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Changing lives with the Cardiff Student Alumni Award

Placement and travel awards

The Student Alumni Awards exist to help fund activities which are beneficial for a student's employability and personal development - for example, transport to academic conferences, production costs of an academic poster, or living costs during a work placement.

The awards vary from £50 up to a maximum of £1,000, and have benefited 24 students so far, including:


 Don A’Bear
Lab placement at University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart

My Cardiff Alumni-Student Award  enabled me to spend three months in an internationally recognised laboratory at the University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany. It covered all the travel expenses which I could not have afforded otherwise.

During my work there, I developed an in-depth understanding of a previously unexplored aspect of carbon cycling within woodlands. This is a topic of considerable current importance in the context of determining carbon sinks and sources under climate change predictions. A manuscript based on the work undertaken is almost ready for publication and I have already planned future visits to conduct follow-up studies. 

The experience has been hugely beneficial to my career development; not only have I learned a suit of new techniques, but I have been able to foster an international collaboration that looks set to continue for years to come. This really is invaluable in terms of furthering my future career prospects and will hopefully help me to stand out when applying for post-doctoral and fellowship positions following the completion of my PhD. 

Thank you - without the support provided by the Cardiff Alumni-Student Award, this would not have been possible.

Fern Bowles
Placement at Ndola Central Hospital,  Zambia

Without the Cardiff Student-Alumni Award my experiences at the Ndola Central Hospital, Zambia, would not have been possible as I could not have afforded to travel there.

My work placement was part of  Maternity Worldwide’s efforts; I helped to monitor the blood pressure of pregnant women referred from local clinics, and it was enormously rewarding to take part in this groundbreaking research which will help reduce maternal deaths from pre-eclampsia. I also managed to visit orphanages and take part in local volunteer work on a farm which provides for impoverished families and helps them to become self-sustaining. Integrating with the local community was very interesting, and I learnt a great deal about the African culture, tribal groups and their history.

These interpersonal and cultural experiences will help me enormously with my studies: when studying politics and international relations it is vital to have knowledge of the different global political systems and cultures. I have already learnt a great deal about East Africa and talking and living with the locals have allowed me to learn more about the cultural, social, political and economic characteristics of East Africa.

Once again I am extremely grateful for the opportunity that the Cardiff Student-Alumni award scheme has granted me. It has given me invaluable experience of humanitarian aid on the ground, and will help in my ultimate career goals.

Jeroen Bromilow
Placement in British Chilean Chamber of Commerce in Santiago, Chile

For the last three months I have been working at the British Chilean Chamber of Commerce in Santiago, Chile as part of my third year abroad.

When applying for placements I wanted something that would incorporate both subjects of my degree course, and this one offered exactly that. The only problem was that it was unpaid and an expensive flight ticket away, and it was only because of the generous funding I received from the Cardiff  Student-Alumni Awards that I could cover the travel costs.

My work at the Chamber has been challenging but I already feel that I have gained so much valuable training and work experience. My Spanish has also improved greatly through being completely immersed into the language both at work and at home, where I live with other Chileans.

So far this year has surpassed all my expectations, and I am sure the rest of it will be full of many more memorable experiences.  Thank you for making it possible!

Natalie Connor-Robson
Neuroscience School of Advanced Studies Course

As a final year PhD student at Cardiff University studying a group of diseases known as Synucleinopathies I was extremely excited to find out there was going to be an intensive school on this subject. 

Thanks to a bursary from the Cardiff Student Alumni Awards I was able to attend this immensely useful Neuroscience School of Advanced Studies (NSAS) course held on this topic in Sienna, Italy.  This course was designed so that a small group of participants could have the unique opportunity to interact with world leaders in the field for a whole eek in an informal setting unlike that of a regular conference.   This allowed for a very interactive style of learning with lots of debates and discussions which has helped me to consider some aspects of Synucleinopathies with new insight.

The term Synucleinopathies encompasses a wide range of neurodegenerative diseases with the most well known being Parkinson's disease.  With an ever ageing society meaning more people will become affected by such diseases and an increasing burden on the NHS it is crucial that we learn more about how, and why, these diseases arise.  My PhD has centred around answering questions about the molecular mechanisms of Parkinson's in the brain.  Without a clear understanding of this process it is hard to design new therapies for these diseases.

I found the NSAS course incredibly interesting and great for networking, meaning I now have a much wider understanding of my field.  This course has certainly helped me in my PhD, giving me plenty of new ideas for my work. 

It remains for me to thank all the contributors to the Awards for helping me gain such invaluable experience and furthering my scientific career! 

Sarah Doherty
Excavations in the Gurob Harem Palace Project (GHPP)

As a PhD Archaeology Research student at Cardiff University, I was extremely honoured to be invited to join excavations with researchers from Liverpool University and the University of Copenhagan at the Gurob Harem Palace Project, Egypt, where archaeologists are working under extreme desert conditions and sandstorms to preserve a fascinating site.

The site dates to the Middle Bronze Age (around 1480bc) and has been badly affected by looting during the Egyptian revolution. We were able to recover and preserve many amazing finds overlooked by the looters, including a delicate mummy shroud, wooden amulets, faience beads, and more.

We also excavated pottery kilns and made some rare finds. Since my research specialism is pottery technology, I was able to sort, weigh and record almost 200 new pottery types, processing over 2 tons of pottery sherds.

I would sincerely like to thank the Cardiff Student Alumni Award for providing me with the means to work and research in Egypt. I've made academic connections and been invited to future archaeological projects too, so the award has increased my skills in archaeological ceramics and my future job prospects. Thank you.

Zarna DasaniZarna Dasani
Optometry research and improving clinical eye tests

Zarna Dasani, BSc Optometry, will be presenting at the 2012 Annual International Orthoptic Conference in Toronto, Canada and the Cardiff Fund is covering her travel costs. Her research offers vast improvements in specialist clinical testing, and this funding will allow Zarna to network with leading practitioners in eye-care and share her research.

Professor Andrew Quantock supported her application and explained that funding would also benefit the school by showcasing the research activities and opportunities available to current students.

Zarna says, "I cannot express my appreciation enough! Thank you so much to the donors who made this possible for me. One day I hope I can do the same and make such a difference too."

 Eleanor Earl, Housing & Hazards
A taste of development work in Bangladesh 

Because of the Cardiff Student-Alumni award, last summer I was able to take part in a workshop in Bangladesh aimed at implementing building technologies which could help give millions of people durable, hazard-resistant homes.

There are 1.4 billion people worldwide living on the equivalent of $1 a day. Bangladesh is one of the world's most densely populated countries, with a population of around 140 million in an area only two thirds the size of the UK.

During our time there, we helped to construct to buildings: a small house for a family on their 6m by 2.5m plot in the Jorgen Babur Mart slum, and an office for the non-government organisation, Simple Action For the Environment (SAFE). SAFE will be treating bamboo for the local community, helping them to improve local structures and increase resistance to the variable climate and termites.

People may ask why a group of foreigners went over to complete a job that could easily have been done by Bangladeshi builders, but without this hands-on experience it would have been almost impossible to understand how construction there takes place, or transfer the principles to other places.

The visit has deepened my understanding of developing countries, and renewed my passion for my voluntary position in Engineers Without Borders UK. I know it will lead to further opportunities as well and am grateful to everyone who supported me.


Martha Hunt
Sight 2020 vision aid trip to Malawi

Last summer I took part in the ten day Sight 2020 Vision Aid Trip to Malawi. Our team's project was to collect data on the refractive error of school-aged children, and to help facilitate the establishment of a permanent eye clinic in the long run.

This trip taught me immeasurably more than just practical skills. I was  exposed to abnormal ocular conditions that ordinarily I would not come across within university clinics; I encountered both the joys and difficulties of working in a developing country; I learnt a lot about the African culture and customs, and how, as foreign workers, we need to be aware and sensitive of this. 

Although the work was challenging, the reward of screening the children and reaching into the communities far outweighed this. We dispensed glasses when appropriate to aid the children’s vision and ultimately help their learning. Seeing their reactions first-hand was sometimes quite emotional, although the most challenging cases were those whose vision could not be improved with glasses or even with surgery. Therefore an important part of the trip was to inform and educate the teachers and aid workers as to how best work with children with low vision, and also to teach them vision screening.

Everywhere we went we were met with generosity and hospitality. Relationships have been furthered and foundations have been strengthened for Sight2020.  I am in a privileged position to have had this exposure while still studying, as I can now apply what I have learnt in my final year, and I have a broader perspective on what I can do once I graduate.

I would like to thank the Cardiff Student-Alumni Award donors: you have encouraged me and given me the confidence to pursue an amazing opportunity which would otherwise have been beyond my reach.

 Kyle Grant
Astrobiological research and astronaut training

Kyle GrantKyle Grant, BSc Microbiology, won a highly competitive nine-month internship in the NASA Space Life Science Lab at Kennedy Space Centre, Florida, to undertake research and preliminary astronaut training, and the Cardiff Fund is helping with travel and subsistence.

Kyle's research is at the forefront of Astrobiology and will focus on the effect of microbiology on the human body during long space flights. He has won government grants and a small bursary already, but would not have been able to go on without the support of the Cardiff Fund.

"I am extremely grateful to alumni donors," he says. "I can undertake significant research, be a student ambassador for the University overseas, and share my experiences of the space industry on my return."

Hannah Greton
Bridges for Communities, Jordan and Israel-Palestine

It sounds clichéd, but my trip to the Middle East definitely changed my life.

In the first week of my visit to Amman, Jordan, I met students from around the world at the East West Youth Forum. We visited many religious and historical sites, volunteered at a school, had intense discussions about politics, faith and peace, and formed deep friendships. The next two weeks were spent interning with the charity Bridges for Communities in Amman, where we spent the mornings learning about a variety of topics  including Arabic, Islam, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and in the afternoons we taught English to Palestinian teenage girls from the refugee camp and heard their stories about being born and brought up in the camp. My final week was spent visiting holy and historical sites in Israel-Palestine, and with a couple of peace-building organisations learning what life is like for the Palestinians and Israelis.

I can't describe how much I have learnt from this adventure. My experiences in the refugee camps have given me ideas for new projects for Cardiff's Student Action for Refugees Group this year as I take on the role of President. I am also getting involved with the work of Bridges for Communities in Cardiff and planning a version of the East West Youth Forum to be held in the UK. 

The trip fuelled my desire to work in the peace-building and reconciliation field, and I've decided to apply to the University of Jordan for further study after I graduate next summer. The course my life will take has dramatically been changed by this opportunity, and I am so, so grateful for the bursary money I was given to help me get there.

Watch a video from Hannah online

Jessica Smith
Internship at The National Museum in Iceland

The help and support of the Cardiff Student Alumni Award enabled me to undertake a six week internship at The National Museum in Iceland.

My placement helped to conserve incredible Viking artefacts which tell the story of the people in Iceland, an isolated country with a unique way of life.

Working alongside qualified experienced conservators broadened my intellect and helped me develop my current skills and gain new techniques of carrying out conservation treatments. developed a whole network of professional relationships too.

I developed a wide understanding of how important preventative conservation is and how to implement it, and was able to gain experience of working with different materials and treatments.

I gained new skills in areas I had no prior experience in such as paper conservation, repairing historical texts, the cleaning and analysis of archaeological textiles. I learned how to plan and carry out a survey of the museums exhibits and collections providing recommendations for future care and preservation.

I'm about to go into my third year studying Conservation of Museum objects and Archaeology, so it was vital to gain as much hands-on experience in as many areas of the field as possible, and it taught  me so much. Thank you for your support.

Dweezil Vandekerckhove
Rural Settlements in the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia

Thanks to the Cardiff Student Alumni Award, I was able to travel to Cilicia, Turkey, and examine the rural settlements there. The results from the trip were impressive; I uncovered remains of Crusader era Armenian rural settlements dating from the late 12th to early 14th century.

Although many of the sites are still relatively well preserved, the project is timely, as the continuing expansion of the population into the Cilician Highlands is causing archaeological remains to be plundered for building material.

My ultimate aim is to lead excavations in this area and bring the Armenian heritage to the awareness of the people there.

The award not only helped me through a crucial stage of my research; it also helped me to build a network with scholars at Mersin University, and improve my knowledge of the Turkish language and the region. Thank you for helping me take such a rewarding trip.

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