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The University of Bath alumni blog

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.


A chance encounter in Singapore

📥  International

Our international network has grown beyond measure over the last few years. So whether you’re travelling for work or pleasure, the chance of bumping into a fellow Bath graduate is growing. However, when our Director of Development & Alumni Relations, Gavin Maggs, hosted an alumni reception at Raffles Hotel, Singapore, and met three graduates who were, quite by chance, holidaying there at the time, he asked them to write a blog entry to share the coincidence with the alumni community.

Our thanks to Peter, Jane and Alan. We hope you enjoyed the rest of your holiday.

There I was, relaxing in our hotel on our once-in-a-lifetime holiday in New Zealand, downloading email to check on my ageing father back home, when a message popped up about a University of Bath meeting in Raffles Hotel, Singapore.

"Now, if that had been when we are passing through on our way home," I said to my wife, "we could have gone."

"What date?" she asked.

We checked our schedule, and it was right in the middle of our three day stopover.  What a coincidence. So we went.

I graduated in 1973 in engineering, so I didn't think there would be much chance of meeting anyone from my year, let alone anyone I would remember. But there was another 1973 graduate there, also holidaying, and a group of 1974 engineering graduates. We must have crossed paths many times in the corridors of 4East, although we did not recall each other.

My wife feared a dry and stuffy talk, but not at all. Gavin Maggs, Director of Development & Alumni Relations, justifiably trumpeted the successes and current high regard that Bath enjoys; it was good when I was there, but it has achieved much greater standing since. And Professor Gareth Jones, our new Dyson Chair of Design Engineering, talked with enthusiasm and interest about innovation and its importance both in education and in industry with examples from his own background.

If you weren’t there, you missed a good evening.

Peter Fosker (BSc (Hons) Engineering 1973)

I left the Bath alumni reception at the Raffles Hotel full of good wine, great canapés and benevolent feelings for the University. I also had a homework assignment from Gavin Maggs, Director of Development & Alumni Relations: explain how I ended up at an alumni get-together in Singapore with my freshman roommate, Liz, from Bath, when I live in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.

The story is simple.

Liz and I met in 1970 at Freshers’ weekend and shared a room for the winter term. She then left for another university while I stayed at Bath. We kept in touch, but met only very occasionally.

Liz’s eldest son now lives in Singapore, and as I wanted to travel in the Far East, I suggested that the next time she and her husband were visiting him we could meet up – unfortunately this never happened.

As I am a signed up University of Bath alumna, I get the emails, and one announced a get-together in Singapore while Liz and I would both be there. So I signed us up, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I made friends for life at Bath. It’s also where I met my husband. He and I were professionally successful because of our four degrees from Bath. I was lucky enough to have a Bath undergrad intern at my company for a summer. I also donate (modestly) to the scholarship program because I couldn’t have had the education I had without grants which are no longer available.

Professor Gareth Jones - the speaker at the alumni reception in Singapore - was great, and I am so glad that a technical university appreciates the power of the creative mind. I was married to an architect, and architects have always had to merge artistic creativity with a technical foundation.

Jane Morgan (BPharm (Hons) Pharmacy 1973 and PhD Pharmacy & Pharmacology 1978)

My youngest daughter, Ellie, lives in Australia and has recently started a new career teaching in Perth. I visited her in January and spent two wonderful months in Western Australia.  On my way back to the UK I spent two weeks in Phu Quoc - an unspoilt island off the south coast of Vietnam (look it up on Google!) - and then stopped over in Singapore before my return journey.

Whilst there, I went to Raffles Hotel for a Singapore Sling in the Long Bar - a must on any tourist visit to Singapore. As I was sipping my cocktail I noticed a sign for a University of Bath Alumni reception in the East India rooms. I was an undergraduate on the social sciences degree course in 1976, so thought, ‘I'm in!’

And what a wonderful evening I had.

Gavin Maggs, Director of Development & Alumni Relations, gave a fascinating talk on how Bath has developed to become a leading University not just in the UK, but the world.

An equally inspiring talk followed, given by Professor Gareth Jones, Bath’s new Dyson Chair of Design Engineering, on innovation and the success the University has had in this respect.

How wonderful it was to feel such a connection after all these years, and to know how the University - which was only ten years old when I attended it - has prospered in the space of fifty years to become a world class university.

Good luck to all of you, particularly my classmates.

Alan Ormerod (BSc (Hons) Social Sciences 1979)

If you have any stories you would like to share with the alumni community, please email us at alumni@bath.ac.uk


Let it snow!

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📥  Bath, On campus

One of the biggest up-sides of preparing for our fast-approaching 50th anniversary is looking at the collection of your photos from the 'old days' which you have kindly been sending in to us. We've been putting some of the best on our Flickr photostream - thank you for sharing your memories with us.

In a bid to get into the festive spirit early this year, we're looking for Christmassy photos from your time at Bath. Snowmen on the Parade, Christmas parties, you get the idea!

We will be creating an album on Flickr of your seasonal student snaps and, you never know, one of your photos might even make it on to our alumni Christmas card…

If you would like your photo to be included in our album, please send a scanned or digital image (as high-res as possible) to alumni@bath.ac.uk. Please include as much information as possible, including the year it was taken and anyone you can name in the picture.

University of Bath snowball fight on the Parade

Here’s a starter for ten. Can anyone name the three combatants?


Bath alumni meet up Down Under

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📥  International

On a Spring September evening in Melbourne, around 20 alumni gathered in a suitable watering hole to share memories of their time in Bath and stories of how they ended up in Australia. We were honoured to be joined by David Hancocks , the University of Bath’s ‘Graduate No. 1’, having been first up to collect his degree certificate for Architecture in 1966. David spent most of his working life in Seattle but is now in Melbourne and enjoying life in this thriving city, recently named named the world's most liveable city for the fourth year in a row.

The three Davids

The three Davids: David Chuter ((BEng Manufacturing Systems 1992), David Hancocks (BSc Architecture & Building Engineering 1966) and David Suder (MSc Industrial Systems 1992)

Many of the alumni came to our first gathering last year so it was great to catch up with each other, share stories of trips back to the UK and talk about the changes that people have seen in Bath on their recent visits. It was also fantastic to welcome new faces, some of whom were recent arrivals to Melbourne. Some were putting their degrees to good use whilst others had ended up in careers quite different to their studies. Everyone remembered their time at Bath very fondly and looked forward to their next visit.

Australians have developed a love of cider but we all agreed that it wasn’t quite the same as the scrumpy served in the Beehive - many were sad to hear that it’s no longer a pub. We look forward to catching up again next year!

Isobel Michael (BA MLES German & Russian 1991)


Behind the scenes of the Large Hadron Collider

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📥  Bath, International

As a Bath graduate based in Geneva, and the CEO of the world’s largest cancer NGO, the link between the University and CERN is for me, a compelling one. And one which, amazingly, came about due to a chance alumni connection.

In a nutshell, engineers from my old university are adapting technologies from the Large Hadron Collider to find ways to treat lung cancer tumours more effectively.

CERN group around collider

At the Large Hadron Collider

Dr Steve Hancock, who studied physics at Bath in 1980, had been working on 3D imaging technologies at CERN for over 20 years. He had the idea that the type of imaging used to examine tiny particles moving close to the speed of light could be beneficial in medical treatments too. So when he saw a tomography laboratory at the University mentioned in an alumni e-newsletter, he was inspired to get back in touch with Bath academics.

A year on and, alongside Dr Manuch Soleimani from the University’s Electrical Engineering Department, they secured £100,000 of funding from CERN to work together on the application of his technology. Lung cancer is particularly difficult to treat as the tumours move a lot within the body due to the motion of breathing. This makes it difficult for surgeons to remove all of the cancer without damaging healthy lung tissue. Bath and CERN’s technology should help surgeons to see the real time movement of cancer tumours in the body, and will hopefully one day translate into an affordable product that hospitals around the world can use. The project has the potential to impact the lives of thousands of cancer patients and is a great example of how blue skies research at CERN can turn up incredible and unexpected applications.

And where do I come in? I founded a Bath alumni group in Geneva a few years ago, because I wanted to help fellow graduates find their feet in the city, make friends and get on in their careers. We’re a mix of generations, working in all kinds of areas, from the UN and NGOs to pharmaceuticals and corporate finance. We try to meet up at least twice a year for drinks or dinner to share our experiences of working in Switzerland, have fun, and help each other in any ways that we can, such as passing on job opportunities.

To celebrate Bath’s new partnership (and the happy accident of our living in the city where the world’s most talked about science takes place right under our feet), the Alumni team at Bath arranged a special opportunity for our group to visit CERN in July.

Matthew Wilson, one of our newest members of the group, at CERN's Large Hadron Collider

Matthew Wilson, one of our newest members of the group, at the Large Hadron Collider

Our day began with a welcome from their ‘Head of Beams’, Paul Collier. Beams, we were to learn, are what they accelerate around the 27km long ring of tunnels which lie 150m below ground, before they collide in the Large Hadron Collider. While the beams are circling the ring it is the coldest place in the Universe, due to the liquid helium cooling the giant magnetic tubes, then the hottest place in the Universe when they collide, hotter than the centre of our sun! This was the first of many awe-inspiring facts and sights.

I was surprised to learn that CERN employs many more engineers than physicists - it is the engineers who designed and built CERN’s giant instruments. One point, particularly pertinent to a university like Bath, is that without the engineering and computing behind CERN, there would have been no Higgs Boson Particle, or World Wide Web (which was invented there).

The highlight of the day was descending down the lifts to see one of the Large Hadron Collider experiments, CMS. This was special access we’d only been granted because of Bath’s links to CERN, and it was a truly magnificent, Sci-Fi-esque vision. By this point the science had gone a little over our heads, with talk of quarks, laptons and fermions, but you couldn’t help but be impressed by the human achievement. When they conceived the idea of the Large Hadron Collider, the engineers and scientists hadn’t a clue how they would turn it into a reality, but through ingenuity and perseverance they succeeded.

This event was the first of its kind in for us in Geneva, and I would like to thank everyone who made it possible for us to gain such an amazing insight into the world of CERN. I look forward to seeing how Bath’s research project progresses and hope that this partnership will be the start of something remarkable.

Cary Adams (BSc Economics, Computing and Statistics 1985, MBA Business Administration 2002) is  Chief Executive of the Union for International Cancer Control and the leader of Bath’s alumni Chapter in Geneva.