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“I definitely made the right decision. All the experiences I’ve had here have been positive and they built me into the person who I am now. I don’t think I would have developed as much at another university".

Alex Hamilton, who is from Halifax, Yorkshire, is the Valedictorian for University Centre Shrewsbury’s (UCS) Class of 2019. He is graduating with a First Class Honours degree in Biotechnology, and will continue his studies this Autumn with a Masters of Research in Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine, based at UCS.  

Interested in science and medicine, Alex chose biotechnology as a degree because he found it to be versatile, practical and meaningful, as well as an important and promising area of research. His dissertation looked at the potential of long non-coding RNAs, which are a recently discovered class of biomolecules, in cancer therapy.

The Course 

“It was really interesting to get my teeth into the subject and scroll through hundreds of references and read lots and lots of very big wordy papers to see how these molecules and their nature could either hinder or help with cancer treatment.   ​

It has been hard dealing with the subject material but it's also rewarding to know that I’ve managed to get to where I am now. It has been difficult both mentally and emotionally, but you get through that. You learn that it is part of the university experience.  

I looked around for different unis that offered Biotechnology and on that list was Shrewsbury. It was quite interesting to learn about the things that they had on offer. It is quite a small community but is also a really personal one.  

I definitely made the right decision. All the experiences I’ve had here have been positive and they built me into the person who I am now. I don’t think I would have developed as much at another university. I don’t think I would have done as well without the level of access I had to my lecturers. My sister only got to talk to her lecturer maybe once - I can’t get away from mine!

Mark Pickard, who is the Programme Leader of the Biotech course, really goes above and beyond for a lot of people. It’s really easy to talk to him because he’s very down-to-earth and he has a great sense of humour as well. The access that students have to lecturers here, for information and support, is just amazing. 

My degree has expanded my knowledge scientifically and it's allowed me to examine things more in-depth, as well as refined my literacy in science so I am able to look at things more analytically. At the same time the whole university experience has definitely helped me develop personally. It’s helped me to get along with people from different backgrounds, especially when you know them as closely and widely as you do in Shrewsbury. 

Lessons Learned 

I've become a lot more friendly and a lot more sociable during my three years at university. In my first year, I was a shadow of the social person that I am. Being in this type of environment, in this close-knit community and getting to know everyone at the level that we do, you really come out of your shell.

I have so many memorable moments. Meeting a bunch of great people and building those connections has been rewarding.  It’s also been nice to see other people who've come to the uni and, because of the small size, been able to excel. I started a fencing society in my first year. It has been incredibly rewarding to see it grow from what was originally 2 to 3 people, to the next year when it was 4 or 5, then this year it has doubled to 8 people.  

The Future 

Now that I have my undergraduate degree, I can do something that I’ve always wanted to do: get a PhD. It is a realistic goal for me, and something that I can now aim to achieve, which is feeling pretty good".