The first students to complete a joint degree from the Universities of Dundee and St Andrews finish their postgraduate studies this month with some students securing PhD places to do some very fishy research.
The students are expected to graduate at the St Andrew’s Day ceremony on Friday 29 November 2002 with parchments bearing the crests of both universities side by side.
These graduates are the realisation of a dream sealed in November 2000 when the universities signed a partnership initiative agreeing to marry their areas of expertise to produce world-class research and offer innovative new courses combining the best of teaching strengths in both institutions.
The masters of environmental biology successfully combined expertise in life sciences and environmental science to deliver this comprehensive course covering all aspects of environmental biology.
One of the students Iain McWilliam said, “It was the most wide- ranging course available. It covered every aspect of environmental biology and has equipped me with many research skills.”
Allyson Ritchie who has now secured a PhD place at the University of Dundee added, “Having lecturers from both universities gave us a fantastic breadth of experience to learn from.”
Chris Lynam, who had a physics degree from Manchester University said, “What was unique about the course was that we all came together from different scientific backgrounds. There were mathematicians, psychologists, marine biologists, physicists and biochemists in the class. This postgraduate was one of the only conversion courses from physical to biological science in the UK.
Bringing together the next generation of environmental biologists with diverse scientific perspectives was a goal of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) which awarded over £400K in fellowships to the partnership programme.
Chris is now going on to collect acoustic data from jellyfish with the Pelagic Ecology Research Group at the Gatty Marine Laboratory at the University of St Andrews. For his PhD research, Chris will investigate how jellyfish affect the ecosystem in the North Sea and will be hoping to discover if jellyfish are responsible for holding down fish stocks due to their large consumption of fish larvae.
From physics to jellyfish, Chris said that the masters in environmental biology sparked his interest in studying the natural environment and has opened up a career for him in environmental science.
Iain McWilliam is also going on to look at fish but right into the bones of their genetics. The difference in gene expression when fish migrate between fresh and salt water will be the topic of his PhD study at the University of St Andrews.
Allyson Ritchie studied for her undergraduate in zoology at the University of Dundee and, to complete the sandwich, will study for her PhD there in the Wellcome Trust Biocentre looking at how parasites attack the human body.
For more information, please contact Steve Hubbard at the University of Dundee – telephone 01382 344291 or Neil Hazon at the University of St Andrews – telephone 01334 463451.
“Promoting Partnership: An Evolving Collaboration” is an ambitious venture fostering institutional change within higher education. The initiative aims to draw upon strengths and interests in both the University of Dundee and the University of St Andrews to:
 expand both teaching and research in important emerging areas;  experiment with innovation;  build significant relationships with the private sector;  significantly contribute to the social and economic well-being of Scotland.