Ben Brophy sadly lost his father to a form of blood cancer at a young age, and since has set out on the challenge to help raise awareness and funding towards beating blood cancers.
Currently 21 he is dedicated to his studies at Aston University and his charitable goals. He had always wanted to do something that would get the public to be more aware of Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research and what they do. Being a keen sportsman, in 2011, he decided to take on one of the toughest challenges around- swimming the English Channel.
Swimming the English Channel has a success rate of 1 in 6, and involves approximately 22miles, swimming through the busiest shipping lane in the world, with temperatures as little as 5-10°C and an average of 14-16 hours swimming non-stop. From this challenge, Team Brophy was born, a group of fellow students and friends joined together to help fundraise and support Ben in his attempt.
To date, Team Brophy helps raise money and awareness in a variety of different ways while Ben Brophy trains for the biggest challenge he may ever face.
Luke Dandy completed a foundation year in 2005 at Aston University, prior to progressing to a Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry. Having previously completed a BTEC in Aeronautical Engineering during his four year stint as a Weapons Technician in the Royal Air Force, he employed much of his prior knowledge of engineering, combined with the hardworking, dedicated and determined mindset associated with the RAF, to achieve his potential. He undertook a year-long industrial placement with Sellafield Ltd as a Chemical Engineer as well as a summer internship as an Analytical Chemist and was subsequently offered a graduate position.
His potential was first highlighted by a Special Encouragement Award in the Ministry of Defence GEMS Awards 2006. Since then his understanding of science, engineering and technology has developed significantly and he has been recognised with several prestigious awards and nominations including the 2010 Queens Silver Jubilee Award for Engineering in Birmingham (nominated - Lord Mayor’s Parlour, Birmingham), Powerful Media Future Leaders Award (Ranked 10th - House of Lords, Westminster) and the Dianne Abbott LSBC Award (runner-up - House of Commons, Westminster). His latest achievement was to be awarded the 2011 Salters’ Graduate Prize, a national award for Chemical Engineering based on both academic performance and industrial potential (Salter’s Hall – City of London). The award is significant for Luke and Aston University alike, as it demonstrates Aston University’s capability to compete at the highest level and deliver graduates well equipped to deal with the challenges of today and the long-term future.
Luke graduated from Aston University in 2011 with First Class Honours and is currently doing a PhD in Chemical Engineering at the University of Birmingham.
He has made two appearances on Channel 4's Countdown at 13 years old, unfortunately losing to the eventual series champion by one point. The second appearance was a special invitation by the production crew, which he won, and was the last special to ever be aired featuring the late Richard Whiteley.
Shin finished second in the 2006 World Youth Championships in Australia, and won the 2007 UK Schools Scrabble Championship. He has peaked at world number 19 at senior level, and as of 2012, become one the youngest ever to be awarded the elusive 'UK Grandmaster' title. He has travelled to Sydney, Las Vegas, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur to play the game. Shin holds 21 worldwide tournament victories, and currently holds the record for the UK’s youngest ever tournament winner.
Consequently, he has been in the national and international media, BBC West Midlands and BBC3 Counties Radio has interviewed him live on air, in addition to television and national newspapers in UK, Australia, Malaysia and China.
Adam Drake volunteered with Unite For Sight in Ghana last September. As an optometry student at Aston University, Adam gained plenty of invaluable experience working alongside eye care professionals and interacting with various patients. He fundraised £1,100, and brought five hundred pairs of used spectacles do donate to the program.
While in Ghana, Adam volunteered with the mobile eye clinic four days a week. He travelled from the capital, Accra, to various villages in the southern region of Ghana. At the mobile clinics, Adam assisted the optometrists by taking visual acuities of the patients and dispensing glasses and medications.
The Prince Edward Island, Canada native also volunteered at the eye hospital one day a week. Adam assisted the eye surgeon and ophthalmic nurses with clinical tasks. He ushered patients into and out of the operating theatre, instilled eye drops, and bandaged patients.
Adam Drake’s volunteer experience in Ghana was memorable and rewarding. The extensive training modules he completed prior to departure helped him make an high impact difference. He has gained a new perspective on life, and he feels more enlightened with international development challenges.
Adam kept a daily blog while in Ghana, including short stories about his experience, photos and a compilation video.
Adam would recommend volunteering with Unite For Sight to anyone who wants to make a small change in the world.
Emma Moseley is an Aston University student studying Politics and IR, and is currently on her placement. Through her various charitable commitments, she has raised quite a bit of money for charity. Emma worked for Aston Alummi Fund for two years and did a sponsored silence last year for 5 days raising £350 for VESL (Volunteer Teaching English Overseas) which resulted in Aston Humanist society being given the award for most money raised by a society during Non-Prophet Week.
Emma has also volunteered for Oxfam, Dyspraxia Foundation and the Encompass Trust. Her placement entailed working for an UN agency International service in Palestine as a development worker for three months and she is currently working at a charity called Article 25 in London as a Commutations and Education Intern. Emma hopes to work in development when she graduates from Aston University.
Aston Entrepreneurs is focused upon harnessing, aiding, developing and showcasing the entrepreneurial talent of students reading at Aston University. George Kitchen founded Aston Entrepreneurs in his first year in 2008/09 and successfully led an executive team as President in 2009/10 to become the university's leading business society.
In collaboration with SIFE and Aston Careers, George created Aston Idol 2010 and has since become the premier business competition at Aston, offering cash and support packages for young start-ups. A significant sponsorship was secured from KPMG at the end of the society's first year which was to be the first of many achievements through working with Mike Bandar, George's successor as President of the society. Mike and his executive team further grew the society and launched Aston Apprentice in 2010/11, a 3 day business competition in sales, marketing and purchasing.
George is on track for a 1st class honours degree in Management and Strategy and has secured a graduate role in Finance.
"George has left a legacy at the university that will continue to benefit students for many years to come."
Victoria Lennox, Founder and CEO, NACUE.
Anne and Gary also engaged in a range of other community development activities whilst in Kenya. These included attending meetings with local community members and supporting the development of an initial strategy to utilise Lake Victoria as a drinking water/irrigation source for the community. They also worked to remove rubbish from the local area and helped the school children to plant, water and harvest crops. Anne said “during this trip, I particularly enjoyed providing practical assistance such as collecting water, since a place where this is necessary is just an abstract concept before you actually see these practices in real life. Seeing such a level of poverty is sad and challenging, but really helped me to understand our world a little better”.
Faizal Bhana, is a post-graduate student at Aston Business School. He works as a solicitor in the Banking Team at national law firm, Browne Jacobson LLP, and won Assistant/Associate Solicitor of the Year at the Birmingham Law Society Legal Awards in March 2011.
Nominated by his peers, Faizal successfully went through a rigorous process which included a panel interview and independent short-listing to be formally selected from a shortlist of candidates. The list comprised of candidates from a number of National and International firms including DLA, HBJ Gateley Wareing, Anthony Collins Solicitors and Wragge & Co. Faizal, was presented with his award by former leader of the Liberal Democrat Party Lord Paddy Ashdown.
Faizal acts for banks, asset based lenders and corporate borrowers on transactions, acquisitions, refinancing and restructures both nation and international.
The judges commended Faizal for his professionalism and commitment both to his profession and the wider community. As well as quickly establishing himself as a trusted advisor within the banking and finance community in the West Midlands, the judges were impressed by his commitment to promoting Birmingham as the city of choice for Islamic Finance and his passion for community action, demonstrated through his work as a mentor with the charity Mosaic.
Head of the Banking Team at Browne Jacobson, commented “Faizal is a highly skilled and experienced solicitor and in the short time that he has been with the firm he has made a considerable contribution. We are all very proud of his achievement in winning this award.”
After graduating with a Psychology degree from Aston University, Luke Varley went on to study for postgraduate Law degree in London, to which he obtained a first.
Not long after graduating in Law, Luke joined the charity Amicus. Amicus are a charity who send British lawyers to assist their American counterparts with cases which are under-resourced. The charity sent Luke to Houston, Texas to help assist an American lawyer in the representation of a client, called Bobby Moore. Bobby is currently on death row awaiting execution.
Luke was chosen to go to Houston because of his knowledge of Law and Psychology. Luke worked with several psychologists in the States to produce expert witness statements based on evidence of Bobby's childhood.
Bobby's case remains ongoing as the defence continue to argue that he is intellectually disabled. If this can be proven, then the state of Texas will be prohibited from executing him. The defence are being backed up by two eminent psychologists who are trying to persuade the prosecutor and the judge of Bobby's condition.
Luke is currently studying to be a barrister in London and next year he is hoping to go to Oxford and study Law at a masters level. Luke would then like to begin a career at the bar.
Luke credits his time at Aston studying Psychology has being instrumental in helping choose the route to his future career. The charity Amicus gave Luke the opportunity to put his theory into practice.
The final year of a undergraduate degree is tough with copious amounts of work and the thought of what the future holds after graduation. Katie Blakely completely had her heart set on joining the Police Force but due to the recession and financial cut backs, the opportunity was simply not there. Katie then found out about the Special Constabulary with her local Police Force.
The Special Constabulary is a voluntary role in which you are expected to work in the same manner as a full-time Police Officer, therefore the application process takes the same length of time as that of a permanent post.
Katie managed to pass the application and training process and has currently been in the role for just over a year. Working along-side police officers, Katie has gained a lot of experience and knowledge working with the 24/7 response team, the Neighbourhood Policing Team. This summer Katie had the opportunity to help police some of the Olympics events!!
Katie recommends the Specials as a way of helping your local community whilst gaining lots of confidence and experience. Katie also has a full-time job which helps fund her masters at Aston University. Katie now looks forward to the day when she will finally achieve her dream of becoming a full-time police officer.
Rukaiya has also undertaken 100 hours voluntary work at the Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham. The work involves helping elderly patients go for early morning walks and serving their meals. Her voluntary work also extends to organising a charity fashion show for ‘children in need’, which helped promote the different cultures in the community. The event managed to raise £850.
As well as being actively involved in the community, Rukaiya was also awarded Sports Woman of the year.
During Rizan’s eight years in academia, he has gone through an entire transition based on the kind of programmes that he has studied. Starting out with his BSc (hons) in Pharmacology, Rizan has gone on to study an MSc in Computational Neuroscience and is now pursuing a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience at Aston University.
Rizan was given a £10,000 international scholarship from the School of Life and Health Sciences Doctoral Scholarship Fund to help with his research. His first ever research study paper is entitled ‘Adults with dyslexia exhibit large effects of crowding, increased dependence on cues, and detrimental effects of distractors in visual search tasks’. The paper has been accepted for publication in Neuropsychologia (Summer, 2012) and has received special praise and been awarded first prize for a research poster. The award was presented at the British Dyslexia Association (BDA) International Conference, (Harrogate, 2011).
Rizan is hoping to pursue a Post doctorate position once he has completed his PhD.
Luke Wilkins, Aston University undergraduate, is in his first year studying Business and Politics.
In 2010, Luke stood as an independent candidate for the UK General Election in the constituency of Erewash in Derbyshire. He was the youngest candidate in the General Election and possibly the youngest candidate ever. Many young people choose not to vote as they have a lack of interest in politics and current affairs, Luke tried to change this. He campaigned through Facebook managing to raise £1000, which paid for 50,000 leaflets. Although Luke didn’t win, he managed to gain 464 Votes, which is impressive for an independent candidate. In a climate, where trust in politicians was waning, Luke offered a fresh young face, not associated with any particular political party and was totally independent to represent the views of the people.
Amar Hussain is Editor-in-Chief of GapYearEscape.com.
Launched in August 2009, Gap Year Escape is a travel website aimed at students and backpackers. The site provides travel advice, reviews, and inspiration/entertainment to gap year travellers, backpackers and those on a career break.
From its humble beginnings in a friend’s kitchen, Gap Year Escape has been read in 185 countries and continues to grow in size from readership to staff. Amar has since expanded and now runs a network of websites from travel to fashion and leads a location independent lifestyle. His next trip sees him travelling from Canada to Antarctica by land.
Liz plays rugby for the premiership side, Lichfield, and has done so for three years.
During the past two years Liz has been selected for the Divisional Midlands Women's Team, which will see her play for the North / South West and South East (this is a feeder team for the England Women's Elite 15's RFU Team).
This year upon selection to the Divisional team, Liz’s name was put forward to trial for the England 7's Development Squad to which she was successful. She will now train alongside the England Women's 7' Team who are preparing for this year’s Olympics. Liz has a number of 7's tournaments this summer which, if selected would mean she would wear the England development jersey.
Last year, Liz was selected to trial for the England Women's Elite Squad, this year, with the additional development squad training she hopes to be successful with this goal.
When Dovile was a Biomedical Science student, she chose to undertake an industrial placement over a biomedical one because she wanted to explore how things work in industry and help her decide on her future career (clinical, research or industrial environment).
Her industrial placement with GlaxoSmithKline, EpiNova DPU, lasted for a year. During her year working as a Bench Scientist (on astudy of the role of a novel target protein in autoimmune disease), she gained an insight of how both industry and research work together.
The objectives of the study were to explore the pattern of expression of the protein in a number of primary immune cell types under resting and activated states, to identify target genes for the protein, and to test whether its knockdown affects its association with its target genes and whether the protein is involved in normal cell function.
Dovile greatly enjoyed her placement year. It helped increase her self-confidence, improve her interpersonal skills at the end of the placement year, she received a GSK Bronze Award for her excellent lab work and has since motivated her to apply for a PhD degree.
Bernadette Quick graduated with a MSc in Marketing Management from Aston Business School in March 2013.
Bernadette is currently working on a part-time basis and combined her studies with her full time role as a Marketing Manager at a local bakeware company in Birmingham.
Bernadette, a mature graduate from Wolverhampton, recently celebrated the publication of her first research paper entitled ‘Construction Industry Marketing Materials in Respect of the Female Labour Market: A critical analysis of the execution of the communication process’.
She developed her research based on her undergraduate dissertation. The paper was delivered at a conference in Africa in March 2013. Bernadette is currently considering a PhD programme in order to continue her research interests.
Samera became a member of the Student Staff Learning Committee. Committee members discuss any issues brought up by current students with lecturers around the University.
Samera was also given the opportunity to represent Aston when she became part of a team of engineering students competing at the European Business Masters Cup UK Heat in 2011 (her team came second). This involved a two-day intensive business simulation event in which the team were required to run an electric car company. In addition to this, she also represented Aston at the Exxon Mobil Engineering Challenge in 2011 in Scotland where the team were required to demonstrate leadership and teamwork skills in simulated mentally challenging situations.
Samera has become integral to the development of the Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry (CEAC) Society in her role as Treasurer, and particularly in the promotion of the society to other female engineers at Aston.
She represented Aston at the Women's Engineering Society's Student Conference. This society aims to provide 'inspiration, support and professional development' to women in the field of engineering.
Dream a Dream also runs the Dream Connect Centre, teaching further life skills (such as English and computer skills) to 14-18 year olds, and teaches life skills to teachers at their 17 partner NGOs so they can pass on those skills to the next generation.
Kavita’s time at Dream a Dream was spent doing a variety of projects. She worked with the children particularly with football and creative arts sessions and experienced first-hand the effect that the sessions were having on the children especially as she had arrived at the beginning of the semester. Seeing the impact that just two or three sessions were having on the children was what opened her eyes to the value of programs like this. The activities are as simple as painting a self-portrait to teamwork exercises and really impact the key areas of life skills that the children are lacking in and this is clear in the change in their behaviour. Kavita was also involved in the organisation of a Fun day and an Outdoor Experiential Camp.
Kavita hopes to continue to do similar work in the future after she graduates.
After researching the idea, James decided that online trading between students on an individual website for every university would solve this problem by linking people with specific and similar interests together, thereby solving the problem his lecturer had. Apart from textbooks, this idea had many applications and could be used for just about any product or service that students would want to buy or sell, both academic and non-academic.
He then entered and won the university-wide 'Aston Idol' competition and secured funding to help pay for the development of the service.
During development, James also found that the costs of setting up a new enterprise were restrictive to students on a low income and as a result, he set up an additional facility to help students begin their own business with reduced start-up costs.
After launching the pilot site at Aston, www.mystudentmarket.com received over 11,000 visits in its first month and handled over £5000 worth of student trade.
After receiving a first-class degree from Aston in 2011, Vlad decided to use his academic and professional experience to help other students succeed. He used the knowledge and experience he had acquired whilst studying and working as an academic writing mentor at Aston University’s Learning Development Centre to write a book called From Confusion to Conclusion: How to Write a First-Class Essay. He is also writing an adaptation of the book aimed at final year and Master’s students that will be about dissertation writing. Another book that Vlad has written is called CAMP UK 10/2012: The Ultimate Post-2012 University Survival Guide and is aimed primarily at first year students. The book teaches students how to obtain employability skills that all employers require and be regarded as a professional from the first day of the first year.
Vlad has published the books with the help of a graduate start-up The Lecture Room (www.thelectureroom.co.uk), which he is currently collaborating with, as well as through Amazon’s CreateSpace print-on-demand platform.
‘Aston’s serious business-like approach to education must have left its imprint on me,’ Vlad says. ‘It’s a little unusual for a graduate of the School of Languages and Social Sciences to be embarking on an entrepreneurial path, but I am thoroughly excited about the opportunities that I have got now and grateful to Aston for equipping me with the necessary skills.
‘I strongly believe that it does not matter what course one is doing. University is an enriching and rewarding experience, and there is no such thing as a ‘serious’ or ‘non-serious’ degree course. There is only a serious or non-serious approach to one’s university experience.’
Monika Ciurli, Marketing student at Aston University, currently undertaking her placement year with Renault UK.
Monika is a curious, passionate and ambitious person – her inspiration coming from TED Conferences talks, which have inspired Monika in so many different ways. Monika wanted people in her country, who do not have English language skills, to also be inspired by the “ideas worth spreading”, so she started volunteering as a translator in TED Open Translations project. After a year and a bit, due to her experience (75 talks translated and counting) and enthusiasm she was asked to lead the team of Lithuanian volunteer translators and became Language Coordinator.
Studying in Birmingham made Monika fall in love with the city, and she wanted to give something back as well as show others how beautiful Birmingham and its people are – Monika joined a highly motivated team with the same objective .Almost a year after her first meeting, in March 2012, inaugural TEDxBrum Conference celebrating Birmingham Ideas and kindling the Next Revolution, took place.
In addition to these volunteering activities Monika was also Vice President for Aston Marketing Society, Selection Event Volunteer for London 2012 and both Mentee and Mentor in Peer Mentoring scheme for a three years.
Links: http://www.tedxbrum.org uk.linkedin.com/in/ciurlionyte/ http://www.ted.com/profiles/58926
Jane Allen has been a member of the British Psychological Society for the majority of her time at Aston and serving as both vice-chair and chair of the committee of its student members Group. Her role involves communicating the views and needs of psychology students and bridges the gap between the most senior and experienced members of the society and its newest recruits. Jane has attended meetings of the Psychology Education Board and offered a student's perspective on issues including the new secondary school qualifications, the National Science Awards and graduate destinations research. Jane will also be involved in the planning and delivery of the Annual Student Conference.
Jane also volunteers for the National Autistic Society and works with the charity Rethink Mental Illness where she assists in the delivery of training for those working with young people who may present with mental health issues. This is part of the ‘Time to Change’ campaign to tackle the stigma and discrimination faced by people experiencing mental health problems and aims to improve awareness and encourage sensitive responses to such issues.
Social worker, mentor, model, choreographer and an occasional interpreter, Gaumaya Gurung is the former Miss UK Nepal 2011. Currently an Optometry undergraduate at Aston University and the student representative for AOP’s (Association of Optometrists) Optometry Today Magazine and the current secretary of NRNA women’s committee and a brand ambassador for Netfox Nepal. The 20 year-old also plays a part in ‘Help Nepal Network UK’ and Shiksha Nepal on the executive board. She is one of the authors for The Junction - Nepali Patra. Gurung is one of founders of Mukti, a sister organisation of Maiti Nepal run by Anuradha Koirala (CNN Heroes 2010). Mukti has been fundraising to help rescue victims of trafficking.
In 2011, Gurung raised £3050 to build a counselling center at Kopila Valley School. As part of the Childreach's Challenge and one of a group of twelve Aston students, she trekked to Everest Base Camp (5364m) and Kala Pathar (5550m). Individually she helped raise £2500 for children education and telemedicine. Gurung has sponsored annual education for three girls in Nepal. She also spent her time helping to build an eco-friendly classrooms for Jyotidaya School. In 2010 she took part in the world's highest canyon swing for charity and the world's fastest skyzip during the summer.
Gurung volunteered for the Paralympics 2012 at Greenwich Arena in Press Operations Team. She worked alongside the Nepali Embassy in the organising committee for the London Mela and recently accomplished NSPCC's ten mile walk (HACK).
Whilst at Aston, she was the sports secretary for Optics Society at Aston University and helped host Opfest 2012 along with other team members. In the summer of 2012 she collected second hand optical equipment from generous colleagues (worth £1000) and donated it to Tilganga Hospital in Nepal.
The company was established in 2009 and each student funded their first event without external assistance. Three years on and the company is still going strong with new offerings such as peer mentoring schemes, motivational speeches, and workshops in secondary schools. ‘Magnus Entertainment’ hope to build on their current success and expand into new communities to help the youth whilst continuing to provide entertainment events to bridge the gap between universities.
With the vision for making global news increasingly diverse and objective, Adam Novak and his colleagues built a social network called WorldOpinion that gives everyone the opportunity to participate in global affairs.
The website enables people from all over the world to share, discover and discuss both global and regional topics. In contrast to the current media content, which is regulated by a relatively small number of journalists, WorldOpinion is based on the idea of free access to information, global citizenship and freedom of speech.
In order to pursue his idea, Adam’s team registered a start-up company in the Czech Republic, gathered financial resources and developed the website as well as Facebook application. Since the project’s kick-off, WorldOpinion has been experiencing a substantial growth in traffic on both platforms. The successful start resulted in an exclusive offer from Facebook to collaborate in a marketing campaign for WorldOpinion.
Within a month of graduating Neelama was employed as a Forensic Psychology Assistant. Neelama’s undergraduate dissertation was later published in the Prison Service Journal (May, 2012). Neelama then enrolled on the Graduate Diploma course at Aston University and whilst on the course she was encouraged to apply for a visiting lecturers post. From this experience, she went on to teach Psychology at other organisations around the West Midlands.
Neelama is now hoping to have her postgraduate dissertation published. Neelama comments “When people see Aston University on my Curriculum Vitae, I feel it speaks volumes, and along with my work experience it makes me stand out from the rest of the candidates”.
In 2007, Manpreet attended the first United Nations World Youth Assembly for Road Safety hosted by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Economic Commission, representing the United Kingdom. On returning from the Assembly, he set up a national youth road safety campaign called 'Tune into Traffic' via the multi award winning British campaigning project Battlefront and was supported by Channel 4, while studying at Aston University to shoot a 30 minute documentary about road safety and young people.
The documentary helped Manpreet set up his campaign and followed his journey of converting his passion for road safety into a tangible outcome and the program documented his journey where Aston University is also featured. The documentary can be viewed here. Manpreet now works for YOURS – Youth for Road Safety, an international non-governmental organization for road safety to design and create global campaigns. He has also represented YOURS in Tunisia at the 7th International Road Safety Festival, at the 75th RoSPA Congress in the UK, at the National Conference on Young People and Road Safety in Portugal, the European Youth Assembly at the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium, Ontario Students Against Impaired Driving National Conference in Canada, Youth and Road Safety Workshop in Muscat, Oman and aided YOURS in the development of the African Youth Assembly for Road Safety in Niamey, Niger.
It was during his second year, whilst applying for placements, that he discovered that there were very limited resources available on the web to help job seekers with their job applications such as writing a CV or Cover Letter. Consequently, on the 1st January 2012 he launched CVPlaza.com to provide comprehensive and research-driven resources (articles, templates and examples) completely free of charge or restrictions.
Employable Graduates; Exploitable Research
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