Another Best for St Andrews

Monday 22 June 2015

Christine McKenna maindbody

A graduate of the University of St Andrews has been honoured for her work with four major awards by the leading scientific bodies in her field.

Christine McKenna, who graduated from St Andrews with a BSc in Geography/Mathematics last year (2014), has been recognised for her final year dissertation on the ocean’s mixing processes.

Christine (23), from Helensburgh in Argyll, recently collected the Alfred Steers Dissertation Prize at the Royal Geographical Society’s (RGS) Medals celebration in London. The Alfred Steers Dissertation Prize (2014) is awarded annually by the RGS to the dissertation judged to be the best by a panel of experts. The prize recognised Christine’s novel empirical method for investigating water mass mixing in the Faroe-Shetland Channel.

The RGS Award followed top honours by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, Marine Science 2014 and the Department of Geography and Sustainable Development at St Andrews.

Christine’s final year supervisor, Dr William Austin, described the multiple awards as “a remarkable success story” for Geography at the University St Andrews.

Dr Austin, who supervised with external support from Dr Bee Berx (Marine Scotland), said: “I am delighted that Christine’s dissertation has received such a remarkable level of external recognition; it is an exceptionally fine piece of undergraduate research, based upon the sophisticated use of novel analytical data and modelling to understand the ocean’s mixing processes. Her professional approach, hard work and creativity has been rightly recognised; as her supervisor, I am naturally very proud of her.”

Christine’s dissertation – entitled ‘A reconstruction of water mass distributions in the Faroe-Shetland Channel using Parametric Optimum Multi-Parameter analysis’ – won the 2014 Walton Prize, which is awarded annually by a panel of judges on behalf of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society in recognition of the best final year undergraduate dissertation in Physical Geography from a Scottish University; the 2014 Edwards Prize – as recipient for the best dissertation in the Department of Geography & Sustainable Development; and the tripartite prize for the UK’s best final year undergraduate dissertation in Marine Science 2014, awarded on behalf of the Challenger Society for Marine Science, the Institute of Marine Engineering Science and Technology, and the Society for Underwater Technology.

Christine is now completing an MSc in meteorology at Reading University before taking up a PhD in applied maths at the University of Cambridge, in collaboration with the British Antarctic Survey this autumn.

Christine, who hopes to continue her work in meteorology/oceanography post PhD, said: “I feel very honoured to receive these awards and can’t quite believe it. It’s nice to know that the hard work paid off and that other people are interested in the work that I did. St Andrews was a wonderful place to study. Despite it being such a small town there was always so much going on and so many wonderful people to meet, which was ideal when I wanted to get away from my work.”

Christine’s family has a strong connection to the University of St Andrews – her parents met as students at the University and her two brothers, Neil and Robin, are also graduates. Last week, the family returned to St Andrews for Robin’s wedding.


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