prepare for the exam was to use the UN webcast to stream speeches for practice. It has quite an extensive archive of speeches and you can filter them by language, country, meeting etc. As the UN test is a lot longer than the Bath exams, I made sure I built up my stamina, so I could manage three ten-minute speeches per language. I also tried to read up on some general background about the UN in Geneva, so I could recognise the titles of committees and treaty bodies.

The exam was obviously very nerve-wracking as there was a panel of five people listening and making notes on what you say. However, it was good to have an ‘audience’ and a live speaker as opposed to listening to a recording and being recorded, as it makes the experience more realistic. Everyone was very encouraging and supportive throughout.

It means a huge amount to pass the exam! I have always been really keen on becoming an interpreter so it’s great to have the accreditation and be able to work for the UN on a freelance basis. I’m now looking to gain as much experience as possible on the freelance market.

Katherine Nield

Katherine Nield

Katherine’s advice…

If you think you’ve made a mistake or missed something, don’t dwell on it and keep going! I certainly didn’t do a flawless job and they don’t expect you to be perfect.

The MA Interpreting and Translation programme at Bath was excellent preparation, not only the programme itself, but also because I had the opportunity to go on placement to the UN. This meant I had more of an idea what interpreting at this type of organisation looks like, and it confirmed for me that this was really what I wanted to do.

Katherine Nield (MA Interpreting and Translating 2014, French and Russian)

Jaya’s experience…

To prepare for the exam, I practised as much as possible by using the UN webcast and Treaty Bodies website which broadcast live meetings and speeches. I would try to use these web resources for at least an hour every day in the run up to the exams. I also ‘dummy boothed’ for two weeks at the UN in Geneva which was invaluable because, not only did I get two weeks of exposure to the kind of speeches I could expect in the exam, but many staff interpreters were at hand to listen and offer advice.

Sitting the exam was obviously a very daunting experience. The most important thing is not to view your nerves as something that set you back, but to use them to your advantage as a form of adrenaline.

The exam was split over two days. If you did not pass the French on the first day, you were not asked to take the Russian exams the day after. On both days, there were three ten-minute speeches per language. There were roughly three to five people on the panel listening to my interpretation and one live speaker delivering the speech. Given how nerve-wracking the experience is, I felt that all the members of the panel understood this and tried their best not to add any extra pressure – their smiles and nods of the head were all very welcome to me!

After being informed that I had passed, I felt a mixture of elation, pride and relief. I had never let my expectations get too high because I was always aware of just how competitive the tests were and how it is very common for people to fail the first time they take them.

I now hope to establish myself as a freelance interpreter in Geneva. It is important to remember that passing the exam is by no means a direct or immediate entry into a career as a UN interpreter. A lot more hard work is required to show that I am capable of interpreting at the highest level.

Jaya Mishra

Jaya Mishra

Jaya’s advice...

The most useful piece of advice for me was to breathe! Taking deep breaths is so important in calming your nerves and clearing your mind.

Without the programme at Bath it would have been virtually impossible for me to pass the exam. Prior to enrolling on MA Interpreting and Translating I had no experience whatsoever of interpreting. I simply thought that it would be a good way for me to use my languages. I did not know how challenging and rewarding a career it could be so I shall be forever grateful to Bath and, in particular, Elena Kidd for running such a fantastic programme.

Jaya Mishra (MA Interpreting and Translating 2014, French and Russian)

You can also read ‘How to become a UN Interpreter,’ written by Bath alumna Helen Reynolds-Brown on behalf of the Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/may/15/russian-french-un-interpreter

Written by Louise Andrews, Marketing Officer, Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences 


Get Connected - charity, NGO and policy careers

📥  Get Connected

In what proved to be a very interesting and entertaining evening of discussion, an experienced panel of non-government travellers discussed the virtues of pursuing a career in a sector which offers much more than most expect.

As Dr Cary Adams (BSc Economics with Computing and Statistics 1985, MBA Business Administration 2002), Chief Executive Officer, Union for International Cancer Control, explained,“For me the perfect job is one which pays you, you excel at, you have a passion for and has a social impact”.  It was clearly a good description of the variety of roles which his fellow panellists had and continue to fill.

Theresa Lloyd (BSc Economics & Administration 1968), an ex-city banker who has become an industry guru on philanthropy, talked through the need for business acumen in the not-for-profit sector. She emphasised the importance of hard work, spotting and taking advantage of luck and being brave when you have to be. She impressed on all the need to be bold and to recognise that being educated is simply not enough. “You have to add value to be successful in this sector,” she said.

Sonya Chowdhury (BSc Sociology & Social Work 1998),Chief Executive, Action For M.E, stressed that educating yourself, volunteering and constantly challenging yourself would create opportunities in a sector which rewards passionate people who bring value. She said, “It’s a competitive sector and you have to be unique. I’m looking for people who come alive from that piece of paper called a CV.”

Belinda Phipps (BSc Applied Biology 1980), Chair, The Fawcett Society, welcomed any young graduate to the sector if they thrived on dealing with trouble! For her, non-government organisations and charities were calling out for core business skills and this ranged from strategic planning to basic IT management skills. But whilst specific skills were required, those wishing to work in the charity sector should be prepared to “be a jack of all trades”.

During the lively Q&A session, the panellists emphasised their enthusiasm for being in the sector. They would not return to the private sector, and encouraged all to look into careers in a sector which is wonderfully diverse, with many challenging and rewarding roles for ambitious, passionate self-starters.

The Human Rights Action Centre, Amnesty International, London.

The Human Rights Action Centre, Amnesty International, London.


Apps Crunch winners blog

📥  Uncategorized

Psychometrico - an app designed to help jobseekers prepare for psychometric and aptitude testing - has won the University of Bath’s student Apps Crunch Competition. Top prize was a trip to Silicon Valley to meet alumni working in leading global tech companies. The winners, Martin Obretenov, Ventsislav Dimov, and Prithu Shorewalu, share their amazing – and tiring - journey on our blog.

Thursday by Ventsislav

Visiting a new country always comes with a lot of uncertainty, expectations and different intentions. This time, however we set all of that aside, like a blank sheet of paper waiting for an author to write on.

With this in mind, we arrived at San Francisco International Airport and headed towards the city with the BART (interesting name for the tube, isn’t it?). We arrived at Powell Station 30 minutes later and headed towards our hotel (or was it?). A 10 minute walk under the Californian sun took us to the corner of Howard and Fifth, where we were welcomed by Karolis to StartupHouse, a co-working space.

As the name suggests this is a place where a lot of start-ups excel. However, this is somehow under appreciated. The reality was that many companies, whose services we have used are still operating from the co-working space.

After checking into the room, we hit the city. No jet lag was able to stop us from exploring what was about to become our favourite place in the world. The exploration of the area under the Bay Bridge and some of the piers exhausted us and we went to sleep with anticipation of what was about to come.

Friday by Ventsislav

Alarm, shower, authentic, however, quick American breakfast and off to business - there is no time to waste.

A short walk took us to the venue of our first meeting, the HQ of 500 Startups, one of the best start-up accelerators in the world.

We were greeted by one of the partners Marvin Liao, who somehow managed to squeeze in half an hour for us. He gave us an insight of what our potential for investment is and how we should handle this process. Furthermore, we were reminded what the most important thing in a business is - the product. With that in mind, we headed to our hotel for to debrief, which ended up in a short nap.

An hour later we were off for another adventure - an art festival in Oakland, called The First Friday. A large variety of artists and performers were exhibiting live on one of the main streets. Of course all of that was topped up with a lot of the locally produced beers and beverages.

Saturday by Ventsislav

The morning started in a similar manner as the day before, with the only difference that there was no breakfast. We had planned to eat later with family friends of Martin’s. They picked us up in their car, and we headed towards the city. Halfway through, however, the plan was changed. We drove across the Golden Gate Bridge to the town of Sausalito, which astonished us with its wonderful views of San Francisco and the bay. After a wonderful brunch at an Italian pizzeria, we headed back to town. Or maybe not?

We got off at the end of the Golden Gate Bridge and started walking back, which we later discovered was an exercise performed only by tourists. No sane person would walk in such a wind for more than 40 minutes.

After finally getting some rest, we headed back to the city for an appointment with my cousin. We explored the nightlife of San Francisco, which is another reason to fall in love with the city.

Martin and Ventsislav (left to right) in Sausalito, just across Golden Gate from San Francisco

Martin and Ventsislav (left to right) in Sausalito, just across Golden Gate from San Francisco.

Sunday Ventsislav

The last free day, before our busy week starts was another day of exploration. We headed towards the Caltrain station and grabbed tickets to Palo Alto to head to Stanford University.

There we met Prithu’s sister, who guided us around the campus. We got to the top of the famous Hoover Tower, which gave us a bird’s eye view on the whole campus. The place looked like a tropical beach resort, one that educates some of the most intelligent people in the world.

View from Hoover Tower on Stanford’s campus.

View from Hoover Tower on Stanford’s campus.

After our tour ended, we headed towards the campus’ restaurants, where Prithu arranged a meeting with a friend of his. He works for a start-up doing semantic analysis - one of the new trends in the software industry. After a comprehensive talk we headed back to the hotel - we needed to prepare for our first set of meetings.

Monday by Martin

On our first day of meetings set up from the University we were not very sure what to expect.

The very first meeting that we walked into left us speechless!

We were expecting to see the CFO of Littler Mendelson, the largest U.S.-based law firm exclusively devoted to representing management in employment, employee benefits and labour law. Not only did we had more than an hour of talking with Mat, the CFO and Bath alumnus, but he had invited to our meeting his own external legal adviser and the managing Shareholder of the San Francisco Office.

With the amazing view from the 28th floor meeting room we were taken through a presentation: ‘Top 10 Mistakes Startups Do That Can Get Them Sued’. The talk was exceptionally insightful. Additionally, the CFO’s personal legal adviser gave us advice on setting up a business in California and the US in general, and shared best practices within the domain. Ultimately, we connected with powerful, wise and friendly people at senior positions in the Valley, and got what we later realised to be free consultation that would otherwise have cost tens of thousands of dollars.

View from Littler Mendelson reception on the 28th floor - covering Alcatraz and some of the San Francisco piers.

View from Littler Mendelson reception on the 28th floor - covering Alcatraz and some of the San Francisco piers.

Our second meeting was with a company very few would not recognise - JPMorgan Chase & Co. We got the opportunity to pitch our idea and get input from experts at prestigious positions such as the VP of Digital Product Marketing and VP of Corporate Social Media. Their insight helped us think of our idea of www.psychometri.co from new angles and grow our understanding of how the idea could evolve.

Our third meeting swept us off our feet. We met with Anthony Lye, President and CEO of HotSchedules. Anthony’s business seems to be on track to revolutionise the restaurants market industry. Having been acquired by TPG in 2013 it works hard towards its goals and both management and employees share a unique culture of learning, developing and growing. Anthony and his colleagues talked us through what it means to be part of a company that has learned to crawl, walk and then run.

The inspiring meeting was complemented by a wine and cheese reception and a view over Bay Bridge as Anthony shared stories from the times he worked closely with people such as Larry Ellison, the former CEO of Oracle and the third-wealthiest man in America.

Tuesday by Martin

On Tuesday we had a single meeting scheduled, but what a meeting it was. University of Bath alumni Natalie and Simon founded Lanyrd - a social conference directory – in 2010. They built a product that people love, resulting in uncontrollable growth and ultimately landing them in a Y Combinator batch in 2011. Being backed by one of the most famous American seed accelerators, their company grew and was later acquired by Eventbrite. Now, being part of a company that grosses more than $2 billion in ticket sales (according to 2013 data), Natalie and Simon face new challenges head on.

The tour of the company gave us a great insight into how an organisation changes and evolves and what a great impact a good company culture has. Natalie and Simon spent more than an hour and a half with us over lunch and gave us practical tips on everything from setting up a business, to running it, negotiating and ultimately selling too. Luckily for us we picked up freebies, so if you see us around campus with an Eventbrite hat on you will know where it’s from.

Martin, Simon, Natalie, Stephanie, Siobain, Ventsislav and Prithu (left to right) at the Eventbrite office.

Martin, Simon, Natalie, Stephanie, Siobain, Ventsislav and Prithu (left to right) at the Eventbrite office.

Wednesday by Prithu and Ventsislav

Wednesday started with a beautiful drive down to the headquarters of Facebook. While listening to the hip tunes on the radio, we drove on the freeway along the bay, getting an exciting tour from our star fundraiser and guide, Stephanie. We parked and then headed towards the “thumbs-up” sign outside the office. After all, a visit at Facebook does not count if one does not have a picture taken at 1 Hacker way.

Prithu, Siobain, Martin, Stephanie and Ventsislav (left to right) posing at 1 Hacker Way.

Prithu, Siobain, Martin, Stephanie and Ventsislav (left to right) posing at 1 Hacker Way.

What was interesting about the sign is that on the back there was a logo of Sun Microsystems, the previous owner of the campus, which was intentionally left there as a symbol that nothing stays forever.

After taking care of the mandatories, we headed towards the reception, where we met Andy Warr. We walked across the main entrance, and ended up at the back of the building, which seemed something ike a small town. There was everything one might need. There was food and drinks places, including a store which served ice-cream, cookies, muffins and everything one could imagine. Employees benefit further by the gym, the dry cleaner and many other perks, which are offered in most cases for free.

We grabbed some of Facebook’s famous BBQ and sat under the California sun for a lunch. Our host shared with us his experience of working at some of the world’s biggest IT companies Microsoft, Google and now Instagram as part of Facebook. Of all the useful things he told us probably the most valuable quote from him for the day, was “never say you don’t know something” and that resonated with this entire experience.

After we finished our lunch, we headed on a tour of Facebook’s campus. We saw the biggest touchscreen we have seen so far, which was an interactive map of how people across the globe are connected with each other. Then we took a photo in the car that went for more than 5000 miles promoting Instagram across the US. After that we went to Instagram’s gravity office for another set of fantastic memories.

Prithu, Martin and Ventsislav (from left to right) opposing gravity at the Facebook HQ.

Prithu, Martin and Ventsislav (from left to right) opposing gravity at the Facebook HQ.

At that point of time, we thought that nothing could top this experience, but we were wrong. After a five minute bicycle ride, we arrived in front of Facebook’s new building which was opened only a week ago. No words can describe how enormous that open plan office is. The interior is intentionally designed in a way that seems unfinished in order to communicate that everything is under development. All of the areas and meeting rooms in this building were given names from famous TV shows and games, such as Game of Thrones, which brought a smile on our faces. A parallel between the building and the University of Bath was the vending machines situated all around, with the only difference that the ones at Facebook were ‘serving’ high-end headphones, batteries and other accessories. In the middle of the building we saw Mark Zuckerberg’s office, unfortunately for us, he was not there.
After we had walked the length of the entire building, we took the stairs to the roof. Of course, we have already heard that the roof is the world’s largest roof-top garden, but we were totally unaware of what was about to come. The size of that garden was so enormous, that after spending a minute walking around the alleys we totally forgot that we were on a roof.

Map of Facebook’s roof-top garden.

Map of Facebook’s roof-top garden.

After finishing our walk in the ‘park’, we took the shuttle to the main campus and headed back to San Francisco.

Thursday by Martin

Our last Thursday was by far the busiest and one of the most rewarding days.

We started off with a tour and meeting at the StumbleUpon office. David Marks, VP of Products there sat down with us over breakfast and shared insights from his career and the company. We got tips on everything from UI and UX design to user testing and how one should think about Product Management in the context of highly technological organisations. David was very cool and open and gave us lots of concrete pointers to help us take Psychometrico further.

Our second meeting was at Dialect with the company’s CEO, John Gower. As he entered the room you could feel the presence of a strong salesman and a leader. John’s experience from Bath, all the way to running his company at the heart of San Francisco, impressed us greatly and we picked his brains on things like how he set things up, what challenges he faced and what his vision for the future is. Surprisingly his very first questions about how we plan to sell and position Psychometrico had us think of new approaches in terms of partnerships - something that Dialect is, in a way, based on.

Our third meeting was different from our others as it was at TPG Capital, one of the largest private equity investment firms globally. There we met Alastair and Charles Bushby. Alastair is a Bath GIMML graduate and has had a fantastic career development. He shared with us all the work he and TPG Capital do and gave us a broader view on the start-up industry from a whole different perspective. In contrast to Alastair’s focused career development, his brother, Charles, shared with us his interesting and varied career path across industries, positions and locations. He has a background focused on marketing, digital and creative and at present he works in Ernst & Young in San Francisco.

The pinnacle of our trip was the event at Tesla’s headquarters. Apparently, when one buys a Tesla he or she is put on a two year waiting list for a tour of the manufacturing facilities. We had the privilege and pleasure of not only going through the tour led by a very passionate Tesla employee and the VP of Manufacturing, but also to meet and talk with 30+ successful, influential and, simply put, interesting Bath alumni. We also met with George Kalligeros, a current University of Bath Mechanical Engineering student, who was on an internship at Tesla in San Francisco. At the end of what was an amazing tour we had the opportunity to present our idea to all the guests and this was followed by a talk from the VP of Manufacturing, Gilbert Passin.

All the successful individuals we met at the event were very humble, down-to-earth and ready to share their experiences and provide help. They were also a lot of fun - one Bath alum took us on a ride in his own Tesla just before the event started!

Ventsislav, Prithu and Martin (left to right) looking slick just before the Tesla tour.

Ventsislav, Prithu and Martin (left to right) looking slick just before the Tesla tour.

Friday by Ventsislav

Our last ‘working’ day in San Francisco started of at the famous Runway incubator, which supported companies such as Oculus Rift. The place was a big open-space office accommodating start-ups aiming to attract further investments or acquisitions.

Ventsislav and Prithu (left to right) taking a picture with one of the companies incubated at the Runway.

Ventsislav and Prithu (left to right) taking a picture with one of the companies incubated at the Runway.

Our first meeting was with Mark Hampton, who is a Principal at The Halo Agency – a start-up growth engine aimed at designing highly tailored marketing strategies for technology companies. He listened carefully to the plans we had for marketing our start-up, and provided us with an insight into how such a thing should be executed. The most valuable advice was definitely that we need a clear vision of what we want to achieve and then employ the necessary tools and not vice versa, something that we missed while preparing for the competitions we entered.

The next meeting was with Jazz Toor, who is a Chief Product Officer at Bill Forward, a company focused on helping its clients enter a service based economy. Apart from that he is also an experienced angel investor. Our team presented the idea behind Psychometrico and we received a lot of feedback, mainly on how to talk with investors. This meeting left us with a huge to-do list, focused on what we need to prepare for our business plan and what we need to strengthen from what we already have.

Our last meeting in San Francisco was with Dominic Brennan who began his career as a management consultant. Later on, the company he was working for split and he took part in the management buyout of the US division, which he is currently developing. The meeting took place in the friendly atmosphere of a burritos restaurant, which served as an inspiration of the UK’s Mission Burrito chain. Dominic impressed us with his openness, experience and unconventional future plans.

Overall summary

Team Psychometrico would like to thank Siobain Hone for her dedicated work on the Entrepreneurship Program at the University of Bath, as a result of which this trip took place. We would also like to thank Stephanie Lear who used her extensive network of Bath alumni to arrange all the meetings. We would also like to thank Alex Marshal and Aiste Senulyte for their ongoing support to the project. Furthermore, a big “thank you” to all Bath alumni who we met for their valuable advices.

The trip as a whole provided us with a solid understanding of how people with similar background as ours place themselves in one of the most competitive labour markets in the world. Furthermore, it gave us invaluable insight into what the life of an entrepreneur is and what challenges there are. Moreover, it expanded our view on how a University of Bath student might proceed with his or her future career development by showcasing a lot of success stories.

A key takeaway is the advice that we do not necessarily need to stick to our business career path. We could pursue a different career development, thus achieving a more diverse skillset giving us better career opportunities.
We believe the Apps Crunch competition with its current prize is an invaluable experience for students like us to expand their personal networks and foreign insight. Team Psychometrico is looking forward to developing the product and idea and to help other students. Perhaps one day, in the near future, we could be on the other side, helping students develop and learn.